As an advisor, you get the opportunity to transform someone’s life in just one hour. But the key is to make sure you’re spending that hour as wisely as possible. So today, Matthew and Micah dive into what to do in prospect meetings and how to improve the value you add during those meetings.
Listen in as the guys discuss some of the common issues that pop up in prospect meetings, as well as how you can avoid key mistakes. You’ll get tips on listening better, understanding your clients’ needs, and delivering value from the start. They also share from their own experiences with prospects to help you get a better understanding of how to block out distractions and get to the core issues your client needs to address.
Prospect meetings are an opportunity to showcase your firm at its best—as long as you focus on what’s really important.
A prospect meeting isn’t just a key step in bringing in new business. It’s a way for you to gain valuable insight into your own performance, practice your craft, and deliver massive value to every single prospect. In this article, you’ll learn Matthew and Micah’s top 3 tips for packing more value into your prospect meetings than ever before.
Are you doing more talking than listening? Pay attention to the dialog in your prospect meetings, and make sure you’re asking your prospect enough questions. Are you too focused on closing the deal? Focus on delivering massive value, and you’ll be 100% in control of your success. Are you holding back the best of what you can offer? Give freely and genuinely of your knowledge and expertise during prospect meetings and watch your conversion rates rise.
Growing advisors understand that the better they get at conducting winning prospect meetings, the more clients they’ll bring in. But how do you transform your prospect meetings into value-generating experiences that position you miles above everyone else?
These tips from Matthew Jarvis and Micah Shilanski of The Perfect RIA podcast will help you transform your approach to prospect meetings and convert a steady stream of prospects into paying clients—even when that isn’t your main goal.
On the face of it, this seems like a contradiction. The prospect is there because they want an advisor, and you’re there because you want a client. Why wouldn’t you focus directly on that shared goal? As Matthew explains, changing the game is a way of focusing on what you can control.
When Matthew walks into a meeting, he knows he can 100% control the outcome, because his goal is to deliver massive value. Whether or not they’re a good fit to become a client is a conversation for another time. “I do have a goal of people becoming clients because I like to have clients, but I can’t necessarily control that. This is kind of a way to deliver value, but it’s also a mental hack of my own. If I ask them questions, if I’m interested, if I probe, if I observe their body language, if I’m ready for that meeting, I know without any doubt I can deliver massive value.”
And a funny thing tends to happen when you focus on someone else’s needs instead of your own: that person feels comfortable, relaxed, and taken care of. Isn’t that exactly what you want for your prospects?
Micah understands this well. He recently met with a prospect who already had a financial advisor (a friend); they only needed a few questions answered. Instead of turning him away, Micah took the meeting and delivered the same value he would have to any other client. Guess what happened? Micah was hired.
Even if Micah hadn’t landed that client, he wouldn’t have considered his time a waste. Micah still would have gotten valuable practice delivering massive value, and the prospect would have left the meeting with nothing but great things to say. If that’s the attitude you adopt going into every prospect meeting, you’ll never be disappointed, and neither will your prospects.
New advisors can be so focused on the talking points they want to hit that they don’t notice their prospects’ experiences. But by paying better attention to the person on the other side of the desk, you’ll receive all the signals you need to make their experience better.
Throughout the meeting, keep checking in with your prospect by watching for signs of how you’re doing. How are they breathing? Where are they moving to? What are they looking at? What are they focused on? Are they interrupting you? Are their pauses thoughtful or uncomfortable? Are you really answering their questions?
If it sounds like too much work to lead a meeting while also focusing on body language and other nonverbal cues, Jarvis suggests that you just might be talking too much. “When you’re talking, it is more difficult to pick up on those nuances, because you’re using brainpower to speak. When I’m listening, I can watch what they’re doing, I can pause and reflect, I can ask them additional questions, I can mirror their body language: all of these things that I’m doing to make the experience better for the prospect.”
Whether or not you charge for that first prospect meeting, it might seem wise to withhold your very best ideas and thoughts until the prospect actually becomes a paying client. But that doesn’t truly demonstrate your potential value to the prospect, and it directly contradicts your goal of delivering massive value no matter what.
When Micah delivers a financial plan to a prospect, he tells them, “Whether you work with us or not, these are the things you need to do. If you hire somebody else, you still need to do these things, because this is the best advice for you, period, hands down.” Micah has learned over the years that by holding nothing back and always doing what’s best for his prospects, they are more likely, not less, to become paying clients.
Of course, when your initial meeting is only an hour or so, there’s only so much detail you can get into. But if your number-one goal is to provide the highest value possible today, you will likely see that person return as a new client, and you can continue delivering that value for years to come.
We get to outline pitfalls and help prospects avoid things they didn’t know existed. - Micah Shilanski Click To Tweet
I want to focus my attention on what they’re saying and how they’re saying it so I’m really understanding if they’re hearing what I’m saying or, more importantly, that I’m hearing what THEY’RE saying. – Micah Shilanski Click To Tweet
Everything we’re doing is working on how to make this a more beneficial experience. If I spend the majority of the prospect experience telling our life stories—I hate to break it to you but, they didn’t come in for that! – Matthew… Click To Tweet
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Micah Shilanski: Welcome back to another amazing episode of The Perfect RIA podcast. I’m your cohost, Micah Shilanski, and with me as usual, the legendary Matthew Jarvis. Jarvis, what’s going on, bud?
