Everyone has endured bad data gathering experiences before. You visit your family doctor. They hand you a clipboard with a multi-page form. You think: “I’ve been coming for years! Don’t you have this information?” How about the person on the phone saying: “This survey will only take a couple of minutes?” As an accounting professional, how can you put people at ease while gathering data?
Set Expectations: People are wary of meetings that might go on forever. In this age of privacy concerns, they may wonder why you need this depth of information. Let them know how long the meeting will last, indicating you are willing to stay longer if they have questions. It sets expectations and gives them a degree of control. Explain the reasoning behind the questions you ask. Both the accounting and financial services professions take the “know your customer” rules very seriously.
Drop the Formality: Sit as comfortably as possible, ideally in a seating area with a sofa and chairs. Offer your client coffee or tea. Instead of holding a form and filling in spaces, ask the questions from memory, writing their answers down on a yellow pad. Pause after each question in case they think of something to add.
Draw Them Out: OK, there isn’t a line for “How did you get into this business?” Ask them anyway. It’s a story many business owners enjoy telling. Maybe you are asking about where they went to school. Ask about their majors. Are they involved with the school as an alumni donor? If you are talking about financial planning, you are learning what’s important to them. Three useful words are: “Tell me more.”
Volunteer Information to Get It: Asking rapid-fire questions is how a conversation becomes an interrogation. This might not be a formal data gathering meeting. You might have met someone socially and are sizing them up as a possible client. Instead of asking, “Where do you live?” you might say: “Jane and I live on East 66th Street in Manhattan. Where do you live?” By sharing your information first, it softens the request.
Look for Clues: You are sitting in their home or office. They have family photos and artwork on display. Their bookshelves are in plain sight. Take notice of the family photos. “It looks like you have three children. How old are they?” Maybe you say: “I see you have a scale model Porsche on your desk. Do you own one?” Then, stop talking. Let them fill in the silence.
Your objective is to gather enough data to proceed onto the next step. If clients just disgorged information, this could be gathered via an online form. You want to get to know your client and understand what makes them unique. Instead of talking as if you were seated at your desk, imagine you were seated with your client chatting in a coffee shop. People share information when they are relaxed and comfortable.
This series on the power of face-to-face relationships is bought to you in association with BQE CORE, which uses cutting-edge AI technology to make sure that you are fully up to speed with your client's activity - empowering you to be on top of your game.
Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. in New Hope, Pennsylvania. He provides high-net-worth client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book, Captivating the Wealthy Investor, can be found on Amazon.com.