Strategy 9 :
Form Profitable Strategic Partnerships
In Strategy 8: Leverage Economic Glue, we explored the value you will bring to your strategic partnerships: high-quality thought leadership content and guidance in using it to drive new business.
Now we will set out the process for building your strategic partnerships. This process, as you will see, is fairly straightforward. Your success depends on your commitment to implementing it—doing what needs to be done very well.
Exhibit 9.1 shows the distinct steps in the partnership-building process. We’ll give a quick introduction of each step now, and then dive deeply into each one throughout the rest of this strategy.
Identify Potential Partners
Your first step will be to connect with potential partners. This is a concern for some financial advisors, but you should be able to reach out and identify possible partners without too much difficulty.
A more important concern is sourcing top-notch centers of influence: accountants and attorneys who have wealthy clients and who are very motivated to increase their revenues. You’ll focus on identifying these higher-potential centers of influence.
Discovery, whether it’s with prospective clients, current clients or centers of influence, is at the core of all the best professional practices. When working with centers of influence, you should gain a solid and complete understanding of each COI’s business model, goals and obstacles. There is an efficient methodology you can use to develop these insights, and we will it share with you.
For simplicity’s sake, we identify discovery as one step of the process, but it’s actually perpetual. You should stay current and informed about the professional and—when it makes sense—personal worlds of your partners. As circumstances change, this allows you to make suitable adjustments.
Secure the commitment
Based on your understanding of a prospective center of influence, you decide whether he or she would likely make a good partner and whether you want to commit to the partnership. We’ll reiterate this throughout this strategy: You select the centers of influence you are going to help become thought leaders. They do not choose you.
Create The Agreement
At this stage, you and your partner will arrive at a clear understanding of what to expect from working together. The agreement in this context is not a legal contract but a well-articulated understanding of each party’s roles and responsibilities. By being open and direct, you will save time and effort, and you will maximize the chances that you and your partners will get the results you want.
Implement The Thought Leadership Solution
This is where things really happen. By implementing the thought leadership solution, you will most likely make your partners more successful, create the economic glue that binds you together and, through the law of reciprocity, drive new wealthy clients to you.
Above all, to be successful in implementing the thought leadership solution, you and your partners must be consistent and systematic. One-off efforts will not result in the new business you both want. You and your partner must meet on a regular basis to discuss your thought leadership content, identify the individuals who will receive it and plan any follow-up. We will set out for you the actions to take at each phase of the process.
In tracking results, you are looking to quantify the value you deliver to your partners in the form of additional revenue as well as the economic benefit you are receiving in return. It’s important to remember here that while getting referrals might be great, getting new business (and revenue) is certainly great. Thus, you will focus on tracking revenue and income more than on the number of client referrals.
By the end of Strategy 9, you will be well-prepared to build your own wealthy client pipeline.
Master List of COI Candidates — A worksheet for tracking potential strategic partners.
Sample Scripts to Schedule Initial Meeting — Samples of invitations to set up an initial meeting with potential strategic partners.
Email Template to Confirm Initial Meeting — A template for an email confirmation of the initial meeting, with agenda and optional links to online version of books for COIs.
Overview of Pipeline Process — A customizable one-page overview to describe the pipeline-building process to potential strategic partners.
COI Meeting Agenda Templates — Templates for agendas for the initial and follow-up meetings with strategic partners.
COI Assessment Interview Guide — Discovery questions for potential strategic partners.
Sample COI Assessment Mind Maps — Two samples of completed mind maps for strategic partners.
Scripts for Determining a COI’s Commitment — Examples of questions to ask potential strategic partners to determine and secure their commitment to creating a strategic partnership.
Sample Agreement — A sample memorandum of understanding between an advisor and a COI.
Sample Script and Email for COIs to Make Client Introductions — Samples of what a COI might say or email to a client he or she is introducing to an advisor to effectively endorse the advisor.
Email Template and Samples for Partners to Send Content — A template and samples of emails to help your partners send their thought leadership content.
Scripts for Follow-up Phone Calls — Sample scripts of COIs placing follow-up calls to recipients of their thought leadership content.
Template for Tracking Results — A basic template for tracking the results of your strategic partnerships at each monthly meeting.
Identify Potential Partners
You probably know at least some attorneys or accountants. These might be professionals who work with your clients, especially your wealthy clients, or perhaps professionals you’ve met at industry events. Regardless of how you met them, the fact is you know them and they know you. Your task is determining which among these professionals you should approach for discovery.
Envision your Perfect Partner
First, create a clear picture of who a great partner would be. Although you may not ultimately work with individuals who perfectly match this profile, this process will help keep you on track toward the ideal through your discussions with candidates. To start, consider these traits of a great partner:
Wants to generate significantly more revenue and earn a substantially greater income. You are bringing business development assistance to the table, so your ideal partner must be very motivated—even “hungry”—to increase his or her success. The good news is that the great majority of attorneys and accountants are quite interested in generating more revenue and earning higher net incomes.
Appreciates the value of becoming a thought leader. The more a partner recognizes the business development potential of becoming the expert the wealthy want, the better.
Has an entrepreneurial outlook. Ideal partners have a clear vision of what they wish to accomplish, are interested in new ideas, are open to growing their practice in innovative ways, and are willing to collaborate with other professionals to achieve goals.
