When advisors think of Centers of Influence (from here on COIs) they typically think of CPAs and Attorneys. While these traditional COIs are essential, there is no need for advisors to limit themselves to only the traditional CPA and attorney partners. There are numerous other professionals who come in contact with those who fit your ideal client profile. The key is finding out who those professionals are, making them aware of your services, and building a long term relationship.
Determine the Types of Professionals to Target
The first step is to determine the types of professionals you want to target. Based on your clientele and your existing network, you might consider the following types of professionals as they commonly deal with people of wealth:
- High-end realtors
- Private equity firms
- Executive recruiters
- Business/CEO coaches
- Life coaches
- Marriage counselors
- Divorce attorneys
- Human resource directors
- HR consultants
- Insurance specialists
- Plastic surgeons
- Assisted living directors/managers
- Elder law attorneys
- Funeral home directors
- Personal trainers
- Church/Religious leaders
Determine How to Make Contact
Once you identify the types of COIs with whom you would like to build relationships, the next step is to determine the best way to meet them. Having someone who can introduce you will speed up this process immensely. Building a relationship cold will take more time but is doable, as many of these COIs are just like you – open for new business.
Perhaps you know them already. Great! Perhaps you can ask others in your network if they know them. That works too! If you are totally at a loss, run a LinkedIn advanced search to find them, then look to get 2nd degree connections so you can get introduced.
Make Your First Meeting About Them, Not You
Your first meeting with a potential COI should be about them, not you. During your first interaction learn more about their business and give them center stage. Ask about the types of clients they work with. This first meeting is the start of a relationship. A successful relationship will take multiple contacts over time, it will rarely be a one-and-done. Ask them questions like:
- What types of clients do you work with?
- How do you acquire new clients?
- When do your clients need you most?
- Do your clients ever ask you questions related to their personal finances?
Once you know the types of clients they work with, let them know that you will be looking for business opportunities to send their way. This is the mindset of a “giver.” Someone who is looking to add value first. Don’t worry. You will get a chance to explain what you do and who you serve. But the agenda for your first interaction should be to add value to the other professional. Look to add value first, knowing the law of reciprocity is a force that will pay dividends in the long run.
You might say:
“It sounds like you and I work with the same types of clients. If my clients are ever in need of [insert service], I’ll be sure to let them know about you and what you do. That said, I might have a few I could introduce you to in the short term.”
Explain What You Do and Who You Serve
At some point, the COI will ask about what you do. Keep that response short and simple. Don’t get into the weeds of your investment philosophy or use too much financial “mumbo jumbo.” Your COIs eyes will likely glaze over.
Next, express to the COI the situations to be on the lookout for – for you. You will need to tailor this conversation based upon the COI, but here is a basic example:
Our clients typically need us most when they are experiencing a major life transition. Whether they’ve changed jobs, sold a business, or gone through divorce – these situations often have major financial implications. When you encounter those situations with your clients – please - think of me. I would be happy to speak with them at no charge to see if I can help. If I am unable to help, at a minimum, I’ll point them in the right direction.
Generate Ongoing Contact
From here, your plan is to generate ongoing contact and build a relationship. It is unlikely that the COI will have you (and your services) top of mind after an initial meeting. Generating ongoing contact will subtly remind them of what you do and who you service. You will also want to reinforce the situations to be on the lookout for. Arrange periodic lunch meetings, connect on social networks, give them a call, and if possible engage with them in social activities.
You might also find it helpful to think in terms of ‘like connecting with like.’ What do we mean? If you’re in your early thirties it’s more natural to connect with COIs of your generation. Granted, they probably won’t have as many wealthy connections now, but they will over time, and you want to be number one on their referral radar.
Stephen Boswell and Kevin Nichols are thought-leaders with The Oechsli Institute, a firm that specializes in research and training for the financial services industry. @StephenBoswell @KevinANichols www.oechsli.com