Forge Powerful Strategic Alliances

The Power of Strategic Alliances

Strategic alliances are a win for you, for your strategic partners and for your mutual clients.

Key Takeaways

  • Introductions from other professional advisors are the top source of financial advisors’ most qualified prospects.

  • Informal referral agreements with other professionals generally are not effective for obtaining introductions to qualified prospects

  • The “economic glue” of formalized strategic alliances ensures that each partner is working in the other partner’s best interest.

  • Introductions from their professional advisors are the most important way that affluent individuals find their financial advisors.

  • Clients benefit from strategic alliances because both your strategic partner and you as their wealth manager focus your skills and expertise on addressing their financial concerns.
     

Strategic alliances are one of the most powerful approaches we know to take your business to a significantly higher level in a relatively short period of time. Through strategic alliances, you will realize four major benefits:

  1. You will reap new sources of revenue through client introductions from your strategic partners.

  2. You will earn your clients’ loyalty as they benefit from both your skills as a wealth managers and the expertise of your strategic partners.

  3. You will move beyond linear growth in your business to truly exponential growth.

  4. You will be more satisfied as you enjoy your business more.

We will look here at the power of strategic alliances in driving revenue, client loyalty, exponential growth and your personal satisfaction.

Strategic Alliances Drive Revenue


Without a doubt, successful strategic alliances will drive substantial economic value for your practice. Why? Because they are your best route to qualified affluent clients.

We know—both through our industry research and through the work of hundreds of financial advisors in our coaching programs—that the majority of affluent clients prefer to find their financial advisors through referrals from trusted professionals. Well-crafted strategic alliances will create a stream of introductions to prequalified, affluent prospects from their professional advisors—your strategic partners.

As you will see in Exhibit A, our study of more than 2,000 financial advisors industry-wide found that three out of five (61.0 percent) reported that introductions from other professional advisors were the source of their five best new clients in the previous year. Coming in a distant second were introductions from existing clients, cited by 23.4 percent of those surveyed.

As important as introductions from other professional advisors are, we find that the great majority of financial advisors fail to maximize their relationships with these professionals. They may provide referrals to select professionals in the vague hope that they will receive reciprocal referrals. Or they may simply meet with other professionals and attempt to convince them that they are somehow different from all other financial advisors and thus worthy of receiving their referrals.

Typically, these efforts bear very little fruit. Without a consistently compelling reason for the other professional to provide referrals to you, there is little that binds the relationship together over time. Even when referrals do trickle in, they can be of doubtful value. To build a highly successful practice, you don’t need referrals for just any prospects; however, you do need introductions to qualified future clients.

A well-crafted strategic alliance will give you exactly that. In contrast to informal referral arrangements, a strategic alliance creates a vested interest among partners to help each other grow. An alliance creates “economic glue” that holds together a mutually beneficial partnership. It is a formalized ongoing relationship that has been clearly spelled out and committed to by both sides and sets the stage for a long-term profitable relationship for both parties.

Strategic Alliances Drive Client Satisfaction and Loyalty


Strategic alliances are about more than growing your bottom line; they are also about serving clients better.

We know that affluent clients want to find their financial advisors through introductions from professionals. In a study by Russ Alan Prince of more than 1,400 clients with a least $1 million in investable assets, 54.2 percent named introductions from professional advisors such as attorneys and accountants as an important way to find their primary financial advisors. Trailing behind in importance were introductions from existing clients of the financial advisor, cited by 30.1 percent of those surveyed. (See Exhibit B.)

Strategic alliances work, ultimately, because they enable you and your strategic partner to serve your clients better. Through the alliance, clients will benefit from both the expertise of the trusted professional with whom they already have a relationship and from your skills as a wealth manager who can address the full range of their financial concerns. And they can be assured that these professionals are working together as a team to maximize the probability that their clients achieve their financial goals.

Strategic Alliances Drive Exponential Growth


Too often financial advisors get stuck in a rut where they are marketing their services to just one prospective client at a time. Business growth is linear, at best.

Strategic alliances allow you to break out of that mold. By joining forces with other professional advisors who share your client service and business development goals, you can accomplish more together than you ever could on your own. Rather than linear, your business growth becomes exponential. We simply know of no more effective avenue for quickly moving upmarket and acquiring a whole new set of high-net-worth clients.

Strategic Alliances Drive Business Satisfaction


Finally, strategic alliances can simply make your business more fun and enjoyable. When you begin working closely with people who have similar goals and who want you to be more successful because doing so will make them more successful, it injects new energy and satisfaction in your day-to-day work. Together, you and your strategic partners are creating a bigger pie as you serve your mutual clients very well—something not often found in business.

In short, strategic alliances create that rarest of situations: a true win-win-win. Financial advisors win by acquiring additional affluent clients. Other professional advisors win by growing their revenues from their current client bases. And those clients win by receiving the complete range of financial services through a single trusted professional. In Forge Powerful Strategic Alliances, we will provide step-by-step direction on how to create this win-win-win in your own business.

Setting the Stage for Success

Why a well-designed platform is essential ingredient for building successful strategic alliances.

As we’ve just seen, strategic alliances offer the potential to spur tremendous growth in your practice. Many financial advisors intuitively know that joining forces with other professional advisors should result in new qualified clients, but most are never able to make this a reality.

What sets the relatively few financial advisors who succeed with strategic alliances apart from all the rest who fail? The answer is that they have a well-designed platform: a methodical process that enables them to systematically build successful alliances. They have a track to run on that avoids dead-ends and leads them down a proven path.

In Forge Powerful Strategic Alliances, we will help you, step by step, to build that platform. Once fully implemented, you can expect it to systematically generate that stream of highly qualified prospective clients that most financial advisors can only dream of.

Seven Key Strategies for Powerful Alliances

A big-picture look at the seven key strategies that will drive your platform’s success.

There are seven key strategies that will drive your platform’s success:

  1. Stand Apart with Wealth Management. When you provide a comprehensive wealth management process—something that many financial advisors claim to provide but that few actually do—you will be far better positioned to effectively address the needs of affluent clients than if you focus solely on investment management. This value will set you clearly apart from other financial advisors who may be competing for the attention of your potential strategic partners.

  2. Know the Potential Partners. The success of your alliances depends on the quality and suitability of your strategic partners. Here you will explore and the entire range of professional advisors who are your potential strategic partners.

  3. Identify Your Ideal Partners. There are a huge number of potential partners to choose from, but you only need a few to score big success. In this module, you will implement our proven process for identifying the optimal candidates for your alliances.

  4. Implement the Consultative Strategic Process. You will execute a fine-tuned process that has been designed—and proven—to repeatedly to achieve consistently good results.

  5. Launch a Pilot Program. The pilot program—the first of three best practices we recommend for new strategic alliances—will prove out your partnership and set the stage for future success.

  6. Offer the Second-Opinion Service. The second of the three best practices will provide a clear and compelling path for your partners’ to send qualified prospective clients directly to your consultative process.

  7. Conduct Private Client Events. These events—the third of the three proven best practices—will both draw qualified prospects into your consultative process and position you extremely well in the eyes of your strategic partners.

Stand Apart With Wealth Management

In order to building successful strategic alliances, you must set yourself clearly apart from other financial advisors who also competing for the attention of potential strategic partners. The key to doing so is to provide a comprehensive wealth management process—something that many financial advisors claim to provide but that few actually do. As a true wealth manager, you will be far better positioned to effectively address the needs of affluent individuals and families than if you focus solely on investment management.

Successful wealth management depends on a consultative process—a defined progression that uncovers each client’s unique concerns and allows you to formulate a comprehensive set of recommendations to methodically address each concern. It also requires a capability to address advanced planning issues—the specific areas beyond investments that are of concern to the affluent.

A true wealth management approach requires a systematic process that you can implement and then replicate again and again with the same consistent high quality. In Module 1: Stand Apart with Wealth Management, you will discover how to implement the Consultative Client Management Process, which is based on a series of five scheduled meetings with each client. You will also find out how to work with strategic partners to address advanced planning issues.

Wealth Management Defined

The formula for wealth management that will guide your new client service process.  

Key Takeaways

  • Your consultative wealth management process—and your ability to succinctly describe its value—will set you apart from most other financial advisors.

  • Your compelling value is your ability to address the financial challenges of your strategic partner’s clients through your comprehensive process.

  • Consider using CEG Worldwide’s formula: wealth management = investment consulting + advanced planning + relationship management.
     

All financial advisors tend to work within one of two different models, depending on their approach to providing financial services. These models apply to all types of financial advisors, including independent broker-dealer representatives, registered investment advisors and stockbrokers within wirehouses.

  1. Investment generalists. These financial advisors offer a broad range of investment products but do not specialize in a single type of product. While they offer their clients many different products, they do not make consulting an essential part of their business model, tending instead to be transactional.

  2. Wealth managers. These financial advisors take a comprehensive approach to meeting client needs. They use a highly consultative approach to construct integrated solutions. With this strong consultative orientation, wealth managers are well-positioned to implement their recommendations by cross-selling services and products.

 

Even today, most financial advisors continue to use the investment generalist model, taking a transactional, not consultative, approach with their clients.

Even though it is now all the rage for financial advisors to call themselves “wealth managers,” relatively few actually use a true wealth management model. A CEG Worldwide study of more than 2,000 financial advisors found that just 6.6 percent are actually wealth managers. The remaining financial advisors are investment generalists. (See Exhibit 1.1.)

Wealth management means one thing to clients and another thing to financial advisors. From the clients’ perspective, it means having their financial challenges solved and their financial situations enhanced.

From your perspective, it means the ability to deliver a full range of financial products and services in a consultative way. It goes beyond traditional investment ideas and solutions to encompass all types of financial needs throughout all phases of clients’ financial lives.

In its simplest form, wealth management comprises three phases:

  1. Using a consultative process to establish close relationships with clients in order to gain a detailed understanding of their goals and their most important financial wants and needs.

  2. Offering customized choices and solutions designed to fit each individual’s needs. This select range of interrelated financial services and products might include, for example, investment management, insurance, estate planning and retirement planning.

  3. Delivering these customized solutions in close consultation with clients and their other professional advisors. The wealth manager works closely with clients and their other professional advisors on an ongoing basis to identify their specific needs and to design custom solutions to help meet those needs.

To organize our thinking and approach to wealth management, we use a single all-encompassing formula:

Wealth management = investment consulting + advanced planning + relationship management

The easy shorthand for the formula is this:

WM = IC + AP + RM

Investment consulting is the core offering for many wealth managers and the foundation upon which they begin to build the client relationship. It addresses the top financial concern of affluent clients: wealth preservation.

Advanced planning addresses the range of financial needs beyond investment consulting. It addresses the remaining four major areas of financial concern: wealth enhancement, wealth transfer, wealth protection and charitable giving.

Finally, relationship management involves three key tasks: first, fully understanding clients’ critical needs and meeting those needs over time through a consultative process; second, assembling and managing a network of financial experts; and third, working effectively with your affluent clients’ other professional advisors, such as their attorneys and accountants.

The Consultative Client Management

The Consultative Client Management Process

Key Takeaways

  • The Consultative Client Management Process will be your framework for building and managing your long-term client relationships. It consists of five meetings:

    • 1. The Discovery Meeting

    • 2. The Investment Plan Meeting

    • 3. The Mutual Commitment Meeting

    • 4. The 45-Day Follow-up Meeting

    • 5. Regular Progress Meetings

  • To meet your clients’ advanced planning needs, you will build a network of professional advisors and integrate your work with your network into your consultative process.
     

Financial advisors who entered the industry 10 years or more ago typically learned to conduct campaigns, where they sold products or ideas. To stand out from their competitors, they had to demonstrate that their products and ideas were somehow better or different from those of their competitors—a difficult proposition in an environment where products and ideas have become highly commoditized.

