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Developing Real Relationships with COIs

Financial planners often ask about how to build better relationships with centers of influence (COIs). By “better,” they generally mean “more productive,” and by “more productive,” they are usually referring to reciprocity. Their most common complaint is that, while they have sent X number of their own clients to a certain COI, they have never received a referral in return.

Let’s first examine why and how professionals provide referrals.

A referral occurs (or should occur) when one professional believes that his or her client’s needs can best be met by the specific expertise of another professional. So, for example, if your physician referred you to a specialist, you would reasonably expect to be referred to the one that your doctor considers the very best for your situation—in other words, the one with the best knowledge and most experience in treating your illness or injury.

Likewise, your clients should reasonably expect that you would refer them to the CPA or attorney with the best knowledge and most experience in addressing what they need, correct?

If you agree, wouldn’t you also have to acknowledge that a CPA or attorney who wanted to refer one of their clients to a financial planner would choose someone they believe had the best knowledge and most experience?

And so the question becomes, how can you best develop a relationship with a CPA, an attorney or any COI, such that they really know you, having had the opportunity to gain a clear understanding of and appreciation for your knowledge and experience?

Put more simply, how can you develop real relationships with centers of influence?

The answer is quite simple, but it takes an investment of time and effort. Just as any relationship, they must be developed over time and start with becoming acquainted, sharing some basic information about yourselves and your background and getting to know each other.

As you begin to recognize what you have in common (a personal connection, such as shared interests and personal rapport; and a professional connection, such as perspective and philosophy), you can build on that base by orchestrating purposeful opportunities to get together and—even better—to work together.

In other words, look for opportunities to collaborate on client situations. Don’t simply tell COIs how you work with clients; show them. Don’t simply send over a client; set up a joint meeting along with the client and the COI.

And most of all, don’t assume reciprocity. Build the kind of professional relationships that will lead to opportunities to work together for the recognized value each of you brings to serving your clients.

susan-kornegaySusan Kornegay, CFP®
Consultant/Coach
Pathfinder Strategic Solutions 
Knoxville, Tenn.

 

Editor’s Note: Read more of Kornegay’s blog posts at the Pathfinder Strategic Solutions “Perspectives” blog. 


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The Art of the Referral

You will hear this your entire career: increasing your ability to gather referrals will make your practice more successful. Establishing referrals early in our career is even more important. But the reality is that many of us don’t put a lot of emphasis on referrals and do not learn this early in our career. How great is a warm referral from a credible source like a client or another professional?

There are two reasons why we lack successful referral methods. First, there is risk in the referral—there is risk for you and there is risk for the person making the referral. Second, it can be awkward asking for it because people feel the sales aspect of it. As great as it sounds it is simply not that easy.

How do we present a more effective referral? First, we can focus on who it is coming from. Work on developing a professional relationship with a person who can provide consistent dependable referrals that fit your perfect client profile—that may be a CPA or estate planning attorney. Identify that person and develop the relationship with the emphasis on what you provide compared to another adviser. Attention to detail, technology in your practice or an advantage you will bring to that professional. This type of relationship, and referrals from these types of professionals, are invaluable.

Take the sales feeling out of the asking for the referral. Don’t use the typical cliché “is there anyone else you know who could benefit from my service or our relationship?” This has been used hundreds of times. Put your asking for the referral into context so the client doesn’t feel it as a sales ploy but a real offer to help.

Try this: ask the client if they are the beneficiary of someone’s estate. Ask them if they understand how the estate is set up to transfer—most think they do but really don’t. Ask them if the beneficiaries are clear on the transfer of their estate. There are many things they may not be aware of but need to understand. Now instead of saying “Great, please refer me to them so I can help,” say, “Let’s bring them together so we can make sure it is crystal clear and nothing is left for interpretation.” This will bring the referral right to you in a no risk opportunity. A review of information for your client with the referral in the room to help facilitate that explanation will show the true value of your detail and help you gather more referrals. This is a unique approach that many advisers don’t take advantage of.

Building a successful referral method will take time, but if you start to perfect this early on in your career it will be promising and fruitful from the start.
scott-huff

Scott Huff
CEO of Yourefolio and an IAR of JK Investment Group
Cleveland, Ohio

 

Editor’s note: FPA members receive $200 off Yourefolio software, plus a money back guarantee.