Our team sat down last week to talk about All Things COI. Together, they answered questions from our listeners and readers.
What am I looking for in a COI?
How do I break through the noise and stand out to a new COI — without looking like I am just fishing for new clients?
What are some of the barriers and best practices for forming an agreement that will allow both parties to move forward with enthusiasm and mutual commitment?
How does COVID impact center-of-influence partnerships?
Tune into the conversation and get ready to take notes. If you have ever struggled to connect with a COI, explain what you do, or build a relationship where they feel comfortable referring their clients to you, then you are about to get a secret weapon.
In a discussion facilitated by our Executive Podcast Producer Eric Lee, you will hear Patrick Brewer, David DeCelle, and Dan Allison share strategies for establishing mutually beneficial relationships, overcoming objections, and making an impact.
Did you like this conversation? Then leave us a rating and a review in whatever podcast player you use. We would love your feedback, and your ratings help us reach more advisors with ideas for growing their practices, attracting great clients, and achieving a better quality of life. While you are there, feel free to share your ideas about future podcast guests or topics you’d love to see covered.
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Patrick Brewer (00:05):
If we're going to have successful interactions with other professionals, you just don't have enough time in the day to have five different CPA partnerships. We need one. Maybe two, if they have a different strategic focus, but the key is to go really deep with these centers of influence and pour your time and your energy into them. Because if their business grows, rising tide lifts all boats.
Hello, and welcome to the Model FA podcast. We had great response to our last round table discussion. We are back, this time with some more questions from you out there in podcast land. Thank you for writing in, asking those questions and hopefully our discussions will give you some fodder for thought and help you as you're transforming your business. Real quick before or as we get started, if you want to just quickly introduce yourselves. I think most people know who you are, but just a quick little introduction, that'd be great, please, guys.
Patrick Brewer (01:04):
You've got it. I'll go first. Patrick Brewer, the usual host of the Model FA podcast. As Eric said, we've been testing a different framework. I'm the founder of Model FA, and also CEO of SurePath Wealth here in Austin, Texas.
David DeCelle (01:16):
David DeCelle, president of Model FA, and coming here for the second round table episode.
Dan Allison (01:24):
I am Dan Allison. I am the managing partner and owner of a firm called Brokers Clearing House out of Des Moines, Iowa, an insurance operation that helps advisors implement insurance planning and founder of a company called Feedback Marketing Group, which effective last week was acquired by Model FA. Proud to say, I am now a partner with both of these guys, ready to do some awesome things.
Welcome to the model FA family, Dan. We're excited to have you on board with us. This episode, we are talking about the dreaded COI, center of influence. I say dreaded because I think it's something that tends to be a little scary for people. We're hoping today, our discussion, to answer some questions that you've got, debunk some of the myths around COIs and hopefully help you as you move forward in your own practices to really hone in on how you can capitalize on COIs in your own practices.
To kick us off, Patrick, I've got a question from Greg Howell. It's an overarching questions about COIs, and he asks, "What are some good characteristics of quality COIs?
Patrick Brewer (02:32):
Good characteristics of quality COIs. I think the first thing is you want them to be strategic. If I'm thinking about take an accountant or a CPA, for example, you're not looking for that neighborhood accountant who's doing 1040s personal returns for two to $300 a pop and is overwhelmed with transactional tax work death by a thousand paper cuts. Because as you go in there and meet with them, whether it's for lunch or you somehow get into their office and you start having a conversation about sharing business and mutually growing one another's firms, number one, he's put himself in this position, charging hourly for his time and his expertise for a reason.
Patrick Brewer (03:12):
He's not a very strategic thinker. You need to be careful about engaging with people in your practice that are not strategic thinkers. If they're transactional with their business, if they're charging hourly for their expertise, the chances of them, A, having clients that would be a good fit for you are low and B, even engaging in that discussion and understanding our industry and how we're taking a holistic approach to someone's finances is going to be difficult for them to comprehend. What would usually happen in that situation is you're going to be a business card that could potentially be up on that shelf.
Patrick Brewer (03:43):
Maybe there's like 20 or 30 of them that never really get leveraged, because they're just so in the weeds. I'd say being strategic is the number one thing that we look for with the COIs that we partner with. I mentioned this in a previous episode, I think, but we have a center of influence in our Austin office who works out of the same branch as us in Austin. They're CPA. When I met with them for lunch, that was the number one thing I was looking for.
Patrick Brewer (04:09):
Asking them questions to figure out was like, "Is this person a strategic thinker? Are they looking to build something bigger than themselves? Or do they just want their name on the door, a hundred clients more transactional?" I'd say for me, the number one thing I look for is that intentional strategic focus.
No, that makes sense. Then obviously, your expertise is the whole idea of referral marketing. I know one of your big key points to that is the importance of the first introduction with clients, setting the table for that. I wanted to ask you Andy Kraft's question. He said, "What is an effective way to book a first introductory meeting with a potential COI when they often see financial advisors of people looking to poach client?" "I can build a sense of trust once we finally meet," he says, "but sometimes getting that first meeting can be difficult."
Dan Allison (04:59):
I think too many advisors make the mistake of the sole purpose of their outreach to a CPA, to an attorney being about, "Hey, I want to talk about you, talk about me, see if we might do work together." They know basically what you said, Eric. They know what's up. I've interviewed countless CPAs throughout the 17 years of doing what I do for a living and their perspective of wealth management, insurance, whatever is it's a bunch of people that see me as a stake, and if they can get to me, they can get to my clients. Very rarely do they have an interest in me and being collaborative with me and bringing value to me.
Dan Allison (05:35):
It's always about, "Let me prove to you that I'm valuable to your clients." I always recommend that a first date with a CPA or an attorney not be about, "Hey, you tell me what you do. I'll tell you what I do," but really be all about them. That, "Look, I'm trying to form strategic relationships that bring value to my clients, and I want to learn more about you, your practice, the things that you do for your clients to align with the clients that I have to see where maybe I have a gap that you can fill. If you're open, I'd like to come learn a little bit from you."