Rather than conducting campaigns, the top financial advisors now focus on the client experience that they deliver. When they provide a world-class experience for their clients, and do so consistently, year in and year out, these financial advisors enjoy a value proposition that competitors find extremely difficult to touch. Because they employ systematic, replicable processes, they can offer this world-class experience in a relatively cost-effective manner, increasing their profit margins. And because a top-notch client experience builds a loyal client base, it creates substantial equity in their firms.

However, there is a substantial challenge in basing your value proposition on your client experience: You must have systems in place to deliver the experience consistently and cost-effectively. Without these systems, you create a nightmare for yourself, doing endless rounds of one-offs.

To counter this challenge, you are about to learn a systematic client relationship management process that you can implement and then replicate again and again. This process will enable you to provide true mass customization: While your systems will function almost like an assembly line in the background, each prospect and client will experience it as a true custom experience that addresses their unique needs. We call it the Consultative Client Management (CCM) Process, and we believe you will find it to have one of the largest, most positive impacts on your business that you have ever experienced.

 

The CCM Process is based on a series of five meetings with each client. (See Exhibit 1.4 for an overview of the process.) Because it is a true consultative process, it will yield substantial dividends:

  • You will be perfectly positioned to leverage your core competency in client relationship management.

  • You will systematically build high-quality relationships with which clients are very satisfied.

  • You will uncover your clients’ true financial issues with a high degree of accuracy, which in turn will enable you to determine the appropriate actions for addressing those issues.

  • You will delight your clients, who will be more likely to provide both additional assets to manage and introductions to qualified prospects. This in turn will lead to greater revenue and, ultimately, a substantially higher net income.

Each client meeting in the consultative process is designed to win, service and retain the client while fostering trust, growing the relationship and delighting the client—not to mention providing you with numerous opportunities to gain additional assets, provide additional services and receive introductions for qualified prospects. And by delivering a consistent, high-quality client experience, the process will enable you to easily differentiate yourself from your competition.

In the following sections, we will take you through each of the five meetings, step by step. In addition to our written descriptions, we will provide a series of video portrayals of each meeting. The introduction to the video series is below.

Required Qualities for Network Members

Key Takeaways

  • As you begin to consider who to invite to become a member of your professional network, be aware that there are several attributes each professional should possess.

  • The key attribute is expertise in meeting the advanced planning needs of your clients.

  • Other important qualities include an ability to work well together on the team, the ability to work well with clients and a noncompetitive outlook.
     

There are four qualities that every member of your professional network must bring to the table.

The Right Expertise


You must have absolutely the best expertise available for your target market. Large-client cases do not come along every day, and only by having the right expertise do you maximize your chance of getting the business.

So don’t choose to work with a particular lawyer, for example, simply because you think you might get clients in exchange down the road. You don’t need a second-rate attorney who will give you plenty of referrals, because you won’t be getting what you really need: the ability to generate the best recommendations for addressing your clients’ financial challenges.

At the same time, don’t make the mistake of aiming too high. For example, there are private client lawyers who specialize in clients with $50 million and above in net worth. If your typical affluent client has $3 million in net worth, if would be foolish to try to make such an attorney part of your network—there would simply not be enough economic glue to make the relationship work.

Ability to Work Well Together


Members of the network must also be able to collaborate well and support one another’s efforts. For example, the lawyer and life insurance specialist must be able to work closely together because insurance products will often support the lawyer’s planning strategies.

Every professional must respect the network model. Each must recognize and accept that you, as the wealth manager, have the primary relationship with the client. This is a challenge for many professionals, who view the client not as a client but as a case from which they should attempt to maximize revenue.

In a successful professional network, members never undercut the wealth manager—or each other—in front of the client. The wealth manager is present at all meetings (except any that may deal with issues of attorney-client privilege), and no member of the network may contact the client without the wealth manager’s knowledge and permission.

Finally, network members must also be willing to walk away from a sale when it becomes clear that it is not in the client’s best interest. The life insurance specialist, for instance, must accept it—and not argue—when the lawyer says that a particular product is not good for the client.

Ability to Work Well with Clients


You should be proud to put members of your network in front of your clients. This means you need people who, even after doing a great deal of work to prepare a recommendation, will graciously accept it should the client choose not to pursue that recommendation.

Noncompetitive Outlook


It’s simple: Members of your network cannot compete with you. So your life insurance specialist, for example, cannot manage money in any way, shape or form. To do so would be contrary to the network model.

Know The Potential Partners

The Range of Potential Partners

Key Takeaways

  • Among all professional advisors, accountants and attorneys offer the greatest potential for becoming profitable strategic partners.

  • Other professional advisors may also make highly profitable strategic partners.

  • Potential strategic partners should all work with clients in your target market, have trusted relationships with those clients and be eager to grow their businesses.
     

There are numerous types of professional advisors who can make excellent strategic partners. Among these, there are two types that stand out with their potential:

  • Accountants (CPAs) whose clients include individuals and families in your target market can make excellent strategic alliance partners.

  • Attorneys who work within your target market, particularly private client lawyers who specialize in trusts and estates and wealth protection, can be extremely valuable strategic partners.

Accountants and attorneys are the two most sought-after types of strategic partners among top financial advisors. For this reason, we will focus our attention on building alliances with these two professionals. However, your options do not end there. Consider these types of professionals:

  • Life insurance specialists who work at the very high end of the market can have strong relationships with members of your target market. Importantly, they also have relationships with other professionals who serve the affluent, including private client lawyers, which can pave the way for additional opportunities for you.

  • Association executives who lead organizations in your target market may be extremely open to exploring new ways to better serve their clients through a strategic alliance.

  • Business brokers are open to strategic alliances with financial advisors because often the largest financial transaction that an affluent individual will make is the sale of his or her business. Business brokers know that many transactions are not completed because the potential seller is unsure about how to invest the proceeds.

  • Investment bankers who facilitate mergers and acquisitions are in a position similar to that of business brokers and may welcome a strategic alliance that helps clients to invest private equity that has been released.

  • Consultants who work in your target market may have deep contacts that they can leverage to help you while further building their own businesses.

  • Property and casualty agents who focus on the high end, specializing in multimillion-dollar homes, boats or jets, for example, have the opportunity to build strong client relationships.

  • CEO group leaders who facilitate small groups of successful business leaders can offer opportunities for you to make presentations to their groups. This provides the group leader with a much-needed service while providing you with an outstanding forum to connect with members of your niche market.

All these professionals have three important things in common:

  • They work with affluent clients in your target market.

  • They have the opportunity to build trusted, long-term relationships with their clients.

  • They are interested in growing their businesses.

In Forge Powerful Strategic Alliances, we focus special attention on accountants and private client lawyers. But keep in mind that the alliance-building process we describe can be used with virtually any type of professional advisor who has these characteristics.

In Depth: CPAs

Key Takeaways

  • Our research consistently shows that CPA firms that engage in strategic alliances with financial advisors to deliver financial services have higher incomes than firms that deliver financial services directly. Knowing this should give you additional confidence when approach a CPA about a potential strategic alliance.

  • Approximately one-third of CPA firms currently rely on an internal model to provide financial services to their clients. The remaining two-thirds use a collaborative model where they work with outside firms or individuals.

  • About one-third of CPA firms have formal strategic alliances with financial professionals in place.

Over the past decade, CEG Worldwide has conducted a number of comprehensive studies of CPAs who offer financial services to their clients. By understanding the business models of these CPAs—what’s working well and less well—we have uncovered the substantial opportunities for financial advisors to work with CPAs in strategic relationships.

Again and again, our research has found that when CPA firms rely on strategic alliances with financial advisors to deliver some or all their financial services to their clients, they realize substantially higher net incomes from financial services than do CPA firms who deliver these services directly. As you begin to approach potential CPA strategic partners, this perspective will give you confidence that what you are proposing will be extremely valuable to those professionals.

At the bottom of this page, you will find our reports on three of these studies: Realizing the Opportunity (2002), Capturing the Potential (2004) and Succeeding Amid Adversity (2010). We encourage you to download and read these reports to familiarize yourself with the challenges and opportunities faced by CPA firms offering financial services.

A brief look at some of the data from the most recent study, Succeeding Amid Adversity, will give you an idea of the importance of strategic alliances to CPAs. In this study, we carried out a comprehensive survey of CPA firms around the country that are offering financial services and products. One of our goals was to understand the mechanisms these CPA firms use to deliver financial services and products to their clients and the role of financial advisors in that delivery.

 

To understand how the CPA firms are structuring their financial services practices, we segmented the survey respondents according to their service delivery model, or how they deliver financial services and products to their clients.

As Exhibit 2.1 shows, we found that about one-third of surveyed firms (33.7 percent) use an internal model. That is, they provide all their financial services and products through one or more employees or partners at the firm. Just 1.0 percent of firms use an external model, whereby they provide all financial services and products through strategic arrangements with professionals outside the firm.

In Depth: CPAs

A sizable majority of the firms (65.4 percent) use a collaborative model, whereby they provide financial services and products through employees or partners and through strategic arrangements with financial services providers outside the firm.

We then dug deeper into the collaborative model to understand the types of outside service providers they use. As seen in Exhibit 2.2, the most common type of outside provider used by collaborative firms is the turnkey asset management program (TAMP). More than six in ten of surveyed collaborative firms, or 62.7 percent, rely on TAMPs for portfolio management and support. We believe that many of these CPA firms are attracted to TAMPs by their simple yet robust platforms that provide not just investment solutions but also assistance with practice management, operations and administration.

In Depth: CPAs

 

As Exhibit 2.3 illustrates, the average revenue from financial services in 2008 for the firms using the internal model was $651,959, while financial services revenue for firms using the collaborative model topped $1 million.

We can assume that because collaborative firms rely on outside professionals to deliver a portion of their financial services, their costs to provide these services is lower than are the costs for firms using the internal model. These lower costs would translate into higher profit margins on their gross revenues.

What accounts for the collaborative firms’ higher earnings from financial services compared to the earnings of firms that provide all financial services in-house? Above all, we believe it is their underlying embrace of strategic, collaborative relationships with outside professionals to deliver an optimal client experience.

We believe that these firms’ willingness to turn to outside professionals comes primarily in response to market factors, including the greater complexity of financial products and increased client challenges due to market downturns and volatility. However, regardless of the reason, it provides financial advisors with significant opportunities to build profitable strategic alliances with CPAs.

 

In Depth: Private Client Lawyers

 

Key Takeaways

  • Among all attorneys, one particular type offers the best prospects for strategic alliances: private client lawyers.

  • Private client lawyers are attractive because they work with affluent clients who have money in motion and who thus likely have a need for wealth management.

  • Research shows that private client lawyers are quite inclined to provide their clients with referrals to investment professionals, and that these referrals result in new business for the financial professionals most of the time.

  • Private client lawyers have four distinct professional styles: the Technician, the Rainmaker, the Experimenter and the Entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs tend to make the best strategic partners.

As we have seen, there is one type of attorney that offers the best prospects for partnership in a profitable strategic alliance: the private client lawyer.

Other lawyers who work with affluent clients who have money in motion (for example, divorce attorneys, merger and acquisition attorneys, and entertainment attorneys) also have the potential to be good strategic alliance partners. However, no other type comes close to the private client lawyer in terms of working with a consistent stream of affluent clients.

An excellent resource on private client lawyers and how they work is Russ Alan Prince’s The Private Client Lawyer (2003), which is available through Amazon.com. Here, we will introduce you to the key characteristics and concerns of private client lawyers so that you can approach them with a solid understanding of them.

What Is a Private Client Lawyer?