Matthew Jarvis: Micah, I am doing good. I’m glad to be back on podcast recording. Of course, we record these in advance, and we’ve just both came out of Surge, so we’re back doing recordings, which is a lot of fun. And, Micah, especially excited to talk about prospecting. I know you and I get animated about a lot of things. We get, I think, especially animated when it comes to the prospect process.
Micah Shilanski: So much, right? And now, you can think of it from so many different ways as to why it’s exciting, but here’s the key thing for Jarvis and I. It is an opportunity to transform someone’s life, in one hour. That’s what this is really talking about, right? We get to be able to come in and meet with some people that need help. They can see areas. They’ve done great things. They have other things they really need to accomplish. And we get to outline pitfalls and help them avoid things they didn’t even know existed, but they were walking into. We could add so much value to them in that period in time. It is so exciting to chat with them.
Matthew Jarvis: I love that. It’s also, Micah, the most rapid feedback you will ever get on your business process, right? We can sit on this podcast, and we can sit around the hot tub. We can talk about the prospect process. And you can read endless articles about what you should or should not say, and what 11 questions are the best. But when you’re across from a prospect, if you’re aware, and we’ll talk about this, if you’re aware you were getting real time, microsecond feedback on, “Am I getting closer to,” their concerns closer to the reason they came, “or am I getting further away from it?”
Micah Shilanski: Yes. But, Jarvis, you just hit something huge right there. We don’t even have any agenda, right? This is, you have to get to a level, and if you’re not there yet, this is something you have to aspire to. And if you’re already there and you’re not aware of it, is you got to focus on, right? You have to get so aware of delivering massive value, that that is subconscious thought, and you can deliver massive value subconsciously. And your act of thought has to be paying attention to the micro expressions of your prospects. How are they breathing?
Matthew Jarvis: Yes.
Micah Shilanski: Where are they moving, right? What’s their eye emotion? What are they looking at? What are they focused on? Are they interrupting you? Did you really answer their question? How are their pauses, right? There’s so many things that are inside of there. And, Jarvis, sometimes, in prospect calls, just a telephone call, not in a Zoom call, but on a telephone call, I’ll actually close my eyes and just listen to them talking. Because I don’t even want visual input of anything else I’m looking at, right? I want to focus all of my attention in what they are saying and how they’re saying it, so I can really understand, are they hearing what am I saying? More importantly, am I hearing what they are saying?
Matthew Jarvis: Boy, Micah, that brings up such a great point, something we’ve talked about on this podcast before, which is how much time are you spending in the prospect meeting listening versus talking? And when you’re talking, it is more difficult to pick up on those nuances, because of course, you’re using brain power to speak. When you’re listening, Micah, you gave the example on the phone of even closing your eyes to block out even more sensory things. When I’m listening, then I can watch for what they’re doing. I can then pause and reflect. I can ask them additional questions. I can mirror their body language, all of these things that I’m doing, to make the experience better for the process.
See, everything we’re doing, Micah, and I know you know this, is how to make this a more beneficial. How do we deliver more value in this experience? If I am spending the majority of the prospect meeting telling them my life story, I hate to break this to you, they didn’t come in for that. They didn’t wake up one day and say, “You know what we really need to do, honey? We really need to find someone who will tell us their life story for an hour, and then try to sell us something at the end.” Micah, I’ve never seen that happen.
Micah Shilanski: That would be amazing.
Matthew Jarvis: So it would be.
Micah Shilanski: Would be so great. Yeah, they do. Although let me say this a little bit more bluntly. They don’t care. They don’t care about your life story. Now you’re going to say, “Well, I got these great clients and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” No. You know what? Your mother has more concern about her broke fingernail than she does about your life falling apart, right? Now, this sounds cruel and harsh, but it’s something we have to understand is that, people care more when we can deliver value to them. Now they have the care. Now we can answer their questions. They’re coming to us as professionals, right? We have to be able to help them in their position. Then they care about what’s going on in our lives, and we can share that in a limited capacity. But you have to be delivering value, so important.
Matthew Jarvis: I love this, Micah, and all this ties to prospecting mistake number four, which we’re calling all sizzle, no steak. This is part of a power session, Micah, that you and I are doing later this month on May 18th. And the all sizzle, no steak relates to it. Micah, I love to barbecue. I know you do the same. My favorite thing to do when I’m barbecuing hamburgers is to really press down on the patty and let all the grease hit the flame and this get this big fire, right? It’s the kid in me. No one else cares about that, because my kids aren’t saying, “Dad, you know what we’d love to eat is an image of flames.” They want the hamburger, right? They want it cooked well. They want a hamburger.
When a prospect comes to you, they have at least one, perhaps a couple of concerns that they need solved, and everything else is ancillary. Everything else is sizzle. So you telling your life story, it doesn’t. Unless it directly ties very quickly to what they’re trying to solve, you’re wasting time. You’re sizzling when you need to be giving them steak.
