The Art of Leading a Discovery Meeting

This summer my wife and I took our kids stand-up paddle boarding for the first time.

If you’re not familiar with stand-up paddling boarding (often called SUP), you stand on something similar to a surfboard.  Then you use a long oar to propel yourself through the water.

I found that it was simultaneously easier and harder than I expected.  It was easier in that I didn’t fall in the water every time I stood up.  But it was definitely harder in that I was constantly working every muscle: from my arms and shoulders to paddle around, to my core to stay standing, to my legs which were always working to maintain my balance.

Our excursion along the harbor near Folly Beach, SC was led by a fantastic instructor.  Our group included another family that had much more experience than we did. It was fascinating to watch our guide adjust his plans to make the trip fun for the experienced group while making sure that my family was progressing toward the sandbar at the end of the harbor.

It reminded me of a recent conversation with a planner whose Discovery meeting went longer than expected but still didn’t cover everything he wanted to go over.

Running a client meeting (and a Discovery meeting in particular) is a real art.  Some clients may enter the meeting with a very clear idea of their goals and objectives while many will not.  It is up to the advisor to draw that information out of the client.  Maybe there are goals that the client didn’t consider. Maybe a goal needs to be adjusted or reprioritized.

Additionally, it’s easy for a conversation to get sidetracked and go on longer than expected, particularly when building rapport.

So how do you apply this art of leading a Discovery meeting?

  1. Know your goals – What are your must-haves? What needs to happen for the meeting to be considered a success (for you and the client)?
  2. Know your constraints – How much time do you have? What else do you need to consider?
  3. Constantly monitor your progress. Are you on-track, ahead, or behind?
  4. Adapt to the client’s pace. It’s okay to gently nudge the conversation forward, but don’t rush the client.
  5. Be willing to adjust your goals as long as you are making progress. It’s better to fully cover one topic while skipping others than to leave many topics half-covered.  You can always schedule additional meetings.

Ultimately, a good financial advisor or financial planner has a clear plan for where the meeting needs to go and is always adjusting to find the best path to get there.

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