Put The Gun Down & Walk Away From The Fact Finder

Summertime Selling Skills

Welcome to week two of my Summertime Selling Skills series all about the first meeting and the top 10 mistakes advisers make. Last week we discussed talking too much at the first meeting, this week I ask you to put the gun down, and step away from the fact finder.

First Meeting Mistake 2: Using A Fact Finder

Imagine that you may have met the person of your dreams via an online dating site (I realise this is a pretty far-fetched analogy, but stick with me for a second). You’ve agreed to meet for a first date and you have high hopes for a longer-term relationship. Amidst all the lovely feelings, you have one clear objective on this and on subsequent dates; you want to get to know the person better, a little at a time, but eventually get to know and understand them deeply because that is what we all long for in a relationship.

So, you meet for dinner on your first date, and at the restaurant you pull out your paper-based ‘First Date Fact Finder’ and start asking your date questions about themselves. For example:

  • What is your full name?
  • What’s your address?
  • What’s your date of birth
  • What do you do for a living?
  • How much money do you make?
  • What are your hobbies?

This would be an excellent way to find out everything you need to know. You could design the fact finder ‘before’ the date to check for completeness and by using the fact finder on the date you wouldn’t forget to ask something important. From your point of view this is a fantastic process. The only problem is, the date probably wouldn’t last very long. It’s no way to begin a long-term relationship.

If the fact finder is a bad idea on a first date, why would you use it in a first meeting? [click to tweet]

Your objective is exactly the same; you want to get to know the person better, a little at a time, but eventually get to know and understand them deeply because that is what we all long for in a great client/adviser relationship.

I prefer the first meeting to be a conversation (if at all possible). By all means have a list of questions in front of you if you want to ensure all your best questions get asked, but don’t try and fill in your compliance approved fact finder because you will take the ‘flow’ out of the meeting. Things like their date of birth and address are not relevant at this early stage.

Most advisers are trying to complete the fact finder at the first meeting because it saves them time (an extra meeting) in their process. It is not done because it is good for the client. Sorry, but that doesn’t fit with a client focused philosophy at all.

Advisers who do this mistakenly believe it is saving them some costs. I believe they are shortcutting the process and costing themselves short and long-term value. Short-term value because you can’t charge a substantial planning fee if you do an average first meeting and long term value because you will only pick up the low hanging fruit rather than the whole fruit tree if you try to do it quickly. That lowers the lifetime value of your client and your businesses final sale value.

Feel free to take some notes at the first meeting, or record the first meeting (as some advisers now do) on your smartphone and save the file to the clients CRM record electronically. Use a mind map if that works better for you, but whatever approach you take be sure to not get bogged down in the recording of all the information. Have someone else take the notes if this is a problem for you. The main thing to do at the first meeting is to ask great questions and actually listen to the answers, as if you were having a conversation with a friend.

Get it right and you set up the chance to charge a premium for your up-front planning fee, implementation fee and ongoing service fee.

Comment

I’d love to hear your thoughts on first meetings. What are your issues? How have you resolved any challenges? Leave a comment in the comments section on my blog or drop an email to [email protected].

Take Action

If you’d like to work with me directly on addressing your first meeting skills for you or your team drop me a line at [email protected] or give me a call on 0207 431 3663.

Webinars

My latest webinar ‘Fact Finding And Presenting Advice‘ tackling the two forgotten steps in the advice process can be heard here.

In my upcoming Webinar ‘Onboarding Clients Effectively‘ on Monday 2nd September 2013 at 12pm, I’ll be talking about how the best firms ‘onboard’ their clients and sharing some simple strategies. You can preregister to attend here and I look forward to seeing you there!

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6 thoughts on “Put The Gun Down & Walk Away From The Fact Finder

  • Well said, Brett. I can’t think of anything worse than a first meeting with an IFA/Financial Planner consisting of a series of factual questions. I think we are still quite exceptional in our approach of sending a factfind to a new client to complete on their own before the first meeting, so our Planners can spend that first meeting talking about the important stuff instead. It means the factfind had to be redesigned to make it simple for a client to complete, but other than that we find the majority of new clients are able (and willing) to fill it in and often do it to a very high standard.