Has high-net-worth clients you could serve very well. You want to know that a potential partner has wealthy clients and is adept at working with the very rich. We consider the sweet spot for many financial advisors to be clients who are in the range of $5 million to $10 million of net worth. This is a very good starting point, but we encourage you to have an eye for moving even further upmarket. Your ideal potential partner should do the same.
Serves clients in your niche market. You want significant overlap between the range of clients a potential partner serves and your niche market.
Create a Master List
Because you will be the one selecting prospective partners to work with—and not the other way around—you should cast your net as far and as wide as possible. Narrowing down to the great candidates is easier when you have many to choose from.
Build a master list of prospective partners. Begin with professionals with whom you already have some sort of connection, such as these:
Other professionals who have referred one or more affluent clients to you. You may already have business contacts with attorneys and accountants that have resulted in client referrals. These potential partners are easy to connect with because of the shared affluent clients.
Attorneys and accountants you have met at conferences and other business-oriented events. There are many industry events and conclaves focused on the wealthy that are attended by professionals. Meeting other professionals in these settings is often quite easy. Also, attorneys and accountants you would meet at quality mastermind groups tend to be good candidates.
Attorneys and accountants you have met in social settings. A personal relationship with an attorney or accountant can lead to a solid professional relationship. But keep in mind that these connections usually take a little while to form.
Attorneys and accountants you have met at firm-hosted joint events. Many firms—financial advisory, legal and accounting—hold events to facilitate their partners connecting with other professionals.
Attorneys and accountants connected to your current COIs. Other professionals, such as attorneys, have their own high-net-worth referral sources, such as accountants. Being introduced by an attorney you know to an accountant he or she likes might result in the accountant being a very good partner for you.
Attorneys and accountants of your wealthiest clients. If you have done a good job of discovery with these clients, you will know who these professionals are.
To make your list of accountants more robust, go to the Business Journal, which offers lists of leading firms in dozens of markets around the country. In addition, CPAdirectory has a searchable list of thousands of CPAs. For leads on attorneys, contact the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel or Avvo. Wholesalers you work with may also be able to provide you with names of likely professional partners.
Narrow it Down
More than likely, your master list of prospective partners will be too long to allow you to meet with each partner, so conduct some triage to filter out the lower-potential candidates and identify the most promising ones. Look at their web sites, their LinkedIn profiles and any thought leadership content they’ve created. Talk with people you know in common, such as your affluent clients or other professionals.
As you do, ask yourself these questions:
How likely is it that the centers of influence who are already referring wealthy clients to you will continue doing so?
Which attorneys and accountants on your master list are likely to have numerous wealthy clients?
Was there an immediate positive connection between you and any of the potential partners on your list?
Whom should you remove from your list for any reason unrelated to their professional potential? (A prime example of this is a professional who has a close family member who is a financial advisor.)
While you will not understand any center of influence well until you conduct discovery, your triage process should give you enough insight into particular individuals to determine which have the greatest potential to be worthwhile strategic partners. These are the professionals you should contact for an initial meeting.
Schedule The Initial Meeting
These calls can be difficult for some advisors to make, particularly if they are not previously acquainted with the professionals they are contacting. If this is the case with you, remember that you are not asking these centers of influence for anything. In fact, it’s just the opposite: You are offering to provide substantial assistance in growing their business. Keep in mind that these professionals are facing significant challenges in the current environment, and most recognize that thought leadership would be useful in overcoming these challenges.
Remember: Because you are going to help these professionals become significantly more successful, you choose them; they do not choose you.
These are the key points to make when placing these initial calls:
You are interested in exploring a mutually beneficial strategic partnership.
You have research to share that will be beneficial to the professional.
You have the resources and tools to help the professional become more successful. (You need to strongly emphasize this point.)
For example, your invitation to set up a meeting with a potential partner who is an estate planning attorney can go like this:
“I’d like to explore a strategic partnership. I have some great research on estate planning attorneys—your peers—and I’d love to get your feedback. As I’ve reviewed this research, I’m seeing a lot of opportunity where I could help you be more successful. I don’t know if this is right for you, but I’d like to stop by and show it to you and get your feedback, as well as explore whether there would be some synergies in our working together. If it makes sense, I have tools I can share that you can begin using right away that will likely result in more business for your practice. Let’s set up a time to get together.”
There are additional scripting samples available for download from the Tools section. However, we greatly encourage you to use your own style of speaking and communicating so that you are comfortable in making these calls.
A professional’s response to your invitation will tell you much about his or her potential as a strategic partner. Those who are motivated to grow their practices will be very open to your offer and will qualify themselves for the next step in your process for building a profitable strategic partnership.
After your call, send an email confirming the date and time of your meeting along with the meeting agenda. A template for a confirmation email is available from the Tools section.
If the professional has asked to see your research in advance of your meeting, include a link to the online version of the appropriate book from CEG Advantage. (You will find a list of those links here.) You will most likely use one of these two books:
For attorneys: Excelling in Turbulent Times: How Private Client Lawyers Can Create Exceptional High-Net-Worth Practices in Today’s Challenging Environment
For accountants: Building an Exceptional High-Net-Worth Practice: How Accountants Can Become Seriously Wealthy Working with the Affluent
As part of your CEG Advantage membership, you can have copies of these books with covers customized for you to the extent allowed by your firm. These will help build your credibility and establish a clear connection for the COI between you and the help you are offering.
