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A team approach to successful client meetings

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Taped to Joseph Birkofer’s office door is a piece of paper with a list of hints that says: “Things to do to effectively communicate with Joe.”

That list is a light-hearted reminder of when he and other client-facing employees of his firm, Legacy Asset Management in Houston, took personality tests.

Birkofer, who is a CFP and principal at the registered investment adviser, and the others took the exams so that they could learn more about each other and develop the best way to work together, rather than frustrating or hindering one another during client meetings.

“You can use personality tests to speed up gaining the insights that might otherwise take years of working together to get,” he says.

Birkofer and other veteran advisers have looked for the best ways to help fellow team members during client meetings.

The personality tests offered concrete and reasonable expectations of what to expect from one another.

But Birkofer doesn’t rely simply on those. Before any client meeting his team conducts a strategy session, where they agree on who will raise what topics with the clients, what documents or other materials to show them, and who will take notes.

“We try and anticipate,” Birkofer says.

Together, he and his team develop an informal script with the intended order of topics to discuss, he says.

At a client meeting recently, for example, Birkofer knew, based on the return on investment reports with “lots of red” that the client would have questions. He and team members discussed the reports beforehand, brought copies and knew who would answer the client’s questions.

“We were prepared. When the client asked about that, I said, ‘I knew you would want to talk about this,’” Birkofer says.

Talis Advisors in Plano, Texas, also conducts pre-meeting planning.

“We really try and leverage the different abilities within our firm by using a team approach. This does mean that client meetings require some pre-planning,” says Stephen Hart, a CFP and the director of financial planning and wealth management adviser for the RIA.

“We have a companywide meeting every Monday morning to review clients coming in that week and then take a few minutes to discuss the main points for each meeting. This way, everyone knows what we are going to talk about and who will cover each item," Hart says.

This story is part of a 30-30 series on smart strategies for RIAs.

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