    Reply
  • Way back in 1985 we were working with Paul Etheridge on his then revolutionary 35 page Fact Find. Pauls approach, he used to tell us, was to send a Fact Find to the client for completion ahead of any meeting and indeed he often said we should be actually charging prospects for our time in doind this process..
    This was to have two benefits which were firstly to determine if the suspect was a serious prospect,if it wasn’t completed and returned he would not be deemed to be serious, but also to give real purpose to any subsequent initial meeting.
    We had little success with this process but it did help to form an opinion in our business of the natural flow of any relationship which we think has served us well over time.
    In our opinion it is unrealistic to expect any substantial prospect to be willing to divulge to a stranger the range and depth of information commonly expected in our industry.
    In exactly the same way that you are trying to determine the future potential of the prospect it is entirely natural that the prospect will be trying to determine whether you can add value to his lfinancial arrangements.
    Finance is an extremely intimate issue for most people and generally prospects will want to decide whether they feel you are trustworthy before submitting to an interogation.

    Reply
  • Thanks Phil and Martin for your comments. It’s another one of these areas where there isn’t a right and wrong way so to speak, but simply what works for clients and adviser businesses.

    Clearly I’m in the Phil Melville camp of not doing much prior to the first meeting in terms of having clients fill out a fact finder, however Informed Choice obviously makes that work as I know other firms do too. Clearly there is a strong element of how you set these things up.

    The commonality I detect in both your approaches is about using the first meeting to ask more interesting questions that identify what the client really wants to get out the relationship with you and their financial future. The stronger this skill set is in an advisory firm the better the outcomes for both client and business in my experience. These skills are the thing firms should focus on before getting bogged down in the minutiae of fee charging methods. Both are linked clearly, but poor advisory skills limit the range of effective charging methods and their likely effectiveness with clients.

    Would love to hear other peoples views on this.

    Reply
  • Well said, Brett. I can’t think of anything worse than a first meeting with an IFA/Financial Planner consisting of a series of factual questions. I think we are still quite exceptional in our approach of sending a factfind to a new client to complete on their own before the first meeting, so our Planners can spend that first meeting talking about the important stuff instead. It means the factfind had to be redesigned to make it simple for a client to complete, but other than that we find the majority of new clients are able (and willing) to fill it in and often do it to a very high standard.

    Reply
  • Thanks Phil and Martin for your comments. It’s another one of these areas where there isn’t a right and wrong way so to speak, but simply what works for clients and adviser businesses.

    Clearly I’m in the Phil Melville camp of not doing much prior to the first meeting in terms of having clients fill out a fact finder, however Informed Choice obviously makes that work as I know other firms do too. Clearly there is a strong element of how you set these things up.

    The commonality I detect in both your approaches is about using the first meeting to ask more interesting questions that identify what the client really wants to get out the relationship with you and their financial future. The stronger this skill set is in an advisory firm the better the outcomes for both client and business in my experience. These skills are the thing firms should focus on before getting bogged down in the minutiae of fee charging methods. Both are linked clearly, but poor advisory skills limit the range of effective charging methods and their likely effectiveness with clients.

    Would love to hear other peoples views on this.

    Reply
  • Way back in 1985 we were working with Paul Etheridge on his then revolutionary 35 page Fact Find. Pauls approach, he used to tell us, was to send a Fact Find to the client for completion ahead of any meeting and indeed he often said we should be actually charging prospects for our time in doind this process..
    This was to have two benefits which were firstly to determine if the suspect was a serious prospect,if it wasn’t completed and returned he would not be deemed to be serious, but also to give real purpose to any subsequent initial meeting.
    We had little success with this process but it did help to form an opinion in our business of the natural flow of any relationship which we think has served us well over time.
    In our opinion it is unrealistic to expect any substantial prospect to be willing to divulge to a stranger the range and depth of information commonly expected in our industry.
    In exactly the same way that you are trying to determine the future potential of the prospect it is entirely natural that the prospect will be trying to determine whether you can add value to his lfinancial arrangements.
    Finance is an extremely intimate issue for most people and generally prospects will want to decide whether they feel you are trustworthy before submitting to an interogation.

    Reply

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