Developing a relationship with a centre of influence (COI) requires a candid and detailed conversation with that professional. You and your prospective COI will want to discuss key facts regarding the way you conduct your business and any expectations you both have regarding the relationship.
It may sound obvious, but not all financial advisors have that critical discussion.
“It’s just an honest discussion that most people don’t have,” says Julie Littlechild, founder of Advisor Impact Inc. in Toronto. “If you can get to the point of having this conversation, you’re pretty much in.”
Littlechild explains the four details you and your potential COI should discuss:
1. Defining referable clients
While you may have established that you and this professional have a similar client base, that doesn’t mean every client you have will necessarily be a match for that COI.
Littlechild recalls a conversation she had with her own accountant on the topic of receiving referrals from financial advisors. The accountant said advisors often referred clients who needed assistance with their personal income taxes. However, this accountant’s core business consists of corporate clients and he does personal income taxes for only a few of his clients as a special service.
Some advisors experience the frustration of providing referrals to COIs and receiving no referrals in return. If that is the case, Littlechild says, the advisor might be referring incompatible clients to the COI.
“Maybe they’re not the right referrals,” she says. “[Knowing] who to refer starts by very much understanding the COI’s business and what’s important to them.”
So, both professionals must describe in detail the clients they serve, the services they provide and the triggers that might indicate that a client would fit the other professional’s services.
2. Why you are worthy of a referral
Ask what it would take for this professional to feel confident in referring you. Understand that this person values his or her own client relationships as much as you do yours. Neither party will want to sacrifice client loyalty, so dig for the information that will make you both comfortable with your referral strategy.
For example, your potential COI tells you she wants to experience the way you interact with clients. Invite her to a client-appreciation event. She will appreciate the opportunity to chat with clients about your practice.
3. Following through on a referral
You and this potential COI should establish the best way to go about client introductions.
For example, you can ask if you are both comfortable with email introductions. If so, what details about the COI should be included in the email? Also, discuss whether there are particular situations in which you or the COI would prefer a meeting instead of email, for example, as a courtesy for top clients.
4. Maintaining communication with the COI
As with your client relationships, you must cultivate a rapport with your COIs.
Set standards for ongoing communication. Ask the COI if there is an expectation for updates if you were to work with his or her clients. Also, express your desire to get together at least once a year to discuss the relationship as well as progress in working with mutual clients.
Next: Getting more referrals from your COIs.