Micah Shilanski: So, some “experts” out there are going to talk about, “Well, you have two ears and one mouth, so that means you should be listening twice as much as you’re talking, right?” And for me, I mean, that was a thought, but that didn’t really connect. What do you actually do with that? You just shut up and wait till they talk twice as much, and then I can say something? What do you actually go with that? So, in our world, when we’re working with advisors, it’s more about questions. Are we asking? Are we getting their questions and answering the client’s questions? That’s my focus in the prospect meeting.
Matthew Jarvis: I love that. Micah, something that I lead in, and we’re all about taking action. In fact, you and I actually took a coach of ours. We give them the riot act, because he was kind of just preaching and not giving us action items. So we’re always about action. One of the first things I do in every prospect client advisor coaching meeting, every meeting I go to, I say, “Listen, I’ve got a couple of things for us to look at today. Please tell me what questions and concerns are on your mind.” Notice, I didn’t say, “Do you have questions or concerns?” Micah, and I actually had an advisor I was coaching this week. She pushed back on me when I said that. She said, “Hey, didn’t your team give you my agenda?” And I said, “Yeah, I’ve actually got it right here.” I held it up. I said, “I’ve got it right here. I’m really excited to talk about this, this and this. But I always want to start with what questions and concerns are on your mind.”
That’s how I lead everything. I don’t ask them about politics leading out. I don’t tell them about my kids’ sports team. “Really, what questions and concerns do you have?” Then I can hear from them. I can see their expressions. All right, where are they at emotionally? Where are they at physically? All these things start to become evident.
Micah Shilanski: Jarvis, I love it. I do the same thing. I tweak it just a little bit. Because our prospect process, and we’ll talk about this more potentially in the webinar, but we actually reach out to our clients and prospects in advance and we get their questions.
Matthew Jarvis: I love that.
Micah Shilanski: Just like what happened. So, one of the things I say is, “Hey, thank you so much for taking the time of submitting your questions. I love them and we reviewed them. I want to make sure we get to them. But before we address those, what else?” And, it’s amazing how they, just to your point, even though they put stuff on the agenda, they have other things they didn’t put on the agenda that now they want to talk about. So even if a client or prospect gives you questions in advance, you still must ask the question, what other questions or concerns do they have, because they have more.
Matthew Jarvis: Now, this is something, whether it’s the what else or what’s on your mind, whatever that iteration of that, I would write this on a Post-it note and keep it on your computer monitor. I would wear my watch upside. You need some kind of reminder to break this habit. Now, you might be in a region of the country where that phrase doesn’t work quite right. Or it just doesn’t feel natural coming out of your mouth, right? Whatever that is, you need to make sure, “What other questions I’m going to ask?” We spend too much time, as advisors, thinking, “What am I going to say in the meeting?” And really, it should be, “What am I going to ask in that meeting?”
Micah Shilanski: Absolutely. All right. So, getting their questions is of course the primary thing that we’re going to do. And then, I’m going to say setting expectations is going to be good. Now, Jarvis, we skipped over this entirely, but I know we’re going to talk about it in our power session, but, at no point in time is Jarvis and I’s goal to sell anything or to get hired in the meeting. Now, I know you’re going to be pushing back, being like, “Whoa, well, the whole reason you’re meeting with prospects is to get hired.” And, yep, that is a byproduct of meeting with clients. But my first goal with them, my sole goal in that meeting, is to deliver massive value. Whether they hire me or not, and I will tell this to prospects, “Look, work with us or not, you need to go do these things. Go hire somebody else. You still need to go do these things, because this is the best advice for you, period, hands down.” And so, we’re giving that massive value.
I also, Jarvis, and I know that you do the same, I’m not holding back my advice. I’m not keeping this secret and be like, “Ooh, if you hire me and transfer your accounts, I have this secret plan I will share with you.” No. This is, I’m going to share with them all of my ideas. Now, it’s an hour long, right? We can’t get into full details, but I will hold nothing back in that meeting.
Matthew Jarvis: Micah, I want to go back to something you said just a second ago, that you were walking into the prospect meeting with the goal of delivering massive value and not the goal of them becoming a prospect. Now again, I do have a goal of people becoming clients, because I like to have our clients, but I can’t necessarily control that. Maybe they came in and with the thing that they need, I can’t do. Or maybe they have some bizarre idea on what fees should be or whatever the case may be. Or maybe they’re going to hire their brother all along. What I can 100% control is that I deliver value in the meeting.
So this is both kind of a way to deliver value, but it’s also a mental hack of my own. I’m walking there saying I can 100% control the outcome I’m going for, which is delivering massive value. If I ask them questions, if I’m interested, if I probe, if I observe their body language, if I’m ready for that meeting, I know without any doubt I can deliver massive value. And then a second discussion is, are they a good fit to become a client?
Micah Shilanski: You know, Jarvis, it’s so funny you’re talking about this. And of course just wrapping up Surge, we went through prospect meetings. And Christian and I had a joint meeting with a prospect, very similar. They had just met with another financial advisor and that didn’t go well, so they’re interviewing us. And so, we were chatting with them. And on there, they’re working with another financial advisor that’s their friend. But he really only does investments. He wants expertise in federal benefits. And in there, he says, “You know what, I’m still going to work with my friend. I’m really not looking for a full-time financial planner. I just have these questions we’re going to answer.” So Christian, rightfully so, is like, “Okay, well, it’s kind of like a little bit of a waste of our time.” I say, “Absolutely not. No. Absolutely not.” They have come to us. For one, we charge a fee, right? So he’s paying a fee, and we will deliver massive value. That’s what we’re going to do in this meeting.
