First-meeting jitters are a common feeling for both clients and advisors. That initial meeting often makes you and your client feel as if you are interviewing each other, testing to see if it's a good fit, says April-Lynn Levitt, coach with the Personal Coach in Calgary.

"A lot of advisors don't understand that clients feel anxiety when they're going to meet an advisor," Levitt says. "The client might have had a bad experience or not know what to expect."

To help set the right tone — and strike an emotional connection at the outset — Levitt offers ideas on how you can go beyond the basics of a typical discovery meeting:

> Leave the "fact-finder questionnaire" for later
Don't make your prospect or new client go through the laborious process of filling out what can amount to a 30-page questionnaire the first time you meet, Levitt says. All the paperwork needed should be collected later, once you've established a rapport.

Hard data alone won't reveal if the person is a suitable match. The meeting has to be grounded in conversation over what kind of financial advice he or she needs.

Read: Be prepared: getting ready for a first meeting

> Find out about their history with money
In order to get a deeper sense of your new client's relationship with money, go beyond the standard questions. You're not only interested in finding out when a client wants to retire, Levitt says, but what his or her ideal retirement looks like.

You might also consider asking such questions as:

  • "What are some beliefs you have about money?"
  • "What did you learn about money growing up?"
  • "What's your investment philosophy?"
     

When you take time to gain an understanding of a client's history with money, you will be better positioned to tailor the advice you give.

> Share your summary notes
Many advisors use visual tools to guide their conversation with clients and prospects. Levitt suggests developing an exercise for the meeting, such as a road map or a "vision" document, which you can then share with the prospect at the end of the meeting. Or you can simply give him or her a point-form summary of the conversation.

This way, the prospect has a personalized reference guide to stay focused on his or her goals. 

Read: Avoid these common first-meeting mistakes

> Give them something to take away
After the meeting has wrapped up, consider giving your client a "goody bag" of useful information, Levitt says. One advisory team she knows offers new clients or prospects a book that relates to their circumstances.

For example, you can pick out a range of lifestyle-planning books to keep on hand. Or, you might assemble a gift bag that contains a notebook, a pen and a summary of what was discussed, Levitt suggests.

> If it's not a good fit …
In some cases, you may discover that the prospect would be better off with someone else. Perhaps the person is more of a do-it-yourself investor, or doesn't meet the minimum asset threshold required at your firm. If that's the case, don't waste the prospect's time: let them know right away. Be upfront about your reasons and suggest a few alternative advisors.

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