Dan Allison (06:12):
Make it solely about them, and they are much more likely to say, "Hey, one of my favorite things is talking about me. That sounds like thing I'd like to do." Otherwise, it's just availed pitch. The other thing I would tell you, Eric, is to show up to that meeting, prepared with good probing questions about their perspective of collaboration with wealth management firms. Because one of the things I always tell advisors is a lot of relationships, they begin with a false expectation of reciprocity. I refer to you, and you refer to me.
Dan Allison (06:49):
What happens is I refer to you, and then a year and a half later, like, "What the hell? I've given you 20, and you've given me one. What's wrong?" It was a false expectation, because the dating process didn't go the way that it should. I recommend that you meet with them and learn, "What is your perspective of our industry? What bad experiences have you had that's form? What do you think, referring to a financial planner? What does that look like? What does risk mean to you? If you think of a bad experience for one of your clients in your eyes, what are you risking?"
Dan Allison (07:21):
I think the more you can learn about them, their perspectives, and how their history and their profession has formed those perspectives, it can help you differentiate yourself based on what they already believe to be true. Too many want to go in and give their elevator pitch and then pretend they want to learn your elevator pitch. Then, you walk out of lunch and think, "I think that went well, but I have no clue what to do now." You would never do that in a relationship, if you were approaching a woman for a date. If you approach it the exact same way, you'll be fine. It's all about them at the beginning.
No, that makes sense.
David DeCelle (07:56):
The tee up, Pat, even before that, you need to be unique and different in your initial outreach to set the stage that you are different than every other advisor that's ever reached out to them. Pat, you had done a unique approach with video with David French. Maybe you want to talk about that as the initial outreach to differentiate yourself upfront.
Patrick Brewer (08:21):
Yeah, for sure. Well, the first thing is, and this goes back to Dan's point, you need something of value in order to be perceived as someone who could potentially be valuable to them as a professional, as a collaborator. For us, it was finding a couple of clients in advance that needed help with tax planning and tax preparation. These weren't just the usual three to $400 1040 clients. It was business owners who may have a need for accounting and bookkeeping and three to $4,000 plus tax returns. The strategic CPAs, those tend to be the clients that they're looking for.
Patrick Brewer (08:53):
They're wanting those multi thousand dollar tax engagements, and then ongoing monthly accounting and bookkeeping. The first thing is understanding, what is this accountant looking for? I found a group of three to four of those clients who I've talked to over the months and said, "Hey, do you need help with this?" "You do. Okay, great. Let me go out and find you a person." I use that as a way to say, "We have a need for four of our clients. We're looking for a CPA who thinks this way, and we'd like to talk to you over lunch to see if potentially be of service to our clients."
Patrick Brewer (09:24):
The way that I did that was I used an app. It's called Loom. If you go to www.useloom.com, you can install it in your browser. It's just a Chrome extension. You can upgrade for the $10 pro version if you want to have a little call to action button to link to your calendar. You basically record a video and it's just an icebreaker. It's an introduction. I'm sitting here in front of my computer, much like I am right now, and I say, "Hey David, how's it going, man? My name's Patrick. I run a wealth management firm here in Austin, Texas. I want to talk to you a little bit about CPA capacity to service some clients."
Patrick Brewer (09:54):
Then I explain the situation, I explain what I'm looking for, and then I basically say, "Hey, would love to get lunch. Not sure if you're free next week, but Wednesday or Thursday is perfect for me. Let me know, just a reply back." After you watched the video, I got a reply back on LinkedIn and it was, "Hey. Yeah, let's get lunch on Thursday. We'll meet up by the domain, which is North of Boston," and we just moved through the process from there. One thing that I will add to Dan's comment is I think it's really important, and Dan hit on this a little bit.
Patrick Brewer (10:23):
When you're asking those questions and you get to the point where it feels like you have a congruent vision, setting those expectations so that you can manage too, the expectation and the goals moving forward. Instead of just being like, "Sounds like we had a really good meeting and we've got some momentum and it sounds like we're in the right place," how do we make sure that we can check back in to know that we're successful in mutually growing this thing? It's not an arbitrary, like, "Hey, you didn't send me anybody." It's like, "Well, we're going to commit to these action steps."
Patrick Brewer (10:51):
Usually, you want the action steps to be less around sending clients and more like, "Hey, let's go through your list of clients and see if there's anything we can do and vice versa." Like, "Here's our list of clients and here's the set of services that we offer. Do you think you can expand on those or any cases you think we can do joint work on?" That was our approach for our CPA center of influence in Austin.
Dan Allison (11:10):
Just one more thing to add to that, that came to mind from yesterday. Yesterday, I was in St. Louis doing a workshop. We're shooting this podcast during COVID, so it was a COVID workshop with 10 people, and then everybody else live streaming into a big ballroom, which was quite awkward. One of the questions was this. One of the advisors asked, "How do I get in front of more CPAs and establish better relationships, specifically CPAs?" I asked the guy, I said, "Currently, what your client base look like? How many clients do you have?" He said, "400."
Dan Allison (11:39):
I said, "This is a referral workshop. If you could wave a magic lawn and clone out of those 400, how many would you clone?" He said, "Probably 80 to 100." I said, "How many of their accountants have you met?" He looked at me like he understand the question. He was like, "Not very many." I'm like, "Well, that's pretty good place to start. Hey, we share a client. Why don't we get it together and make sure we're in alignment, what planning I'm doing. I would love to hear what you're doing."
Dan Allison (12:04):
What CPA is going to say, "No," knowing that his advisor might say, "Hey, I tried to get your CPA to meet with me, and he won't even meet with me." A good place to start is the clients you already have that are the ones you'd like more of, and get to know their CPAs. Seems obvious, most don't do it.
No, that makes good sense. I think the overarching theme I'm seeing here is just clear communication, from the very onset of those initial relationship building meetings and just making sure that there's clear communication there. Adam Swallow asked David, "How do you make yourself stand out, and in comparison to other advisors seeking the same thing from COIs you're reaching out to? Can you think of anything else besides what we've been talking about that can help you stand out in a COI's mind?
David DeCelle (12:47):
I think as Dan had alluded to, a lot of advisors are trying to figure out a way to basically penetrate their book of business and get referrals from that accountant and they're very protective of their relationships. I think the way that you can differentiate yourself, generally speaking, is making sure that ... You first need to understand that they're trying to do the same thing, hopefully anyways, that you are trying to do, which is grow. They're probably experiencing similar challenges that you're experiencing.
