3 No-Pressure Ways to Develop Relationships with Your Center of Influence

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As most financial advisors know, referrals are quite possibly the most effective way to attract new clients. Many (smart) advisors have realized that generating referrals comes easier when you have developed a relationship with a referral source or center of influence (COI), but many fall short in understanding the best methods to begin a working relationship.

Centers of influence are commonly other professionals who provide advice for their clients. Many times, great referral sources can come from personal trainers, insurance brokers, lawyers—anyone who develops relationships that are based on trust. In most cases, connectors make the best COIs.

But just like with your clients, you’ll need to stay in the front of mind with these influencers, and doing so requires you to make these relationships a priority.

3 targeted approaches to initiate relationships with centers of influence

The social approach

This approach works best for the advisors that work for a firm, or that have had contact with a wide network of professionals in the past.

  • Host a networking event in your office, such as a happy hour or lunch event. Send out an invite, and consider creating a Google+ event so that attendees can see who else is coming.
  • Keep the atmosphere highly social. Make introductions, and focus on your guests’ connections as much as you are focused on your own. Invite your support staff so guests can meet and mingle with the team that helps run your practice—an important part in earning the trust of a great referral source.
  • At the end of the event, skip the business card, and hand out your customized American Lifestyle magazine. Include your What, How, Why in the inside cover so you can skip the awkward elevator pitch. Give a copy of ALM to the people that you feel you had chemistry with—those with similar client bases or who have a similar professional approach. Follow up with them to initiate a mutual referral relationship.

The client-centric approach

If you have a strong relationship with an existing client, this approach will work well for you.

  • Determine your most loyal clients, and ask them about their experience with their current attorney, accountant, etc. If they tell you they aren’t satisfied with their current professional, ask if you could make a referral. If they are satisfied, briefly explain that you’d like to have the names of quality contacts in order to give to clients that need recommendations.
  • Ask your client to introduce you to his or her CPA, attorney, real estate broker—whoever it may be. Having a client in common to provide an excellent introduction will likely influence the trust factor between you and your prospective COI.
  • The follow-up to the initial introduction is crucial. Give them a call, and let them know that your client recommended them and that you’d like to develop a relationship in which you could give, and possibly receive, referrals. Mention that you’ll be sending ALM to their office, and if they have clients that are looking for a Financial Advisor, they can feel free to send them your way. Don’t be pushy, and don’t expect immediate results. Focus on building an on-going relationship; ALM will help you accomplish this.

The proactive approach

If you’re interested in meeting like-minded people from your community, this is the approach for you.

  • Find a local cause or organization that you care about, and get involved. Not only will you be contributing to a greater good, but you’ll have the opportunity to really get to know other professionals before there is any discussion of referrals.
  • When meeting new people, consider this: Is this someone you would work well with? Do you have similar client types? Do you trust this person to exceed your clients’ expectations? Is this person likely to recommend you as well? If so, initiate a conversation in which you tell them you’d like to develop a mutual referral relationship.

The most important concept to remember in any of the preceding situations is that communication is key—and not just one-way communication. There needs to be a two-way dialogue between you and a referral source. If you’re consistently unable to get a referral source on the phone, chances are you won’t be receiving referrals from this person, and it’s time to take another path.

Small Talk/Networking Scripts

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