The private client lawyer is a specialist in the areas of trusts and estates as well as wealth protection. In addition, the private client lawyer works with affluent clients and does so from within a law firm (as opposed to trusts and estates lawyers employed by private banks or life insurance companies).

The private client lawyer provides a very specific set of services to the affluent, which are summarized in Exhibit 2.4.

What Makes Private Client Lawyers Attractive?


Why are private client lawyers the most ideal type of attorney with which to form a strategic alliance? In a nutshell, because they already routinely make referrals for their wealthy clients to obtain the investment services they need. More often than not, those referrals result in business for the referred financial advisor. And private client lawyers are actively looking to make referrals. Perhaps best of all, the referral potential for financial advisors appears to remain largely untapped.

Let’s look at each factor in more detail.

  • Private client lawyers make referrals. According to Russ Alan Prince’s research, private client lawyers are already making referrals for substantial amounts of business to investment professionals. His study of 619 private client lawyers found that they were referring an average of 10 percent of their clients to investment professionals. Even better, the average amount of investable assets per client was $2.7 million. Clearly, referrals from private client lawyers have the ability to put significant wealth into motion.

  • Referrals from private client lawyers result in new business. One indication of the influence private client lawyers have with their clients is the rate at which their referrals result in new business for financial advisors. The Prince study found that nearly three-quarters (73.2 percent) of clients used the financial advisors referred by their attorneys.

  • Private client lawyers are actively looking to make referrals. The research also shows that many are well aware of the potential for client referrals to result in referrals back to them from financial advisors. In fact, one-fourth, or 24.7 percent, of the private client lawyers surveyed were actively looking for eligible clients to refer.

  • Financial advisors do not seek referrals from private client lawyers. Even though many private client lawyers would like to make referrals, financial advisors largely fail to proactively seek out these referrals. The research found that three out of four of the lawyers surveyed had not been approached by a single financial advisor in the previous year. This spells opportunity for those financial advisors who do take the initiative in contacting private client lawyers.

The Professional Styles of Private Client Lawyers


By definition, private client lawyers address the unique legal needs of the affluent. However, the research by Russ Alan Prince finds that not all private client lawyers respond to the needs of their wealthy clients in the same way. In fact, the research uncovered four distinct professional styles: the Technician, the Rainmaker, the Experimenter and the Entrepreneur.

Each of these styles encompasses the services the attorneys provide and how they provide them, how they operate their practices, the types of wealthy clients they work with, and the other professionals they use to serve those clients. Most important, these styles also have a direct correspondence with income.

Two important issues contribute most to determining the professional style of private client lawyers: their marketing orientation and their compensation structures. The attorneys who actively seek to generate new business and expand relationships with current clients are considered to have a high marketing orientation.

  • In terms of compensation structures, those attorneys following the traditional model are remunerated through billable hours, project fees, administrative fees and probate fees. In contrast, innovative compensation structures include value-added project fees; fees and commissions from financial products; and success fees associated with outcomes, strategies and tactics.

  • As you can see from Exhibit 2.5, each attorney’s style is defined by where he or she falls on the spectra of these two key issues.

  • As Exhibit 2.6 shows, the majority of private client lawyers are Technicians. One-fifth are Rainmakers, while Experimenters and Entrepreneurs compose smaller groups. This is in keeping with the evolution of the trusts and estates field, where most lawyers have traditionally been Technicians. As they become increasingly proficient at sourcing business, they become known as Rainmakers. Both of these styles work within the traditional compensation model.

  • As the business and legal environments have changed, however, two new styles have emerged, both of which approach compensation in innovative ways. These are Experimenters and Entrepreneurs.

  • How lawyers of each professional style approach marketing and compensation appears to have a direct effect on their financial success. Entrepreneurs earned by far the most, with an average of $1,274,000 in pretax incomes. Rainmakers were second, with average pretax incomes of $538,000. The incomes of both Experimenters and Technicians were far lower, averaging $151,000 for Experimenters and just $97,000 for Technicians. (See Exhibit 2.7.)

  • This data leaves little doubt that the Entrepreneurs’ focus on marketing, along with their innovative compensation arrangements, pays off well for them in terms of their financial success.

The Key Concerns of Private Client Lawyers


To be in a position to help private client lawyers enhance and build their businesses, you must understand their most important business concerns. The Prince research again offers valuable insight, identifying the eight major concerns of these attorneys:

  • Downward pressure on incomes. As Exhibit 2.8 shows, the overwhelming majority of surveyed private client lawyers feel that they have reached a limit in terms of what they can earn. They know that there are only so many hours of their time and only so much a wealthy client can be billed per hour.

  • An adverse impact on lifestyle. Attorneys’ concerns about lowered income are directly related to concerns about their lifestyles being negatively affected.

  • Not enough wealthy clients to go around. This is a question of supply and demand: These attorneys fear that there are too few wealthy clients and too many private client lawyers.

  • The cost/value sensitivity of wealthy clients. As wealthy clients have grown more sophisticated, they’ve also become more demanding and interested in cost-effective results. As a result, a high percentage of private client lawyers are concerned about the increasing cost/value sensitivity of their affluent clients.

  • Significantly increasing competition from other private client lawyers. Nearly two-thirds of private client lawyers overall are concerned about rising competition. This concern is highest among Technicians, whose traditional practices make it more difficult for them to differentiate themselves. In contrast, because they are successful in differentiating themselves from other attorneys, competition from other lawyers is of little concern to Entrepreneurs.

  • Nonlawyers encroaching on the world of the private client lawyer. More than half of the surveyed lawyers overall see competition from other professionals as a concern, although it is a concern for nearly nine out of ten Entrepreneurs. Accountants are seen as the top competition, followed by brokers and life insurance agents. Significantly for you, financial planners and investment managers are not seen as important competitive threats.

  • The commoditization of private client legal services. This is the concern that wealthy clients see all private client legal services and providers as being alike, and thus, they are unable to distinguish from among private client lawyers. While this is a concern for more than half of all attorneys, it is of note that only a small minority of Entrepreneurs—just 3.9 percent—share this concern. Again, because they have positioned themselves with their clients differently than other attorneys, Entrepreneurs have little to worry about in differentiating themselves.

  • Changes in tax law that may meaningfully hurt the practice. While 42.8 percent of surveyed attorneys overall see this as a concern, it is a concern for three-quarters of both Experimenters and Entrepreneurs. This is a function of their more innovative compensation structures.

In Depth: CEO Group Leaders

Key Takeaways

  • For financial advisors whose target market is business owners, CEO group leaders can be important strategic partners.

  • CEO group leaders are very concerned about getting additional members for their groups and about delivering high-quality presentations to their members. As strategic partner, financial advisors can help them address both of these concerns.

  • There are many CEO groups located throughout the United States that collectively serve many thousands of business owners and CEOs.

CPAs and private client lawyers are critical to providing access to affluent prospects and are key components of your professional network.

Nonetheless, you should also consider opportunities for strategic alliances with other types of professionals who work with your ideal clients. A prime example: If you work with C-level executives, a well-chosen leader of a CEO group would make an excellent strategic alliance partner. CEO groups, which typically comprise small- and midsized-business owners, presidents, and chief executives who meet on a regular basis to help one another work on their business challenges, offer great opportunities for wealth managers.

Many financial advisors talk about business owners and CEOs as their target market. And in fact, these individuals do represent the largest concentration of both expanding and current wealth in the United States. However, most financial advisors, even those who target this group, fail to recognize that there are distinct communities of businesspeople. Because many of these individuals are isolated in their own businesses, they are inclined to join CEO groups.

When you form a strategic alliance with a leader of a CEO group, you can tap directly into one of these communities. You will find yourself in the midst of successful businesspeople who could well be ideal clients for you. Groups tend to be small (10 to 12 members) and ongoing, often over many years.

As a result, members of each group know each other very well, have helped one another out many times and trust each other—something rare in business. This means that if you sign on one member as a client, you will have the best possible introduction source available.

 

Creating Economic Glue


With all successful strategic alliances, you need to create some kind of economic glue that will hold the alliance together. In the case of strategic alliances with CEO group leaders, it’s unlikely that there would be any revenue shared. Instead, consider what most interests CEO group leaders:

  • Gaining additional members for their groups

  • Delivering high-quality presentations to their members

 

Gaining Additional Members


CEO group leaders tend to be hungry for new referrals but often have few referral sources. If you already work with at least several CEOs or business owners, you will have a very powerful selling point for a strategic alliance when you tell such a leader that you meet with several CEOs a few times a year as part of your wealth management consulting process and that you would be willing to make introductions when appropriate.

In return, CEO group leaders can be a valuable source of introductions to you. In many CEO groups, leaders meet with individuals for one-on-one coaching sessions in addition to the group meetings. This offers the leaders an obvious opportunity to refer a wealth manager when appropriate.

In addition, you can help the CEO group leader to obtain new members by leveraging the marketing skills you are learning in Forge Powerful Strategic Alliances to teach the group leader these same skills. In particular, you will add great value by teaching the consultative strategic alliance process and the second-opinion service offer, as well as by sharing your knowledge and experience in conducting effective group presentations.

 

Delivering High-Quality Presentations


You will be able to add great value for a CEO group leader by delivering great content. Many groups have regularly scheduled educational events with outside speakers invited in for one- to three-hour presentations. By designing programs for business owners and delivering them with the skills you are learning in Forge Powerful Strategic Alliances, you will become a valued resource for your strategic alliance partner. In fact, some very successful wealth managers have built great businesses just from these kinds of presentations.

It’s important to understand your unique role as the speaker in front of a small group of CEOs. To be powerful and effective, you must do the following:

  • Start with the end in mind. Set an achievable goal, such as having a certain number of members of the CEO group sign up for a Discovery Meeting with you at the end of the meeting. Then design your presentation to achieve this result.

  • Know the issues and speak to them. Interview the group leader prior to the presentation to uncover the key financial issues of the group. Address the challenges in a clear, practical way.

  • Be high-energy. As successful business leaders, members of CEO groups are usually high-energy individuals who need high-energy presentations. Your presentation should excite them, motivate them and challenge them. If you slow down, become too technical or drift off course, they will pull out their cellphones.

  • Be highly interactive. Simple lectures won’t work with these audiences. Break up your presentation with interaction between you and your audience. Provide exercises to reinforce important points.

  • Be educational. Every person hearing your presentation should feel that he or she has received a real benefit in the form of useful knowledge. This means that your presentation should not be heavily oriented toward marketing.

  • Know your time limits. In some groups, speakers may present for up to three hours. In others, presentations typically last just one hour. Other groups may not have speakers on a regular basis, so in such cases you would negotiate your presentation’s length with the group leader.

  • Provide a path into the future. Don’t just provide powerful information without also providing an obvious way to follow up on it. Your call to action should be clear: Tell attendees that the next step is to set up a Discovery Meeting so that you can provide them with a complimentary second opinion on their finances.

 

Identifying Potential Partners


The first step is to identify the most suitable partners. To assist you with this step, we have provided a list of many of the major CEO groups in the United States and around the world (see below).

Once you have contacted potential partners to explore the possibility of working together, you will conduct an exploratory meeting, just as you would with other types of professionals.

By the end of the exploratory interview, you should have a good feel for whether the group leader would be an effective strategic partner. In particular, consider these factors:

  • Personal enjoyment. Did you enjoy speaking with the group leader? Did you get along easily? Do you think you would have a good working relationship?

  • Professional standards. Does the group leader have high professional standards? Is he or she careful, thoughtful and trustworthy?

  • Entrepreneurship. Is the group leader creative with business ideas? Does the leader implement these ideas well? Are his or her groups growing?

  • Success. Does the leader have more than one group? (The most successful leaders will have two full CEO groups of 14 to 16 members each. In addition, they will have two full vice president groups. This means that a successful group leader will have close relationships with more than 60 CEOs and VPs.)

