Boston: “I’ve set up my first meeting with a CPA,” started Jay during our new advisors training session. He excitedly continued, “How do you recommend I go about conducting this meeting? How do I differentiate myself? I thought I’d start with my investment philosophy and then talk about our tactical approach to investing. I really want to make sure he knows what makes us different… ”

We had to stop Jay mid-sentence. We could almost see the CPA’s eyes glaze over. We knew that if he approached this meeting with an attempt to impress this CPA with his investment acumen he would lose him quickly. Many of Jay’s fellow advisors have taken this path with little avail and Jay was not far from following in their futile footprints. He needed a fresh approach. After all, this is his big opportunity with a potential strategic partner who could be a great source of new business.

We’ve seen many advisors try and script this first interaction with little to no success. For starters, we’re dealing with people and it’s hard to predict what others will do or say. Not to mention, there are many directions the first meeting can take. You might be getting introduced over lunch, a cup of coffee, or grabbing their attention for a few minutes after a Rotary meeting. Instead of attempting to script this meeting, we recommend having a framework in mind to help you navigate this interaction. The key is being flexible but making sure you hit the fundamentals. The following are what we consider to be the 5 First Meeting Fundamentals (Strategic Partner). And by the way, this is a perfect time of year to be reaching out to CPAs.

1. Develop Rapport

I’m sure this comes as no surprise, but personal connections are the lifeblood of successful alliances. We hold CPA and Attorney panels at our workshops and ask them questions about the alliances they have formed with financial advisors. They make it abundantly clear that they must develop a personal relationship with their strategic alliance partner. Period! There is no short-cut.

During this meeting, start with the fundamentals of getting to know them: marital status, kids, hobbies, organizations involved, etc. Also, leverage any information you may have gathered from your Google search and perusing their LinkedIn account. Your objective is to find the common thread.

2. Understand Their Practice

With rapport established, you are ready to segue into a business conversation. Start this conversation by asking them soft questions about their business. These questions are open-ended and designed to slowly ignite the conversation. Some examples include:

· What are your areas of expertise?
· What are the main services your clients are asking of you today?
· How many partners do you have?

Once the conversation is underway, if appropriate, you can build up to deeper questions such as…

· What types of clients do you serve best?
· How did you build your practice/firm?
· Have you worked with financial advisors in the past? What have those experiences been like?

There are a number of questions you can ask, however, your objective is to facilitate a business discussion and reciprocate some of their responses. And remember, this should not come across as an inquisition – be conversational.

3. Explain What You Do (Warning: Keep This Brief)

This is where Jay was missing the mark. He wanted to start the conversation here and go into excessive detail about his investment process. Instead, be ready with a brief value proposition and a little about what you have been doing with clients in the midst of this volatile environment. You should also be prepared with some common questions the Strategic Partner may throw your way.

· How long have you been in a financial advisor?
· Do you have a minimum?
· In your opinion, where do you see the economy headed?

For newer advisors, it’s important that you answer the length of service
question with confidence. When responding, leverage your previous experience in the financial field, your team, or your firm. Don’t let an experience question impede your confidence.

4. Create Reasons to Follow-up

Like any healthy relationship, Strategic Partners require nourishment. During your meeting, create a reason to follow up on the spot. This might be a request for a second exploratory meeting, an article you could send, a client you would like to introduce them to, a social interaction, or any other contact that seems appropriate. If you can orchestrate a social follow-up you will accelerate developing a relationship. You need ample face time to develop a personal connection.

5. Send a Thank You Note

Within 24 to 48 hours send a personalized “Thank You” note. Your goal is to continue the professional impression. This is a simple step, but one that is easily neglected. In your follow up letter, make sure you reference any personal information you uncovered and set the stage for a follow-up meeting in the near future.

Many advisors approach these meeting with the idea that this will be a strictly business relationship, but this couldn’t be further from the case. Of course your professionalism and investment process is important, but all of that is expected. It’s a hygiene factor. However, connecting with a potential Strategic Partner on a personal level and then genuinely taking an interested in understanding their business, will be put you on the path to building a lasting and fruitful relationship.