Best Practices for Client Meeting Notes

Last week, I discussed the challenges of recording client meetings.  If you want to improve the quality of your client meeting notes, here are my recommendations on what to do before, during, and after a client meeting.

Before the Meeting

Like most things in life, a little bit of planning beforehand makes a big difference.  Start by establishing a clear goal for your meeting.  What do you want to accomplish?  What does a successful meeting look like?

In general, most meetings have three potential goals: to share information, to gather information and/or to make a decision.

For financial advisors and financial planners, the goal of a Discovery meeting is to gather sufficient information to understand the client’s current situation and future goals in order to develop a plan and recommendations. The goal of a Progress Review meeting is to discuss pertinent updates to the client’s family, employment and financial situation; discuss potential planning issues and current economic environment; and review the client’s progress toward goals.

Breaking that down a bit, the goal for the Discovery meeting is not to gather some information but to gather sufficient information.  That means knowing what’s required and what isn’t.  At the risk of stating the obvious, it’s not enough to know that a client wants to retire.  Instead, the advisor needs to determine: When does the client want to retire? How much income does the client need once retired? Is the client willing to retire later to have greater income? How important is that goal relative to other goals? And so on.

If you haven’t done so, invest the time to determine exactly what you need gather or share for every client meeting.

During the Meeting

Multiple options exist for taking notes during the meeting beyond making a recording.  If you are a fast typist, you might consider using a laptop to take notes.  Personally, I’ve found that whenever I’m in a meeting where someone is using a laptop to type notes, I’ve felt a little uncomfortable.  It feels as though the other person isn’t giving me their full attention.

Another option is to use a tablet with a stylus.  It works the same as pen/paper but has the added benefit of being in a digital format so that it can be saved easily.  The simplest choice is to use pen and paper.

If you have two team members attending the meeting, you should designate one person as the notetaker.  That way, one of you is responsible for asking good questions, while the other is focused on listening to the answers.

One challenge with meetings is that you can often go down a “rabbit trail.” As a result, it can be difficult to get back on track during the meeting, and your notes can become pretty scattered.

I recommend creating a notes form to stay on track.  Here is a screenshot of a Discovery Notes form that I use with advisors. As you can see, the left column lists agenda items (including subpoints) and the right column provides space for your notes. If you’d like a copy of our Discovery Notes form and Progress Review Notes form, send me an email and I’ll forward you a version that you can adapt for your practice.

After the Meeting

As soon as the meeting is over, review your notes and add any additional pieces of information. By doing this right away, you ensure that any stray bits of information are captured while everything is still fresh. Make sure to note any action items and anything else that you write down during the meeting.  You can do this on paper or type it into your CRM.

I recommend sending the client an email that recaps your discussion, summarizes your  decisions, and identifies key action items by specifying who will do what by when. Make sure to invite any clarifications and corrections.  Additionally, you may want to confirm or set expectations for your next meeting.

Finally, save your notes in an easily accessible location.  Scan anything handwritten that isn’t fully captured in your recap email or digital notes.

By being intentional with your notes, you’ll find that your mind is freed to become a better listener too!

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