And even if it’s me just getting more practice and more reps delivering massive value, that is a solid win. Even if he doesn’t become a client, when he leaves this meeting, all he’s going to say is, “Oh my gosh, Micah and Christian were amazing. They answered all my questions. It was such a great experience working with them. I would highly recommend it.” They will leave the meeting with nothing but great things to say about us, because that’s the experience we’re going to deliver. And that’s the attitude we came into it. Guess what the outcome was? He hired us. Even though his friend’s his financial advisor, he’s like, “Nope, you guys brought up so many things that we need to do, and he’s going to move forward, et cetera.” Now, it wasn’t the goal. He even said that wasn’t going to happen. But hey, great news is that it wasn’t my goal. My goal was delivering massive value. And if I do that, everything else works.
Matthew Jarvis: Micah, I love that as it relates to when advisors get referrals from clients or centers of influence that aren’t a good fit for their niche. A lot of times they act put out, like someone’s really wasted their time. Never. I never feel that way. I think, “Great. This is another opportunity for me to practice. It’s an opportunity for me to practice with someone who’s not inside my niche.” And to your point, my goal is for them to leave and say, even if they say, “You know what? Jarvis wasn’t a good fit for me, but wow, that guy is good. He really brought value to the table. I never felt like he was selling to me. And even though he told me, ‘Hey, debt consolidation is handled by somebody else, and you should read Dave Ramsey books or whatever it is,’ still delivering massive value.”
Even, by the way, providing the Dave Ramsey book is massive value. “I’m not necessarily a good fit. Here’s three things you should watch out for. Read this book. Give me a call if you have additional questions.” So, never want to miss an opportunity to deliver massive value, which in this example is our steak, not our sizzle.
Micah Shilanski: I love it. All right. So, Jarvis, what does that mean? So we keep saying, “Deliver massive value. Deliver massive value.” But, what does this mean? And more importantly, this is one of these we weed on our coach on. He was talking hypothetical, but wouldn’t give us action items on how to do it. So I want to make sure we’re not doing that same thing. This is process-driven in my world, right? Just telling people to go deliver massive value, how does that work? How does that communicate? And what is value? How do we put a value on value, right? How do all these things come together?
So in our world, we have processes built out for this. When someone comes in as a prospect, we follow our prospect process, period. I don’t care if they’re referral. I don’t care if they came in online. I don’t care if they were a friend that has my cell phone number and called me and says, “Hey, I want to meet.” Absolutely not. We follow our prospect process. There’s no exceptions. Why are we so diligent in that? Because it works. That’s why. Right? And the funny thing, when we don’t follow our process, we don’t deliver value. This is crazy how it works. So it’s very simple. We follow our process.
Now, our process is built up into three phases with a prospect, before the meeting, during the meeting and after the meeting. Now, of course, you’re thinking like, “Well, duh, that’s kind of how it works.” But do you have a process that’s broken down for each of those steps? Now before a prospect comes in, Jarvis, they’ve already gotten four or five value ads from our office, before they’ve stepped foot in our office for our meeting, right? So already, we’re so far ahead. Sorry. I’m preaching on—
Matthew Jarvis: No, you’re… But, Micah, what I want to stress is so important about having this process is a couple of things. Without that process, let me give you an example, an advisor that I was watching his recording, the prospect, they didn’t understand how a custodian worked. Of course, they didn’t. So he said, “Great. Let’s go back to your pre-appointment process, and make sure that question is being addressed in a list of questions to ask your advisors.” This is something we’ll have on the May 18th power session. “Here are questions you should ask every advisor before you meet with them, and here are our answers for your convenience.”
See, now I’m taking what we’re going to call kind of routine questions, but important. Out of the prospect meeting, and into it, before or after, so that I can focus my time, not on explaining to them what Fidelity versus Schwab means, but instead, same way, “Really tell me what’s important about moneys. You tell me about this goal of retirement. Tell me about your money concerns.” That is valuable face to face time. Me explaining how the paperwork works, that’s not valuable time, and it’s wasting my brain power and the prospect’s brain power on things that can be delegated to the before and after.
Micah Shilanski: You know, Jarvis, we take that same thing when people become clients as well, right? Keep in mind, we can do the same thing. So in our five step process of financial planning, estate planning, risk management, retirement income investments and taxes, when it comes to the estate planning, when we do that, we send them out a generic letter. And I tell clients, “Hey, we’re going to send you a generic letter of just what is estate planning. It’s a great thing.” You know what? That saved me 15 to 20 minutes explaining what a will is, what a healthcare directive is, what a durable power of attorney, where a trust comes in, why beneficiary designations are there.
Now you could say, “Well, Micah, you’re being paid to spend that 20 minutes.” Sure. But, the client is so much happier getting that in advance, where it says, “Don’t worry. We’re going to cover all this stuff in the meeting. You don’t have to read it. It’s just two pages. It’s pretty simple.”
