Discovery meetings are a routine step in the onboarding process. But after you have conducted more discovery meetings over the years than you can count, you may find yourself going through the motions, overlooking the importance of the discovery process in laying the groundwork for your relationships with your client.

In many cases, the discovery meeting helps you piece together fragments of information you have begun to collect on your client and start to get a picture of their needs and what you can do for them.

"It's about taking in a bunch of information and fine-tuning your value offering to what you discover about the client," says Richard Heft, president of Ext. Marketing in Toronto.

To help you make the most of those discovery meetings, here are some mistakes to watch for, along with some advice:

> Talking too much
Discovery meetings typically run for about an hour, Heft says, and to make the most of that time, you should let the client do much of the talking. If a client is willing to open up and share details about his or her personal life, be prepared to listen and ask follow-up questions.

The purpose of a discovery meeting isn't solely about persuading a client that the relationship will be a good fit by talking about how qualified you are. Present your qualifications, but also demonstrate that you are making an effort to understand the client's goals.

When the meeting is over, Heft says, the client should walk away feeling that you know how to help them.

> Forgetting to take notes
The information you glean from the meeting is useless if you can't recall what was said, Heft says. So, instead of trying to reconstruct the discussion later, remember to take notes or record the interview — with the client's permission.

Taking notes is an effective way to show that you're planning to use that information, Heft says. And those notes will be valuable in helping you design a portfolio or financial plan that reflects your client's circumstances.

> Asking only the standard questions
If you are pressed for time, you might be tempted to restrict your discovery interview to the "know your client" (KYC) questionnaire. But the KYC document is only one reference point that you can use to build an informed profile of your client, Heft says.

Beyond the KYC form, you should prepare a few specific questions based on preliminary research you have done on your client. For example, Heft suggests that you check their social-media profiles for insights into their interests and hobbies, which you can use as a basis for developing a rapport with them.

"For a person trying to create a relationship or to deepen a relationship, [social media is] an unbelievable tool," Heft says. 

> Showing up unprepared
When you arrive late or without proper information at hand, you are sending the message that you have little respect for the client's time, Heft says.

Just as you expect your clients to have the necessary paperwork at hand, they will hold you to the same standard. So, make sure to go through your checklist and ensure that you have done your homework.

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