As increasing numbers of new financial advisors enter the industry through support roles (e.g., analysts, paraplanners, and associate advisors), many newer advisors today spend much of their time on ‘back-end’ tasks like data input and analysis rather than meeting with clients (which is reserved for more-experienced lead advisors). Which means that, while many newer advisors have the opportunity to deepen their technical financial planning expertise early in their careers (simply via the day-to-day tasks of their roles), the same may not be true when it comes to mastering the skills necessary to meet and communicate with clients in a one-to-one setting.
Accordingly, for newer advisors who plan to progress into lead advisor roles – and for more-experienced advisors looking to enhance their client communication abilities – practicing client meeting skills can be a valuable way to improve their ability to communicate effectively with their clients. But ironically, many advisors do not get a chance to practice these skills until they actually start to meet with clients—which, given the nuance and complexity of many conversations around clients’ finances, can be somewhat akin to learning how to build an airplane while it is already flying!
A better approach to deepening client meeting skills may be to find (or create) opportunities to practice those skills before meeting with clients. Because, contrary to many people’s intuition, the ability to communicate effectively in a client meeting is not an inherent trait limited to extroverted personality types; rather, it is a skill that can be learned and mastered through regular and deliberate practice. And by practicing the most essential of those skills – which include meeting preparation, creating supporting materials, time and agenda management to stay on topic, and active and passive listening to create an environment of open communication with the client – advisors can improve their performance when they get the opportunity to hold a real client meeting, no matter their level of extroversion!
While formal opportunities for newer advisors to practice client meeting skills are not always readily available, advisors do have several options that they can explore based on their goals and available resources. One is to hold mock client meetings with other advisors, which can provide hands-on practice at presenting and managing a meeting (as well as giving valuable feedback from the other participants). Additionally, on-demand virtual training courses (such as Amplified Planning’s CORE program) allow enrollees to observe real client-meeting scenarios while providing additional learning tools to help advisors deepen their skillset. Finally, more comprehensive training programs, like ACP’s Success, Money Quotient’s True Wealth, and Kinder Institute’s EVOKE training, go beyond client meetings to teach whole systems of financial planning and client communication (which may require an advisor’s buy-in to a specific planning philosophy, but can also provide intensive training to incorporate that philosophy into all aspects of the advisor’s process, including client meetings).
Ultimately, good client meeting skills are about creating an environment where the advisor and client can communicate openly. It follows, then, that practicing client meeting skills can improve an advisor’s overall ability to communicate with their clients. Which, given that clients generally value advisors who communicate openly and honestly with them, means that enhancing client meeting skills (by practicing them before meeting with clients) can also make advisors more trusted – and more valuable – in the eyes of their clients!