When holding discovery meetings with a prospective client, financial advisors often ask the prospect about their goals. The hope is that these conversations will help the prospect ease into a positive frame of mind (by thinking about a vacation, retirement, or another future aspiration) and, at the same time, present the advisor with an opportunity to show how their services can help the prospect achieve their goals. However, the reality is that asking about goals has the potential to set prospects up for disappointment or dissatisfaction down the line, especially when achieving the goal is not financially attainable based on the prospect’s current situation, in which case the advisor might be seen as a ‘dream killer’. Even when a goal is achieved, it might not feel as good as the prospect imagined (e.g., feeling a lack of purpose after retirement). Consequently, finding meaningful ways to frame discovery-meeting conversations that don’t focus on the prospect’s future goals can sometimes be a better way to engage and motivate new clients.
By identifying a prospect’s current concerns and pain points and exploring strategies to address the issues that the prospect is facing now – instead of on future dreams that may still be far off into the future (and that are much vaguer to the client than the current situations faced today) – advisors can discover powerful motivators that can help the prospect to act more decisively (in fact, a particular problem the prospect has been struggling with might have been the reason they scheduled the discovery meeting in the first place!). Of course, diving right into a conversation to learn about a prospect’s particular pain points could make for an awkward discovery meeting. However, there are several ways to broach the subject indirectly, which can help advisors ease into the conversation more naturally. One approach is to ask the prospect about current concerns instead of pain points and explore what they would like to see as an outcome of working with the advisor (which could reveal pain points without framing the question in those terms). Another option for financial advisors is to solicit the client’s “anti-goals”, which are the things a person wants to avoid (e.g., financial regrets), as these can serve as powerful incentives for the prospect to take action (perhaps by becoming a client of the advisor!).
The first step to structuring discovery meetings that don’t address goals is to make a list of questions (e.g., “What do you want to ensure you won’t regret?”) that can be used to unearth a prospect’s pain points, anti-goals, current concerns, and aspirations. Lists can be important because asking non-goal questions can take some practice before asking them feels natural. In addition, advisors can consider sending some of the questions to the prospect in advance as part of an agenda for the discovery meeting (or perhaps adding a few questions to the meeting invitation itself) to help them be better prepared to respond. Further, in addition to the core questions the advisor wants to raise, asking appropriate follow-up questions during the meeting can also play a vital role in discovering what’s most important for the prospect to act on right now.
Ultimately, the key point is that while asking prospects about their financial goals might seem like a logical strategy for a discovery meeting, an alternative approach that indirectly brings out the prospect’s pain points can be more effective at motivating them to action. And for advisors, this method not only can help them identify what really matters to the prospect but also can potentially increase the chances that they will become a client!