Business People Meeting Discussion in a boardroom concept

Financial advisors can broaden their reach in attracting new clients by developing trusted centres of influence (COIs).

“If you have influential people who are supporting your business and providing you with high-quality leads who are already mostly sold, that just accelerates success for everybody,” says Michèle Soregaroli, founder and CEO of Vancouver-based Transformation Catalyst Corp.

Advisors should be aiming to form “win/win/win” relationships, Soregaroli adds: “A win for the (COIs), a win for you and a win for the client.”

Too often, advisors make the mistake of seeking COIs who can bring business to the advisors, but are less focused on ways of benefiting clients and the other professional. Another mistake advisors make is pursuing high-profile and influential professionals who aren’t necessarily serving the same market.

“Make sure your COI is playing in the same sandbox,” Soregaroli says.

The obvious COIs for advisors are accountants and lawyers, and as such, they’re solicited regularly, Soregaroli says. However, she notes that, realistically, each accountant and lawyer can only support a couple of advisors in a meaningful way.

“I don’t necessarily think they’re the most valuable or the most effective COIs in all cases,” Soregaroli says. “A COI can be a natural connector with a large network who has the trust and respect of [his or her] own network.”

Specifically, the COI could have any career, as long as he or she exercises influence and shares the same philosophies and approach to serving clients. It could be someone an advisor meets through a friendship.

“If a COI is another practitioner or advisor of sorts, [his or her] practice is an extension of yours,” Soregaroli says, adding that this is an area that often is overlooked. It shouldn’t ever feel to the client that he or she is receiving conflicting advice from the advisor and the COI.

If both an advisor and COI are looking to help each other grow their individual businesses, it’s necessary for both to stay accountable to the process, says Larry Distillio, assistant vice president of practice management with Toronto-based Mackenzie Financial Corp.

Advisors and COIs should check in on a regular basis, which might mean putting each other in their calendars once a month or quarter, he says: “This is also a good way to test the level of commitment that a COI would want to provide an advisor.”

Both Soregaroli and Distillio say that in a best-case scenario, the COIs are already each other’s clients. This way, a COI already knows what the advisor’s client experience is like and can feel more confident referring the advisor.

If a COI isn’t a client, it’s a good idea to sit them down for a “due diligence meeting” and explain exactly what occurs during a discovery or initial meeting, Distillio says. This can also include introducing the COI to other members of your team and explaining the role that each member of the team plays in client service.

Lastly, advisors should provide their COIs with a few suggestions on how to mention their name in conversation, Distillio says. Typically, this would occur around life-changing events.

For example, real estate agents can be coached to drop an advisor’s name if they notice a client has downsized their home or sold a cottage, he says.

This is the third article in a three-part series on growing your business.