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20 Questions Every Advisor Should Ask During Prospect and Client Meetings

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Prospect and client meetings are critical activities for advisors. They are your best chance to build relationship with your clients, develop trust, uncover needs and help them reach their goals. The key to getting the most out of your meetings is focus on your client or prospect rather than your own needs. This means asking great questions and listening to what they tell you.

Most advisors do a great job of asking the straight-forward questions that uncover facts—Iike what products a client already has, or what their salary is. But to really understand your client and their true needs you need to take your questioning skills to the next level.

With that in mind here are 20 questions every advisor should be prepared to ask their prospects and clients. The questions are organized around the typical stages of a sales or review meeting.

How to nail the meeting kick-off

What are the keys to making this relationship work for you?

A good open-ended question that puts the focus on the client and what they want. It demonstrates that you are concerned with helping them succeed, rather than just making a sale.

Why do you think you need help?
This question helps build rapport because it puts the client in control and shows that you are acting as a partner rather than a salesperson.

What keeps you up at night?
The answers to this question are important. Your client or prospect may have financial concerns, safety issues, medical worries—any of the whole host of anxieties that plague us all from time to time. Sharing their concerns with you, doesn’t just help you uncover needs, it builds trust.

How do you make important financial decisions?
It’s always important to know (rather than assume) how decisions are made in the family. Is the person you are talking to the sole decision-maker, or is everyone involved? Also, do they like a lot of time to evaluate options, or do they need a deadline? Do they prefer one recommendation or a variety of choices?

How to build on personal information questions

In this part of the meeting you’ll mostly be asking straight-forward questions to capture client information, like: age, address, number of children, occupation, salary, etc. But, sometimes, you can pivot from this data gathering to learn more about your clients concerns, aspirations and needs.

For instance, if they have recently had a child, it’s natural to ask: How do you plan to support them if you were to get sick or have a change in employment?

If a child is entering high school you might ask: Do you have plans for their education beyond high school?

A good follow-up is always: Have you been saving for that eventuality?

Clients may share common concerns, but different people will value them differently.

The above are examples of straight-forward questions that help you understand how your client prioritizes their concerns.

Why reviewing goals is critical

What are your most important non-financial goals right now?
Many advisors focus exclusively on their client’s financial needs. While this is certainly the cornerstone of an effective review, it’s always helpful to try to gain a broader understanding of the client and their goals.

Uncovering non-financial needs not only tells you more about your prospect or client, but some of the things the client reveals may have financial implications that you can help them with (i.e. saving for a major purchase.)

How do you envision your life a year from now? Five years out? At retirement?
The idea behind this question is to get your client to stretch their time horizon. The further out they can see the better they will understand what needs to be done today to prepare for that long-term dream.

This is a chance to encourage them to imagine—not to worry about what may or may not be possible, but to envision the life they want for themselves and their family. The more detail they can provide the better.

What changes in your financial or personal situation do you foresee?
This question reveals how your client thinks about their future, and, perhaps, what plans they have for it. The answer may reveal opportunities for you to help.

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about your finances/the economy/the future in general?
A question like this gives you another way to gain a deeper understanding of your prospect or client's world view, attitude towards risk and expectations about the future.

How far away do your goals feel right now?
This question gives you a read on how much urgency your client feels about putting solutions in place. It speaks to their appetite for solving their problems immediately.

Review Products and Services Already Purchased

What have you done to manage your finances so far?
The answer to this question tells you how proactive your client has been and how concerned about their goals they are.

Investments go up and down, what level of loss would cause you excessive anxiety (dollar value, percent change yearly, over a long term…)?
This question helps you understand your client’s appetite for risk. It tells you if this is a client you will have to manage closely when their portfolio experiences losses—or if this is someone you should turn away from volatile investments altogether.

Why did you choose to work with me?
Advisors often feel like they know why clients choose to work with them versus their competition, but asking this question is a good check. Often the answers are surprising. An advisor may feel, for instance, that their advice sets them apart, but what the client really values may be something entirely different (like access to collateral professionals.)

Propose Solutions to Meet Needs

As you present solutions/recommendations for products, services and strategies that will help your client reach their goals make sure to pause after each suggestion.

Ask your client: “Does that make sense to you?” Or “Do you have any questions about what I just described?”

If they hesitate before answering ask them to describe what they are thinking, how they feel, or what they would like see done differently.

What do you think the next steps should be?
This question is a great way to get your client involved/engaged in the process. It shows you are not pushing an agenda, and they are in the driver’s seat.

How to close the meeting strong

Is there anything else you’d like to discuss today?
It is important to end with a quick check that your client’s expectations for the meeting have been met. See if anything new has arisen during your discussion that they would like to deal with.

Review Next Steps

Do you have any questions about what will happen next?
Really this question is to confirm they have reasonable expectations for what will happen after the meeting. What are the next steps? When will they happen? Will the client have to do anything?

How do you prefer to stay in touch going forward?
This is a question about communication style. Does your client prefer to hear from you a lot, a little, not unless something has changed? Do they prefer face-to-face meetings, phone calls, emails, etc.?

Wrap up

You may not ask all of the questions listed in this document during a single meeting, but having them in your toolkit means you’ll always be ready to advance the conversation and gain deeper insights into your prospect or client’s needs. Just make sure to keep the flow of the meeting as natural as possible. Don’t force questions into the discussion, but ask them when natural segues occur. If you can harness the power of asking the right questions, and absorb what your client tells you, you will find your meetings become consistently more effective and your clients will be more satisfied.

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