Networking with Centers-of-Influence

May 6, 2014

by Beverly Flaxington

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

Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.

Dear Bev,

I have worked with the same accountant on behalf of one of my clients for years, but the accountant and I have never had a non-client related conversation about our business. I think the accountant could refer other clients to us, but it has never happened. We did not learn of the accountant except through our shared client. How should I approach the accountant to ask for additional business?

Mark D., N.J.

Dear Mark,

What have your prior interactions been like with this accountant? Have you only interacted through the client (i.e., a three-way discussion or meeting), or have you interacted one-to-one and learned about the accountant and his business? If you have had any opportunity at all to learn about him and what he does, it is going to be easier to approach him.

In either case, there are ways you can explore this relationship in more detail. Here are some suggestions. You can choose those that seem most relevant to your situation:

  1. If you know anything about the accountant at all, approach him on some basis of connection other than the client. For example, if he mentioned an interest in learning more about something related to investments or finance, find an article or piece of information to send along via email. Then follow up with a call to ask if he received it, and end the conversation with a request to sit down and meet one-on-one.
  2. If you don’t have anything to send related to his personal interests but you have spent time with him one-on-one, send an email or call to say, “We’ve worked together years on behalf of our client, let’s schedule a time to meet. If we have this client in common, it’s possible there are other situations where we could work together.” Then close him on a time and place to meet. Start with a get-to-know you conversation and see if there are synergies beyond this client.
  3. If you have not interacted except with the client, it’s a bit trickier, but you could still do a version of #2 above. Contact the accountant directly and suggest having a one-on-one conversation so you can learn more about his practice and his firm. In this case, I would err on the side of seeking to learn more before you push for a deeper relationship or referrals. You need to feel him out a bit and get to know him.
  4. If you don’t have contact information at all (which you should have already in your client-relationship management software), you could ask if the client would be comfortable with you talking to the accountant directly to learn more about his business. The client may even offer to intervene and play a stronger role in setting this up for success.

Clients can be excellent avenues for finding centers-of-influence that are right for your business. I’m glad you are thinking about this. It might give you an opportunity to look at your client base and see if there are others you can approach!

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