To determine which centers of influence to work with, and to set yourself up to deliver exceptional value to them through thought leadership content and guidance in deploying it, you should conduct an in-depth evaluation of the other professional’s practice, agenda and wealthy client referral opportunities. This discovery is the foundation for building a partnership that creates a pipeline of new wealthy clients.
You have three primary goals with discovery:
Decide whether you want to work with this potential partner.
Find out enough about his or her practice to determine whether you can help build the practice.
Gather the information you need to create a joint action plan.
To both conduct effective discovery and build a successful partnership, recognize that your partners are as much your clients as your wealthy clients are. This means you should approach working with them—and truly get to know them—as if they were your wealthy clients.
Set The Foundation
As important as discovery is, you will not be able to jump right into interviewing potential partners without first building some trust and demonstrating that you understand their challenges and opportunities. Without this foundation, they are unlikely to share fully and candidly with you during discovery.
The best way to set the stage is by sharing your best practices content. You will bring to the meeting your book for attorneys (Excelling in Turbulent Times) or for accountants (Building an Exceptional High-Net-Worth Practice). Choose specific points from the book to share, and as you do, ask the professional for his or her opinions and feedback.
We recommend highlighting the areas concerning best practices. Both books delve into data that demonstrate the best practices of attorneys and accountants with high-net-worth practices. Many of these best practices are also applicable to financial advisors and will be familiar to you. Exhibit 9.2 provides a summary of those best practices, which you should review with the potential partners.
One particular area of best practices to emphasize is thought leadership. Be sure to go over the relevant chapters with your potential centers of influence.
As you review points from your thought leadership content, ask questions to confirm that the other professional sees and understands the potential in working with you. These are some of the ways you can prompt responses:
“If I could help you to be seen as the expert the affluent in our community want to work with, and if that brought you new business, would it make sense for us to work together?”
“If I could help you generate more value for clients and prospective clients, would that be worthwhile to you?”
“Would it make sense to you to send me similar clients for my services?”
By sharing such content in this way, you will frame the conversation as one in which you’re helping the other professional grow his or her practice. You will make it clear that you understand the professional’s business challenges and have the tools to address them. This is a conversation far different from those in which financial advisors simply assert that they are great advisors and then ask for referrals to wealthy clients.
Describe the Potential Partnership
If the center of influence expresses interest in what you are proposing, next briefly describe the wealthy pipeline process and how it will help build his or her practice. To help you succinctly describe the process, we provide a customizable one-page overview of how the pipeline works to drive business to both partners and the partnership-building process. The PDF is editable for you to include your name and the name of the center of influence. It is available for download from the Tools section.
In addition, show examples of your customized thought leadership content from CEG Advantage.
Using the assessment instrument
Now we turn to the assessment instrument that will guide your discovery with centers of influence. Exhibit 9.3 provides a visual overview.
In the Tools section of this strategy, you’ll find a downloadable assessment interview guide that provides the key questions you will want to ask any COI. Use this as a starting point, but do not ask the questions in a rote or robotic fashion. Discovery should not be an interrogation; it should be a free-flowing conversation in which you delve into opportunities and areas of mutual concern to discern how beneficial a partnership might be for both parties.
Just as you learned in Strategy 5 to create mind maps as you conduct discovery with your clients and prospective clients, create mind maps for your centers of influence as you proceed through the assessment. The Tools section also includes an example of a complete COI mind map.
Attributes are the central and often defining characteristics of the person. You want to understand the following traits:
Personal and family factors
Years in business
Technical expertise and particular competencies
Strengths and weaknesses
A comprehensive understanding of the COI’s business model
To ensure a solid and ongoing alignment of your mutual interests, including how best to use thought leadership content, you need to understand the COI’s professional situations. You also need to be keenly aware of his or her goals—which we’ll discuss below—as well as how these goals are realized through the COI’s particular business model.
A powerful way to start discovery with centers of influence, and one that begins to uncover many of the issues in the COI assessment interview guide, is simply to say this:
“Tell me about your practice.”
As the attorney or accountant shares with you facts about his or her practice, you can dig deeper. For example, some follow-up questions relating to attributes might be:
What services do you specialize in?
What is the most difficult thing about making your practice much more successful? (Hint: The answer is, with great regularity, business development.)
How are you compensated at your firm?
What is your average hourly billing rate?
Where do you see your practice in a few years?
Most attorneys and accountants, provided they feel you can be helpful, are willing to share information about their practices with you. By learning these things, you can more easily see how to help them become thought leaders.
Contacts are the people the center of influence knows and can access. There are many components to this category. These are the most pressing and informative:
Nature of contacts
The affluent clients with whom they do business
The particular types of affluent clients they have
Other relevant relationships they have
Source of contacts
Strength of contacts
Support they have provided, with examples
Support they have obtained, with examples
Obligations they owe and are owed
Their extended contacts—to the second and third degrees beyond direct contacts
The quality of these extended relationships
Obligations they owe and are owed (beyond direct contacts)
To gain a better understanding of the COI’s wealthy clients and how he or she serves them, ask two questions:
“How many clients are you currently working with who have businesses valued at $10 million or more?”
“What are you doing for these clients?”
