It was the spring of 2005 and I was having lunch with my ex-boss from Yahoo. After five taxing years as the company's Chief Solutions Officer, I was embarking on the next chapter of my career by setting up a consultancy. During our brief time together that day, he dispensed a piece of sage advice to me.
"As a consultant, you are selling yourself, your advice and a long-term relationship with your client. While your first meeting casts an initial impression, which serves as a pass/fail test, your second meeting lays the foundation of the relationship to come."
His advice jibed with research I'd conducted the year before while writing my second book (The Likeability Factor). Our relationships have a dynamic that unfolds over time, instilling in other people a set of feelings and beliefs about us. Anil's observation that day led to an "aha moment" for me: Client relationships are a marathon — not a sprint.
Now, maybe you figured that out early on in your career as a financial advisor. One of the toughest tasks as an advisor is winning over new clients. What I've discovered over the years since my boss' advice is that the second impression we make on prospects or clients can be just a s important as the first. Sure, the first impression is critical, but don't assume that's all that counts. It's easy to get lazy about our second meeting, thinking that the encore performance is a freebie that will obviously turn out well, "because we dig each other, right?" Don't kid yourself. Your relationship will naturally build and change over time, and you will never completely win someone over with the first meeting.
In professional situations, I've found the second meeting can be the hardest of all. This is especially true when the first meeting went well. While psychologists are right that a first impression can set the tone for a relationship, it doesn't define its boundaries or potential. Subsequent encounters determine the real quality of any relationship. Yet, sadly, we don't train people for this . When the second meeting goes so-so, the third one becomes a serious challenge.
Here's what's really going on: During a first meeting, people decide if we are likeable (familiar, nice, relatable). Once that hurdle is crossed, they look for the value that you will provide to them over time. Being relevant to someone's needs or interests takes the relationship to the next level.
I've come up with six simple tips that will help you have a successful second meeting and build successful new relationships. This advice is slanted to those who are following up on a great first impression (because you've likely honed your "first client date" skills over time):
1. Recollect the details of the first meeting.
This is also the golden rule of being a good conversationalist or client-oriented professional. People are irritated when they have to repeat themselves. If you don't give them your respect and full attention, why should they do the same for you? One way to do this is to journal the details of your first meeting. Note what was said, what was learned and how your prospect or client felt about the conversation. The names that your meeting partners mentioned — from industry professionals to friends and family members — are the most important thing to remember. If you learned something from the first meeting that enabled you to offer valuable advice spontaneously, start with that piece of insight during the second meeting.
2. Try not to repeat yourself too much.
Everyone has his or her "greatest hits" of stories, jokes and observations. In many situations, this arsenal of entertainment produces a great first meeting. Your homespun story may make people belly laugh the first time, but the second time you tell them, they will check their email on their phone. This is another reason that, prior to the second meeting, you should recollect the details of the first especially because you might be asked to repeat parts of your first meeting for new eyes and ears. I always have a bullet point outline of my meeting, including what stories or jokes I told and even what I wore that day! Add some novelty to the second meeting by bringing fresh content and at least one new insight about investing or investors.
As much as you prepped yourself for the first meeting, give as much or more effort for the second. Conditions and audiences change, and all sorts of contemporaneous events can alter your value proposition or the premise of your advice. Before the second meeting, research these changes and let the dialogue from meeting one give you fodder for a deeper dive into the details in p reparation for meeting two.
4. Show gratitude for the chance to meet again.
If it's a meeting for business, be grateful for the airtime. For your best potential clients, their time is money. Don't take them for granted or think you are some gift to the world that they are paying homage to. Be humble about the encore and show gratitude. Meditate for a minute on it when you first wake up the day of the second meeting. Gratitude will inspire a gracious, generous attitude.
5. Take it to the next level.
Don't think of this as "just another meeting." Life is short, so do your best to convert this warm and fuzzy transaction into a powerful relationship. Raise the bar for your encore performance. In business, move from getting-to-know-you to let's-make-something-happen-now. Have a specific goal in mind for the second meeting when it comes to the progression of your client relationship. Otherwise, your prospect will wonder, "What are we doing here?"
6. Be conscious about time.
Have you noticed that during a great first meeting everyone loses track of time? A one-hour lunch turns into an invigorating 90-minute conversation about a range of subjects. This is the dynamic of discovery, where our curiosity about others puts us into a state of flow. In my experience, this is a one-time phenomenon and shouldn't create a new precedent of overtime engagements. If you asked for an hour for your second meeting, plan out how you'll finish on time. During the meeting, note how much time is left. Finish on time or a few minutes early. This shows consideration on your part about the client's precious time and can increase your chances to set future meetings with him or her.
While this article focuses on the second meeting, keep in mind that, once again, client relationships are a marathon and not a sprint (or even two). Make sure your third, fourth or even tenth meeting continues to raise the bar and build upon the last. If you treat every minute of your client's time like money, you'll deliver a high return on attention that keeps them coming back for more.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author, who is not affiliated with Hartford Funds. The information contained herein should not be construed as investment advice or a recommendation of any product or service nor should it be relied upon to, replace the advice of an investor's own professional legal, tax and financial advisors. Hartford Funds Distributors, LLC.
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