Why Talking to Prospects is Like Dating

Dan Solin Photo

Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives

Here’s a question advisors frequently ask me: “Should I ask prospects to bring their financial information to the first meeting?”

Think for a moment about what they’re really asking. They don’t know the prospect. They haven’t established any relationship -- much less one of trust and confidence. Why would anyone feel comfortable giving an advisor intimate details of their personal life immediately upon meeting them?

To drive this point home, I ask advisors how they would have felt if their spouse or partner had started the conversation on their first date by requesting they reveal their salary, net worth and financial goals.

Treat prospects like dates

The dating analogy is the core of my coaching advice. On a first (and subsequent) date, your goal is to get to know the other person. Ask soft questions geared to elicit very basic information: What do you do? Do you enjoy your job? Where are you from originally? What was it like to grow up there? How do you like living here?

Spend time trying to find out what you have in common. Establish an emotional connection. You want to see if this is a relationship you should pursue. On a more basic level, determine if you like the other person and would be interested in spending more time with them.

Given the similarities, studies on dating can be used to make prospect meetings more productive.

Research on dating

Research on dating has found that some subjects of conversation are more productive than others.. Good conversation is described as accepting “your date’s pass, redirect it slightly, and then return the ball -- all with warmth and genuine interest in his or her responses.”

Note the emphasis on acceptance and redirection. All too often, advisors believe the purpose of a first meeting is to educate the prospect, resulting in more of a lecture than a genuine conversation.

Research on making an emotional connection

Perhaps counterintuitively, the goal of the first meeting with a prospect is not to convert them into a client. It’s to make an emotional connection.

Advisors will benefit greatly from the research of Arthur Aron, a psychologist at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He crafted a series of questions designed to form a level of intimacy that usually takes weeks, months or even years in just an hour or so. You can learn a lot from these questions.