3 Tips for Virtual Appointments

By now you’re most likely consuming every bit of information on how to run your business from home. But how much of this information pertains to you, and your practice, as a financial advisor? General advice doesn’t always suffice, especially when the blogger or source is missing crucial information about our industry in general.

We’ve been working hard on creating content that actually relates to how a financial advisor’s business works and have been adapting our best material for the “virtual space”. For more of those articles, sign up for alerts on this page, or take some time to peruse our latest updates.

One of those crucial pieces of advice we often relay is about the appointment process. We also realize your appointments right now probably look a lot different. If you need help with how to run virtual appointments, check out our whitepaper on becoming a Virtual Advisor. Or if you prefer something a little more down to business, here’s our Communications Checklist.

In the past we’ve created material around the appointment process, including do’s and don’ts, questions to ask and more. Those rules still apply but may take on a different tone considering the virtual interface. While I’m sure you’re fearful that a video conference lacks the same intimacy as an in-person meeting, that’s simply not the case. A video conference still allows you to see facial expressions and body language, in addition to hearing tone of voice. This is what’s necessary to form that bond with a prospect, and all are accomplished in a video format.

So how do you run a virtual appointment? The answer is – a lot like how you run an in-person appointment. You want to make a good first impression, and a lot of that has to do with how you prepare for the first appointment. We always suggest running a “test” appointment with an employee or even family member if available so you can knock out any kinks that may pop up. But if you’re appointment process was struggling while you had an office to meet prospects, then keep reading. A video screen won’t correct for a bad first appointment.

  1. Send an agenda and digital welcome packet.

Having an agenda ready helps your prospect formulate questions before the meeting as well as gives them an opportunity to see how long this appointment is expected to take. It’s easier right now for people to take a lunch break meeting due to being at home, with the added benefit of not needing to commute to your office. Take advantage by giving them a succinct first appointment. A digital welcome packet prior to the meeting also helps them become familiar with the discussion that’s going to take place and you won’t need to explain little details if those materials are sent before the appointment. Get your prospect in the headspace for this first appointment by supplying them with questions to think about.

  1. Include spouses in the meeting

Encourage married prospects to include their spouse in the meeting, and make sure you set a time so both can attend. Ask this question prior to the meeting and make sure to reach out to both of them with the necessary welcome materials. You want both partners involved in the process as they tend to have different financial goals. You don’t want to help a client with a plan only to discover much later that their spouse isn’t on board. Include in your welcome packet something like this: Conditions of Satisfaction Survey. This will help clients start thinking about their planning priorities. We always ask clients to complete it independently – without their spouse. This way you’ll get each partner’s interpretation of the questions, their goals, and expectations. This will help you plan a tailored solution to meet those goals.

  1. Have the Right Questions Prepared

What you’re trying to do during your first appointment is figure out what expectations the prospect has, the opportunities they have for growth, and gauging their risk tolerance. This is incredibly challenging as you’re asking a prospect to trust you with some very personal information, and they may not feel comfortable giving it to you at first. That said, the way to discover their expectations, risk tolerance and opportunities for growth means getting to know them with questions tailored for the information you need in order to proceed with formulating a personalized plan. Here’s where Kinder’s Three Questions comes into play. Fill out the form on that page to receive the document.

Don’t be afraid to schedule in 5 to 10 minutes of general getting-to-know you questions, or a space to talk about what’s currently affecting the market. Let your prospect vent to you, and make sure you listen! Noting personal details like sports teams they’re missing out on, how many children they have and whether or not they’re in need of assistance can help you build a relationship. Even if now is a bad time for them to transfer assets, they’re more likely to leave the meeting feeling heard if you leave space for them to speak freely. They’re also more likely to remember the interaction as pleasant, which is also a plus.

Please click on the linked material in this post as a lot of the resources are incredibly valuable – especially for that first appointment. This post is meant as a bird’s eye view of the appointment process, and the related attachments get into details that are imperative for a successful first appointment. Remember: the same rules apply for virtual meetings. The only difference is the screen between you and your prospect. If you’re having difficulty setting first appointments right now, check out our post on prospecting while remote. This should help you get aligned for running a digital business.

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5 Reasons Why Your Appointment Process Stinks!

Harsh article title right?  Are you freaking out yet (thinking that something major you do in your process might be on the list)?  If that is you, then rest assured we are going to help you better understand some of these common mistakes that advisors make when meeting with prospects and clients.  We will also show you a brief preview of a process we’ve been entrenched in for almost three decades.

Before we get into it, you are probably wondering who we are, right?  Here’s why you should listen to us:  Since 1988 we’ve been helping some of the best independent financial advisors across the country take their practices to the next level.  We’ve been around the best-of-the-best and have helped them develop full service financial practices that grow strategically and organically.  I’ve coached, consulted, and collaborated with the most elite in the industry, and I share those ideas with advisors like you.  We’ve developed well-oiled systems and processes, and help advisors implement those on a daily basis into their businesses.

I routinely find that one of the processes that good advisors need the most help with, is their appointment process.  So here it is… 5 reasons why (if you are doing them) your appointment process stinks!