Matthew Jarvis: Yep.
Micah Shilanski: “Just goes through an outline of what the estate planning process is.” Then when they come in, they feel prepared for the meeting, right? Same thing with the prospects, same thing with the clients. We got to have these processes in place.
Matthew Jarvis: Well, and, Micah, some of this ties back to it, as humans, that we can debate the morality of this in modern days versus agent days. We have very short attention spans. No one, Micah, and you have a great voice, no one wants to sit for 20 minutes and just listen to you talk about reading the estate document process, versus-
Micah Shilanski: Besides me. I love—
Matthew Jarvis: Versus you. And your wife probably love to hear you talk, and we’re glad for that. So let’s just compare that. Maybe they do love that. Like, “Wow, Micah, if you could just read radio test the whole time, that would be great.”
Micah Shilanski: So great.
Matthew Jarvis: Or, if Micah is using that time to say, “Tell me about your kids. Tell me about what will happen to your kids if they receive this money all at once. Tell me what your concerns are about growing old. Tell me what experiences you’ve had as other people have grown old.” That part, they’re very engaging. That’s what they want to talk about, them. They don’t want to hear you talk. I’m really sorry. This isn’t specific to Micah or me or anyone. They don’t. They want to hear you talk just enough so they can keep talking. And that’s okay, that’s what they’re paying you for.
Micah Shilanski: Yep. Yep. Absolutely. Now, one of the things I want to pile on. There’s so much that we can talk about on the subject. One of the things I would definitely want to highlight is, when we’re reviewing these other documents, or when someone is at work with another professional, or if someone’s done it themselves, one of the things I always like to say, “Let’s take a will.” This is like, “I’m sure when you talk to your attorney, they did a wonderful job preparing this. And I’m sure they went through this, but we’ve seen other people make mistakes, and I’d love to cover these things to make sure this doesn’t happen to you. Is that going to be okay?”
Matthew Jarvis: Yeah.
Micah Shilanski: Now, what’s the important of asking a question like that? For one, they say, “Okay, well, you’re not an attorney. Why are you talking about my estate plan? I already paid an attorney to do a estate plan. Now you’re wasting my time to talk about it again, and I know it’s done.” You show no value, and this is a huge thing in prospect meetings, especially even so in client meetings. You have to clearly draw a line between your questions and how it values them, right? If you are talking about, “Well, they’re kids,” and they’re like, “Well, what the hell are you talking about my kids for? I want to talk about retirement.” And you’re not connecting the dots that says, “When you die, there’s $4 million that are going to your kids. Your kid has a spending problem. The other one’s on special needs. This is an estate planning problem.” You haven’t drawn those lines. That question is inappropriate. You must draw the lines to value with every question you ask.
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Matthew Jarvis: This is a great thing to analyze. And again, we talked about this. We preach about recording your prospect meetings. Go back and look at them. If you’re an Invictus member, to send that recording to us. We can look at it and give you the feedback. But you need to go back and look and say, “Is that question, and especially, is that statement benefiting the client? How is it benefiting the client to ask that question or to make that statement?” And then to go back and look at their body language. Are they leaning in when you’re waxing lyric about the benefits of social security? Or, have they already decided in their mind, with complete certainty, “I’m going to claim at age 64 and two months for whatever reason,” and everything else you’re saying is feeling to them like a confrontation because they’ve already made that decision.
Well, Micah, if I lead, to use that social security as an example, if I lead with, “Micah, please tell me your strategy for social security.” And if they say, “Oh, I’ve decided, because of these seven reasons, I’m going to claim it at 64 and two months.” “Okay, cool. Great.” Or if they say, “Oh, I have no idea what my strategy is.” “Okay, cool. Let’s talk about that.” But I need to see, where that is. Is that their issue or is there really another issue, and I’m being distracted by social security in this example?
Micah Shilanski: Exactly. Now, one of the things that I also love to do, Jarvis, and I know we do this internally a lot, right? Let’s say a client, our prospect has a strategy, but it’s definitely not the right one for them. There’s definitely an issue with that. And how do you bring it up, to make sure that you don’t put them down with their ideas, and you give them credit for actually working and planning, and still allow them a little bit of grace in making that wrong decision? So one of the things that I often say with them is that, “You know what? That’s one strategy,” or, “That’s a great way of doing it. Can I give you a little pushback or maybe offer a different way for something, for you to think about?”
I asked a question, right? And now when I ask that question, now all of a sudden it moves that ego aside and they can say, “Okay, that’s fine. You can give me a little pushback on that.” And now we’ve opened this up for discussion, versus someone says, “You know what? All of my family died at 70, therefore I’m taking my social security at 62 no matter what,” but they’re still working and having $100,000 a year income, right? It’s okay. But they’re so focused on getting social security, they’re missing the fact that they won’t even get social security.
So if you just jump right into it and you don’t ask for a little permission, then all of a sudden, again, the prospect’s not hearing you. They’re so defensive of their own position and the decisions in which they’ve already made.