You can choose any criteria you want to assess contacts, but this helps you zero in on what they are doing today, and also helps you start to see whether there are possibilities for the expertise you can bring to the table.
Generally speaking, one degree of separation from wealthy clients’ contacts is usually where the wealthy client referrals lie. You need to determine the number of potential wealthy clients as well as the quality of those relationships. This will permit you, at the very least, to quickly determine whether a professional has the ability to refer wealthy clients to you.
Some questions that will help you gain a deeper understanding include:
Is there a particular type of client, such as business owners, corporate executives or celebrities, that makes up most of your wealthy clientele?
How do you generally meet wealthy prospects? (Hint: If the COI says he or she gets most new affluent clients from financial advisors, you will probably pass on this partnership.)
Are you working with any other professionals who send you a steady stream of new wealthy clients?
How many referrals to financial advisors have you made over the past year?
When you make a referral to a financial advisor, how often do your wealthy clients follow your recommendation?
Your aim is to get a solid picture of the COI’s high-net-worth clientele and the network of relationships that you could help maximize by providing high-value thought leadership content so the COI will be able to more quickly start meaningful conversations, a percentage of which will turn into new business.
Resources are the “assets” at the COI’s disposal. This goes beyond the people they know and can influence. It’s not only whom the center of influence knows, but also the COI’s ability to deliver other resources that can prove quite useful in enabling you to acquire new wealthy clients. The COI’s firm’s marketing capabilities, for example, can be very helpful to all parties in accessing new wealthy clients.
It’s important to get a good sense of these other means. This is what you want to know about the COI’s access to resources:
Types of resources that are available to the center of influence
Form of control with respect to these resources; this is most commonly either direct or indirect
Degree of applicability and leveragability for your practice
How these resources could prove beneficial to you
For an attorney or accountant to become a thought leader, he or she will need to have the means to distribute to the right people the high-quality thought leadership content you will provide.
“How would you distribute the thought leadership content I’d provide to you?”
There are lots of viable alternatives. You want to see whether the attorney or accountant has the resources that will be instrumental in your efforts to help him or her become a thought leader.
These are some additional questions that will give you a clearer understanding of the resources the COI may be willing to commit:
How much money do you have for workshops and other types of educational events?
If we wanted to run educational lunches for clients and prospects, what kinds of rooms are available at your firm?
What kinds of material are you sending out today? (Hint: If they are sending material out at all, it typically will not be targeted to specific people or part of a thoughtful ongoing campaign.)
Do you send out material consistently or once in a while?
What is your firm’s marketing department doing to help you grow your practice?
Most accountants and attorneys have limited resources. Very, very few are able to produce and deliver ongoing thought leadership content. You want to confirm this to be the case and show them how, with your help, they can become more successful as they become the experts the wealthy want.
Intent is about the COI’s preferences, needs and wants as they relate to short- and long-term goals. There are three categories of goals you want to understand:
Overall financial goals
Financial goals for various business initiatives
The gaps between current status and goals
Strategic business goals
Business stature and positioning, with examples
Explicit planned and tactical objectives, including methodologies and operational considerations
The principal obstacles to achieving expressed and unexpressed strategic business goals
Nonfinancial goals for the COI and his or her family
Philanthropic aims and particular charitable activities
The expressed and unexpressed impediments to reaching these goals
One eye-opening question will tell you a great deal about the COI’s intent:
“Do you want to make a lot more money?”
This question is very direct, so some financial advisors prefer to finesse it more. What you are seeking to discern is whether the attorney or accountant is “hungry.” If he or she wants to make a lot more money, then you are well-positioned to help make this happen. If making more money is not really what they are about, you’ll want to think twice about partnering with this COI.
We always recommend that you seek out partners with high financial goals. They should be very keen on becoming a whole lot more successful in their careers and be highly motivated to become personally wealthier. If a center of influence is on cruise control to retirement or is independently wealthy, there is probably very little you can do to motivate him or her to add economic benefit.
Other questions to get a better understanding of intent include these:
How would becoming much wealthier impact your family?
How useful would it be for you to be recognized as one of the foremost authorities in your field? (Hint: If this does not matter to the COI, he or she is unlikely to place great value on your thought leadership content.)
Where would you like your practice to be five years from now?
What are the biggest obstacles to making your practice more successful?
Besides greater business success and more money, what is really important to you?
Remember: For attorneys and accountants, the economic glue is your ability to help them become thought leaders. As thought leaders, they can build superior high-net-worth practices that produce more revenue and higher personal incomes.
These are the dominant and persuasive issues and interests the person is presently dealing with. You need to know:
Issues and matters that are top-of-mind for the center of influence
Concerns that are dramatically affecting the COI’s decision-making
Concerns that affect the COI’s ability to focus, respond and follow through
Concerns that may result in dysfunctional behavior, with examples
While all the categories are important and useful to understanding whether a center of influence would make a good partner, the critical concerns category is often the most telling. What really, truly matters to a center of influence will determine his or her behavior. This is one very useful question:
“Is there anything that will stop us or slow us down from working together?”
Depending on how much rapport you have with the center of influence, you will likely get different responses. Still, asking this question—in one form or another—can help you uncover concerns that might throw a monkey wrench into your efforts.