With the understanding that you gain from the exploratory interview, you will be well-positioned to make a decision on each candidate. Then you can move forward in conducting the remainder of the strategic alliance process.

 

CEO Groups in the United States

 

Vistage International


The 14,000 members of this organization consist of company presidents, chief executives and business owners who meet once a month in small groups to work on business development issues, receive feedback on the business challenges they face and gain support from one another. The organization operates in 16 countries.
Contact:
(800) 274-2367
www.vistage.com

 

Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO)


This global peer network connects 17,000 young business leaders in more than 100 countries to exchange ideas, pursue learning and share strategies for personal and professional growth. Members all became chief executives before the age of 40. The organization offers thousands of unique local, regional and international educational opportunities each year. Numerous local chapters are scattered throughout the United States.
Contact:
(800) 773-7976
www.ypo.org

 

World Presidents’ Organization (WPO)


As the graduate organization of YPO, every member of the World Presidents’ Organization has been a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization. Since the maximum age for membership in YPO is 49, WPO members are 50 and older. WPO offers benefits similar to those offered by YPO.
Contact:
(800) 773-7976
www.wpo.org

 

The Alternative Board (TAB)


The members of this organization of business owners, CEOs and presidents improve their businesses by attending monthly meetings guided by professional facilitators. Numerous groups exist throughout the United States.
Contact:
(800) 727-0126
www.tabboards.com

 

Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO)


This global educational organization offers an array of learning, networking and mentoring opportunities for business owners. It has more than 7,500 members in 118 chapters and 38 countries around the world, including more than 60 chapters throughout the United States and Canada.
Contact:
(703) 519-6700
www.eonetwork.org

 

The Chief Executive Officers’ Clubs


The members of this by-invitation-only association are CEOs of businesses that have at least $2 million in annual sales, with the average member having $20 million in annual sales. The club’s chapters meet eight times a year for half-day educational programs.
Contact:
(212) 925-7911
www.ceoclubs.org

 

Renaissance Executive Forums


Forums of CEOs, presidents and business owners meet monthly for half-day sessions to work on enhancing their business results as well as their quality of life. Annual retreats and one-on-one coaching sessions with forum leaders are also arranged.
Contact:
(858) 551-6600
www.executiveforums.com

 

Chief Executive Forum


Groups of up to 14 chief executives meet monthly for educational programs and problem-solving sessions. One-on-one mentoring and coaching are also available.
Contact:
(800) 48-FORUM
www.ceforum.com

 

Excell Executive Leadership Exchange


Excell brings together groups of company owners, presidents and CEOs who meet one day a month to work on business challenges and hear resource speakers address CEO-level management issues.
Contact:
(800) 655-0950
www.excellceo.com

 

Alliance of Chief Executives


This organization of and for chief executives located in northern California includes people who run companies of all types and sizes, from startups to billion-dollar enterprises. Members meet in monthly sessions at which they discuss strategic opportunities, provide fresh perspectives and help fellow members make important decisions.
Contact:
(925) 942-2400
www.allianceofceos.com

 

The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE)


This global network of entrepreneurs and professionals dedicated to fostering entrepreneurship has 53 chapters and more than 11,000 members in 12 countries, with many chapters throughout the United States. The core activities are monthly learning and networking meetings, but programs also include conferences, retreats and special-interest groups. Membership is open to all.
Contact:
(408) 567-0700
www.tie.org

 

CEO Roundtable


This organization brings CEOs, presidents and company owners together for an exchange of information, ideas and insights. Members meet monthly in peer groups of eight to 12 members from noncompeting companies.
Contact:
(978) 685-8743
www.ceo-roundtable.com

 

Let’s Talk Business Network


This organization offers personalized support and educational resources to entrepreneurs. Its chapters hold monthly member meetings, provide coaching, and offer educational and networking events.
Contact:
(917) 408-6173
www.ltbn.com

 

President’s Resource Organization (PRO)


This is a nationwide network of peer group forums where professional facilitators guide participants toward improved company and personal performance. Each group of up to 12 members meets once a month for a half day. Most members are owners, partners, managing directors, CEOs or COOs of their companies.
Contact:
(800) 276-2233
www.propres.com

 

Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO)


This organization is composed of a diverse group of top women business leaders. Monthly meetings are coordinated by professional facilitators and focus on important business issues and trends. Currently WPO has more than 82 chapters in cities around the United States.
Contact:
(212) 688-4114
www.womenpresidentsorg.com

 

The Business Forum


This independent organization is dedicated solely to the information-sourcing needs of senior decision-makers in business, government and academia. It organizes luncheon forums for members throughout the western United States, where leading experts discuss new technologies, products, services and business philosophies.
Contact:
(310) 550-1984
www.bizforum.org

Implement the Consultative Strategic Alliance Process

Exploratory Meeting

Key Takeaways

  • The primary purpose of the Exploratory Meeting is to discover whether the strategic alliance candidate will, in fact, make a good strategic partner.

  • Fully prepare for the meeting by sending a confirmation letter to the candidate and creating an agenda.

To make the meeting as productive as possible, we recommend that you take these seven steps:

  1. Open the meeting by briefly communicating the potential benefit of a strategic alliance.

  2. Conduct the exploratory interview using our interview guide.

  3. Set expectations for the strategic alliance by explaining the pyramid of business relationships.

  4. Make a decision about the suitability of the candidate.

  5. Ask for a precommitment for moving forward in the process.

  6. Schedule Key Stakeholder Meetings with the key decision-makers at the candidate’s firm.

  7. Send a follow-up letter to confirm the schedule for the Key Stakeholder Meetings.
     

At this initial meeting with a potential partner, your primary goal is to answer one fundamental question: Is this a good match? Your time is extremely valuable, so this meeting is designed to help you determine as quickly as possible whether the potential partner or firm is right for you and whether you should continue the consultative process.

You will want to know whether the other professional will be your champion. This person needs to see your knowledge and value proposition so that he or she can help you enhance your ideas for the strategic alliance, then be an advocate for the alliance with his or her business partners.

Objectives of the Exploratory Meeting

 

  • To uncover the potential partner’s key traits and challenges so that you can make a decision about suitability for a strategic alliance

  • To find out whether the potential partner will be a champion, or advocate, for the strategic alliance

  • To position yourself as an expert in building relationships—not just with your clients, but with strategic partners, as well

  • To differentiate yourself from other financial advisors who seek casual referral arrangements rather than a formal strategic alliance

Preparation for the Exploratory Meeting


Complete preparation for each meeting is vital to the success of your consultative strategic alliance process.

To make the Exploratory Meeting as productive as possible, send a confirmation letter to the alliance candidate immediately upon scheduling the meeting. A sample confirmation letter is below. You will also find a template of this letter that you may customize for your own use available for download from the bottom of this page.

Dear Sue,

It was great speaking with you and learning more about your firm today.

This letter will confirm our breakfast meeting next Thursday, September 8, at 8:00 a.m. at___________.

I am very interested in learning more about your firm as I complete my research in determining the most appropriate CPA firm/law firm in __________ (insert your local market) for forming a strategic alliance to develop additional business for both firms.

As I mentioned in our call, the purpose of our initial meeting is for me to gain better insight into your firm. Our proposed agenda for the meeting would include the following:

  • Gain a better understanding of your company.

  • Discuss our thoughts regarding strategic alliances.

  • Explore whether it would make sense to move forward in building a strategic alliance that will benefit our clients and both of our firms.

Please bring along any marketing collateral material about your firm and yourself that will help me fully understand your business.

I am looking forward to our meeting.

Best of success,
Financial Advisor to the Affluent

For each meeting in the consultative strategic alliance process, you will create an agenda such as the one below. At the bottom of this page, there is a template for this agenda that you can modify as appropriate.

Ms. Sue CPA
Exploratory Meeting Agenda
Thursday, September 8
8:00 a.m.

  1. Introduction to meeting

  2. Exploratory interview

  3. Explanation of the pyramid of business relationships

  4. Assessment of suitability

  5. Precommitment for moving forward, if appropriate

  6. Schedule the Key Stakeholder Meeting, if appropriate
     

Steps for the Exploratory Meeting

Step 1. Open the Meeting


Remember that in every meeting the other party always wonders, “What’s in it for me?“ This means you must make it clear that there is a tremendous business opportunity for the other party if the candidate is right to be a strategic partner. It’s important to communicate this message confidently.

Your time is extremely valuable, so your objective for the Exploratory Meeting is to determine whether the candidate is right for you and whether you should continue the exploration process. You want to learn as quickly as possible whether the candidate justifies the time that will be necessary to form a highly profitable strategic alliance.

Start your meeting by saying this:

“Sue, I’ve been looking forward to learning more about your practice/your firm to determine whether we should continue to explore a mutually beneficial strategic alliance.”

Step 2. Conduct the Exploratory Interview


Set the stage for the interview in this way:

“I’d like to ask you a series of questions to gain a better understanding of your firm/practice and whether we might further explore the possibility of working together. To make sure that I capture everything, I’d like to record our conversation. I find that when I record my meetings, I am able to focus on your responses rather than trying to capture everything in writing.”

As always, check with your compliance group about the permissibility of recording these meetings and any retention requirements.

The candidate will judge you by the quality of the questions you ask, so we suggest that you use an interview guide to ensure that you succinctly cover every major issue related to the strategic alliance. The interview guide we recommend is below and is also available for download from the bottom of this page.

Strategic Alliance Exploratory Interview Guide

  1. Where do you think the business for CPAs/private client lawyers is going?

  2. What are the three key services that your clients are asking you for today?

  3. What target market(s) are you interested in focusing on?

  4. Please describe your ideal client.

  5. What services do you provide to your clients?

  6. How do you differentiate your firm/practice from your competition?

  7. What’s important about success to your firm/practice?

  8. What are some of the biggest challenges you face in your practice today?

  9. What has been your experience in working with financial advisors? Specifically, what has worked well? What has not worked as well? (Ask for a concrete example of each.)

  10. For CPAs: What is your personal view of accounting firms providing financial services to their clients? For private client lawyers and other professional advisors: What are your views on introducing clients to qualified financial advisors when appropriate?

  11. What have been some of your biggest marketing successes?

  12. Do you have a marketing plan for your practice? What do you think of marketing plans in general?

  13. For CPAs: What was your firm’s gross revenue last calendar year? Of that, how much was tax-related revenue? For private client lawyers and other professional advisors: How many clients do you have whom you would estimate have a net worth of at least $5 million?

  14. If you were me, is there anything else you would have asked?
     

As you move through the interview, drill down deeper where necessary to get the perspective you will need to make a decision about continuing to explore an alliance with the potential partner.

Step 3. Explain the Pyramid of Business Relationships


Once the interview is complete and you have a good sense of how the other professional does business, move on to describe what your relationship would look like and exactly how it would benefit the potential partner.

 

To do so, we recommend that you frame the alliance with what we call the pyramid of business relationships. (See Exhibit 4.3.) Besides presenting the alliance in a visual way—making it easier to quickly grasp—the pyramid of business relationships unmistakably communicates your compelling value to the potential partner. By the time you have finished explaining the pyramid, the other professional will clearly see how you stand apart from other financial advisors and how you can benefit his or her business and clients.

Show the candidate the diagram of the pyramid and begin your explanation with the bottom layer. The entire relationship rests on the foundation, which must have four key elements:

  1. Integrity: Are both partners principled, trustworthy and reliable? Will you be able to fully trust one another?

  2. Chemistry: Do you connect with each other on both a professional and personal level? Do you have genuine rapport?

  3. Empathy: Do you understand one another’s issues and challenges?

  4. Competence: Do both partners have the professional experience and technical expertise required to capably address their clients’ challenges?

These essential ingredients must be present for the alliance to be a success. If you feel that any are missing, you need not explore the relationship beyond this initial meeting.

