Getting Centers of Influence to Refer

April 28, 2015

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,

We have a number of strategic alliances with estate attorneys and CPAs to whom we often refer business. We offer very robust planning to our clients and rather than have these additional capabilities in-house, we prefer to outsource. It’s increasingly frustrating, however, because we provide a steady flow to these connections, but they do not refer in kind. My partner suggests we cut them off entirely. I think we should clarify that we will continue to refer if they do likewise but will cease doing business with them if they do not. Is there a formula that works best? 

Peter P.

Dear Peter,

Every strategic alliance is unique, so I wouldn’t use the word “formula” when talking about these relationships. Some questions to ask yourself that might help you and your partner decide which route is best for you:

  1. Do the strategic alliances know that you hope they will refer to you? You may think this is obvious and implicit. However, I have personally talked to hundreds of alliances with advisor clients and found that often times they do not realize the advisor expects something in return!
  2. Do the strategic alliances know enough about your business, who you work with and what you offer to make a referral? Again, you are sending clients their way so you could assume they have some picture of what you do, but one lesson here is to never assume. They need your help in identifying the right client and the right situation. Be sure you educate them effectively.
  3. Do you have an ongoing relationship with them and treat them like you would a valuable prospect? This could include sending articles of interest, inviting them to an event at your office, taking them out to coffee once a quarter to learn more about their business or other relationship-building activities.
  4. Do you check in on clients you have referred to ask whether they were a good fit and to seek information about the kind of client that is a best fit for their firm? It’s important to show interest in what they do, how they do it and not just to assume that because you sent someone they are happy with the referral!

Try approaching them differently and thinking of them more like a valued prospect and relationship rather than one who “owes you” and see if the situation changes.

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