Matthew Jarvis: Micah, this ties, wow, we can go so many directions of this. This ties into, prospects are also coming to you, including existing clients, but prospects are coming to you, partly because they need some validation on the decisions they’ve made already. So, the social security example. Or, anytime a client has told me a decision they’ve made, I want to validate that decision. Even if it’s something completely outrageous. There’s some reason in their mind that this is the right decision.
So the first thing I do, for example, when a client shows me their investment statements, or prospect, excuse me. I say, “You know what, Mr. and Mrs. Prospect, congratulations on having saved up this much money. This represents a lifetime of hard work and diligent savings. And I really just want to take a second to acknowledge you for that.” And then I pause, Micah, for about a two-second count of my mind and just let that set in. Now that’s not flattery from my point. That is real validation. They really worked hard and sacrificed, if it’s $100,000 or $15 million, whatever the dollar amount is. So for me to take just a second to validate that, is so much more valuable than for me to talk about the score I got on my CFP exam, or how many years it’s been since I got a jaywalking ticket. That’s not delivering value to them. They don’t care about that.
Micah Shilanski: Right. And, it also impresses upon them the importance of it’s their money, right? I will have so many clients that will come up to us, because we work with a lot more kind of middle America, Federal employees, right? That’s our niche and our sweet spot. We add a lot of value with them. And so often, they’ll come into me, $800,000, a million dollars, $2 million, whatever it is. They say, “Micah, I know this isn’t a lot of money to you.” Says, “Whoa, whoa. Stop right there. This is your life savings. You’ve done a phenomenal job saving this. You should be proud of this number. And this is your money, and it’s very important. We make really wise decisions about it.”
Matthew Jarvis: Yes.
Micah Shilanski: “Full stop. I mean that is 100% inaccurate statement.”
Matthew Jarvis: Yeah. Micah, let’s dive a little bit deeper. How are we delivering value in this prospect meeting? And again, there’s this idea. I think too many advisors use the prospect meeting as purely information gathering, as if the only thing we can do in this meeting is ask questions. And, if we don’t use up all the time, that we should just ask deeper questions. “Tell me about Fund X, Y, Z. Tell me about the expense ratio on that fund. Let’s read through your whatever together.” So how do we make sure that in that prospect meeting, which for most advisors is an information gathering session, how do we deliver value, even when we’re trying to just ask a lot of questions?
Micah Shilanski: Sure. So I’m going to take it from our prospect process. Now, if this isn’t your niche, you’re going to have to mold it to whatever it is, but I’m only going to speak from what works. And so, that’s the way we operate.
So, most of the clients that are coming to us, from the federal employee route, are preparing to retire from federal benefits. Perfect. Well, great. We have a phenomenal process of working clients through that and making sure they’re prepared for retirement. So we always start off, again, with their questions, whatever questions and concerns that they have. We get through those, and we explain, “Yes, we’re going to answer that. Yep, we’re going to do that.” And then some of the questions, if they’re really like, “How does this work? How does this-?” “That’s a great question. Is it okay if I get a little bit more information before I dive into that, to make sure I get you the right answer.” Right? So I’m acknowledging all their questions. That doesn’t mean I’m answering all of their questions at the beginning of the meeting. I’m acknowledging them all, and some of them we’re going to have to defer to later in the meeting. So that’s the first thing I’m going to do.
Matthew Jarvis: Micah, if I may interject just for a second.
Micah Shilanski: Please.
Matthew Jarvis: There’s a time, you highlighted this, but I want to make sure our listeners hear this. There’s a time to answer their questions. So we want to acknowledge every question they have. And a mistake advisors make a lot of the time in that initial meeting, they’re so desperate to show their expertise or deliver value that they give answers without complete information. So the client says, “Hey, what do I do with this federal benefit?” “Hang on. I could throw something off of the top of my mind, that may or may not be right, and either way, I don’t have enough context to frame my answer in a way that resonates with you.” So again, you’ve got to acknowledge every question they have. Do not rush to give an answer, not because you’re trying to hold back, as we mentioned earlier, but you need enough framework to give them a real answer.
Micah Shilanski: One of the things I’ve seen too, Jarvis, and I’m sure you have seen it with other advisors as well, is sometimes they’ll hold back an answer to something they should give a quick answer to right away.
Matthew Jarvis: Yes.
Micah Shilanski: Right? For example, like markets are concerned, “Micah, I don’t know what’s happening with the markets and the economy? Now, inflation’s going crazy. Can I stay retired?” And I get… I saw a question from that from a client, an advisor answered it. And the advisor was like, “You know what? That’s something that we need to talk about,” and moves on to something else. Oh my Crap. Oh, how could you do that? Now, the client’s on pins and needles this entire time and thinking, “Holy crap, my retirement’s in jeopardy.” The median answer should have been, “Great news, Bob. We’ve reviewed it. Short answer is you’re fine. We do want to make some tweaks and I want to get to those. But the short answer, you’re totally fine. I’m not concerned about it.” Get to that answer right away, assuming that was the right one.
All right. So many things we can talk about-
Matthew Jarvis: I love it.
Micah Shilanski: All right. So, I’m going to get their questions, right? We’re going to go through those when we’re going to answer it. Then the next thing I’m going to do is I’m going to set expectations for the meeting, right? I don’t know if they’ve met with other financial advisors. I don’t know if they’ve done it themselves. So many different things. I’m going to set expectations of what they can expect in the meeting.
