Summary: Once upon a time, an advisor could add five accountants to a Rolodex and call it a COI strategy. That approach doesn’t cut it anymore. Today’s growth-oriented advisor needs to diversify COIs and build real relationships with them. Doing so will help you establish a steady lead flow, deliver better service to your clients — and even learn a thing or two along the way!
Gone are the days when you could find a few accountants, call them your centers of influence (COIs), and check off the “networking” box for the year. And to be frank, that approach could not have worked all that well — even when it was the norm.
Think about it. Let’s say you attended a networking event back in the pre-COVID days. Maybe you met a few professionals who were tangentially related to what you do. You would get their business cards, or perhaps send them a connection request on LinkedIn as you waited in line to grab a drink. How much thought would you typically give them 10 days after the event? How about 6 months later? Chances are you would not remember their face, their pitch, or what they did for a living.
If you want a steady stream of referrals to your business, you have to approach your COI relationships as real business relationships. Namely, you need to think about diversifying your COIs, and then creating a system to maintain active connections with them. That is the only path to ensure that when they encounter a client problem you can solve, your name is automatically at the top of their list.
In this post, we’ll explore how to re-energize your COI relationships so your business maintains a healthy flow of leads.
You want your COIs to have distinct specialties. This approach will expand the number of referrals your COIs can send you — and ensure that your COIs are not directly competing with each other.
For example, you might establish relationships with an attorney, a CPA, an underwriter, and a mortgage professional. You could even consider some outside-the-box COIs, like entrepreneurs, business coaches, and realtors. In a perfect world, your “dream team” of professionals might help similar clients through a variety of services, finding those clients in different life stages and situations.
Now, it is possible to maintain multiple COI relationships within the same profession, such as several CPAs. In this case, I would recommend that you find CPAs with different specialty areas or niches. For example, one of them might specialize in stock options, another might have expertise in mitigating tax consequences of business exits, and another one might be a collaborative divorce CPA or a forensic accountant. Each of them would naturally have different types of clients, maximizing the number of referrals flowing into the group.
Many advisors have COI relationships where they’re only looking to take referrals. It’s a bit like hoping to only inhale at all times and never exhale… In other words, that approach is not likely to get you far.
A productive COI relationship works both ways — and if you have a well-connected group of diverse professionals, the referrals can and should flow in all directions. Once you establish who you want on your COI dream team, you should reach out to these professionals. Explain that you are looking to grow your practice and to help other like-minded professionals do the same. Emphasize your commitment to make the connection worthwhile for everyone involved.
Then, set up monthly meetings with your COIs and commit to make a specific number of introductions (and ask them to do the same for you). Doing this will ensure your business grows in a predictable monthly fashion. At the same time, your COIs will benefit from new leads as well. In an active, well-balanced COI group, everyone wins.
Your monthly meetings should be helpful for more than just client referrals. Design them to be a mini-mastermind, where members take their turn to do a deep dive into their business challenges and opportunities. Other COIs in the group can bring their experiences, perspectives, and ideas to crowdsource solutions.
Mastermind conversations don’t have to be limited to getting new clients. Members can discuss their puzzles and questions around practice management, marketing strategies, client experience, and so on. If you do this well, your COIs will be more than your referral sources. You will have created a powerful mastermind where professionals can share and borrow ideas from different industries.
Finally, it is a good idea to build social bonds with your COIs. This can lead to more productive monthly meetings, allow for a human connection, and perhaps even help friendships to develop.
Some of the ideas might include:
These are just a few ideas for building those social bonds necessary to facilitate business during the day.
If you’d like help identifying good COIs for your business, reach out to us at the Model FA. We can help you brainstorm ideas on how to select the right COIs for your practice, how to build lasting relationships with your COIs, and how to ensure a steady stream of clients and ideas for improving your business. You can book an introductory call by emailing me at [email protected].