If you believe these ingredients are present, frame them in this way:

“At the level where we are both playing, these four characteristics are simply table stakes—let’s assume that we both have them. If we decide to form a strategic alliance, we will need to demonstrate them each and every day.”

Next move up the pyramid to the collaboration level. The other professional will absolutely need to know that clients that he or she introduces to you are being served very well. Be absolutely clear about your compelling value proposition, which is your ability to address the financial challenges of the other professional’s clients through your comprehensive wealth management approach. This will clearly differentiate you from all the other financial advisors who approach the professional seeking simple referral agreements.

In addition, describe how you and the other professional would work together collaboratively to address clients’ advanced planning needs. In return for his or her work on your professional network, the professional would be paid a fair share for the value he or she delivers.

We have found that the best way to describe both the wealth management value and the advanced planning process is with this formula:

Wealth management = investment consulting + advanced planning + relationship management

The third level of the relationship is formalization, or concurring on the fundamentals that will make the alliance work over time. By far the most important element is financial—the “economic glue” that will hold the alliance together. In every case with a strategic partner, this glue will come at least in part from the growth of both businesses. In many cases, it will also involve a share of the revenue generated by the partner’s clients.

Where there will be a revenue share, describe exactly what this could look like for the potential partner. For instance, for accounting firms, one rule of thumb says that $100 million of assets can be converted over a five-year period per $1 million of accounting revenue. (In our experience, this rule generally works for accounting firms of up to $10 million in revenue.)

If the potential partner firm has $2 million in revenue, that would mean that its clients have about $200 million in assets available for conversion. Assuming that you were able to capture all of those assets over a five-year period, $2 million per year in fees would be generated, assuming a 1 percent management fee. Of this, $500,000 would go to the accounting firm, assuming a very typical 25 percent revenue share. An additional $500,000 in revenue would no doubt be very attractive to the partner, especially since it would come at very little additional cost—simply the client introductions and the partner’s work on your professional network.

You can explain the revenue share like this:

“By working together and offering the wealth management services to your top clients that I’ve just described, we’d expect that there would likely be a conversion of something like $200 million over the next five years. Assuming you would receive the typical 25 percent share, you can expect your firm to add $500,000 of gross income. This would be with relatively little additional work from you—just our joint efforts to launch and maintain the strategic alliance, and then several meetings a year as a member of my professional network.”

In addition, the impact on the firm’s valuation can be substantial. While accounting firms are currently valued at about 85 cents on the dollar of accounting revenue, the valuation for revenue streams from strategic partners are much higher—on the order of four to five times the revenue stream. Again, this will be highly attractive to potential partners, particularly those who are concerned about business succession issues and who are looking to bring younger partners into the firm.

Remember that this is just an exploratory meeting, so do not make any promises, especially about revenue, but do make the potential clear through reasonable hypothetical figures.

The top level of the pyramid is best practices. These are the specific actions you will take in collaboration with your strategic partner that will launch the alliance toward tremendous success. Your goals for these best practices are to effectively introduce the partner firm to your wealth management consultative process and create channels for the firm’s clients to easily enter the process.

We recommend these three best practices to kick off strategic alliances:

  1. Conduct a pilot program whereby the strategic partner and ten suitable clients go through your wealth management consultative process.

  2. Conduct a second-opinion campaign to motivate additional clients of the partner firm to go through your consultative process.

  3. Conduct a series of private events for clients of the partner.

Because these actions are crucial to the success of the alliance, we will cover each of them in some detail later in Forging Powerful Strategic Alliances. Employing each of these three best practices should allow the strategic alliance to achieve 25 percent of the five-year goal in the first 24 months. Often this two-year time frame feels more attainable to the potential strategic alliance partner than the five-year expectations.

Step 4. Make a Decision


Once you have finished discussing the pyramid of business relationships, it’s time to wrap up the meeting by deciding whether or not you should continue the consultative strategic alliance process with this potential partner. Evaluate what you have heard and trust your instincts. Remember that you are not committing to the alliance at this point, just to investing additional time with this potential partner.

If it doesn’t make sense for you to form a strategic alliance with the candidate, given what you have heard, simply thank the professional for meeting with you, ask for a business card for potential future contact and move on:

“Sue, I appreciate the time that you’ve spent with me today. It’s been very helpful in gaining a better understanding of your business. You have a lot to be proud of. Let’s continue to consider how we might work together. In the meantime, if I can help you or your clients address any of their financial challenges, don’t hesitate to give me a call.”

If working with this professional seems like an exciting opportunity, explain the next steps:

“Sue, it’s clear from your responses to my questions that it would be worthwhile for both of us to continue exploring how we might create a very effective strategic alliance.

“The next step would be to set up a second meeting where I would interview the key partners at your firm in order to gain additional insight into your challenges and opportunities. After that meeting, we would work together to create a strategic action plan for the alliance. We would then present that plan to the key partners, get their input and support, and then move ahead to implement the plan.”

Step 5. Get a Precommitment


Now ask for a precommitment for moving forward in the process, by asking this:

“Sue, if we could design a strategic alliance that would help you in solving your most important business challenges, would there be a basis for our working together?”

On the rare occasion that there is a “maybe” or “no” answer, you should simply ask this 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 strategic alliance. Given the amount of work it takes to build a strategic alliance, chances are that you should use this powerful marketing word: “Next.”

Step 6. Arrange the Next Meetings


Assuming that the answer is yes, arrange for your champion to schedule Key Stakeholder Meetings with the key decision-makers at his or her firm. You can describe these meetings in this way:

“The next step in our consultative strategic alliance process is to conduct Key Stakeholder Meetings with each of the key decision-makers at your firm. At these meetings, I will ask each partner the same questions that I asked you. I will also walk through the pyramid of business relationships, just as I have done with you. My goal for these meetings is to gain an understanding the level of support each of your partners has for a potential strategic alliance and to collect more information for creating a strategic action plan. Would you arrange these meetings for me?”

Step 7. Send Follow-up Letter


After the meeting, immediately send a follow-up letter that confirms your next meeting. A sample is below and a template is available for download from the bottom of the page.

Dear Sue,

I enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about you and your practice at our breakfast meeting today. Given the substantial business opportunities for both of us, I believe that we should continue to explore the possibility of a strategic alliance.

To better understand the level of this opportunity and how we might best move ahead, we decided to set up Key Stakeholder Meetings with the key decision-makers at your firm. You agreed to arrange meetings for me with _______________, ________________ and ___________.

We will use the insights you provided today, as well as the information I gather during my Key Stakeholder Meetings, to prepare a strategic action plan that spells out the opportunities of a strategic alliance between us as well the specific steps we will take to achieving our goals.

I am looking forward to meeting with your partners. I believe these meetings will be extremely productive and may lead to a profitable strategic alliance between our two firms.

Best of success,
Financial Advisor to the Affluent

 Resources

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Exploratory Meeting Agenda

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Wealth Management Process and Formula

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Exploratory Interview Guide

Key Stakeholder Meetings

Key Takeaways

  • The primary goal of the Key Stakeholder Meeting is to gain additional information about the firm that will enable you to design an effective strategic alliance and gain full support for it.

  • Prepare for the meeting by sending an introduction letter to each attendee and by creating an agenda for the meeting.

  • The meeting should unfold over these six steps:

  1. Open the meeting by stating the goal of the meeting.

  2. Conduct the exploratory interview as you did during the Exploratory Meeting.

  3. Explain the pyramid of business relationships.

  4. Assuming that a successful strategic alliance looks promising, get a precommitment for moving forward.

  5. Close out the meeting by describing the next steps in the process.

  6. Schedule the Strategic Action Plan Development Meeting with your champion.

 Resources

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Key Stakeholder Meeting Agenda

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Key Stakeholder Meeting Confirmation Letter

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Key Stakeholder Meeting Follow Up Letter

If you are pursuing a strategic alliance with a CPA firm, you will hold a one-on-one Key Stakeholder Meetings with each key decision-maker at the firm. At a minimum, this will include the managing partner and chief financial officer.

The key purpose of the Key Stakeholder Meetings is to gather additional insight and information about the firm. While you may think that you gained a clear picture of the firm from your Exploratory Meeting with your champion, remember that every influential person at the firm will see the firm differently. It’s important to understand these perspectives to gain full support for the strategic alliance.

As you think about these meetings, be aware that other financial advisors have approached the CPA partners in the past with proposals for strategic alliances. More often than not, these proposals did not offer significant value to the CPA firm. For this reason, many CPA partners will be predisposed to respond in a particular way.

Time and again, we have found a tendency for about one-third of partners to be supportive of the proposed alliance and eager to participate in it. Another third of the partners are neutral—they don’t think that they would participate in the alliance and to any extent that they did, it would be only on a case-by-case basis. The remaining third of partners tend to be passive-aggressive: They will sound interested and receptive during your Key Stakeholder Meeting but will actually try to kill your proposal. We call this the “rule of thirds.”

However, by conducting thoughtful individual interviews with each of the decision-makers and then framing the alliance within the pyramid of business relationships, you will set yourself apart from all other financial advisors who have approached them in the past. Your thoughtful, systematic approach is likely to shift every decision-maker’s predisposed stance. That is, a decision-maker who would otherwise be passive-aggressive will become neutral. A decision-maker would otherwise be neutral will become open to active involvement in the strategic alliance. And those who would tend to support it will become enthusiastic supporters, even championing it for you with other partners in the firm.

Objectives of the Key Stakeholder Meetings

 

  • To uncover additional opportunities and possible obstacles for the potential alliance

  • To begin to build relationships with the most influential people at the candidate firm while you build their support for the strategic alliance

  • To affirm (or not) whether you made the correct assessment during the Exploratory Meeting about the suitability of this candidate

Preparation for the Key Stakeholder Meetings

Create an agenda, such as the sample shown below. You will note that these meetings are structured very similarly to the Exploratory Meeting. Again, a template is available for download from the bottom of the page.

James Managing Partner
Potential Partner CPA Firm
Key Stakeholder Meeting Agenda
Monday, September 19
2:30 p.m.

  1. Introduction to meeting

  2. Exploratory interview

  3. Explanation of the pyramid of business relationships

  4. Commitment for moving forward, if appropriate

  5. Explanation of next steps

To make the meeting as productive as possible, send a letter of introduction to each decision-maker with whom you will meet. Include with the letter both the meeting agenda and your exploratory interview guide. See the sample we recommend below.

Dear James Managing Partner,

As you know, your colleague, Sue CPA, and I recently met to discuss the possibility of creating a strategic alliance between our two firms in order to better serve your clients and to grow both of our businesses.

Sue and I had a very productive meeting and we believe that we have a solid basis for moving forward to further explore the potential for a strategic alliance. To do so, we have scheduled meetings with the key decision-makers at your firm, including you, ___________ and ___________. You and I will meet in your office’s conference room on Monday, September 19, at 2:30 p.m.

I have enclosed with this letter the agenda for our meeting, as well as a list of questions I will ask. The purpose of these questions is to enable me to gain a deeper perspective on your firm and the challenges it faces and how a strategic alliance can address those challenges while serving your clients better. To make our meeting as productive as possible, I would appreciate it if you looked over these questions and gave some thought to them in advance.

I am looking forward to our meeting.

Best of success,
Financial Advisor to the Affluent

 

Steps for the Key Stakeholder Meetings


The Key Stakeholder Meetings are structured similarly to the Exploratory Meeting. For this meeting, we recommend that you follow the same steps as for the Exploratory Meeting, as described below.

 

Step 1. Open the Meeting


As with the Exploratory Meeting, your goal is to determine whether this firm would make a good strategic partner, as well as to gather information about the firm that would be helpful to an alliance.