David DeCelle (13:19):
Rather than just thinking about sending business back and forth, why not instead collaborate on what you're doing to improve your businesses? What tech are you using? What are you doing for marketing? Are you creating content? Is that other person creating content? Or can you say, "Hey, I've been working with this coach or consultant," or "I've implemented this strategy. I wanted to share it with you and see if you can picture implementing this into your business." If you can remove yourself from that, "Let's just send business back and forth," assumption that they make often times, and instead serve as pseudo consultants for one another.
David DeCelle (14:01):
As a think tank, as a mastermind, whatever you want to call it, it's all the same stuff, and actually take a liking to understanding how they actually operate within their business and see if ... Everyone has scotomas, blind spots, where you're doing the same thing for so long, that things that someone else may think are super obvious just by taking a peek, they've missed for years. If you can shed light on some of those things, make those suggestions, they're going to see that you actually care about them, their business and their clients, not just their clients.
No, that makes perfect sense. Patrick, how do you think you can work towards staying top of mind with COIs? Obviously, you're sharing an office with some, but aside from that, Dan Troyer is curious how we can keep top of mind.
Patrick Brewer (14:48):
I think the key is figuring out ways that you can do it in a leveraged way. Where you're not having to spend your entire day, like eight hours a day, trying to maintain top of mind awareness, but you're also getting those systematic advances in the key relationships that you're trying to build with centers of influence. I think it starts with a level of intentionality. You need to be intentional about who you are, who you serve, what is your unique value proposition? If I'm, let's say, going to target business owners and entrepreneurs in my practice, that sets me up really well to work with strategic CPAs, tax attorneys, attorneys that may focus on startup formation and stock options and things of that nature.
Patrick Brewer (15:31):
There's a number of different centers of influence that I can focus on, but a lot of who I focus on and where I push out content and try and build relationships is going to be based on decisions that I need to make at my stage first, at my level first. I'd say the first thing is get clear about who your target client is, what your niche is going to be. Then from there, you create a list of all the centers of influence who could potentially interact with those people. After you do that, then you need to figure out the best way to interact and try and figure out ways that are more creative than your competitors.
Patrick Brewer (16:03):
What a lot of advisors will do is they say, "I need to network. I'll go to the local BNI." They go to the local BNI, and everyone who's at the local BNI or any of these other networking events generally is unintentional with their efforts. That's the reason why they're there, because they haven't set out a level of intention of the type of people that they're trying to interact with, the types of centers of influence they're trying to build relationships with. Whereas if you're being intentional, let's say you created a list of three strategic CPAs, three tax attorneys, and three startup lawyers, and then you reached out to all of them.
Patrick Brewer (16:36):
You planned an event that you scheduled through Airbnb experiences, and you invited also four of your clients that fit that demographic, that they would be interested in meeting. You plan this let's say a little bit like a wine tasting or something in Austin. You did that through Airbnb Experiences, and it cost you $20 per person to get tickets to that for everybody. You bought the four tickets for your clients and you bought, let's say, four more, three more for the potential centers of influence.
Patrick Brewer (17:03):
You reached out to them and said, "Hey, Brian," who's the strategic CPA. "I'm doing a wine tasting here in Austin. It's in two weeks. I'll be bringing four of my large clients. They're entrepreneurs in the local area. A lot of them have expressed an interest in getting some advice around tax planning and CFO services. I'd love for you to come. I know we haven't met, but I think this would be a great way for us to meet one another." That's a perfect way to maintain top of mind awareness, but also strategically advance that relationship with Brian, the CPA.
Patrick Brewer (17:32):
Hopefully, you've met him once or twice before, because that's a little bit cold to invite them right to a wine tasting. Maybe this is someone that you've already taken out to a lunch or a coffee or something like that, but you get the idea. Then, as far as doing that in a leveraged way, I think Dave speaks a little bit more than me at this point, since he coaches so many advisors on how to do it. But it's really about putting out your signal into the marketplace, through LinkedIn, through Facebook, through email, newsletters. Really just pushing out content.
Patrick Brewer (18:00):
Hopefully, it's video or audio, so that they can learn a little bit more about you and how you communicate, and they can build that, that relational connection with you. Written communication is fine too. It's really figuring out which medium you find the most comfortable and you're the best at, and then committing to a level of consistency and pushing that content out on the right platforms. I think it's a combination of strategic advances that are backed by an intentional focus and then picking which content medium is the most comfortable and best for you.
Patrick Brewer (18:32):
Then, pushing it out on the platforms that have the highest likelihood of those centers of influence, seeing it and interacting with it.
David DeCelle (18:41):
There's those macro events or touch points, be it a lunch, a wine tasting, a meeting, something like that, where it's a literal exchange of your time. As Pat alluded to with the leverage stuff, if someone logs on LinkedIn and they log on Facebook, then they log on Instagram and they see your face, they hear your voice, they get a feel for the way that you write. Everything that you're posting is a value and not overly polarizing per se. Then, obviously suggest that you stay away from anything that's polarizing, regardless of the topic.
David DeCelle (19:14):
Just making sure that they have an opportunity to get to know you from a far. What you're leveraging here is simply the law of familiarity. The more they see you, the more they're going to trust you. They're going to go through that trust curve that much faster. The importance of being relevant, and Eric I think you said that Danton asked this question. Danton, for this piece specifically, it's making sure that when they come across an opportunity, you're the person that they think about without even having to think about it, because they just read a post from you earlier that day and they saw a video from you the day before.
David DeCelle (19:52):
Making sure that you're constantly in front of them. At the end of the day, sometimes people are worried about, what if I'm posting too much? Is it going to get annoying? The reality is that, if you were to call someone, if you were to text someone, if you were to email someone every day, multiple times a day, that gets annoying, because no one sits on their phone and it's like, "Oh, I can't wait for my next phone call." They're going on to Facebook, they're going on to Instagram, they're going onto LinkedIn to consume content.