You will gain deeper insights into critical concerns as you develop deeper relationships with your partners. People will usually share at this level only when there is a great deal of trust. This means there are no specific questions you can use to prompt the COI. But as you listen carefully over time, you will be able to learn what is most important and of concern to your partners.
Gathering this amount of information takes time—usually a lot of time. To fully and accurately complete the COI assessment can take months or even years. While your attorney and accountant partners will likely share some information fairly readily, going deep is a longer-term process because a high degree of trust is required before they will share much of this information.
Fortunately, you don’t need to know everything to get a consistent flow of high-caliber referrals to wealthy clients from attorneys and accountants. You certainly do not need to fill out the entire assessment instrument. Very likely, you will get a steady flow of new wealthy clients with a comparatively minimal understanding of the COIs, their businesses and the lives they lead. Still, collecting these insights will significantly heighten your ability to create a large pipeline of new wealthy clients.
Secure The Commitment
You have already put in the effort to identify COIs with whom you could potentially partner, to schedule and prepare for your first meeting, and to conduct discovery with them. You likely are committed to the concept of partnerships with centers of influence. But are you committed to building a partnership with this center of influence?
The Power of N.E.X.T.
It’s very important to know when to walk away from a center of influence who does not appear to offer the potential for a profitable partnership. We call this N.E.X.T., or Never Extend eXtra Time.
As the chart below shows, more than nine out of ten financial advisors report that they have a lot of difficulty walking away from centers of influence, even when things are not working out for them. If you cannot overcome trepidation about moving past a center of influence you realize will not be a good source of wealthy client referrals, you are likely to have a very difficult time getting meaningful referrals from centers of influence.
You Make The Choice
Asking yourself these questions will help you decide whether you should work with a particular potential partner:
Is this person strongly motivated to become more financially successful?
Does this person have the wealthy clients you are interested in working with and a good chance of getting more of them—especially with your help?
Is this person potentially willing to refer his or her high-net-worth clients to you for your services and products?
Does this person have a basic or better understanding of the power of thought leadership? Is he or she interested in becoming a thought leader?
Is this person interested in working with you to make both practices significantly more successful than they are today?
Always remember: You select the centers of influence you are going to help become thought leaders. They do not choose you.
Determining the COI’s commitment
Even though you choose your COI partners, and not the other way around, you still need to secure their commitment. Be very clear about both what you can offer and what you expect in return. This is one very effective question:
“If I can help you significantly grow your business, would you be open to the idea of referring investment advisory clients to me?”
The COI’s answer and tone will reveal the level of his or her commitment. You want to hear enthusiasm, excitement, even eagerness.
If the answer is a clear “no,” you will know to direct your efforts elsewhere. Trying to convince the COI of the business-building potential of thought leadership at this point will not likely be effective or even desirable.
If you receive a “maybe” or another tentative reply, and yet—this is important—you believe the relationship has real potential, you can ask this follow-up question:
“If we designed a plan to achieve your most important business goals, what obstacles would prevent us from working together?”
Then you must quickly evaluate whether it’s worth pursuing this prospective partnership. Given the work it takes to build a strategic partnership, chances are that you should consider saying, “Next.” You want to go forward with the process only with those who are undoubtedly enthusiastic.
Create The Agreement
The next step in building your wealthy client pipeline is creating an agreement that spells out the exact roles, responsibilities and expectations of each party. No matter how enthusiastic or motivated your partner appears, do not skip this step.
Agreements are not legal contracts or formal obligations, but they should specify your role and responsibilities and that of your partner. An agreement can be an informal memorandum of understanding signed by both parties or merely a verbal confirmation of each party’s understanding of the partnership. What matters is that the commitments of each party to the relationship are spelled out from the beginning and then revisited and reinforced on a regular basis.
Components of An Effective Agreement
Your agreement should delineate each partner’s role and commitments as well as the intended outcomes for the partnership. Your agreements will likely vary somewhat from one partner to the next depending on specific circumstances, but generally, your agreement should define these things:
Your role: To help your partner become a thought leader and, by doing so, draw in significant new business
To provide your partner with high-quality thought leadership content to distribute on a regular basis to clients, prospective clients and other high-value relationships
To provide regular guidance on the effective use and distribution of thought leadership content and on follow-up actions to take after distributing the content
To make it as easy as possible for your partner to refer wealthy clients to you (more about this below)
Expected outcome for your partner: A measurable increase in revenue and net profit derived from the new business the thought leadership efforts attract
Your partner’s role: To become a thought leader and refer new wealthy clients to you
Your partner’s commitments:
To endeavor to make the best possible use of the thought leadership materials you provide in order to position himself or herself as the expert the wealthy want, and thereby to attract new business
To actively refer to you clients who are suitable for and would potentially benefit from your services
To strongly advocate for you when making the referrals
Expected outcome for you: A steady stream of referrals of qualified wealthy clients
A sample of an agreement in the form of a memorandum of understanding is available for download from the Tools section of this strategy.
As you work with a partner and come to better understand the potential of the partnership, you may choose to refine your agreement to include more detail. For example, including the percentage increase of revenue and profit that is expected for the COI over a certain time frame can be very powerful, as can including a specific number of wealthy referrals that you expect over a certain time. Becoming proficient at projecting business increases takes time and a lot of practice, however, so begin with the basics in your agreement and refine from there as time goes on.