Kick off the meeting with this:

“As you know, Sue CPA and I had a great initial meeting about the possibility of building a strategic alliance between our two firms. Our goal today is to gather additional perspectives on the challenges the firm faces and how a strategic alliance might address these challenges.”

 

Step 2. Conduct the Exploratory Interview


Set the stage for the interview in this way:

“At today’s meeting, I’d like to ask you the same questions I asked Sue at our first meeting. You already received these questions, and I hope that you’ve had some time to think them over.

“I’d like to record our conversation so that I can be sure to capture everything. This will let me focus on your responses rather than on taking notes.”

As you should every time you wish to record a conversation, check in advance with your compliance group.

Now proceed with the interview, asking the exact same questions you asked during the Exploratory Meeting. Have the interview guide on hand. As you move through the interview, listen closely and respond thoughtfully to any concerns that are raised.

 

Step 3. Explain the Pyramid of Business Relationships


Once you have gathered answers to all the questions in the interview guide, move on to describe what the strategic alliance might look like and how it would benefit the firm.

We recommend that you do this by explaining the pyramid of business relationships, exactly as you did during the Exploratory Meeting.

 

Step 4. Get a Precommitment


Assuming that you still see substantial promise for a successful alliance, find out whether there is sufficient commitment from this decision-maker to continue to pursue the strategic alliances. As you did in the Exploratory Meeting, ask for a precommitment in this way:

“If Sue and I could design a strategic alliance that would help you in solving your most important business challenges, would there be a basis for our working together?”

Do not be surprised to encounter the “rule of thirds” at this point, and do not be overly concerned about hearing some resistance. We have found that a carefully crafted strategic action plan and, even more important, initial successes with client conversion go far toward winning over the opposition.

 

Step 5. Close Out the Meeting


Set the stage for the next steps of the process by closing out the meeting like this:

“I appreciate the time that you have given today to helping me better understand your firm and the possibilities for a strategic alliance between our firms. I believe that with the insight you have provided to me today, Sue CPA and I will be able to draft a strategic action plan that spells out the benefits of an alliance to both firms and the first actions

we will take.

“Once we have completed our draft of the strategic action plan, we would like to meet in a group with you and all of the firm’s key decision-makers to present the plan and get any feedback on it. We’ll modify the plan in response to your input and then begin to implement the plan’s recommendations for our strategic alliance.”

 

Step 6. Arrange the Next Meeting


Once you have concluded the Key Stakeholder Meetings, schedule the Strategic Action Plan Development Meeting with your champion.

Once you do, send out a follow-up confirmation. See the sample below, along with the downloadable template at the bottom of the page.

Dear Sue CPA,

It was great meeting with each of your partners to gain additional perspectives on your firm and to better understand opportunities for our strategic alliance.

As we discussed, you and I will meet again to draft our strategic action plan for the strategic alliance. We scheduled that meeting for Thursday, September 29, at 3:00 p.m. at your office. Once we have a draft that we are satisfied with, we will schedule a further meeting to present the plan to your key partners.

I look forward to meeting with you again to map out the specific actions that will make our strategic alliance highly beneficial to your clients and profitable to both of our firms.

Best of success,
Financial Advisor to the Affluent

Strategic Action Plan Development

Key Takeaways

  • Your goal at this meeting is to create a plan that describes your strategic partner’s business challenges and how a strategic alliance can help address them.

  • Prepare for the meeting by creating an initial draft of the plan using one of the templates provided. Also create a meeting agenda.

  • Take these five steps during the meeting:

  1. Open the meeting by providing an overview of what you wish to accomplish during the meeting.

  2. Review the strategic action plan draft that you created.

  3. Invite your strategic partner to provide recommendations and refinements to the plan.

  4. Close out the meeting by committing to incorporate your strategic partner’s comment on the plan.

  5. Send your strategic partner a follow-up letter or email with the revised plan.

Your purpose at this meeting is to work with your champion in the strategic alliance to draft a strategic action plan (SAP) that delineates the challenges faced by the partner firm, how an alliance would address those challenges and the recommended first actions for the alliance.

 Resources

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Key SAP Template -CPAs

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SAP Template- Private Client Lawyers

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SAP Development Meeting Agenda

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SAP Development Meeting Follow Up Letter

Objectives of the SAP Development Meeting

 

  • To refine your draft of the SAP to maximize the chances for the success of the strategic alliance

  • To further reinforce your positioning with your potential partner by having a thoughtful, professional plan ready for review

  • By the end of the meeting, to have a plan that your potential partner fully supports

Preparation for the SAP Development Meeting


Your main task in advance of the SAP Development Meeting is to create a draft of the strategic action plan. While your approach should be collaborative, by taking the lead and having a draft prepared in advance, you and your champion can focus on any fine-tuning adjustments to the plan.

The strategic action plan will be the road map that moves your strategic alliance from concept to tangible success. It will be carefully scrutinized by your potential partner, so invest the effort necessary to make it powerful. It should clearly communicate these items:

  • An overview of your strategic alliance process. Just as you communicate your wealth management consultative process to prospects and clients, you should communicate your consultative strategic alliance process to potential partners.

  • Description of the challenges facing the potential partner. Demonstrate your knowledge of the potential partner’s business and industry by summarizing what you heard about the challenges during your exploratory and brainstorming meetings.

  • The benefits of the strategic alliance. Spell out what a strategic alliance can mean for the partner, both in revenue and profit and in addressing the challenges you described. Importantly, it should also point out how the partner’s clients will be better served through your wealth management consultative process.

  • Specific proposals for first steps. Specify your recommendations for launching the strategic alliance. There should be no more than three, and each should be aimed directly at bringing qualified clients of the partner into your wealth management consultative process.

To assist you in drafting your strategic action plan, CEG Worldwide has created SAP templates that contain each of the elements above. There are templates available for two types of strategic alliances:

  1. Strategic alliances with CPA firms

  2. Strategic alliances with private client lawyers

You will find these templates available for download from the bottom of this page. Each is easily customizable and contains instructions on completing each part of the plan. Use your notes or transcriptions from your recordings of the Exploratory and Key Stakeholder Meetings to make the plan as concrete and detailed as possible.

In addition, have your compliance and legal departments review the agreement.

In addition to preparing the SAP, create an agenda for the meeting. This meeting is so straightforward that you may be tempted to skip this step, but having an agenda at each meeting demonstrates that you consistently work in a highly professional manner. This will send a message about the type of high-quality, consistent experience the clients your champion introduces to you can expect to enjoy. Refer to the sample agenda below and download the template from the bottom of the page.

Sue CPA
Strategic Action Plan Development Meeting Agenda
Thursday, September 29
3:00 p.m.

  1. Introduction to meeting

  2. Review of draft

  3. Any fine-tuning of draft

  4. Schedule the Strategic Alliance Plan Presentation Meeting
     

Steps for the SAP Development Meeting

Step 1. Open the Meeting


Set the stage for the meeting and what you will accomplish during the meeting with this:

“Sue, I’ve been excited to meet with you again, as I think we are well on our way at this point to building a very successful strategic alliance.

“It was great to meet with your partners and get to know more about your firm. I used the information I gathered at both the Exploratory and Key Stakeholder Meetings to create a draft of a strategic action plan for our strategic alliance.

“What I would like to do in this meeting is to review the draft that I wrote and then get your feedback on it. With your insight, we’ll be able to refine the plan to maximize our chances of success with our strategic alliance.”

Step 2. Review the SAP Draft


Now take out the draft of the SAP that you have prepared. Walk through it one section at a time at a relatively high level. You goal at this point is to give your potential partner an understanding of the scope of the plan without getting bogged down in detail.

Step 3. Open the Conversation and Gather Refinements for the Plan


With a high-level understanding of the SAP in place, lead the conversation deeper. You want to drill down to specific refinements that could be made.

“Sue, now that we’ve taken a look at the plan at a high level, what are your initial impressions?”

Dig deeper with this:

“Are there any areas that we should fine-tune in order to maximize the probability of success for our strategic alliance?”

Listen closely and make careful notes directly on the draft of any refinements that you and your champion agree to.

Step 4. Close Out the Meeting


Once you have heard all of your champion’s comments on the plan, commit to incorporating his or her refinements:

“Sue, your input has been terrific. What I will do next is revise this draft to take all of your comments into account. I will then email (or mail) you the revised plan that we will present to the other decision-makers at your firm.”

Now set the stage for the remainder of the consultative strategic alliance process:

“Our next step will be to schedule the SAP Presentation Meeting to present the plan to your partners. Our goal at this meeting will be to address any concerns any partners may have about the plan, so that we can get as much support as possible for the initiatives we’ll be making with our strategic alliance. Once we have the sign-off of your partners, we’ll be ready to get started on implementing our plan.”

Then ask your champion to schedule the meeting with the key partners.

Step 5. Send Follow-up with Revised SAP


As soon as you have made the promised revisions to the SAP draft, mail (or email) it, along with a confirmation of your next meeting. This letter is an example and you will find a downloadable template below.

 

Dear Sue CPA,

As always, it was great meeting with you today. I believe that we continue to make excellent progress toward launching a very successful strategic alliance.

As promised, here is a new draft of the strategic action plan. It contains revisions to reflect that insight you provided into improving the plan. Please review this draft and let me know if you see any other areas where we could improve it.

As we discussed, our next step is to present this plan to your partners. You have scheduled this meeting for Wednesday, October 12, at noon. We will arrange to have lunch served in your office’s conference room.

I will look forward to again meeting with you and your partners and to getting our strategic alliance off the ground.

Best of success,
Financial Advisor to the Affluent

Strategic Action Plan Presentation

Key Takeaways

  • The purpose of this meeting is to present your strategic action plan to the decision-makers at your strategic partner’s firm. Done well, this will enlist their support in the strategic alliance.

  • Prepare for the meeting by sending out a confirmation letter to each attendee and by creating an agenda.

Conduct the meeting using these six steps:

  1. Open the meeting by setting the stage for what it will accomplish.

  2. Present all elements of the strategic action plan at a high level.

  3. Invite the attendees to provide comments and refinements to the plan.

  4. Ask for agreement from the group for implementing the plan.

  5. Close out the meeting by describing your next steps: beginning to implement the plan and meeting regularly with your champion.

  6. Send your strategic partner a follow-up letter or email with a revised plan that incorporates comments from the decision-makers and a confirmation of your first Ongoing Meeting.

At this meeting, you will present the strategic action plan to the decision-makers whom you met with during the Key Stakeholder Meetings. Your goal is to show that you have a tremendous value to offer the firm and its clients, so prepare for the meeting thoroughly. Rehearse your presentation and polish the written plan.

 Resources

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SAP Presentation Meeting Confirmation Letter

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SAP Presentation Meeting Follow Up Letter

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SAP Presentation Meeting Agenda

​Objectives of the SAP Presentation Meeting

  • To further refine the SAP to maximize the chances for the success of the strategic alliance

  • To further reinforce your positioning with your key decision-makers at the firm by having a thoughtful, professional plan ready for review

  • By the end of the meeting, to have a plan that the majority of the firm’s key decision-makers support so that you can begin to implement

Preparation for the SAP Presentation Meeting

Prepare meeting attendees by sending out a confirmation letter and the meeting agenda. See the samples below and download templates from the bottom of this page.

Dear James Managing Partner,

I enjoyed meeting with you and your partners to find out more about your firm and the potential for building a mutually beneficial strategic alliance.

Sue CPA and I have drafted a strategic action plan for the alliance that we believe will result in some important early successes. Our next step is to meet again with you and the firm’s other key decision-makers to present the plan to you and get your input. Sue has scheduled this meeting for Wednesday, October 12, at noon. We will meet over lunch in your office’s conference room.