David DeCelle (20:19):
They're either going to consume yours, or they're going to consume someone else's. Going back to my prior point, as far as helping them in other aspects of their business, rather than just sending referrals back and forth, they're able to see that you're practicing what you preach by marketing yourself, by putting yourself out there. They're going to benefit from that just from a far, nevermind their clients are going to benefit from doing some work with you. I think it's all about just leaning into branding, because if you're not relevant on those platforms to be blunt, you're irrelevant, because people live on those platforms. Give them some content to consume.
Dan Allison (21:02):
I would add to the last comments and really everybody's comments, and provide a really structured idea behind this. One of my clients, we helped him implement, and it was incredibly successful and still is for him in the COI marketplace. He structured a mastermind group. I know David used that word, but he structured a mastermind group and he got himself wealth management. They don't do insurance, so they brought in an insurance expert. They brought in an estate planning attorney, a CPA, and I believe a commercial banker.
Dan Allison (21:34):
The key was, number one, you wanted to find people in each of those categories that looks similar to you in that, if I'm a business owner and I own a wealth management company with four employees, I don't want the CPA to be a CPA from Deloitte Touche. Our daily struggles are different. He's in a corporate environment. I'm navigating PPP and those kinds of things, but they all look and feel like me. Each quarter they get together, they have a very structured agenda, which is, what's going on in our industry right now that's positive from the lawyer's perspective, CPA's perspective, my perspective? What's going on that's alarming or negative? What's going on in our business that is positive or alarming?
Dan Allison (22:16):
Then, specifically in our client's lives, do we have any clients going through complicated situations right now that you guys could help me troubleshoot? What they do is they meet. They have a very structured meeting, then they have some fun, some cocktails, a nice dinner, but then once a year, they put a program together with all their clients, collective clients. There's a client appreciation event where each of them plays a role at delivering content to the audience based on what's going on in the world. Instead of going broad and shallow, he went really narrow and deep.
Dan Allison (22:52):
These are his best boys now. They know when I got a client situation, that CPA is no longer handing out three business cards and saying, "Call whoever you want." It's, "No, go talk to my guy, Pat. He won't let you down," because they built that kind of trust. That's easy to do. Anybody can do it. Everybody would want to be a part of that, any CPA or a estate planning attorney. If they wouldn't want to be a part of it, you wouldn't want to work with them anyway, because they're not forward thinkers.
Patrick Brewer (23:19):
Love that. I think that's really important, the idea of going deep versus wide. When I first started doing outreach to find CPAs, the first meeting I had was a lunch meeting. At the end of the meeting, it was like, "Oh, send me your brochure. Give me your business card, and I'll go up and I'll see if I have any clients that might be a good fit for you." I just said, "No. Why would I do that?" Then it just opened up a conversation where he had never been asked that question before. He's like, "Well, that's what I just do with advisors. They send me their brochure, and then I get their business card."
Patrick Brewer (23:47):
I'm like, "Well, I'm not willing to do that, because it doesn't produce good results for you or me or the client." Then it just was super awkward, but that's okay, because if we're going to have successful interactions with other professionals, we just don't have enough time in the day to have five different CPA partnerships. We need one. Maybe two, if they have a different strategic focus, but the key is to go really deep with these centers of influence and pour your time and your energy into them. Because if their business grows, rising tide lifts all boats.
Patrick Brewer (24:20):
I guess that's the same. Guess that's the same.
Dan Allison (24:23):
You need to trademark that. That's good. I like that.
Patrick Brewer (24:26):
I feel like that's a pretty common one, [crosstalk 00:24:28]. It might not even be a saying. I don't even know.
It is now. I think what you guys are saying really is, it's about being consistent with the communication. Whether that's with a mastermind group, whether it's with posting online, whether it's connecting with them, however that looks like, the consistency there, it makes sense. If you want to stay connected with somebody, be consistent with your communications. That makes sense. Dan, Matthew N. says, "How do I get a COI on board without coming off as, 'Help me, help me'?"
Dan Allison (25:02):
Help me grow my business [crosstalk 00:25:04]?
I think his question is, "How do I avoid sounding desperate?"
Dan Allison (25:08):
The first key is to not be desperate or be brilliant at masking it, because if you need business right now, they're a tough marketplace. You've got to understand, any CPA that I have lunch with that immediately refers clients to me, that's a red flag. Especially the quality CPAs, it takes a little while to establish trust. You've got to be patient. You've got to focus on delivering value beyond, like David said, your actual value proposition to the client. You've got to have a value proposition to the CPA and what you're able to bring to them.
Dan Allison (25:42):
Whether that's educating them on what's going on in our industry and how that might impact their industry. I gave the example of the guy who does the mastermind groups. In between every three month period, he blocks a day each month just for an hour, and he googles what's going on in the estate planning world, the CPA world, each of those disciplines, and he emails them, "Hey, I've come across this. I thought you might find it valuable. I found it interesting." Not insincere. He doesn't just throw the first thing he sees, but they know that he's investing time in them and the relationship and the value.
Dan Allison (26:19):
I don't know that there's a quick way to make referrals happen right away, because it's about delivering value to the relationship, establishing trust. I always say the number one characteristic somebody has who's a good referral source is they find so much value in what you provide, that they're willing to take the risk and compromise a very important relationship. Well, those two variables, value and risk, are defined differently by every professional you will ever make. The key is to learn for them, what does value look like, so I can drive it up? By default, risk goes down, and that's when referral occurs.
Dan Allison (26:57):
When I walk into that lunch, he needs to understand risk is here and value is here. If I think I can go in and just say, "We're a comprehensive wealth management fiduciary fee only," blah, blah, blah, and have the CPA be like, "Oh my God, where have you been my whole life? Here's my book of business," it's never going to happen. What will make you different is that you care more than all the other advisors that they've met, who only want access to their business. You want a true relationship. You want to deliver value. You are patient. You're not selfish. It's hard to be all those things if you are desperate for business.
Dan Allison (27:32):
There's probably other places to go get quick business while you're nurturing those kinds of relationships.
Patrick Brewer (27:38):
I'll add something real quick. I think the important thing to address before we even get to reaching out to COIs, if you feel like you're desperate in any area of your business is to address your mindset around, what is your frame on the world right now? There's a couple of really good books that I generally recommend to our coaching clients to get started if they feel like they're going through imposter syndrome, or they have a level of desperation around outreach, prospecting referrals.