Communicating the Types of Clients You Want
It’s a mistake to blindly depend on an attorney or an accountant to send you the wealthy clients you want to work with. Do not presume that they know the types of clients who are ideal for you. You will get a much better outcome if you are very clear about the characteristics of the wealthy clients to whom you want to be introduced.
To eliminate any potential confusion, share the ideal client profile you created in Strategy 3: Work with the Right Affluent Clients. This way your partners will not forget or get the information wrong. It can also be worthwhile to share your ideal client profile each time you meet with a partner. The more you can emphasize the characteristics of the clients you want, the better.
Moreover, it’s useful to tell your partners that if they are uncertain about someone, they should give you a call to discuss the possible referral. Then you can decide whether it’s worthwhile to meet the person.
Helping Your Partner Endorse You
You are one financial advisor among many other financial advisors in your community. You need your strategic partners to not only recommend you but also powerfully position you to their high-net-worth clients. Exhibit 9.5 shows how this should work.
You need your partners to strongly endorse you on two levels:
Technical proficiencies. It’s best when your partners can genuinely say that you and your team have the expertise and capabilities to expertly address the wealthy client’s needs and wants. The ability of your partners to explain your proficiencies and align them with what their affluent clients need and want will go a very long way toward having their wealthy clients become your clients.
Chemistry. When your partners tell their affluent clients that they will like you and enjoy working with you, it sets the foundation for what can become astoundingly strong professional and personal relationships with those clients.
There are two important actions to take with partners that will help them effectively and enthusiastically endorse you to the clients they refer to you:
Clearly express your value promise. You need to be able to provide to your partners a precise, succinct and compelling description of the clients you serve, how you serve them and how they benefit. They should then share your value promise with clients they refer to you.
Share your personal story. Your unique, heartfelt narrative of the reasons behind why you care so much about serving your clients extremely well will set the stage for an emotional bond between you and your partners. When it comes time for partners to refer clients to you, that goodwill will transfer to the clients, making it much more likely that they will follow up with the referral and end up working with you.
Provide your partners with both the value promise and personal story that you developed in Strategy 4: Articulate Your Value Promise. Your partners will tend to make a few modifications, but will give their affluent clients the core message you crafted.
At times, a COI might refer you to a client in an email, rather than in a face-to-face meeting. In these cases, you still want the COI to clearly describe your value to the client, but in an abbreviated format suitable for email.
The Tools section contains a document with both a sample script that a COI might use when referring a client to a financial advisor, as well as an email template and sample.
Implement the Thought Leadership Solution
With your agreement with your partner in place, it’s time to begin filling up your wealthy client pipeline. By implementing the thought leadership solution, you will make your strategic partners more successful. And the more you help them succeed, the more likely they will help you succeed by sending wealthy clients your way.
Breaking down the process into manageable steps will certainly help, especially in the beginning. Exhibit 9.6 shows what this looks like.
Don’t become overwhelmed by your commitment to implementing the thought leadership solution. You will indeed need to spend time and effort to generate significant results. However, we see repeatedly that once financial advisors start in, they relax about what they need to do and, with practice, become quite adept.
And remember that you have full support throughout the process with CEG Advantage. Every month you will receive a range of high-quality thought leadership content to share with your partners, along with advice on how best to use specific pieces of content and easy-to-use tools for customizing and distributing your content.
Step 1. Understand your partner’s business model
During your discovery meetings, you should uncover key traits of the business models of your attorney and accountant partners. These will help inform the types of thought leadership content you provide and how your partner can use the content most effectively. You will want to know these characteristics of your partners:
As we’ve mentioned, your discovery of your partners should be ongoing. You will likely expand and refine your understanding of your partners’ business models over time. With these insights in hand, you’re ready for the next step.
Step 2. Determine the type of expert your partner wants to be
It is much easier to help your partners position themselves as the experts the wealthy want when you focus on one or two areas of expertise and one or two types of clients. Claiming to be the expert in many areas for many types of clients is usually counterproductive and, for the most part, unbelievable.
The area of expertise can be a technical specialty, such as one of these:
And these are examples of types of high-net-worth clients your partners might specialize in serving:
Of course, a professional can combine technical specializations with client types—asset protection planning for professional musicians, for instance. Helping your partners refine their positioning as thought leaders will be useful in helping you provide them with the high-quality thought leadership content they will need.
Generally, most attorneys and accountants want to be thought leaders for fairly broad audiences. For example, an attorney may look to be a thought leader when it comes to charitable giving or, broader yet, wealth planning. These areas of expertise are potentially applicable for all wealthy families.
When accountants and attorneys are part of a firm that gives them access to additional types of expertise within the firm, you may be able to deploy thought leadership content on a wider range of topics. For example, an accountant partner may not be directly involved with assisting entrepreneurs in selling their companies, but because the firm has the knowledge and skill set to do this, sending out content on this topic can lead to more business all around.
This can be a balancing act. On the one hand, you and your partners want to be recognized as authorities in specific areas where they and you are proficient and can directly deliver the services and products involved. On the other hand, everyone wants to be responsive to the needs and wants of their wealthy clients and prospective clients.