To help you prepare, I have enclosed with this letter the agenda for this meeting. I am looking forward to our seeing you again and to refining our plan for a highly successful strategic alliance.

Best of success,
Financial Advisor to the Affluent

 

Potential Partner CPA Firm Strategic Action Plan Presentation Meeting Agenda
Wednesday, October 12
Noon

  1. Introduction to meeting

  2. Review of strategic action plan

  3. Discuss plan and make any fine-tuning adjustments

  4. Commitment for moving ahead
     

If you work as part of a team of financial advisors, consider bringing one or more of your team members to this meeting. Your potential partners will be reassured that there is someone else in your office, just in case something happens to you. CPAs tend to be cautious by nature, and most of them will be glad that you’re part of a team.

Should you choose to have one or more team members attend, part of your preparation for this meeting should be to fully brief them on your proposed strategic alliance and on what you have learned about the potential partner firm to date. Even though you will be leading the meeting, your team members should appear to be as knowledgeable as you about the proposed alliance.

Steps for the SAP Presentation Meeting

Step 1. Open the Meeting


Set the stage for the meeting and what you will accomplish with this:

“Sue and I appreciate your time in meeting with us again. We believe that we are we are well on our way at this point to building a very successful strategic alliance.

“We have created a strategic action plan for the strategic alliance. Our goal at this meeting is to present the plan to you and then get your feedback on the plan. With your insight, we’ll be able to further refine the plan to maximize our chances of success with our strategic alliance.”

Step 2. Present the Strategic Action Plan


Present the strategic action plan to the group, walking through it one section at a time. As you did at your SAP Development Meeting, keep the discussion at a fairly high level at this point so that the decision-makers can see the big picture without getting caught up in details.

Step 3. Open the Conversation and Gather Refinements for the Plan


Now take your discussion to a deeper level to uncover objections, concerns and specific recommendations for improvements.

“Now that we’ve taken a look at the plan at a high level, what are your initial impressions about the impact we can make together for the clients and our firms?”

Encourage discussion with this:

“Are there any areas of concern for you? Are there any areas we should fine-tune in order to maximize the probability of success for our strategic alliance?”

Listen carefully for opportunities or objections that you may not have heard in your previous meetings. Be prepared to modify the plan accordingly. Endeavor to reach solid agreements about executing the recommendations, with concurrence on timetables and on who will be responsible for each task.

Step 4. Get Agreement for Moving Ahead


Once you have heard all concerns and suggestions for refinements, ask for agreement from the group for implementing the plan.

“As you know, nothing great was ever accomplished alone. For our strategic alliance to succeed, we need the support of the firm’s key people. Sue and I will further refine our strategic action plan to incorporate the suggestions we heard here today. Once we have done that, can we count on you for your support as we begin to implement the plan?”

You may not get 100 percent support for your plan. The “rule of thirds” may persist here, with some decision-makers remaining neutral about the strategic alliance and others not interested in it at all. But as long as you have a sense that you have the support of at least a core group of decision-makers, you should proceed. Assuming that the alliance scores some early successes, you will quickly win over additional people.

Step 5. Close Out the Meeting


Wrap up the meeting by outlining the next steps:

“This has been a very productive meeting. We received some great insight that will help us further refine our plan and we are feeling very good about moving ahead. Our next step is to begin to implement the recommendations of the plan. Sue and I will meet on a regular basis going forward to determine timelines and the responsibilities of each party. We will be sure to keep you apprised of our progress.

“Thank you again for your time and input. I am looking forward to building a very successful strategic alliance that will greatly benefit our firms and, even more important, our clients.”

Then schedule your first Ongoing Meeting with your champion.

Step 6. Send Follow-up with Final SAP


Make any revisions as needed to the SAP in response to comments from the key decision-makers. Mail or email this final draft, along with a confirmation of your next meeting. An example of this follow-up letter and the downloadable template are below.

Dear Sue CPA,

I really enjoyed our meeting with your partners and feel like we received the input and expression of support that we need to move ahead with our strategic alliance.

Enclosed is the final draft of our strategic action plan. It incorporates the refinements suggested by your partners.

At this point, we are now ready to move ahead in implementing the plan. As we agreed, we’ll meet for our first Ongoing Meeting on Tuesday, October 25, for breakfast at 8:00 at _________. At this meeting, we will set out who is responsible for which tasks and create a timeline for accomplishing those tasks.

I am looking forward to launching our plan and to building a very profitable strategic alliance that greatly benefits our clients and our firms.

Best of success,
Financial Advisor to the Affluent

Ongoing Meeting

Key Takeaways

  • At your Ongoing Meetings, you and your strategic partner will work to carry out the recommendations in the strategic action plan and to identify and act on any further opportunities for the alliance.

  • As with the other meetings in the strategic alliance consultative process, create an agenda for the meeting in advance.

  • Follow these steps for each meeting:

  1. Open the meeting by asking about any changes that you should know about.

  2. Review your alliance-related activities to confirm that you are on track with what you want to accomplish.

  3. Plan out any future activities that you will undertake. Commit them to writing.

  4. Brainstorm any additional opportunities for the strategic alliance.

  5. Schedule the next meeting.

  6. Send your strategic partner a follow-up letter or email that summarizes the actions that you each committed to take and that reconfirms the time and date for your next meeting.
     

At these meetings, you and your strategic partner will ensure that all the agreed-to items from the strategic action plan are being executed. You will also assess your overall progress toward your goals and discuss opportunities for enlarging the alliance.

 Resources

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Ongoing Meeting Follow Up Letter

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Ongoing Meeting Agenda

Objectives of Ongoing Meetings

 

  • To continue to cement the relationship with the strategic partner

  • To ensure that all the recommendations in the strategic action plan are being carried out on schedule

  • To discuss additional opportunities to grow the strategic alliance

Preparation for Ongoing Meetings

As always, create an agenda. While these meetings may be fairly informal, agendas are critical for keeping them on track and as productive as possible. Below is a sample agenda for a typical Ongoing Meeting. You will find a template for this agenda at the bottom of this page.

Sue CPA
Strategic Alliance Ongoing Meeting Agenda
Tuesday, October 25
8:00 a.m.

  1. Introduction to meeting

  2. Review activities and progress

  3. Agreement on future activities and timeline

  4. Brainstorm additional initiatives

  5. Schedule the next Ongoing Meeting
     

Because you will be collaborating with your strategic partner over time, you may find it helpful to set up a virtual document storage and sharing account. Google Docs (docs.google.com) is free and easy to use. You can use it to share the most recent version of your strategic action plan as well as any other documents, presentations or spreadsheets that you create to keep your activities on track.

Steps for Ongoing Meetings

Step 1. Open the Meeting


Set the stage for the meeting and, just as you do in your client meetings, find out if there have been any changes that you should know about:

“Sue, it’s great to see you again. As you know, our goal with this meeting is to review our activities and progress with our strategic alliance and look ahead at what we need to do next. Before we get started, I’d like to ask: Have there been any significant changes at your firm that would affect our strategic alliance that I should know about?”

Step 2. Review Your Activities and Progress


Now both you and your partner should briefly report on your activities related to the strategic alliance. Confirm that you are on track with the activities to which you committed or if you have encountered obstacles. Note specific accomplishments. As needed, review any client cases.

Step 3. Map Out Future Activities


Once you have caught up, look ahead at what needs to happen next to move the strategic alliance forward. Refer back to your strategic action plan as needed. Make specific commitments and commit them to writing.

Step 4. Explore Additional Opportunities


Your strategic action plan will be an excellent foundation for the strategic alliance, but you should continue to pursue initiatives beyond what you described in your initial plan. Be ever on the outlook for additional opportunities for converting additional clients. This open-ended question to your strategic partner should spur thinking about new opportunities:

“Sue, as you know, we’re making good progress with the original initiatives that we spelled out in our strategic action plan. I’m wondering now if there might be any additional opportunities that we should explore. Do you have any other ideas about how we could ramp up our strategic alliance even more?”

Step 5. Schedule the Next Meeting


Wrap up by scheduling your next Ongoing Meeting. The best practice is to meet on a regular basis, such as weekly, every other week or monthly, depending on the actions being taken and the opportunities that are available.

Once or twice a year, include the firm’s key decision-makers in your Ongoing Meetings so that you can review overall progress of the strategic alliance, report on revenue increases to the CPA firm, and respond to any questions or issues that have arisen.

Step 6. Send Follow-up with Confirmation of Next Meeting


Take a moment to close the loop by sending a confirmation letter or email to your strategic partner. Summarize what you discussed and what you agreed to do next, and reconfirm the date and time of your next meeting. A sample is below, with a template is available for download below.

Dear Sue CPA,

I think we had a great Ongoing Meeting today. I think we both agree that we’re on track with our activities and starting to see some very positive results.

To keep up our momentum with our second-opinion campaign, I agree to _____________ and you committed to _______________. We’ll revisit these actions at our next meeting to evaluate whether there should be anything else we should be doing to maximize results from the second-opinion service.

We both agreed that holding our Ongoing Meetings on a monthly basis seems to be the right interval for now. We are planning to meet next over lunch at __________ on Monday, November 28, at 1:00.

In the meantime, let’s be in touch if any issues arise that we should discuss. Otherwise, I’ll look forward to seeing you again on November 28.

Best of success,
Financial Advisor to the Affluent

Maximizing Your Process

Key Takeaways

  • To get the most from the strategic alliance consultative process, use every step of the process. Do not be tempted by shortcuts.

  • Remember that there are professional advisors beyond CPAs and attorneys who offer the potential for productive alliances.

  • Be able to clearly articulate your value proposition—this will set you apart from other financial advisors.

  • Ensure that you provide consistently top-flight service to every client you gain as a result of your strategic alliances.

  • Enlist the assistance of your team whenever possible. This will enable you to focus on building your relationships with your strategic partners and potential partners.

  • Leverage the experience of others by using the best practices for strategic alliances that we recommend.
     

We have taken you through a carefully designed process that has been proven to work again and again. As you implement the process, keep in mind a few key actions that will help ensure that you are getting the most from your efforts:

  • Use every step of the process. Do not attempt shortcuts—we have found that they are the shortest route to failure in strategic alliances.

  • Be patient. Don’t rush the process or initiate relationships with professionals who are less than ideal for an alliance.

  • Be open to different types of strategic partners. While we focus on CPAs and attorneys in Forging Powerful Strategic Alliances, the process can be used to build successful strategic alliances with virtually any type of professional advisor to the affluent. So don"t limit your thinking.

  • Be absolutely clear about your compelling value proposition. You must unmistakably communicate your expertise at addressing the financial challenges of the other professional"s clients and doing so with a comprehensive wealth management approach. This will clearly differentiate you from all the other financial advisors who approach the professional seeking simple referral agreements.

  • Make your service rock solid. Strategic alliances will be successful only when your service is truly world-class. Your strategic partners have to hear that their clients are your raving fans. When they do, they will continue to refer more clients. When they do not hear those endorsements, the referrals will dry up.

  • Leverage your team. Your team can assist at the beginning of the process by researching potential strategic alliance partners. Once the alliance is in place, you will rely on them to help provide the "wow" service to the individuals referred by your partner that will keep the referrals coming.

  • Use the best practices that we recommend. Each one is straightforward to implement and will yield near-immediate results. You may be tempted to attempt more elaborate marketing activities, but we recommend that you first use the best practices that have been proven to work again and again. Once you’ve gained some traction with those activities then you and your strategic partner may want to try others.

  • Actively maintain the relationship. Your Ongoing Meetings will go far toward keeping the relationship with your strategic partner viable over the long term, but go even further by reaching out to your partner on an informal basis as appropriate. Depending on your mutual interests, this might include activities like golf, or something as simple as getting together for lunch.

