Clients are slowly beginning to realize that they can do most of their financial planning in one fell swoop. No longer do they have to visit different financial planners for their different financial needs. As a result, I believe that if you don't have control of all of your client's assets, you run the risk of letting those outside advisors come in and wrest control of what you've worked so hard to build. The foundation of all of this comes from documenting your client's concerns and dreams during the factfinding deliberations.
What's the best way to remember everything your prospects and clients say? Include a secretary or junior associate in the meeting to take complete notes while you chat with the client, eye to eye. The ideal situation is to have the associate or secretary out of your client's view so that both of you can chat freely. If you are forced to take notes during the meeting, you will spend half your time with your head down and you will never get a feel for your client's body language as he describes his most important concerns.
Of course, not many advisors have the luxury of having a secretary to take notes at the drop of a hat; so a viable option may be the use of a tape recorder. While a tape recorder is very accurate and doesn't miss a word, I've found that some clients can be intimidated by it and aren't as comfortable discussing concerns with me.
To cover our bases, we take notes from the factfinding meeting and condense them into the plan we recommend for the client. If the client agrees to our strategy, he will sign that written plan, which becomes the official documentation for that case.
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Dennis Holmstrom is with Sjoberg Holmstrom LLC, in Mora, Minn. You may reach him at 320-679-5183 or at Sjobergholmstrom@aol.com.