Financial advisors often underestimate how nervous centres of influence (COIs) feel about referring clients to them, says Julie Littlechild, founder of Advisor Impact Inc. in Toronto. By recommending you to a client, your COI is putting his or her trusting relationship with that client on the line.

If you want to increase the number of referrals you receive from COIs, Littlechild says, you must “actively reassure” COIs that you will treat their clients as well as you treat your own.

Here are four ways to prove yourself to COIs:

1. Give yourself a report card
Documented input from your clients will let you know if you are meeting their standards. An additional benefit is that this feedback can be provided to COIs to confirm that your clients think highly of you.

Ask your clients about their satisfaction with your practice overall, as well as specific service issues, such as frequency of communication and your team’s performance.

You can also ask clients if they are working with other professionals, such as a lawyer or an accountant, and to rate their level of satisfaction with those relationships. These responses is will indicate where the potential referral opportunities lie.

2. Get a value checkup
Your long-time clients shouldn’t be the only ones grading you. Compose one-page surveys for those who have been referred to you by COIs. It can have a large impact on your business, according to Littlechild.

“This is an idea we’ve been sharing with advisors for a long time,” she says, “and it seems to get the best pick-up and the best feedback.”

Ask your new client to evaluate you three months into the relationship. Questions can include how satisfied the client is with your service thus far; whether the new client’s intake was handled properly; and whether all of his or her questions have been answered. Also, ask if you can share the survey’s results with the referring COI.

This process allows COIs to assess your performance from their own clients’ experiences, Littlechild says.

3. Have a relationship review meeting
Meeting your COI should be a regular, scheduled routine. It is an opportunity to communicate your service standards and provide updates on new initiatives. Discuss anything that proves you and your team work hard to be the best in your field, Littlechild says.

For example, mention the topics you are pursuing in your continuing education program,

Also, remain open to the COI’s input regarding your services or your interaction with his or her clients. If a COI understands you are open to improving your practice, he or she may be more comfortable referring clients to you.

4. Show your appreciation
“You can’t expect people to refer to you if you’re not top of mind,” Littlechild says.

So, just as you would organize client-appreciation events and educational gatherings for your clients, do the same for COIs. You’re looking to add value without always asking for something in return, Littlechild says.

Plan occasions where you and a group of COIs can meet and discuss your industries or share articles of interest. You can also invite a speaker to talk to your group about a topic of mutual interest, such as improving your client communications or time management.

This is the third part in a three-part series on working with COIs.