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The Give-Get Ratio

These steps will help you get as much mileage as possible from your first contact with a client.

By Linda Richardson

While advisors must listen and learn during their first contact with a client, it is also critical that they “give” during this meeting. Advisors with the right “give-get ratio”—the percentage of the time they spend talking compared to the time the client spends talking—encourage their clients to schedule a follow-up meeting because they perceive the advisors’ value.

Let’s look at some ways to develop a give-get ratio that will help you create the impression you are a value-added player.

As you open your conversation, leverage and concisely position your preparation. Statements like “I've spoken with your team … It would be very helpful to understand … and before sharing some ideas …” can help accomplish this goal.

Demonstrating the fact that you are prepared gives you credibility and earns you time.

Map out your call
Your call map has four components. The first is the opening, during which you build rapport based on the homework you have done and the cues you are recognizing. In the opening you also spend one-and-a-half to two minutes outlining your credentials and those of your organization, and you show that you are prepared.

The second component is the “need” dialogue. During your first call with a client or prospect, plan to spend most of your time learning about the client's needs, drilling down to learn more and taking notes. The third map component is positioning. At this point you begin to position your capabilities relative to the needs you have uncovered. Be sure to use examples, tailor key features and benefits of your products and check for feedback from the prospect or client.

Advisors with the right “give-get ratio” encourage the client to schedule a follow-up meeting.

The final component is the closing. End on a specific next step, whether it is to meet an additional or senior decision maker or ask for the business there and then, as appropriate.

During your first contact with clients, they expect to provide you with fundamental information and lots more—if you ask for it. By positioning your preparation and asking effective questions, you earn the right to that information.

Once you understand your client’s needs, you can briefly talk about your capabilities in these areas. You must show that you grasp what the client has said and you have experience in that area. Instead of saying, "Let me think about it and get back to you," you should say something like this: "Let me give you some ideas on how we might be able to … "

Of course, often you will have to go back and refine your thinking, but during the client meeting you must show the potential value you can bring.

Manage your give-get ratio during the dialogue
During a first call, you must “get” dialogue from the client about 70 percent of the time and never less than 50 percent of the time. For subsequent calls, 50-50 is appropriate.

You must “give” dialogue—the time you are asking questions—about 30 percent of the time. One way to do this is to trade information when you ask questions. This will show the client you have insights as well as strategic and technical substance. For example, you can say to the client: “We are seeing a move to … with many of our clients. How are you handling that?”

Use the first call to take a giant step toward closing. To accelerate your close, end each subsequent meeting with the next step firmly in place so that you are poised to keep moving forward until you close.

Linda Richardson has more than 25 years of sales development and training experience. She may be reached at 215-940-9255 or


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