I’m also, in my setting expectations, going to say, “You know what? You’ve done a great job of giving me information. And I have reviewed it. But sometimes, in my experience, what I’ve found is that I hear a different answer than I see. So is it okay if I ask you some questions, even if you’ve provided me that information, but I ask you some additional questions on it?” And they say, “Yes, that’d be great.” Now, why do I ask this? Because before I didn’t ask that, and I’d ask them questions about their LES, their living earning statement, they’d be like, “I gave it to you. Why didn’t you look at it?” So, because I see and hear different things. So I need to ask for that permission, that goes really well.
I set the rest of the expectations of what the meeting’s going to look like, and how we’re going to answer their questions, et cetera. If they’ve ever brought up, “How does it work together? How does hire? What are your fees and things you don’t?” “Those are great questions, but this hour’s about you. I promise I’m going to answer that. But first, we’re going to dive into answering your really important questions. At the end of the meeting, I’m going to make sure I answer those other ones as well. Is that going to be okay? I just want to focus on you?”
And, the answer is yes. Then I jump right into the process of, “Tell me about your federal work history.” We go through a timeline. Federal work history is often messed up by OPM. So it says like, great. “Again, I’m asking you a question, and I’m going to tie it directly to a benefit. The number one mistake I see, Mr. and Mrs. Retiree, from the Office of Personal Management is messing up your credible service for retirement. Is it okay if we spend a little bit of time talking about it?” “Sure. Micah, that’s great. We’d love to talk about it.” “Wonderful. OPM has an 82% accuracy rate. So great news is, odds are, it’s going to be fine, unless you’re one of the 18%. Then it’s not going to be fine.” And so they kind of laugh and grimace, and then we start walking through it. And then I tie that directly from federal benefits into the retirement income, into if, they’re on track for retirement or not.
Matthew Jarvis: I love that. And I hope, advisors, as you’re listening, you’re looking at your own prospect process and you’re saying, how am I, not just asking questions, that’s sort of level one. So, just speaking at prospects, that’s level minus one. You’re going backwards. Asking them questions is level one. Level two would be explaining to them why you’re asking these questions. Micah, I love that line you gave, “Sometimes I hear things differently than I see them, and so I want to go a little bit deeper with this. Is that okay with you?” Again, I’m explaining why are we looking at your tax return together? All of these things. “Hey, we need to look at your credible service history, because,” and you’re giving that reason why.
See, part of the thing that prospects are looking for when they come in, of course, their number one is they’re trying to get an answer to whatever their question is. By the way, it’s never the question they state is the question behind that question. But another thing they’re looking for is, do you understand their situation? We’re also used to going to specialists. And when I go to medical specialists, it says on the wall, whatever it is, oncologist. “Oh, that’s a cancer doctor.” In finance, people don’t know that we’re all called financial advisors. It means nothing. They want to know. So by Micah saying, “Hey, listen, OPM makes these mistakes.” “Oh, wait a second. Micah understands OPM. Every other advisor we talked to never mentioned OPM, because they have no idea.” So, this is a double win. It’s explaining to them why I’m asking. It’s establishing credibility. It’s going deeper on what matters to them. All critical things.
Micah Shilanski: You know, Jarvis, one of the things I’m super happy about, I’m finding more and more prospects ask me, “Do you do tax planning?” Now, they don’t have any follow up question to that. But it’s a great start. Two, three years ago, no one asked me about tax planning. But now they’re asking the questions, “Do you do tax planning?” And so, I think that’s a phenomenal question, so consumers are getting more educated about the importance of tax planning, which is a huge part of our practice as well?
Matthew Jarvis: Micah, I want to highlight, as our episode is sort of running towards end, I want to highlight one other thing, which is, when is it okay to talk about yourself as the advisor? In my experience, and Micah, I’d love your thoughts. The time that is okay to talk about yourself as an advisor, other than dropping in here that we work with lots of clients like you.
Micah Shilanski: Right.
Matthew Jarvis: Which is little bit, but mostly it’s talking about them, is at the end of the meeting. I say, “Mr. and Mrs. Prospect, I’ve asked you a lot of questions, and I really appreciate the insight you provided me. What questions or concerns do you have about me?” Now, Micah, I’m curious of your experience. My experience is, they have very superficial questions, like, “How long have you been in business?” Or, “Do you live around here?” What does this tell me? It tells me they don’t really care about the rest. They came in to have their questions answered. I’ve never had them ask, “What year did you get your CFP designation? What was your score on the Series 7 exam? How many times have you been highlighted by the Business Examiner Magazine?” Never have those questions asked. Never not once.
Micah Shilanski: Nope. Nope. Never. The only other time I’ll throw it in there. So I’ll talk about Kelly, my wife, for a little bit in meetings. So, anytime that I’m pointing to a potential difficult conversation, it’s usually about cashflow between husband and wives. I’ll say, “Bob and Sue, I’m sure you don’t have this problem. But Kelly and I,” and I’ll give an example pointing us as the blame for like overspending and whatnot. And they’ll laugh and they’ll say it’s the two of them. So, I will use Kelly and I as an example, when it’s a negative thing, with the client, versus putting the two of them against each other, and saying, “Well, do you guys ever not communicate about how you’re spending and where the money’s going to go?” Where’s that conversation going to go? Nowhere positive. So, I’ll give a personal example in those cases. But other than that, absolutely not. Unless they ask a direct question.
