The Advisor Institute: Coach's Corner
'Small talk is small'

Practical messages intended to help you elevate the success of your practice.

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      By David RichmanNational Director, Eaton Vance Advisor Institute

      With the rarest exception, better first meetings start with small talk. Small talk should begin a conversation, not become a conversation. It gets things started, and is especially important for establishing rapport in virtual meetings. "Small talk is small" refers to our belief that it is important to move beyond superficial conversations in a first meeting.

      Two rules of thumb are to keep small talk:

      1. Brief — no more than five minutes
      2. Contained — for example, "Do you have any children?" is not a likely containable question

      Might there be a way to use the first five minutes of your meeting to gain wonderful insight on your prospective clients? Consider this question:

      "As we move closer to a postpandemic world, what are you looking forward to most?"

      If a prospective client answers, "Take that worldwide cruise we always dreamed of" or "to hug our grandchildren," you gained key insight and can readily pivot. This is not the time to go deeper. After all, you just started the meeting. Instead of asking a follow-up question about their prior experiences cruising or getting details about the grandchildren you can pivot:

      "What a beautiful answer. Thanks for sharing that with me. Looking forward to learning more about the cruise/the grandchildren. Why don't we step back though and review the purpose of our meeting today?"

      Bottom line: Better first meetings are purposeful, coordinated and conclusive. How are you approaching the first five minutes? Be intentional.