Patrick Brewer (28:03):
One's called 177 Mental Toughness Secrets of the World Class. It's just a book and you can go through and it talks about different ways that you can reprogram your mindset to shift from scarcity to abundance and how world class performers conduct themselves personally and professionally, so that you can just get out of that desperation cycle. Then another one that I think is pretty good is called Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz. Both of those books are, I think, really good to reframe your perspective as it relates to abundance versus scarcity.
Patrick Brewer (28:35):
I know, David, you do a lot of work in that regard from the coaching standpoint. I don't know if you have anything to add there or challenge me on.
David DeCelle (28:42):
I hadn't heard of the 177 Mental Toughness book that you referenced. I just went to buy the audio book on Amazon. It looks like I'm going to have to actually read this one, because they do not have an audio book version. I'll have to [crosstalk 00:28:57].
Patrick Brewer (28:57):
It's too bad you can't read, so I guess you'll have to [crosstalk 00:28:59].
David DeCelle (28:59):
Dan Allison (29:00):
[crosstalk 00:29:00] an audio book. Well, and learn how to read Step 2, 177 lessons.
Speaker 5 (29:05):
Hey, Model FAs. I know you're enjoying this conversation, but I wanted to take a quick break to talk to you about the Model FA Accelerator. This is a unique collaboration between us and you, where we help you build a financial advising practice that you can be proud of. We focus on the foundational concepts around how to pick a niche or a specialization, how to price your services, how to construct an offer that people are going to buy and then how to market it and sell it in a way that'll get people to sign on the dotted line and become clients of your firm. All while giving you the information to scale and set up workflows and operational processes that will allow you to reclaim your time and build a practice that doesn't run you.
Speaker 5 (29:41):
If you'd like to hear more about that, go to www.modelfa.com/accelerator or www.modelfa.com, hover over Work With Us, and click on Accelerator. Hope to see in the program.
Dave, you mentioned a word that I think is important and it's value. There's a couple of different questions that we've gotten about that, so I wanted to ask you guys. Patrick, Eric Cooper says, "How do we add value and stay engaged when reciprocity is thematic, but not equal?" He gives an example that his main estate planning attorney probably gets a lot more referrals from him than the other way around. I'm just curious what your thoughts are on that.
Patrick Brewer (30:18):
I think it's just understanding that certain relationships won't be 100% reciprocal, just by the nature of how this person acquires clients, that's going to be ... It's almost like an advisor who's prospecting for people going through a divorce, aren't going to seek out a financial advisor first. They're going to seek out a divorce attorney. If you're an advisor and one of your primary centers of influence is a divorce attorney, that's technically going to be a one sided relationship. You're not going to refer as many clients to them as they will to you, but you can still have strategic advances and help them with their business.
Patrick Brewer (30:52):
Do things like Dan said. Conduct them a mastermind group. Figure out where they're at in the industry. I'm sure they struggle with hourly and retainer based pricing, like every other attorney in the firm in the country. Just figuring out ways that you can be useful and using your strategic energy to help them grow their business outside of just sending them direct referrals can be a good way to do that. I think it's, again, just acknowledging that the estate attorney is probably in that similar position where he's just not coming across enough clients to really feed you and help you grow your business.
Patrick Brewer (31:23):
It doesn't mean he's not useful and he can't help your clients. I think it's bringing those people together in a framework like a mastermind where you can share a business. Not only share business, but business building principles, and then lean into the relationships that may be a little bit more one sided for you like a CPA or some other attorney, depending on your niche and your focus and your target client. I don't think you want to force it. I don't think you want to make it awkward. I think there are relationships that you will have that are productive and those people can be of service to your clients, but they're not going to be fully reciprocal. I don't know if Dan or David, you guys have something to add.
David DeCelle (31:58):
It sounds a little fluffy, but we always make the assumption that the value needs to be business oriented, but there's also a lot of value in just building a relationship. Just having a relationship with this person. Sharing some of the personal development books or podcasts or blogs or whatever they are that you're actually consuming that have been impactful for you. Just taking a liking to their personal life as well. Again, when they come across an opportunity that may not be every single day, they're probably going to send it to the person that they like the most.
David DeCelle (32:34):
There's a lot of value in just building upon that relationship and showing this person that you care about them and not just their business. So, Dan.
Dan Allison (32:44):
Just two quick points. I used the term earlier, false expectation of reciprocity. Nowhere is that more appropriate than the estate planning attorney. If you think about the idea of a couple of waking up in the morning and saying, "I think we need to go get an estate plan done today," that doesn't happen. Sorry. The estate planning attorney is at the end of the planning process most of the time. Now, there are certainly exceptions, but I did a lot of consulting work with a group called The Wealth Council, which is the largest organization of estate planning attorneys in the country, like 1500 members.
Dan Allison (33:19):
Most of their conferences are about, how do we establish relationships with financial advisors so they'll refer business to us? Then I go to the LPL conference and they're all about, "Hey, how do we get attorneys to give us business?" It's like everybody's trying to figure it out, but nobody's talking to each other about, "Hey, how do we have relationships?" Number one, the estate planning attorney genuinely is not normally the originator of a relationship. They are more transactional than we would think and they would like to admit. I just got my estate plan redone after I bought Brokers Clearing House.
Dan Allison (33:52):
It was a transaction. It was valuable. It was good, but it's done until I have to have it done. That's number one. Number two, you've got to understand their perspective. Genuinely, most of their business comes from referral from financial advisors. In their mind, if I refer you a client and my other people find out, I've just cut off my referral sources. That is too risky for me. What I say with the state planning attorneys, find one who does incredible work and makes you look incredibly good when you refer clients over to get the work. Don't focus on reciprocity, or you will always be disappointed.
Josh Flanagan says that he sees a lot of times where you enter into COI relationships and there's a lot of enthusiasm at the beginning, but then there seems to be a bit of atrophy, if you will, and those relationships. He mentioned the word accountability, and then a couple of other people did as well. I'm curious, David, what your thoughts are. Is that the right term? Do we need accountability in these relationships or is that a misguided thought process?
