Sidney C. Walker
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September 2010

Formal "Factfinders" Are a
Mistake for Relationship-Builders...

by Sidney C. Walker


I am amazed at the number of relationship-oriented advisors who do a formal factfinder as one of the first things they do with a potential client. This is a logical course of action. I was trained the same way. You sell the potential client on the premise that you need all the facts in order to make your expert recommendations.


The problem is that if you are relationship-oriented, your first objective is to connect with the client. The client is going to buy from you because he or she feels you understand them, feels that you care about them, and that they can trust you. A formal factfinder in the first meeting will not likely accomplish any of these objectives.


Furthermore, doing a formal factfinder in the first interview is a sterile procedure. I can't think of anything more boring. And, put yourself in the client's shoes, do you really want to give all the details of your financial situation to someone you just met or would you like to get to know them a little?


I remember someone told me early in my career that you develop rapport with the client as you go through the formal factfinder. Okay, maybe a little, but not much.


Of course, you need information about your client. Gathering information about your client never stops. But you don't need to put them through the agony of a formal factfinder in the first interview. There is a time when you need facts to complete the process but rarely is it in the first interview.


One other approach that is totally inappropriate for relationship-builders is to send the factfinder to the client before the meeting to have them fill it out. Advisors tell me they use this as a test to see if the prospect is really interested. Most people are somewhat unconscious and even embarrassed about what they are doing with their money. I wouldn't risk having a potential client do anything on their own before I have had a chance to find out their strengths and weaknesses; and most important, I want every opportunity to build a relationship.


I am sure you are getting the idea. If you are a relationship-builder, doing a formal factfinder in the first interview is wasting a huge opportunity to guarantee a sale. Which would you rather have after the first interview, a complete set of facts or someone who will buy something nine out of ten times because they feel you understand them and care about them?


So what do you do in the first interview? You ask open-ended questions and listen. You want to find out what the client has done with their money. What they like and don't like about what has happened thus far. How sophisticated they are about handling their money? Most important, what do they want that they don't have? And, finally, are they willing to spend some time and money to get what they want?


I have written extensively on this topic which is all on my website, If you are not already a member, you can do a 7-day Free Trial and get lots of information on what to do in the first interview. Start with the Introduction Webinar so you know how the website is organized. And be sure to check out the Teaching Interview in the Handout Archive and the webinar on the Teaching Interview in the Supplemental Training area.



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Have a productive September,

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