Financial planners often ask about how to build better relationships with centers of influence (COIs). By “better,” they generally mean “more productive,” and by “more productive,” they are usually referring to reciprocity. Their most common complaint is that, while they have sent X number of their own clients to a certain COI, they have never received a referral in return.
Let’s first examine why and how professionals provide referrals.
A referral occurs (or should occur) when one professional believes that his or her client’s needs can best be met by the specific expertise of another professional. So, for example, if your physician referred you to a specialist, you would reasonably expect to be referred to the one that your doctor considers the very best for your situation—in other words, the one with the best knowledge and most experience in treating your illness or injury.
Likewise, your clients should reasonably expect that you would refer them to the CPA or attorney with the best knowledge and most experience in addressing what they need, correct?
If you agree, wouldn’t you also have to acknowledge that a CPA or attorney who wanted to refer one of their clients to a financial planner would choose someone they believe had the best knowledge and most experience?
And so the question becomes, how can you best develop a relationship with a CPA, an attorney or any COI, such that they really know you, having had the opportunity to gain a clear understanding of and appreciation for your knowledge and experience?
Put more simply, how can you develop real relationships with centers of influence?
The answer is quite simple, but it takes an investment of time and effort. Just as any relationship, they must be developed over time and start with becoming acquainted, sharing some basic information about yourselves and your background and getting to know each other.
As you begin to recognize what you have in common (a personal connection, such as shared interests and personal rapport; and a professional connection, such as perspective and philosophy), you can build on that base by orchestrating purposeful opportunities to get together and—even better—to work together.
In other words, look for opportunities to collaborate on client situations. Don’t simply tell COIs how you work with clients; show them. Don’t simply send over a client; set up a joint meeting along with the client and the COI.
And most of all, don’t assume reciprocity. Build the kind of professional relationships that will lead to opportunities to work together for the recognized value each of you brings to serving your clients.
Susan Kornegay, CFP®
Pathfinder Strategic Solutions
Editor’s Note: Read more of Kornegay’s blog posts at the Pathfinder Strategic Solutions “Perspectives” blog.