One of the questions I’m sometimes asked by a potential client the first time we’re talking on the phone is, “Which investments do you recommend?”
Whenever this occurs, I’m immediately taken back to an experience my wife and I shared when we visited Florence several years ago on our first trip to Italy. Looking for a neighborhood restaurant where locals eat, we came across a group standing outside Zio (Uncle) Gigi, talking Italian. This was a good sign, especially since it was 7 PM when Zio Gigi, like many restaurants in Italy, was just opening for dinner.
We went through the usual routine where our waiter gave us menus, told us about the specials, and asked us what we would like to order. I posed a typical question that many people ask the first time they’re eating in a new restaurant, “What do you recommend?” Our waiter immediately replied without changing the serious, indifferent expression on his face, “Do I know you? Do I know what you like? How can I recommend something to you?”
After my wife and I recovered from laughing hysterically, I thought to myself, that makes perfect sense. Our waiter doesn’t know us from a hole in the wall. Everybody has different tastes and dietary restrictions. How can he recommend something that meets my needs, let alone my wife’s, who has her own preferences when it comes to food?
Although I’m tempted to reply to potential clients’ questions about investments that I recommend using our Florence waiter’s response to my innocent question, I use a different tact. I explain that I need to get to know the individual and his or her spouse, if applicable, before recommending any investments.
The forum for this discussion is a one-hour face-to-face meeting or telephone conference if my potential client doesn’t live in, or isn’t visiting, the Orange County area. I tell them that there’s no need to provide me with any financial documents. I also let them know that I won’t be making any recommendations.
During our initial meeting or telephone conference, I lead potential clients through a series of questions. The questions are designed to learn about them, including short- and long-term financial and personal goals that are important to them.
Individuals who are either referred to me or find me on my website, blog, podcast, or other sites know that my specialty is retirement income planning. The focus of the discussion is their vision of the financial and personal challenges associated with this ultimate stage of life for them and their family.
After the initial meeting or telephone conference, potential clients begin to understand that the process I use to assist them with addressing these challenges extends well beyond simply recommending investments. It’s about them.
For those of you who are curious, my wife and I no longer ask waiters we don’t know, “What do you recommend?”