In addition, keep in mind that while you need to skillfully position your partners as experts in specific matters, you usually will want to provide high-quality thought leadership content beyond these specialties, and not just on financial or legal matters. We have found that delivering high-quality thought leadership on health, family and lifestyle topics is extremely effective in building stronger relationships with the wealthy. Again, this is a balancing act between communicating the specific expertise of your partners and providing content of interest to affluent clients and prospective clients.
Step 3. Provide optimal thought leadership content
To become a thought leader, and to help your partners become thought leaders, you need high-quality thought leadership content—a lot of it.
What do we mean by high quality? This is content tailor-made for the wealthy to address their very specific financial, business, family, charitable and lifestyle concerns. In contrast to the old-fashioned client newsletters that focus on personal finance topics, high-quality thought leadership content is unique and relatively rare. Your ability to provide this content to your partners will make you very valuable to them.
You will share two types of content from CEG Advantage with your strategic partners:
CEG Advantage provides tools for you to customize this content on behalf of your partners, or you may create accounts for up to five partners that will allow them to access and customize the content directly.
Step 4. Provide guidance in using thought leadership content
Simply giving your partners even the most sensational thought leadership content is not enough. You also have to help them make the most of the materials.
The greatest value you can add at this point is to help your partners make clear connections between specific pieces of your thought leadership content and the specific individuals who would benefit from receiving them. At times it can be a bit tricky to help your partner connect these dots and match up their areas of expertise and types of clients with the appropriate high-value content, but these are also often the situations when business opportunities arise.
It can be very useful to organize your thinking by placing your high-quality thought leadership content into two buckets.
Bucket #1: Financial and legal content
These are topics that fall within your partners’ areas of expertise. This content is focused on addressing a specific financial or legal challenge and tends to be somewhat technical. You want to connect one type of client with a topic that addresses a financial or legal challenge common among those clients. Exhibit 9.7 provides some examples.
It’s often extremely worthwhile also to send out financial or legal content that does not directly tie to the offerings of your partner. In these cases, you will need to help your partners understand how to connect the content to their services or position the material as something valuable to the recipient.
At first glance, for example, an attorney sending out thought leadership content on the importance of personal umbrella policies will not directly benefit from doing so. The attorney, after all, does not offer umbrella policies. However, this material can start a productive conversation that makes it easy to introduce the concept of asset protection planning—a service the attorney does provide. You can be of tremendous assistance in helping your partner transition from discussing umbrella policies to talking about asset protection planning. Exhibit 9.8 shows how the flow of such a conversation might go.
Bucket #2: Human interest content
This content enables you and your centers of influence to connect with people on a more personal, nonbusiness basis. The examples in Exhibit 9.9 show you how this works.
Exhibit 9.10 connects the dots on how human interest material can help start conversations that have nothing directly to do with what your partners offer. It also shows how your partner can move these conversations toward new business.
In addition to helping your partners match client types and interests with specific content, help them identify situations that provide clear openings to connect clients with particular content. Does your partner have a wealthy client whose will is five years old? Deliver an article about the importance of up-to-date estate planning. Is a business owner client contemplating selling his or her business? Send a report on exit planning strategies. Are the clients affluent parents worried about the choices their grown children are making? Share an article on the importance of prenuptial agreements.
Uncovering The Key Client Issues
Identifying the right thought leadership content to send to the right individuals is not likely to come naturally to your partners, at least in the beginning. The best way to help them make these connections is simply to ask questions about their clients. You’re looking for any opening to start a conversation with clients. Here are a few examples:
As you can see, you really want to drill down into the human issues. You want to talk about real, live people—not concepts or hypotheticals—and how your partner can add value to help them. Then identify the specific thought leadership content that would open up these conversations.
Sharing the Content Effectively
Once you and your partner have matched specific pieces of content with specific clients, help your partner to share that content in a way that will have maximum impact. We recommend two key actions:
The Tools section contains a document with an email template that your partners can customize to send content to individual clients, as well as sample emails that have been used to distribute thought leadership content. Every month, CEG Advantage provides suggested email copy that your partners can use to send the VFO Inner Circle Special Reports. We recommend that this copy be personalized for each recipient.
Step 5. Follow up
To achieve meaningful results from distributing thought leadership content, there has to be follow-up. Your partners simply will not gain new business without making direct contact with clients and prospective clients. In fact, your partners should not send content to specific individuals unless they are willing to take the time to follow up with each recipient.
Both buckets of content described earlier provide clear opportunities for productive conversations. Financial and legal content gives your partners the chance to talk about specific services or solutions with wealthy individuals who might benefit from them. Human interest content helps your partners start conversations on specific topics that have little or nothing to do with financial or legal matters, but instead help deepen relationships with clients on a personal, nonbusiness basis—while also leaving the door open to discuss business.
These should be easy conversations. Your partner should simply contact recipients and ask whether they received the content. Did they have time to look at it? Do they have any thoughts about it? Does it make sense for them? If the particular piece of content was matched carefully with the needs or interests of that individual, the conversations should flow freely. The document below contains sample scripts for partners making these follow-up phone calls.
Step 6. Keep the pipeline full
Helping your centers of influence become thought leaders requires systematic, consistent campaigns. These are extended discourses between your partners and their wealthy clients and prospective clients. Your partners want these individuals to recognize the knowledge, capabilities, information, insights and expertise they offer—and that recognition usually doesn’t happen overnight. It takes some time and repeated exposure, which in turn depend on having a steady flow of high-quality thought leadership content, along with your guidance on how best to use this material.
