Where do you get your best referrals?
Roughly three-quarters of financial advisors report getting their best clients from centers of influence.
While building center of influence (COI) relationships is one of the best strategies to building your business, the process takes an extremely dedicated work effort.
Change Your Mindset
If you want to be successful in cultivating strong COI relationships, you first need to understand the difference between a casual COI and a COI strategic partner.
A casual COI is when an occasional client is referred, you are one of several advisors to whom the COI refers business, and he or she is not actively looking for referrals for you.
On the other hand, a COI who is a strategic partner refers you on a regular basis, you are the only advisor to whom he or she refers business, and he or she actively looks for referrals for you.
Which COI do you want to align yourself with? Well, certainly the latter. It is no secret that creating strategic COI partnerships can be difficult, but it is worth every effort you put in.
When you hear COI, CPAs and attorneys probably come to mind. It’s time for you to think bigger than these traditional COIs.
COI partnerships don’t have to be just CPAs and attorneys. They can be built with insurance and banking professionals, senior living facility managers, home healthcare providers, funeral home directors, employee benefits managers, and career transition and corporate coaches, to name a few.
In other words, there is a huge pool of COI partnership opportunities that you may not be thinking about. Take the time to think broader and keep a running list of additional potential COI partnership opportunities that you may not have considered previously.
Less Is More
When you begin building your COI partnerships, keep in mind that less is more.
For example, you don’t need to build partnerships with 25 elder law attorneys. Instead, pick two or three who you genuinely like and who share your values.
Remember, not every potential strategic COI partnership is going to be a match. You want to find COI partners who have similar clients and service philosophies to your business. You also want to partner with COIs who are responsive, willing to report back to you when necessary, and want to share information about clients when it’s deemed appropriate.
It is also imperative that you help them to spot a good referral opportunity for you and vice versa. As you know, not every referral is right for your business, so you’ll both want to commit to specific agreed-upon standards.
Developing this agreed-upon process takes time and you will need to actively build both credibility and trust.
Deepen Your Relationship
Going hand in hand with trust, it’s essential to treat your COI partnerships like a client. Connect with your COI partners like you would with one of your very best clients.
The partnership requires nurturing, as much as any of your client relationships. So, do all the things you would do for your best clients for your COI relationships as well. Make it a priority to know their spouse’s and children’s names, hobbies and special interests, just like you would with your clients. Take the time to send them birthday, anniversary and holiday cards, as well as the other personal touches you use with your clients.
Stay Top of Mind
Continuing to stay top of mind with COI partners is key. In addition to phone calls and emails, think about hosting a quarterly lunch or breakfast meeting to meet face-to-face. You can also facilitate meetings to bring your COI partners together to socialize, as well as overview topics that might be of importance to their clients.
Consider co-hosting and co-branding joint events as well. You and your COI partners can invite clients, as well as prospects. Keep in mind you may only want to invite one COI partner from a given field. This way clients and prospects aren’t put in a position to be approached by two accountants, for example.
Be a Valuable Resource
Think about how you can position yourself to be a valuable resource for your COI partners to stand out from other advisors they might refer business to.
How can you become a helpful source of knowledge, information and assistance for your COI partnerships rather than merely trading clients? What concerns do their businesses and clients have that you can help them solve? What invaluable expertise can you offer them? By adding true value and assistance to their business needs you will forge strong connections leading to more ideal client referrals, and ultimately more assets under management.
The Bottom Line
Establish a COI partnership process that work best for you and your practice. Be sure to keep a record of client referrals you are gaining, as well as the referrals you are making.
While creating strong COI partner bonds is not a simple process, the benefits you reap will not just be good, they will undoubtedly be great.