Getting Centers-of-Influence to Refer

Beverly Flaxington

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Bev,

We have solid relationships with many accountants and attorneys in our area. Our clients have recommended us to them in some cases, so the referral comes from someone they know and trust. However, we don’t receive any referrals from them. This year in particular, with the markets underperforming, it seems the accountants and attorneys must have clients who need a second pair of eyes on their portfolios. We would be willing to do reviews at no charge and make recommendations. Why aren’t we seeing referrals from these firms? We have a stellar reputation, and our client satisfaction scores are high. It’s perplexing at best and highly frustrating at worst.

Phil P.

Dear Phil,

You make an excellent argument for why these Centers of Influence (COIs) should be referring to you. Unfortunately you are making the argument to me, and it raises the question of whether you are making an equally strong argument to the audience directly.

We have had the occasion, when doing branding and marketing projects for advisors, to survey advisors’ COIs. We mostly ask questions about how they view the advisor and what words they use to describe the value the advisor adds. Time after time, we hear that (a) the COI doesn’t even know the value prop or brand of the advisor and (b) they don’t differentiate one advisor from another. It’s not that they don’t see the need for financial planning and investing; it’s that they don’t differentiate between one financial professional and another.

It’s important to view the Center of Influence as a valuable relationship, not unlike a prospect or client. Just because they know and like you does not mean you are top of mind for them in their day-to-day activities. You need to cultivate a relationship with them and show sincere interest over time.

Centers of Influence differ from prospects in that they never really close. It’s an ongoing relationship that takes commitment and attention. This is why I don’t believe in quantity over quality. I think it’s important to identify a handful (5-7) of COIs that you have a good connection with and want to work with more closely. Then, develop a plan of communication with them. Provide important information their clients may find valuable, or they personally may find valuable. Don’t try once and then, if no results occur, stop. Keep at it.