by Jack Waymire
If you’ve done the proper research, the vast world of financial planning experts has been whittled down to a short list of financial advisors just three or four names long. And now, you need to interview them.
You may be cautious about doing so because of bad experiences in the past with aggressive salespeople. But that concern should not apply here. You will only be contacting the pre-screened advisors that you have selected. You control the candidates. There shouldn’t be any reason to panic, because you already know a lot about the advisors you’ve chosen to contact, and they should only be high-quality, financial professionals and firms.
The good news in today’s world is you don’t have to make contact via phone call anymore if you don’t want to. Initial contact can be made through email or even the advisor’s website, if you prefer. You should be able to find a “Contact” option on an advisor’s website. This limits the chance of getting frazzled when talking one-on-one.
It’s important to maintain control at this step in the process because you can learn more about advisors during the contact phase. What you find out now will determine whether you need to further interview the advisor. The interview is the last step before you make your selection decision.
What Should I Ask?
When you do initiate contact, make sure you have a clear purpose for your call or email. Your primary goal is to schedule an interview, but you may have a few questions that were not answered in your research phase:
- Do you work with clients who have $100,000 to invest?
- Do you work with individual investors?
- Do you provide planning and investment services?
- Do you have current clients in my area?
Email is the more convenient way to initiate contact for most people because you retain some of your anonymity. The advisor has your name and email address, but you can still exclude your telephone number if you are concerned about follow-up solicitations.
By initiating contact with an email, you also have an opportunity to see how the advisor responds to you. Is the response timely? Does the advisor respond or does a response come from a subordinate? Did you receive an automated email response?
The more you know about advisors, the better prepared you are to select the best one.
Though an email is sufficient, we do recommend talking to an advisor before the first interview. This initial contact helps you form a first impression of the advisor’s communication skills and approach to prospective clients.
How the advisor communicates on the phone can be very important. Did the advisor act interested? Did he or she ask good questions about your current situation and goals? Offer you a choice for a meeting location? Sound willing to meet at a location that is more convenient for you?
Keep in mind, the advisor does not know you. High-quality professionals are as interested in screening you as you are in screening them. This initial contact is the beginning of a process that builds trust – an essential building block for developing a positive relationship with a financial advisor.
Most financial advisors provide contact options on their website. When you click on the “Contact” link, many times you will be asked for your contact information: Name, location, email address, telephone number and the reason for the contact. Some information is required and some may be optional.
Internet-savvy advisors are aware of your concerns about aggressive sales tactics, so they may only ask for your first name and email address. They will obtain more information when you schedule the interview.
You should provide all of the information that is necessary to initiate contact with the advisor.
Do not initiate contact with advisors if you have any concerns about their policies for protecting your data.
High-Pressure Sales Tactics
Remember, this is your list of financial advisors; a list of people you found to be professional and capable of handling your financial needs and wants. With that in mind, you shouldn’t experience any high-pressure sales tactics. If you do, you should automatically exclude them from any further consideration in your selection process.
This is one of the ways you exercise control over the process.
High-pressure tactics could include:
- Aggressive sales tactics during the contact phase
- An obnoxious personality on the telephone
- Asking for information before you are ready to provide it
- Spam emails
- Unwanted telemarketing calls
You may also be uncomfortable with the advisor’s personality. Although this is a subjective criterion you should not ignore your initial impression. If this happens, simply unsubscribe from future emails and add the advisor’s telephone number to the Do Not Call Registry.
You should be very aware of your first impressions when you interact with advisors and their staff for the first time. This is an opportunity to form an impression about the quality of the advisors’ communications. This is a critical element in your relationship with advisors when they describe their planning and investment processes. Do they use a lot of investment jargon or provide information that you understand?
You should be initiating contact with multiple advisors so you have choices. This is also an opportunity to start comparing advisors to each other. In fact, you may want to start grading them for criteria that is important to you. Communication skills and professionalism should be near the top of your list.
If an advisor does not measure up compared to the other professionals you are talking to, save yourself some time and tell him or her that you will call back if you are still interested. Be extra cautious if you find yourself liking an advisor before you know more about them. You want to select the best advisor for the right reasons.
Some advisors refer to the first meeting with a prospective client as a free, no-obligation consultation.
This is not a consultation.
You are scheduling an interview for the purpose of gathering additional information to determine who you will select to be your financial advisor.
The initial consultation occurs after you have made your selection decision.
If you are asked to bring financial documents or complete a detailed questionnaire prior to the meeting, you should remind the advisor that you will provide this information to the advisor you select. At this point you are still in the process of making your selection decision.
The free consultation is a sales tactic that some advisors use to control the interview.
This tactic should make you uncomfortable.
All advisors are going to claim that your interests come first, whether it is true or not.
We do not want to be too cynical, but do not be overly impressed when advisors express excessive interest in your goals and concerns. There is a good chance this is a sales tactic that is designed to build a relationship with you.
Remember, at this stage, you are not trying to build a relationship; you are only scheduling appointments so you can learn more about particular advisors.
Use This Guide
My second book, “5 Steps for Selecting the Best Financial Advisor: How the Internet has Changed the Game for Investors and Financial Advisors,” was released on April 23 and is a must-read for consumers who are going to rely on advisors for the achievement of their financial goals. It includes a chapter on this exact topic, initiating contact with financial advisors. The book is an easy read that minimizes the use of financial jargon that you might find confusing. It is loaded with information and guides for using the Internet to find, research and contact financial advisors. You can purchase a copy here.
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