When meeting with a prospective client for the first time, two of the advisor’s primary goals include making a positive impression on the prospect and determining whether the prospect will be a good fit. However, if the prospect feels nervous about the advisor potentially judging their previous financial decisions, they might become uncomfortable or defensive when asked direct questions about their financial situation. And without asking the prospect about their financial history, the advisor might be challenged to determine whether the prospect would be a good fit for their services. Given this delicate balance, one particularly helpful question for the advisor is to ask, “Have you ever worked with a financial professional before?”.
This versatile question, along with relevant follow-up questions based on the prospect’s answer, can help advisors understand not only what the prospect really wants, but also how much financial planning education the advisor will need to provide to help the prospect identify and attain their goals. For example, many consumers who have never worked with a financial planner before don’t understand what advisors actually do for their clients. Additionally, prospects don’t always understand what a financial plan consists of or how they can benefit from using one. And prospects who have worked with an advisor before might come with unrealistic expectations about what they want from an advisor.
For prospects who previously worked with an advisor, good follow-up questions include asking about the length of the relationship with the previous advisor (which may give insight into when the prospect decided to examine their financial goals); why the relationship with the previous advisor ended (to see whether the advisor did something that made the prospect unhappy); and what the prospect found was most beneficial from working with their previous advisor (which can show the values the prospect finds most important).
And for prospects who have not worked previously with an advisor, helpful follow-up questions include what led them to take action now (to see what motivates them and whether they recently experienced a major life change); with whom they currently talk about their finances (to learn about alternate sources of information for the prospect); and what questions they have about the client-advisor relationship (which can show why the client wants to work together in the first place).
Ultimately, the key point is that the question, “Have you ever worked with a financial professional?” can be a useful tool for advisors not only to illustrate their value to new prospects, but also to determine potential fit. It can help them understand how much the prospect knows about the financial planning process as well as their experiences with previous advisors. And by asking appropriate follow-up questions, the advisor can learn everything from the prospect’s motivations for approaching the advisor to their expectations for the relationship. In the end, this conversation can help both the advisor and the prospect decide if a working relationship together can be beneficial and – possibly even more important! – one that they will both enjoy!