Being a persuasive advisor is as much about what you do before important client meetings as it is about what you say during those meetings.

In fact, the way an advisor prepares for client meetings is what separates top advisors from the rest, says Norm Trainor, president and CEO of the Covenant Group in Toronto.

Trainor shares three steps to help you prepare for these meetings:

1. Know your client
Client knowledge does not solely refer to the know-your-client regulation. Knowing important personal information regarding the person you’re meeting, says Trainor, will allow the conversation to take on a deeper meaning.

If this is a long-time client, you’ve most likely been building a folder of knowledge on what your client considers important. If you’re working with a new client or a referral, gather these details from the person who introduced you or through a simple online search.

For instance, knowing your client is an avid supporter of the Canadian Cancer Society will prevent you having to ask what she does in her spare time. Instead, you can get down to the matter of why that cause is so important to her.

This knowledge will also provide you the opportunity to customize your stories and analogies for this client. Describing how you were able to maximize tax savings for a local philanthropist will provide more resonance than talking to her about your work with small-business owners.

2. Rehearse
Many advisors are great on their feet when it comes to interacting with client. But that can be a drawback, according to Trainor.

“The problem with being good on your feet,” he says, “is that a lot of advisors tend to do things in an ‘ad hoc’ manner.”

By pulling together arguments “on the fly” during a meeting, you may neglect to focus on what your client is saying and developing an appropriate response.

Instead, spend some time prior to your meeting thinking through the topic you want to discuss. Why should your client be interested in this subject? How can implementing a particular product or service benefit this client?

Once you know the answers to these types of questions, practice and perfect how you will discuss this issue.

For example, if your client constantly deflects the topic of insurance by saying he’s too young and healthy to be worried about it, prepare arguments to counter this notion. Your being ready will force you and your client to take the conversation to a new level instead of always discussing the same angle.

3. Make a positive impression
“People who are effective at influencing put a lot of thought into their presentation,” says Trainor, “and how appropriate it is to their audience.”

Your presentation can also include something as simple as how you dress in front of your client.

You should try to match what your client would expect to see from his or her financial advisor. If your client leads a multinational company, you must match the prestige that comes with your client’s position. If your clients are creative entrepreneurs, you might decide to leave your tie at home, but you must still look professional. After all, you want to look like someone who can be trusted with your client’s financial future.

This is the first installment in a two-part series on being persuasive.

Next: How to interact with your client during the meeting.