  1. You Waste Their Time

I had an interesting conversation the other day with an advisor that we don’t yet work with.  I asked him what his process was when he sat down with somebody for the first time.  Here is what he said:  “Well, I have them come into my office and we sit down for a while.  I like to talk with them about their hobbies and tell them about mine.  Most of it is small talk and then I ask them about their investments and try and make some recommendations”.  When I asked him how long this typically took, he said anywhere from two to three hours.  I proceeded to just about spit up my coffee.  Two to three hours?!?!  Are you kidding me?  A first appointment shouldn’t last more than an hour.  If it does by a few minutes, I get it.  But running much longer than that says that you don’t respect their time.  If you sit around small talking about hobbies, the weather, and other “people” you both know, then you’ve officially just wasted their time, and YOUR time.   Now don’t get me wrong, building rapport is important, but a good advisor knows when to get down to business.  If YOU took time away from your career, your obligations, and your family to get some financial help and ended up just sitting around for three hours shooting the bull with some guy who acts like he’s your buddy…how would YOU feel?  And then think how you’d feel if he invites you back for another marathon session where he’s going to try and SELL YOU SOMETHING (I’ll get to that in a minute).  I’d venture to guess that you aren’t going back for a second meeting.

The Fix:  Stick to an hour or less.  Show them you respect their time and show them you know how to get down to business.  Utilize tools like a Personal Asset Manager to keep the meeting on track and moving in the right direction.

  1. You Sell Too Much

That’s not a compliment.  I’m not talking about how much business you close… I’m talking about how bad you are at closing your mouth during the first meeting.  There are times to talk and times to listen.  The first appointment is an opportunity to listen.  A good advisor mainly uses that opportunity to ask questions so he can continue listening.  Stop selling and start listening (in the first meeting especially).  There is a time for sales, but it’s not now.  Do you routinely mention a product in the first meeting?  Stop Selling.  Do you ever pass judgement on the performance of their accounts?  Stop Selling.  Do you give them the pros and cons of any particular investments?  Stop Selling.  Do you mention a specific strategy and how it can benefit them?  Stop Selling.  People don’t want to be sold, they want to buy.

The Fix:  Listen more.  Ask better questions.  Ask questions that drive a wedge between the prospect and your competition.  We’ve assembled a strategic process that helps you ask the “right” questions during the first and second appointments.  I coach advisors on how to ask the right intimate client questions, service questions, and account questions… and we do it all without trying to “sell” or “pitch” anything.  Utilize tools like a Client Discovery Questionnaire and a Conditions of Satisfaction and Ranking Survey to listen better, and stop selling.

  1. You Throw Mud

Do you ever talk about their “current advisor” during a prospect meeting?  Stop doing that.  Still to this day, my Mother tells me, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all”.   I implore you to make that the golden rule of your appointment process.  Throwing mud at another advisor never looks good, in fact it makes YOU look desperate.  Remember, they “picked” that advisor.  That was their decision.  You are essentially throwing mud at THEM!  The same applies to their current investments or product holdings.  We all know you can probably do better for them, but don’t throw mud at what they own or who they work with.

The Fix:  Let them throw the mud.  There is nothing wrong with balling up the mud and handing it to them.  I can teach you how to ask the right “wedge” questions that will allow the prospect to draw their own conclusions, and effectively sling the mud for you!

  1. You Don’t Communicate Value

Do you know how your prospect defines value?  We believe they define it as the reduction of risks/concerns that they face and the maximization of opportunities they have available to them.  It’s not a roll-up rate, it’s not a lower fee, and it’s not a higher death benefit.  You may struggle with this.  Have you ever wondered why a prospect didn’t engage you?  You may have showed them the best plan, the best product, the best solution, but the client didn’t budge.  The overwhelming reason?  You didn’t clearly communicate tangible value as to WHY they should engage you.  The prospect didn’t clearly understand the concerns and opportunities that existed within their financial life, and why they should be addressed.

The Fix:  Take the time to help them understand the concerns and opportunities that exist within their financial situation.  If somebody clearly understands what they are, services that provide value become more appealing.  I coach advisors daily how to use tools like the Potential Concerns and Opportunity Report Summary and the Engagement of Services document.  Those tools help you clearly communicate tangible value, and help illustrate why a prospect would need you to deliver them a service.  It works so well you can even charge a fee for these services, and I think you should.

  1. You Are Not Consistent

How many first appointments have you had this past month?  How many second appointments?  Looking back, can you honestly say that every first appointment was the same and every second appointment was the same?  Most advisors cannot.  The good advisors, however, can say with certainty that they consistently followed the same process.  When you do something over and over, you get better at it.  If your first appointment is different for many different people, I’d argue that you aren’t following a consistent process.  The same goes for your second appointment.  The problem is that many advisors utilize a process that ISN’T universal with all prospects.

The Fix:  Follow a consistent process that you can implement with any prospective client.  The best advisors use the same process whether the prospect was a seminar attendee, a radio show listener, a referral, or a walk-in off the streets.  I consult with advisors to help them develop a consistent and repeatable appointment process when meeting with potential clients.  I can help you better understand the Advisor-Client Engagement (A.C.E.) Appointment Process.  This appointment process is universal.  It can be used with any type of lead and it positions you perfectly to charge a planning fee for your time and expertise.  This process leads to a consistent flow of assets to your firm, and revenue to your business.