When you are instrumental to the thought leadership campaigns of your centers of influence, you deliver an amazing amount of value. In return, they refer their wealthy clients to you and keep your pipeline full. This is the law of reciprocity in action.
Absolutely essential to this consistency are regular meetings with your partners. Monthly, face-to-face meetings are usually optimal. Unless you meet on a very regular basis, the odds are slim that your partners’ thought leadership efforts will be very successful or that they will actively refer and promote you to their wealthy clients. Make these meetings a top priority.
This is what you and your partner should do at each meeting:
These meetings may feel laborious in the beginning, but they will get easier and easier over time as you and your partners become ever more adept at identifying openings for new business.
By creating a routine your partners become comfortable with, you will be able to keep their thought leadership campaigns moving smoothly forward, making it more likely that all involved will achieve the results they want.
At the conclusion of each meeting, be sure to schedule your next meeting and then follow up with an email confirming that meeting. A template for your monthly meeting email confirmations is available for download from the Tools section.
In any business endeavor, results matter. Are you getting the results you are looking for? Are you getting the results you need in order to keep going in a set direction? Are you getting the results you need if you are going to become significantly more successful?
What to Track
When it comes to the wealthy client pipeline, there are two sets of results that matter:
The results you help your partners achieve. The extent to which you help your partners generate new business usually directly correlates to the effort they put into referring wealthy clients to you. The more business they get, the more referrals you should get. The results they get and the effort they put forth are very good leading indicators of the success you can potentially have.
The results you achieve. The bottom line: When you help your partners become thought leaders, you get a steady stream of wealthy client referrals. This makes it essential for you to know whether your chosen partners are fulfilling their end of your agreements.
Keep in mind that it’s the amount of revenue, not the number of new clients, that matters most. Three new clients, for instance, are usually better than ten new clients if the revenue is the same.
During discovery, you should get a good sense of the potential of a center of influence to refer wealthy clients to you. By diligently tracking, you can compare this potential with the actual outcome. If there’s a large gap between the two that seems unlikely to close, consider saying N.E.X.T.
Your goal is to make your attorney and accountant partners more successful by guiding them to become thought leaders. When you are clear about exactly how much value you are providing to them in terms of increased revenue, you can justifiably ask for more business in return.
Thus, your ability to garner referrals to new wealthy clients from your partners greatly depends on your ability to determine and quantify the value you bring to them. And the only way to know how important you are to your partners is to track their financial results that stem from your efforts.
Once you know the economic gains your partners enjoy from working with you, make sure you are getting appropriate economic benefits from working with each of them. It’s the norm to modify the initial agreements you created once you have a track record of producing solid financial returns.
How to Track
Your aim when tracking is not to precisely determine all the business your partners generate because you are helping them become thought leaders. The nature of becoming a thought leader over time makes this impossible. Results are not always immediate, and it’s usually not possible to tag one piece of new business to one specific piece of thought leadership content. New business that comes in over the transom due to a partner’s enhanced status as a thought leader is particularly difficult to track.
However, you certainly can track some results, and to the extent possible, you want to track the results of your partners. These results are clear when your partners send out high-quality thought leadership content and get a positive response to the material. They’re clear when partners use your thought leadership content in presentations and get a positive response. They’re also clear when partners use your content in meetings with clients and prospective clients and hear a positive response.
Usually, the only way you will know your partners are getting traction from your thought leadership content is when they tell you. Discussing their results should be a regular agenda item in your monthly meetings. Take notes on the results they share with you. Tracking results is not a science, but you can, with practice, get closer and closer to a deep understanding of how valuable you are to your partners.
A template for tracking key results is available from the Tools section.
Your Next Steps
Congratulations! By now, you’ve completed The Elite Wealth Manager and are well on your way to having a simple and elegant wealth management practice that gives you an amazing life of significance.
Consider the hierarchy of advisor success. Where were you when you first started The Elite Wealth Manager? And where are you now? If you have implemented even some of the program’s strategies, you no doubt have moved up one or more levels on the hierarchy.
But in many ways, your journey is only beginning. Recall your first introduction to the elite wealth manager framework. It most likely was during a conversation with one of CEG Worldwide’s elite advisor consultants. You probably remember answering some questions based on the framework and assigning yourself a red, yellow or green to each accelerator according to how well you were implementing. If you are like most advisors we work with, you saw plenty of reds and yellows. And if you are like most advisors, you know that fully achieving the practice of your dreams is an ongoing process.
That’s why we invite you to explore joining us as a member of Roundtable, CEG Worldwide’s mastermind group of elite wealth managers. Like you, every member of Roundtable is a graduate of The Elite Wealth Manager or of Breaking Through, our previous foundational coaching program. More important, like you, they are driven to move to even higher levels of success.
Through monthly coaching, live sessions, networking with your elite advisor peers, continued access to CEG Advantage and more, Roundtable delivers what you need to continue your upward trajectory.
As always, it comes down to a question of speed. You could continue moving to higher levels of success on your own, or you could do it much faster as a member of Roundtable. If you want to continue moving full speed ahead, schedule a call now with one or our consultants to discuss whether membership in Roundtable is right for you, your practice and your goals.
We wish you the best of continued success!