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From Agenda to Summary: Creating a Written Trail of Your Client Meetings

Using a written meeting agenda and creating a written summary of all client meetings will increase your effectiveness while enhancing your creditability.

Helen Modly, 10/11/2012

How many times have you watched your clients pull out of the parking lot and realized you forgot to get a signature or a decision on some small matter? Have you ever spent an hour reviewing their account performance only to realize that they have a pressing tax problem weighing on their minds? Have you ever walked into a client meeting with no idea of what they wanted to discuss?

Why Use an Agenda?
Some people think that an agenda makes a routine client meeting seem too formal. I don't believe that there is any such thing as a routine client meeting. Every client meeting is an opportunity to reinforce why the clients are working with your firm in the first place, and to draw out any problems or concerns that they have not expressed. An agenda shows your respect for your client's time and intelligence. It demonstrates that your relationship is a collaboration vs. an ongoing sales process.

An agenda informs your client of the topics to be discussed in your meeting. A good agenda will state what decisions need to be made as well. Agendas keep clients from being surprised or unprepared for a topic. It also gives them the opportunity to add items to your meeting that are important to them. Agendas also help to keep the client and the advisor on track during the meeting and prevent important items from being forgotten.

Create an Effective Agenda
When preparing your agenda for a meeting, list the items that you want or need to discuss and identify any decisions that need to be made or any action that needs to be taken, such as a signature on a form or a document that your client needs to provide. The first item should always be "Your agenda items for today." I always want to start with whatever is on my client's mind before I move to the items I want to discuss. Try not to have more than three or four major issues and always put the most difficult or unpleasant items first, after your client's items. If at all possible, try to end the meeting on a positive subject.

The agenda template we use includes the following points:

Invited:
Date:
1. Your agenda items:
2. Review from last meeting:
3. New items:
4. Ongoing issues:
5. Follow up:
6. Next meeting:

Distribute the Agenda in Advance
Email the agenda to your clients, and anyone else who will be attending, at least a day before the meeting. Distributing the agenda two or three days ahead is even better because it gives your clients time to think of topics that they want to cover and to prepare for any items you have listed.

Also ask them to tell you what items they have for the agenda, so you can be prepared for them. This one step is so important for several reasons. It helps both of you make the most effective use of your time and prevents so much of the housekeeping type of follow-up for signatures, copies, forms, etc., that could all be prepared in advance and handled at the meeting. Distribute the agenda to your administrative staff in advance as well so they can add any housekeeping items that you might not be aware of and so they can have any forms prepared for signature.

Helen Modly, CFP, ChFC, is executive vice president and director of investment services for Focus Wealth Management, a fee-only registered investment advisor in Middleburg, Va. Modly has more than 20 years of experience providing wealth-management services. She is a member of NAPFA and FPA. She can be reached at info@focus-wealth.com.

The author is not an employee of Morningstar, Inc. The views expressed in this article are the author's. They do not necessarily reflect the views of Morningstar. The author is a freelance contributor to MorningstarAdvisor.com. The views expressed in this article may or may not reflect the views of Morningstar.
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