Changing the Conversation Part IV: Enhancing the Impact of your Client Discovery Conversation

Whether you are an advisor, coach a team of advisors or lead a division, the purpose of this brief article is to encourage you to pause for a minute and honestly reflect on your approach and your firm’s approach to the Client Discovery Conversation and, more specifically, think about how you would answer the following question:

How are you engaging prospective clients in the Client Discovery Conversation in a way that differentiates you and your firm, engages them in more meaningful and relevant conversations, and compels them to readily recognize the value in working with you?

My initial plan was to provide some statistics as to what clients are looking for when engaging with advisors and then list out 4 or 5 key skills that we see so many falling short on which, if effectively addressed and delivered with intentionality, will best answer the question.

As I was working on the first draft, I received an email from one of the best leaders/coaches with whom we have worked. His name is Rob Basham, a Regional Leader for the Regions Portfolio Management Group. Every week, Rob sends out an email to his team and key constituents titled, “What I Learned This Week.” These emails are insightful, compelling, humorous, and humble and convey a true understanding and passion for serving his clients, leading his team, and just being a good man, husband, father and friend. In his last weekly email, one of the key points he focused on was about engaging with new prospects. As I read it, I realized that what he articulated here answers the above question better than I had planned to!

Here is what Rob said:

To Look Good or Be Good. It seems to me that the natural tendency of most people in sales is to focus on the former.  It’s all about convincing someone of something.  A shiny object like a “new tool we have,” a return, a process, our resumes, etc., is intuitively the quickest path there (even though in reality it is not).  Long and short is the search for some trigger point which we think will result in a client making a calculated decision to do business with us.  The problem is the vast majority of clients with wealth don’t think that way.  Every wealth management and brokerage firm has a few smart people, fancy tools, and access to all the same stuff.  All our “sales pitches” sound the same to clients if we do it this way and, frankly, are quite cheap and even desperate-sounding at times.  An Advisor or PM who actually is good and knows their true value to a client, by contrast, sounds much different.  They believe in what they are doing enough that they have confidence in it and show it rather than throwing a bunch of hollow “differentiators” against the wall to see which one sticks. This is the differentiator most clients are looking for.  Even if they can’t articulate it (most can’t), they know it when they see it.  In my humble opinion, here are some simple questions we should ask ourselves to assess how we are doing in a prospect or even client meeting:

  • How many times did we say “we”?  (Less is better)
  • How many questions did we ask vs. statements we made? (Should be far more questions than statements)
  • Was every word that came out of our mouth in the meeting directly pertinent to something that we confirmed is important to the client?  (If not, scrap it.  It is a sin to bore people with stuff they don’t find interesting or important.  Sorry if I ever do that in this email.  Please forgive me!).
  • Did we ask quality questions to truly understand the client and then actively listen? (What is the most important thing you want to accomplish with these assets? vs. “How’s your mama and them?”)
  • Did we confirm what the client’s priorities are and discuss a way forward on one or more of them?  (Not necessarily a solution but a path forward to one with agreed-upon next steps)
  • If a prospect, did we treat them as if already a client?  (“Yes” is the right answer)

This is based on observations from thousands of client and prospect meetings over the past 21 years.  Even after that, I am still learning and perfecting and welcome your feedback, challenges, and ideas.  To summarize, when we truly focus on our clients and their priorities vs. our “shiny objects” or “expertise,” we win and our clients win.  Additionally, when we treat prospects like clients by getting to work for them immediately (showing vs. telling), it resonates.  An article worth reading on this:”

Rob effectively articulates here what we believe are some of the keys to changing the Client Discovery Conversation in a way that conveys to clients that you are:

  • Different from most other firms/advisors
  • More interested in their best interests than you are your own
  • Truly and authentically curious by asking questions that get them thinking differently and more deeply about their current situation
  • Enabling them to see very clearly what it would be like working with you and the value in doing so

I encourage you to consider Rob’s email and draw on his questions to assess your own approach.

Nuff said!

At Greene Consulting, our purpose is to help financial services providers design better experiences, develop better people, and deliver better results. For more detail or insight on how we help advisors and firms in this area of the Client Experience, or any other issues related to the Client Experience being delivered, contact us at 404-324-4600 or email Rick Swygman at

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