Financial advisors have varying approaches to meeting a prospect for the first time. Whatever tack you prefer, your goal should be a positive exchange of information that may result in a mutually beneficial relationship.

“At the very least, you want to make a good first impression,” says Raymond Yates, financial advisor and senior partner with Save Right Financial Inc. in Mississauga. “You must demonstrate confidence and show appreciation that the prospect has taken the time to meet with you.”

Adds Nadira Lawrence-Selan, marketing and communications consultant with Hathleigh Consulting in Woodbridge, Ont.: “The first meeting sets the stage for a potential long-term relationship. It might be your only opportunity to land that prospect.”

Here are five steps you must take when meeting a prospect:

1. Be prepared
Have an agenda or some structured format that you can follow, suggests Lawrence-Selan. Being prepared for your meeting increases the likelihood that you will get all the information you need.

Prospects expect you to be organized, says Jonathan Sceeles, financial advisor with Edward Jones in Toronto.

If possible, find out as much as you can about the prospect prior to your meeting, Yates says.

2. Create rapport
“Your goal is to get prospects to tell you as much as possible about themselves,” Yates says. “You also want them to get to know you.”

Try not to dominate the conversation or make assumptions about the prospect, Lawrence-Selan advises. “Often, advisors incorrectly jump to conclusions about what prospects want,” she says.

For instance, if a prospect is unhappy with their current advisor, don’t assume it is because of the level of service they get, Sceeles says. “The advisor might not be spending enough time explaining things to the client.”

Your role, Lawrence-Selan says, is to get “in the head” of the prospect.

3. Listen attentively
Listen to what the prospect is looking for to determine whether you are offering what they want, Sceeles says. That is not always easy, because clients present their goals in various ways.

“Some clients already know what they want,” Sceeles says. “They come in with prepared questions. Some have a less distinct ideas of what they want. And some are willing to compromise.”

By listening attentively, Lawrence-Selan says, you can learn about the likes, dislikes and expectations of the prospect and, most important, about their expectations of you.

4. Look for good fit
“You can waste a lot of time by taking on the wrong client,” Sceeles says.

So, you must be honest with yourself in determining whether the client is a good fit. Determine whether the prospect’s “style” is compatible with the way you work, Sceeles says, or if your fee structure works for the prospect. Determine whether the prospect likes to follow advice and if he or she meets your minimum investment criteria.

In some instances, Sceeles adds, you can find clues as to what makes a client happy if you learn why they are leaving their current advisor. This information will help you assess whether you want to take on that prospect as a client.

5. Ask questions
Use open-ended questions when you are looking for more information. For example: “Can you elaborate?” Or, “What do you mean when you say …?”

Make notes about areas in which you and the prospect agree and where there are conflicts, Sceeles says. Then, get clarification where necessary.