Business owners and wealthy individuals today utilise the services of a whole range of professional service providers. They often have relationships with an accountant, a solicitor, a tax adviser and a financial planner. Pulling all these disparate pieces together into a coherent strategy is a tricky business, and I suggest that the person best placed to complete this work is the financial planner.
The financial planner is the only person who tends to have oversight of everything that is going on in a client’s financial life, both within the client’s personal life and their professional life. The other professionals tend to work with clients on a more transactional basis, while the financial planner’s relationship is different. He / she understands the long-term financial objectives of the client, completes a very detailed factfind of the current circumstances and develops a roadmap to achieve those financial objectives. And the financial planner works with the client year after year.
I personally see my financial planner as the hub of my financial affairs because he provides a broader range of value to me. Yes, he has of course developed my financial plan and ensured I have the right investments, retirement planning and protections in place – I’d expect no less. But he also guides me in relation to much broader financial-related issues.
I’ve written on many occasions about the range of value-added services that you can provide, beyond the basic plan and products that you arrange. Just to mention them again, these include supporting your client or referring them to a specialist in the areas of,
- Cashflow planning
- Tax advice
- Advice about bank accounts
- Wills and Enduring Powers of Attorney
All of them are really important to get right for your client. And then there’s also the big opportunity for your business…
Build effective collaborations
It’s equally important to carefully manage the relationships with the other professional advisers. Firstly, you want everyone to collaborate effectively in the very best interests of your mutual client. Then with a more self-interested hat on, you also want to really impress these other professionals, with a view to them seeking out your services in the future. In my travels in out of the offices of financial planners across the country, it’s in this second area that I sometimes see planners selling themselves a little short and not driving home their potential future opportunities…
Here are a couple of ideas to help build stronger collaborative relationships with a professional network.
Communicate your value time and time again
A goal should be to get in front of the network partners time and time again to remind them of the value that you can add and to get regular client referrals. There are many ways you can do this; here are a few examples;
- Add the partners to your own communication programme: Connect with the partners on LinkedIn and also get their permission to be added to your newsletter subscriber list. Let them see the expertise and thought leadership that you have to offer.
- Develop bespoke presentations: These are for the initial meeting with the partners and should focus very much on the role of the accountant and how you can assist them in their own role. Personalise each presentation to the role of the particular partner’s area of specialism – for example the presentation to a tax partner should focus on pension reliefs, tax efficient protection products, tax efficient investing and other tax angles that you can bring to the table. This shows knowledge, understanding and willingness to engage in their areas of challenge with their clients.
- Case Studies: Prepare a number of case studies of innovative solutions that you’ve implemented and know are relevant to challenges that are typically faced by these professionals. Don’t leave them guessing as to how you can help, join the dots for them…
- Briefings for partners: Keep your network briefed on issues within the life and pensions industry that they need to be aware of, but may not be that knowledgeable. This can be through email contacts, lunchtime meetings or other such channels.
Develop joint marketing activities
And then you need to also promote your network and help their bottom line. First of all, refer clients to them whenever possible. If you give them new clients, they are certainly going to try harder to reciprocate. Then offer them the opportunity to include guest posts in your newsletter. This gives them welcome exposure to your clients. You can then look at hosting joint events to which you both bring clients, take a speaking slot to impress the guests, all of this with a view to both you and your network partner meeting the other’s clients and building new relationships.
Prove your value with clients
Of course the biggest barrier to professional network partners referring clients to you is fear. Fear that you will somehow mess up and as a result cause difficulties for them with their client. So when they do take the leap and finally refer a client to you, it’s imperative that you do a good job (as you do) and then make sure your partner is aware of it. How do you do this? You might seek a testimonial from the client, which you then share with them. Alternatively you can email the client a few weeks after the end of your work with a short client satisfaction survey – again you will share the results with your network partner.
These are just a few thoughts on building profitable and lasting relationships with a network of professional partners. Build their trust, remove their fears, align yourself to their proposition and demonstrate your value time and time again. And then you will be well on the way to breaking the back of that search for new clients.