Matthew Jarvis: I love it. Another mistake, wow, we can go all day on this, that I see advisors make, and we even have to deal with this with our team members, is you’re responding to their stories with too much of a story of your own. So if the client tells me, “Hey, I went to The Bahamas on vacation,” I’m going to say, “That’s great news. I’ve been there before too. It’s a beautiful place, isn’t it?” I’m not going to launch into a 20 minute description of the six months I spent living there on a boat. That’s not what they asked about. So, I’m only ever going to relate or empathize with that. They’re not here to hear my stories. If they say, “Hey, I really want to tell you about my trip to Bahamas.” “Great. Tell me about it. I’ve been there too. Did you go to this island? Oh, okay. That’s cool.” I’m not going to launch into my own story. So, watch for that in your prospect meetings. Where are you common during the discussion to talk about you instead of them?
Micah Shilanski: Jarvis, you said a little thing in there that I absolutely loved. I was talking to Christian about this, right? When they say, “Great, I went to The Bahamas,” and your question is, “Great. Did you go to this island?” That is such a powerful question, right? Because it shows you’re caring about their trip. You’re finding out more about the things that are interested in them. But it also very subtly showed your expertise in where they went. Right? And so, that is such a beautiful question to always ask. The travels offers a great opportunity. “I’m going to Europe.” “Great. Where are you going to go?” Right? We always want to know about this.
Now this can also be a good high value touch thing. There’s been multiple clients going on big trips for their 50th anniversary. We’ll find out little details, and the arms will do a little social stalking, and we’ll have champagne or wine. We’ll have something delivered to them. Right? So you can do high touches with things like that, when you ask a little bit more detailed question, when, again, you’re not sharing to compare stories.
Matthew Jarvis: Yeah. I love that. Well, Micah, let’s transition into some action items, because this podcast—
We can do this for hours. We really could. In fact, that’s what we do when we’re doing. I mean, and we’re going to go deep on this on May 18th. We just got invited to do a conference with XYPN in October. We’re going to go all day on this stuff. As you can tell, we absolutely love this.
Micah, I’m going to say action item number one, and this is really the core of everything we’ve talked about today. How much of your prospect meeting is spent talking and working with the client, or in this case, the prospect, versus you. So when you’re talking to them, are you talking about their situation, about their needs? Or are you just, you’d love to hear yourself talk, in which case get a podcast, I guess. What’s-
Micah Shilanski: That’s us, right here.
Matthew Jarvis: What’s the ratio of time you’re spending asking about them, listening to them, watching them, versus talking about you?
Micah Shilanski: All right. I love it. I’m going to say the second thing that’s super important.
Matthew Jarvis: Please.
Micah Shilanski: Is your process.
Matthew Jarvis: Yes.
Micah Shilanski: Right? It’s not just about having some things outlined. You must have a templated process that it can be applied to every prospect that walks in, right? This isn’t cookie cutter. This isn’t giving watered down value add. And sometimes, advisors get stupid, and we think that we have to customize everything in order to add value. That’s ridiculous, right? An electrical engineer, when they’re putting wiring in your house and doing stuff, “You know what? I want to come up with a new way of delivering electricity to Micah’s house.” That’ll scare the crap out of me. I want the normal way that works and doesn’t burn homes down. So same thing with financial plan, you got to have that consistent process.
Matthew Jarvis: Micah, I would say another action item after this is, however you’re taking notes in your meeting, by the way, Micah and I now are both using the ReMarkable 2 to take notes, which is a really cool device. Thanks to Chad, one of our Invictus members, for pointing this out, the ReMarkable 2. Keep a little tally in the corners of the notepad or physical, or whatever you’re doing. Keep a check mark on one side for every question that you ask, and put a check mark on the other side for every statement that you make. And start watching that score. The awareness of that will blow your mind. Micah, when you and I watch videos of advisors doing their prospect meetings, we could have this sound off and never even see the prospect side of the video, I can tell you right away where the prospect’s at and whether they’re going to say yes or not, in just the first few minutes. Not because we’re some kind of tea leaf readers, but it’s so obvious when advisors are in a questioning mode versus a statement mode. You have to create awareness for yourself on that.
Micah Shilanski: All right. So, sign up for the five mistakes webinar that’s coming out. That power session. It’s going to be fan-freaking-tastic. Come on, if you made it this far through the podcast, you’re going to absolutely love it. We’re going to do breakouts inside of there as well. Right? So those are going to be huge things that are super valuable we’re doing on other power sessions, which are fantastic. And again, if you made it this far, give us five stars. Come on, share the love. We’re trying to grow this and you are phenomenal community. And we really appreciate everything, the feedback that we get from the nation. So thank you.
Matthew Jarvis: I love it, Micah. Well, thanks so much for your time. And until next time, happy planning.
Micah Shilanski: Happy planning.
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