David DeCelle (34:58):
I think that the word accountability, depending on who both parties are, can have almost like a big brother, negative connotation to it, to some extent. A lot of times, people start their own businesses, so that they're only accountable to themselves and not others. You want to be careful with the lingo that you're using. I think that what you're trying to accomplish is more of a predictable type of structure, so that you maintain momentum. What that means is accountability, but it sounds a little bit better.
David DeCelle (35:36):
What I would suggest seeing if this person ... In an ideal world, if you had someone that was basically a piece of clay and you could mold them into the perfect COI, essentially what you would do together on a monthly basis, ideally is, "Hey, let's get together for an hour, once a month, and let's just pull up our calendars. Who did we meet with last month?" Spend a half hour going through one person's calendar, spends a half hour going through the other person's calendar. Just talk through some of these scenarios, because a lot of times, referrals aren't sent back and forth for three main reasons.
David DeCelle (36:11):
One we've already talked about, which is lack of relevancy and lack of value provided, lack of relationship capital. The other reason is the other professional doesn't do what you do. They don't necessarily know how to identify an opportunity when they come across that opportunity. Number three is, they don't necessarily know how to communicate that introduction. By having that structure to maintain your momentum, you're able to just learn through osmosis, by spending time together and saying like, "Oh, this client did X, Y, and Z."
David DeCelle (36:47):
Then, the advisor chimes in and says, "Well, tell me about this," or asks a probing question, and the accountant gives the appropriate answer. Then, the advisor comes in and say, "Oh, actually there may potentially be an opportunity for this. Do you see what I'm seeing?" You're educating them through the process of accountability. I've got finger quotes up, if you're just listening to the audio, and you're able to help empower that CPA in this example, to be able to identify opportunity on your behalf. Because after three or four months of doing this, they're going to get it.
David DeCelle (37:19):
If they don't get it, you may want to look for a different COI, if they're not picking up on it. You're also able to share with them in real time, "Hey, here's how we should go about this introduction. You know the client better than me, so I'll lean on you, but here's typically what works." A lot of times too, these other COIs, especially loan officers, realtors, all of them, CPAs attorneys, all of those people have the luxury of working with folks that have deadlines, whether they're legitimate deadlines like tax season or just emotional deadlines, "I really want that house."
David DeCelle (37:56):
There's no financial planning season. When they say, "Oh yeah, I gave him your card. Didn't they call?" "Well no, they didn't." You have to help educate them on how to go about a proper introduction for your industry specifically, because it's different than their industry. I would categorize that as more creating structure to maintain momentum, so that the two of your businesses can actually grow, if that's the intention at the beginning, which I would guess a hundred percent of the time it is.
That makes perfect sense. Dan, Gary Pia says he'd like for you to address the barrier that so many advisors have, thinking that CPAs and estate planning attorneys know what financial advisors do. He says they don't. They put us in their mental "stock broker file," the one right next to fortune teller and used car salesman, which also raises the barrier of the "reputation risk" they take by making introduction to us. I think this very much ties into what you were saying, David, but I'm I'm curious what your thoughts are on that.
Dan Allison (38:55):
First of all, the perception is real. That's not made up the majority of CPAs hold themselves on a pedestal. They've been told, "You're the number one trusted financial person in people's lives," and I think too many financial ... Look, I bought an insurance company three and a half years ago, or three years ago. Nobody gets looked down on more than we do. I always tell our industry, when you look at what we do for people, there's not a widow alive that got a death benefit check that looks down on our industry. I think we allow it, is our problem.
Dan Allison (39:29):
We allow it by intimidation and by not approaching them with valuable information and education. The reality is, if CPAs knew how to do what advisors do, there's no way they'd be a CPA, because you can make a hundred times the money, gathering a billion dollars of assets than you can do in tax returns, even for the wealthiest business owners. However, it is our job, I believe, to overcome that stereotype and to understand that it exists. You've got to approach CPAs or really anybody that you know they've got a preconceived notion of you, based on your industry. First of all, you don't go into it defensive.
Dan Allison (40:10):
We've earned the reputation that is bestowed upon us, because there are a lot of salespeople that sell the wrong stuff in the wrong way, unethical. We wouldn't have to have all the standards we do, if that weren't the case. Understand, that's not them personally feeling a certain way about me. They don't know me. My job is to go in and completely change the perception of that person through not behaving the way that stereotype does, through behaving the opposite way, which is again why I said you can't go in there with a feeling of desperation.
Dan Allison (40:45):
When I go into a room with a large RIA on behalf of my insurance firm, many times I've had them say, You don't look and speak like an insurance person," which is both an insult and a compliment at the same time. But it's because I don't go in saying I can solve all the problems that I haven't even identified you might have. I go in completely selflessly and tell them my job is to explore. "Is there a potential mutual benefit here in our relationships? Can I drive value to you and you to me?" Because only when we can say yes to that do the next steps make any sense.
Dan Allison (41:22):
I'm going to ask you questions to learn about you. Certainly, you can ask me questions. At the end of this meeting, if we feel like, "Hey, there's a reason to talk further," let's do that. If there's not, let's acknowledge that. We're both grown ups. Both of us can handle that. My old partner always said that yeses are great, noes are revealing. Maybes will kill you. The quicker I can get to no or yes, the better for everybody. I don't know what David talked about, but-
David DeCelle (41:47):
I love that. I'm just laughing, because I think it's awesome just to say, "Hey, listen, we're growing up here."
Patrick Brewer (41:56):
Except for you, David.
David DeCelle (41:58):
A lot of people, when they're in these professional conversations, they don't act like grownups with communication and with giving you an answer. It's like, "Hey, just give me an answer." I like that wording.
Dan Allison (42:12):
I went out when I was a lot younger and didn't have a lot of the confidence I have today. I had met for lunch with this dude, probably seven times or eight times, and there was small talk and this and that. Then he'd be like, "All right. Well hey, it was good to see you again." Finally, on the eighth time, I said, "Look dude, I'm going to come clean. We have been walking around the bed naked for like eight months. At some point, we've got to get in bed or make the bed, put our clothes back on and go walk around other people's beds, because this is silly."
