401(k) Plan Participant Meetings Present An Opportunity To Build Trust While Gathering Data Hot

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The conclusion of enrollment meetings is an ideal time to schedule one-on-one meetings with the plan sponsor’s employees. The purpose of these meetings is to answer questions and encourage non-participants to enroll in the retirement plan, so they have a Paycheck for Life® and help participants build their 401(k) assets, as well as manage other assets that are not in the plan.


At your first meeting, it can be difficult, occasionally, to gather the necessary information without feeling as if you’re “grilling” the person. Participants may not want to reveal too much about themselves; however, you need to get as much information as possible. By starting a conversation with your client, you can help to put them at ease. You've already built some trust at the enrollment meeting, but you have an opportunity to build on that one on one while you collect essential data.

  • Create a Dialogue. Ask questions, but don’t be afraid to tell the client about yourself, too. For example, you have a son or daughter who is just applying to college and the client’s child is now a freshman at the local university. Don’t hesitate to ask how he or she likes the school. Sharing a little bit about yourself connects you  on a deeper level. If they know that they can trust you, they will share more information with you.
  • Don’t Sell Them. It’s important to put your client at ease. They may feel funny telling you about their personal financial situation. If they are like most other people, their retirement savings have been volatile the past few years. Let them know that you genuinely want to help them achieve a brighter financial future, a paycheck for life.
  • Work From a Paper, But Don’t be Afraid to Go Off Topic. It is best to have an outline of questions that you need answered, but if you get off topic, that’s alright. It’s better for your relationship to get to know the person. However, don’t stray too far so that you end up talking sports or politics for an hour. The client’s time (like yours) is valuable. There’s a delicate balance between building trust and wasting time, but it is essential not to make the client feel rushed.
  • What Aren’t They Telling You? A large part of communication is not verbal. Make sure you can tell the difference between an anxious client and one who is in a hurry. Similarly, try to control your body language. If the person is talking about something important, nod your head as a way of prompting him or her to continue. Don’t cross your arms in front of your chest, even if the conversation is not going the way you want it. This is a signal that you are uncomfortable or bored and literally creates a barrier between you and the person. Keeping an open posture, facing them with your arms at your sides (or discreetly taking notes on important points), is an invitation for them to keep talking.
  • Be Prepared to Listen. You should be listening to everything the person has to say. That may sound obvious but most people are not active listeners. Ask questions, don't interrupt, and if someone pauses to think just listen for them to begin again. Make eye contact and be present in the conversation.

Your initial meeting with either a participant or non-participant is a crucial moment. You need to gather their financial information while beginning a long-term professional relationship. Not everyone is blessed with the gift of gab, but if you can master a few tactics, you will be well on your way to putting people at ease, building their trust in you and, hopefully, increasing your assets under management.

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