If you’re looking to develop a strong centre-of-influence (COI) network, you might want to think outside of the box by considering other professionals beyond lawyers, accountants and notaries, says Sara Gilbert, founder of Montreal-based Strategist Business Development.
These three professions are typically the ones that come to mind when you think of a strong COI group, which is why it can be difficult to develop strong relationships with these individuals.
“Building relationships with accountants and lawyers is very hard because it’s saturated,” says Gilbert. “They’re often overwhelmed by advisors’ requests to be their COIs.”
So, while you should not avoid the traditional COIs, work to expand your circle through people in other industries.
Here are three details to know about developing non-traditional COI relationships:
> A COI can be anyone who understands your client base
Any COI relationship must be based on both individuals sharing a target market. So, if your client base has a strong focus on snowbirds, a great COI option is a real estate agent who specializes in international property sales. If you enjoy working with high net-worth baby boomer clients, consider COIs who provide services or merchandise to this group, such as owners of high-end car dealerships or clothing boutiques.
> Non-traditional COI relationships can be easier to develop
The fact that these relationships are not as solicited as those with a lawyer, accountant or a notary is a benefit, Gilbert points out. In fact, although lawyers can be bombarded by requests from advisors who want to meet for lunch, that’s rarely a problem for the non-traditional COI.
“There are not that many advisors who go into the Mercedes dealership and build a relationship with the head car sales [representative],” says Gilbert.
The level of trust that must be developed is also different, she adds. Client relationships with sales representatives, real estate agents and many other service-oriented professions are not as deep as the rapport established with an accountant or lawyer. Therefore, it can take less time to receive a referral from a non-traditional COI.
> It will require some coaching
Although it may take less time for you to benefit from a non-traditional COI network, these professionals may also be less informed about how a financial advisory practice works and the market that you serve. So, if that is the case, you will have to take the time to explain to them your role as an advisor and the types of clients that you are looking for.
Begin by introducing yourself and telling this individual that you both work with the same type of people and you would like to learn more about his or her job. You can then approach the idea of working together to provide referrals and describe your own practice. Brainstorm some scenarios of what this professional might hear from a client that could inspire him or her to refer you.
For example, a COI who’s an architect is designing a cottage for a client who will eventually pass on the residence to his young children. The architect can suggest to the client that he or she should visit you to receive some valuable estate planning advice on making that transfer of property as fair as possible.