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Phil Bray: Top tips for the perfect first client meeting

Bray-PhilAdvisers who go the extra mile to impress will be rewarded many times over

Marketing types are fond of talking about the “client journey”. That usually means the journey an individual takes from being a suspect, to prospect, to client. Here, however, I want to talk about an entirely different client journey: to and within your office.

At a very basic level, the experience of finding and spending time in your office needs to be stress free for the client and conducive to the aims of the meeting. But done well, it can be so much more than that.

Whenever I work with a new client I insist on visiting their office. I have had mixed experiences, from being impressed at the attention to detail, to feeling uncomfortable and left wondering how clients might react.

So, drawing on my experience of planner’s offices, here are my top tips for improving this particular client journey.

Before the meeting: Build a simple process to ensure the meeting is confirmed well in advance. Send an agenda and details of anything the client is expected to bring.

For new clients, find out how they will arrive and provide detailed directions to your office, including a postcode for their sat nav. Include parking instructions in your pre-meeting communications, too.

This information should be included on your website, just in case they forget to bring the directions you have sent them.

Parking: If your office has parking, make it clear where your client should park by labelling the space “client parking”. So simple, yet few firms do it. You could go a step further and add a sign with your client’s name on. These are not expensive and create a great first impression.

Your reception area: Think about how your office is configured. When clients walk in the door, are they walking into a reception area or
an open plan office, where every head turns? It is not always possible, but my preference is always the former. I have often felt uncomfortable walking into an open plan office for the first time to be greeted by a sea of faces.

Remember to ensure the person greeting your client knows their name, and who they are here to see.

Waiting for you: Your client will inevitably be left alone for a couple of minutes as you make your way to greet them. Careful thought should be given to how they are occupied in those few minutes.

Ideally, you will have material in your reception that promotes your services and expertise. For example:

  • Client testimonials or case studies, either written or playing on a looped video.
  • Literature explaining more about financial planning and the value of advice.
  • Information or a video promoting your chartered status.

Refreshments: I have seen refreshments offered in several different ways, from a simple “tea or coffee?” to a menu of drinks from which the client can select. There is no right or wrong answer here but they should be served with care.

The room itself: You will know if you prefer a desk and chairs or a more relaxed setting of sofas and coffee tables. If your office can accommodate both, you may prefer to have each option available.

Most planners like to display their cashflow forecasts on a large screen so that it’s easy for the client to see.

Technology: Make sure it works. There is nothing more frustrating than wasting time hunting for the wi-fi code or plugging laptops into screens only to find they do not work. It makes you look underprepared, eats up precious time and will leave both you and the client feeling frustrated.

Takeaways: Almost every meeting will end with the client taking away a certain amount of paperwork. From corporate brochures to disclosure documents and fee agreements to a financial planning report, the quality, or otherwise, of what they are given will continue to reflect your business long after your meeting has ended.

So, if you meet clients in your office, perhaps now is the time to review their experience. In isolation, many of these tips may seem insignificant. But they all add up and details matter. Those planners who go the extra mile to impress will be rewarded many times over.

Phil Bray is director of The Yardstick Agency

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