Step One is easier for some than it is for others. While establishing initial rapport with a prospect or reconnecting with a client certainly can be second nature for many advisors, there are times when conversations can be awkward for both parties (yes, even for the veterans). Delivering a consistent message (not winging it) is helpful to your confidence level when developing rapport.

The key points to consider during the first call/meeting are: be attentive, be observant and be sensitive to different personality styles. Break the ice by sharing a little bit about yourself, then by asking a few questions about their family, profession, hobby or something the two of you have in common. You will need to judge very quickly how long to spend on pleasantries, as some might view this as a waste of time and will want to get down to business.

Now, how you make the transition from the first step of developing rapport to Step Two (stating your objectives) is critical. The actual phrases you use from one step to the next affirms your concern and appreciation for the time your prospect/client is giving you. For example, you might say something like this:

"Thank you again for the time you are giving me today. To make sure we cover what is important to you, I would like to begin by reviewing our mutual objectives for this meeting."

When you state your own objectives for the meeting, be sure to do so respectfully, succinctly and confidently. Then, listen to your prospect or client's objectives and acknowledge the comments. You can now quickly move to Step Three-Confirm Client Expectations, and during the meeting, ask if your own expectations are in line with his or hers. This can be asked in a very direct manner: "Are these objectives in line with the expectations you had for our meeting today?" If the individual adds objectives, be sure to clarify his or her priority, which may require scheduling another meeting so you both have enough time to discuss and complete the objectives.

Confirming the allotted time with your prospects and/or clients, and using it judiciously shows respect for them, as well as the consideration for your own schedule. This is the core of Step Three. If more than one person is in attendance for the meeting, it's important to check with everyone for his or her individual time schedules to ensure the meeting stays on track. Again, this confirmation may seem like a small detail and one that should be a "given" but the actual gesture of confirming-and paying attention to-the timing of the meeting (especially if it runs longer than expected) shows those in attendance that you value their time.

Simply ask, "Do we still have the hour we scheduled for our meeting?" From there, you can adjust accordingly and continue on with the meeting. Also, if you plan on recording the meeting or having a partner or your assistant present, ask permission to record or take notes. This shows that you respect, and are sensitive to, an environment of confidentiality.

What you are doing here is building trust by diminishing discomfort or concerns: Will this advisor take too much time? Does she know where the meeting is heading? Is she prepared? Will she listen?

The Final Step In The Skill Model

You are now ready to begin asking your questions, and to allow your prospect to ask theirs. First, share a little about your background ("Who Are You?") and your Unique Value Proposition (UVP-"What Do You Do?"), two of the steps on our Value Ladder program that help you articulate the value of what you do and what you provide. (See "Discovering Your Value" July and September 2002 issues.)

Yet, how do you actually make the leap from confirming how much time you have with your prospects to discussing your value strategies, sharing information on yourself and your team and confirming the client's key issues? It's easy: Use bridging statements.