Dan Allison (42:46):
He died laughing. He was like, "I was trying to figure out where any of this was going." I'm like, "Dude, I'm scared to ask you. You're scared to ask me." We hit it off, and we had a great relationship. Only when you let your guard down and be transparent do you get anywhere with anybody. If they're offended by that kind of crap, I don't want to go to lunch with them anyway. I don't want to hang out with people like that.
Patrick Brewer (43:06):
David, how important do you think revenue sharing opportunities are for COIs?
David DeCelle (43:11):
I think that they're potentially helpful, but I don't think that they're required by any means, if it's actually a reciprocal relationship. I think that it's more a question of, what motivates the COI on the other end? Is it money that motivates them? Is it expanding their "team"? Team in quotes here, because you're not actually partnered together. Is it expanding their "team" that's motivating to them? Is it your consultative brain that's motivating to them? I think it's more so thinking about what is it that they want to be incentivized by?
David DeCelle (43:50):
I think it would be silly, and I know that depending on the advisor's setup, sometimes they are able to set up revenue share. Sometimes they're not able to set up revenue shares. For the ones who are able to set up revenue shares, I think if you lead with that, you're automatically taking a haircut on any business that's referred your way, and that may not be necessary. I think you may be revealing your cards too early. I think it's more of a question of getting a good understanding as to how they're going to be motivated and incentivized to send you business. It doesn't always have to be monetary.
David DeCelle (44:23):
In the right situations for a longer term partner that is going to be with you for 20 years or more, then yeah, of course come up with a revenue share. But I think even before doing that, maybe you have a trial period of, "Do I even like this person?" You're probably going to start sending business after a month or two, and to commit to sending this person money in perpetuity after knowing them for a month, I think is just silly. Maybe you have a 12 or 24 or even five-year trial period before there's any compensation involved, I think is important. I would figure out what they're motivated by.
I'm curious if any of you guys have examples of really good COIs that you've seen either in your own practices and your own experiences, or maybe with the other people like clients that we've worked with or anybody else. I'm just curious if you have benchmark examples of what some of those relationships would look like.
David DeCelle (45:19):
One thing I like to see ... Pat, you were just about to talk, so I'll be brief on this, but this is simply a component of the relationship. Especially since coronavirus has hit and everyone's transitioning to more remote based work, I've loved seeing the joint promotion of advisers and other COIs doing webinars together, bringing in outside experts and hosting a webinar for their clients and prospects on a particular topic. Putting together a webinar series, monthly, quarterly, whatever you're able to commit to. I've enjoyed seeing the collaboration on that front.
We've been talking a lot about the benefits to our businesses with COIs, which obviously is important, but I think the people who are most successful in this industry are the people who have their clients' interests in mind. Their interests in mind, rather. I'm curious what you think the benefits and what benefits you've seen with properly really well-working COI relationship. What benefit does that have then for your clients?
David DeCelle (46:20):
There's some of our larger clients that we spend a considerable amount of time with. That's how they build their businesses. The majority of their business is built through COIs. What I love hearing, because I always probe with questions to understand what they're doing that's working really well, and it's really cool to hear that a lot of times they'll be in the same room together with the client. Then once the client leaves, they'll be in the same room together, say a CPA and an advisor, and they'll collaborate on the entire planning process as opposed to like, "All right. Go see them for wealth management. All right. Go see them for tax help," or whatever the scenario is.
David DeCelle (47:00):
They truly view themselves as a team, and they're asking questions. They take a liking into understanding what the other person does. They can see how it fits in the context of their financial picture. I think that that's been one of the coolest things to observe from my end, anyways.
What about you Pat? Have you seen any examples?
Patrick Brewer (47:20):
I think first it's figuring out what types of people are probably going to have the most success in general. I think the more complexity that you have in your client's financial situation, the more likely you're going to have those value added experiences by leveraging COI partnerships. If you're focused on corporate executives, entrepreneurs, business owners, the chances of you and the likelihood of you building better relationships with COIs and then them having more of an impact on your clients is going to be higher.
Patrick Brewer (47:50):
If you are working with folks that are, let's say, more in the mass affluent retirement space, under a million in assets, it's a little harder because there's just not as much complexity there. Where we've seen a lot of, let's say, good results for us, for the COI, for our clients has been with more significant with complexity, essentially, I guess I'll start there, and then if you guys want to weight in. I think the biggest thing is figuring out what stage of the relationship you're in with the COI. Are you already in a stage where they're actively sending you referrals, and it's just figuring out how to best collaborate through video conference and other technology platforms to effect a similar experience for the client?
Patrick Brewer (48:30):
Are you still in the building of the relationship phase where you're needing to add more value or educate the COI on what you do or how to refer? A lot of it is figuring out where you're at as far as, is this person still somewhat cold and unsure or skeptically curious in what you do as a financial advisor? Are they on the other side of the spectrum and they're a raving fan and you get new and joint work together for years? I think that's the first distinction is figuring out, what is the next actionable step to advance that relationship forward for them to take the actions that you want that's mutually beneficial for you, for them, and then ultimately the client?
Patrick Brewer (49:05):
That's tough to do, because it takes energy. It takes creative energy. You want this to be easy. You want this to just be automatic where they just start sending clients over the fence. What we recommend for all of our coaching clients that participate in our program, the Model FA Accelerator, is you basically have 20 people a month that you are strategically trying to advance to the next stage in the relationship. If let's say they're a lead, you've had lunch with them. They're somewhat interested in partnering, but they haven't really decided that you're going to be their go-to financial advisor, you need to think about, what's the next actionable step, the followup from that lunch?
Patrick Brewer (49:41):
It could be the example I gave earlier of inviting them to a wine tasting, or maybe a webinar, or sending them a book with a handwritten note. There's a lot of things that you can do in order to add value to that relationship to get it to the next stage, which is now they're a new COI who needs to be educated on your process. How you communicate, how to position your services, how to organically identify money in motion and assets under management opportunities. I think it's a really complicated answer, because it requires the next actionable step to be defined at the COI level.
Patrick Brewer (50:14):
There's no blanket answer on what you should do. It really is specific to that person in that relationship and where it's at in the spectrum. That's my thought on it. I've always struggled to give a very, like, "Do this one thing, and it will advance all of your COIs to the point where they send you clients," because I think it is very specific.
All right. To wrap us up here, obviously, and you'd alluded to this a little bit, David, but we're in a weird time, as we all know. David, you alluded to this a little bit, and I think there is a real beauty and a benefit to being able to sit in the room together with COIs and talk through clients, scenarios and situations. But obviously we're in a state of the world where that's not possible at all maybe, or definitely not as it once was. How do you guys think that we can take these COI relationships during the current situation in the world with COVID and all the other craziness and advance them forward and benefit our businesses?
David DeCelle (51:10):
I think if you take a look at what we've said so far, it's as simple as whatever your in-person things were previously. Just do this, Zoom call. I think leveraging technology. In our last podcast episode that we did around COVID and the response to it, as it relates to our industry, we talked about how to start integrating technology into your practice and looking at tutorials. Finding someone who's using it, asking them for help and googling the answers. Just making sure that you're leaning into technology as opposed to turning the other way. Sorry Dan, I cut you off.
Dan Allison (51:45):
I think people are going to be like, "Dude, why don't we just Zoom? I don't need to come into your office. Let's just do this." It's just like David said.
Patrick Brewer (51:51):
Yup. I think the last thing I'll add to this is people are looking for leadership right now. Dan was hitting at that. They're looking for people that have a vision, that have a strategic plan, that are willing to say, "Hey, let's do this." If you come at a group of centers of influence and you have ideas for growth, if you have some forward momentum, a lot of people are frozen in place right now. That leadership will be respected. It will be attractive to centers of influence that are looking to latch onto that and solve issues in their practice. Everybody is with issues right now.
Patrick Brewer (52:23):
CPAs and accountants, they're losing business left and right, because a lot of their clients are going out of business. A lot of their clients are small business owners who have been dramatically affected by the events of the coronavirus. They're reeling right now and looking for ways to replace revenue. Some are doing PPP consulting and switching into fractional CFO services and stuff like that. It's not an easy environment for anyone in professional services right now.
All right. In just a second, I'm going to ask you for your final thoughts on COIs, but while I do that, for those of you out there listening, we ask that you give us our next round table discussion. We want to know from you what you want to hear about. As much fun as it is for us to sit around and talk on Zoom, we really want to answer your questions. We really to get information out there to you that's helpful and useful for your practices. Please, if you haven't already, join our Facebook group. Share with us in our comments about the show. Find us on LinkedIn, and we'll continue these discussions regularly, but we need your input and we need your help to make this happen.
Please, log on, comment and let us know what you'd like to hear about. On that, Pat why don't we have, or if you have any final thoughts on COIs, let's hear them now.
Patrick Brewer (53:34):
I think for me, the way that I've gone about building every single COI partnership, any partnership in my business at all, has been first starting at the foundational level and defining, what is the vision for my company? What am I trying to build? Who is my target client? How do they consume information? Where do they consume information? Structuring everything from there, because if I'm going to be unintentional, and I'm just going to say, "I need to find a CPA who's going to send me business," or "This estate planning attorney isn't sending me enough business," you just don't understand the unit economics of their business and you're going to stress yourself out.
Patrick Brewer (54:09):
You really just need to figure out, who is your target client? What do you want out of your business? You're building an enterprise, you're building a small company. Because when you sit down with anyone else who's in business for themselves, if you can't explain to them in a compelling way why they're going to benefit from partnering with you, you're going to struggle, because you're going to sound like everyone else. You need to figure that out first, and you need to commit to it, and you need to believe in it. You need to have a level of selfish assurance around that, that is unshakeable.
Patrick Brewer (54:38):
Once you do that, when you sit down, if somebody says, "Give me the business card and a brochure," you can just tell them, "No," because who cares? You don't need to give them that. You don't need to take that relationship. You don't need to think about that any longer, because it's not relevant to you. I think it's starting at the foundational level, fixing those issues, making sure you're super specific about each of them. Then, when you sit down, it'll just feel natural, because you're going to paint the vision for that center of influence.
Patrick Brewer (55:03):
They're going to be like, "I'm going to hitch my wagon to this, because it sounds like they know where they're going," and that's what people want. They want leadership. That would be my parting thoughts.
Dan, how about you? Any final thoughts?
Dan Allison (55:12):
My advice to anybody is, always try to focus on driving value before expectation. I find that in any kind of relationship, I don't care a merger, I don't care if it's business relationships, transparency, honesty, saying the things that are hard to say, looking for mutual benefit always, never a one sided relationship. I think if you can go in to any relationship trying to bring value to the relationship before you expect it back, you're ahead of the game. Then along the way, just being very methodical, very strategic, make sure that any time together, it's cool, but to socialize and do all that.
Dan Allison (55:50):
If your whole approach is just to try to be likable and take people out to lunch and hope that something happens, it's going to be a really long road with anybody, especially COIs to just be genuine and find ways to drive value before you want it back.
Awesome. Thank you. David, how about you?
David DeCelle (56:06):
I would say my final thoughts are twofold. Number one is, think about your business, and there's different aspects of your business. There's marketing, there's business development, there's practice management, and there's plenty of other things, but just to stick with those three. You're probably not an expert in all of those areas. There's going to be something that you're really, really good at. Maybe it's the marketing piece, maybe it's the practice management, maybe it's the business development. Whatever your gift is, share that gift with that COI. Help them market, help them develop business, help them with their systems and processes.
David DeCelle (56:47):
Leverage the gift that you have and share it with others, would be number one. Number two is, don't view these people as a COI. View them as a human and an actual person that you care about, that you want to genuinely help, because they get approached by people like us all the time. They're going to notice a difference if you actually take a liking to them as a fellow human being. Don't even label them as a COI. Label them as a friend. Label them as a human. I think that in and of itself will go a long way.
Awesome. Thanks guys. Well, that wraps up our discussion on COIs. If you want more information about how you can grow your business exponentially, more information about the Feedback Marketing System, if you'd like help with coaching in your practice, anything else we can offer to help you, check out modelfa.com. Follow us on @TheModelFA on all of the socials, and we look forward to seeing you on our next round table discussion. Thanks for tuning in.