Launch A Pilot Program 

At this stage, your new alliance is in place and you are ready to undertake joint initiatives to grow your businesses. It is very easy at this point to overwhelm your strategic partner with all the actions you could potentially take. The challenge in launching your alliance with multiple business-development efforts is that this level of activity can actually create delays—or worse, gridlock—so that the partnership fails to move forward as it should.

Instead, we recommend that you focus narrowly on select, proven best practices. This will greatly enhance your chances of obtaining the results you and your partner want and will set the stage for the long-term success of the relationship.

There are three best practices that we recommend you implement with your new strategic partners. Each of these practices has been shown over and over again to help strategic alliances experience early wins. These are critical for building the momentum you and your strategic partner will need as you ramp up to a fully established relationship.

Because these best practices are so critical to setting the foundation for the long-term success of your alliances, we will delve into them deeply over the final three modules of Forge Powerful Strategic Alliances.

Launch the Pilot Program, we will cover the first best practice, a pilot that will introduce your wealth management process to two groups: key partners at your strategic partner’s firm and select top clients of the firm who are suitable for your services.

Pilot for Strategic Partners

Key Takeaways

  • The intent of this portion of the pilot program is to make your strategic partner and other key partners fully aware of the value of your process; it is not to make these individuals your clients.

  • You will bring these individuals into your consultative process by offering them a complimentary second opinion on their finances.

  • The initial part of this best practice is to introduce your consultative process to your key partner and to other important partners at his or her firm.
     

By far the most effective way for anyone to understand the value of your consultative process is to experience it themselves. While your strategic partner will have gained some familiarity with your process during your conversations in forming the alliance, he or she will not yet have had the first-hand experience that demonstrates its true value.

To implement this, simply reach out to your key partner and the other partners at the firm who are actively supportive of your alliance to schedule Discovery Meetings. When you do, describe the process as an opportunity for them to receive a second opinion on their finances while giving them a direct experience of what they will be recommending to their clients.

Bear in mind that this portion of your pilot program is not intended to make your strategic partners your clients. You are not yet focused on obtaining new clients through the alliance, but rather on setting the foundation for the future success of the alliance. The best possible way to do this is by making your strategic partners stalwart fans by providing them a world-class experience as they move through your consultative process. While you may well convert one or more partners into clients, your top goal must be to demonstrate your value.

Pilot for Top Clients

Key Takeaways 

  • Once your key partners have experienced your consultative process, it’s time to extend the pilot program to the firm’s top clients.

  • This portion of the pilot program will identify any initial challenges in the partnership and allow you to address them early on to ensure that you are working well together when you take on larger initiatives.

  • You will again position your offering as a complimentary second opinion.

 Resources

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Second Opinion Script for Strategic Partners

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Second Opinion Flyer

Your strategic partner will position the introduction as an opportunity for clients to receive a complimentary second opinion on their finances. Your partner can make this offer to clients face-to-face as part of any regularly scheduled meeting, or by placing phone calls specifically to make the offer. The choice of how specifically to contact the clients should be left up to your partner, who can decide based on how he or she typically communicates with these top clients.

We have found that the following scripting is effective for strategic partners making the second-opinion offer on your behalf. This scripting is available for download from the bottom of this page. We suggest sharing it with your partner.

“Joe, as you know, you have been a client with our firm for a long time. We really appreciate the relationship we have with you and look forward to continuing to work with you in the future.

“As a firm, our primary concern is helping our clients make informed financial decisions. The best way to do that is by looking at your whole financial picture, which includes your investments, risk management and estate planning needs in addition to tax planning. We are not experts in all of these areas. Therefore, in order to offer this expanded level of service, we have formed a strategic alliance with a local wealth management firm, _______________. They are offering a complimentary second-opinion service to our clients.

“With their team of experts, they will thoroughly examine your current situation and identify any gaps that need to be addressed in your financial plan so that you can feel assured that you are on track to meet your financial goals.

“______________ employs a very disciplined process to understand who you are and what you are trying to achieve. This begins with a deep and comprehensive Discovery Meeting. We think you will find that this is really worth your time. May I have him/her give you a call to arrange a time for you to meet?”

Not only does this offer provide a genuine value to the clients, it will give your partner the opportunity to hear feedback from the clients on the quality of your service. Assuming that that quality is top-notch, this will motivate the partner to introduce additional clients to you. 

Offer The Second Opinion Service

Identifying Suitable Clients

Key Takeaways

  • Because not all of a strategic partner’s clients will be qualified for your service, you need a process to determine who is suitable for the second-opinion service offer and who is not.

  • We recommend that you make your determinations based on four criteria: assets under management, geographic location, financial challenges and personal enjoyability.

  • Meet with your partner to evaluate each client for suitability according to the criteria you set.
     

Not all of your strategic partner’s clients will be suitable for your wealth management service. In order for you and your partner to extent the second-opinion service only to those who are qualified, you need to articulate the specific attributes of clients who are likely to both benefit from your service and be profitable. Consider each of each of these criteria:

  • Assets under management. Clients need to have sufficient assets for you to be able to add value to their financial lives. Many wealth managers set a minimum asset requirement of between $500,000 and $2 million.

  • Geographic location. If your strategic partner’s firm serves a large geographic area (or multiple areas), consider whether you would limit your offering to those in a smaller area. Many financial advisors spread themselves too thin by spreading their limited resources over multiple locations.

  • Financial challenges. When clients face financial challenges beyond investment management, you have more opportunity to add value. In fact, the more complex their challenges, the more value you can add. Examples of such financial challenges include asset allocation of large retirement rollovers, managing concentrated stock holdings, increasing tax efficiency of investments, generational transfer of wealth and wealth protection.

  • Personal enjoyablity. Many financial advisors overlook the fact that they should enjoy their clients as people. Your ability to provide a superior wealth management experience depends to a great extent on having close personal relationships with your clients. Relationships of this type enable you to become and remain deeply familiar with their most important goal and challenges.

Depending on your practice and client focus, there may be additional criteria that you wish to consider.

Once you have defined your criteria, meet with your strategic partner to identify the specific clients that meet the criteria. This need not be a complicated process. We suggest that you and your partner simply move through the client roster and briefly evaluate each client as to suitability. Your partner may not know each client’s exact assets or all of their specific financial challenges, but he or she should be familiar enough to be able to determine suitability.

As you have this conversation, keep in mind that it’s important to stick to your criteria, even though you may be tempted to extend your second-opinion offer to clients who are less than fully qualified. By working only with qualified clients, you help ensure that each receives world-class service while ensuring your own profitability. It will also demonstrate to your strategic partners that they, too, do not need to necessarily take every client who comes their way. This is one of the best practices that you can share with your strategic partners over time, one that can help their firms move up market, as well.

Making the Second-Opinion Offer

Key Takeaways

  • Your strategic partner will make the second-opinion offer to all the clients that you have identified as qualified for your services.

  • This offer is best made in face-to-face meetings or by phone call. The recommended scripting for making the offer is the same as what should be used during the pilot program.

  • In some cases, it may be beneficial to create marketing materials to support the second-opinion offer.

Once your partner’s clients who are suitable for your service have been identified, the next step is simply a matter of your partner extending the second-opinion offer to each one.

This is best done as part of their next scheduled meeting. If they do not have a meeting scheduled with a client, the partner can place a phone call. Either way, we recommend that the offer be made to each qualified client within 90 days of completing the pilot program.

As in the pilot program, your strategic partner can make the offer using this script:

 Resources

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Sample Second Opinion Offer Brochure

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Second Opinion Flyer

“Joe, as you know, you have been a client with our firm for a long time. We really appreciate the relationship we have with you and look forward to continuing to work with you in the future.

“As a firm, our primary concern is helping our clients make informed financial decisions. The best way to do that is by looking at your whole financial picture, which includes your investments, risk management and estate planning needs in addition to tax planning. We are not experts in all of these areas. Therefore, in order to offer this expanded level of service, we have formed a strategic alliance with a local wealth management firm, _______________. They are offering a complimentary second-opinion service to our clients.

“With their team of experts, they will thoroughly examine your current situation and identify any gaps that need to be addressed in your financial plan so that you can feel assured that you are on track to meet your financial goals.

“______________ employs a very disciplined process to understand who you are and what you are trying to achieve. This begins with a deep and comprehensive Discovery Meeting. We think you will find that this is really worth your time. May I have him/her give you a call to arrange a time for you to meet?”

Depending on the size of the opportunity and how your partner most typically communicates with his or her clients, you and your partner may also decide to create marketing materials that describe the second-opinion service. These might include a brochure (see the sample available for download below), text and/or a video placed on the partner’s web site or a PowerPoint for use in client meetings.

These marketing materials should communicate these three key messages:

  1. The partner firm has joined forces with a leading wealth manager in order to offer clients an expanded range of services designed to address their full gamut of financial concerns.

  2. As part of the strategic alliance, the wealth manager is offering clients a second opinion on their finances. There is no charge or commitment for this service.

  3. Through the wealth manager’s comprehensive consultative process, clients will receive a clear understanding of their current financial position and recommendations for what they should consider doing to achieve what is most important to them financially.

Bear in mind that any marketing materials you and your partner choose to create should be used to support the second-opinion offer, not to make it. In every case, the offer is made most effectively in one-on-one meetings and phone calls between your partner and his or her clients.

Contacting Prospective Clients

Key Takeaways

  • Once a client has responded positively to your partner’s offer of your second-opinion service, you need to contact the client.

  • We suggest you use the scripting provided for making this contact.

  • The client will respond in one of three ways. You will have a different response for each.

 Resources

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Initial Contact Script

Key Takeaways

  • Once a client has responded positively to your partner’s offer of your second-opinion service, you need to contact the client.

  • We suggest you use the scripting provided for making this contact.

  • The client will respond in one of three ways. You will have a different response for each.

Once a client has agreed to a Discovery Meeting, he or she is now waiting for a call from you. We recommend the following scripting for that initial contact:

“Hello, Mr./Ms. Prospective Client, _____________ asked me to contact you, and I promised him/her that I would. ____________ and I work together in a strategic alliance to provide wealth management services to his/her clients.

“______________ spoke highly of you and indicated that you are interested in our complimentary second-opinion service. As he/she described, this is a process where we take a close look at where you are now, where you want to go and any gaps that should be addressed. Would you like to go ahead and schedule that meeting now?”

The person will respond in one of three ways, each of which requires a different response from you.

“No.” The prospective client will typically want to decline because he or she already has a financial advisor. If this is the case, have this script ready about getting a second opinion:

“That’s great that you have a financial advisor.

“We find that with today’s volatile market and changing tax laws, many people would like to have a second opinion to make sure that they’re on track to achieving their financial goals. I would be more than happy to get together and see if that makes sense for your situation.

“We don’t take clients unless we can add substantial value to their financial lives, so if your financial advisor is already doing a great job, certainly we would recommend that you continue to work with him or her.

“Would you like a second opinion on your finances?”

“Maybe.” You will seldom get this response, but when you do, it is most often because the prospective client has hesitation about the cost. If so, respond in this way:

“There’s no cost to get together in our initial consultative meeting, which we call the Discovery Meeting, because we are looking to see if we can add substantial value. We never take any clients unless we’re sure that we can add this kind of value to their financial lives.”

“Yes.” Schedule a specific date and time to get together. Explain that you will send the prospective client a follow-up letter outlining the financial information and records you would like him or her to bring to the meeting in order to make the meeting extremely productive.

Once you have scheduled the meeting, follow up with the Discovery Meeting confirmation letter that confirms the date, time and location of your meeting and that lists any financial records you would like him or her to bring to make the meeting as productive as possible. As you will recall, there is a template of this letter available for download in Module 1:

The Consultative Client Management Process.

Conduct Private Client Events

The third best practice you should recommend for the strategic alliance is a series of private, invitation-only events for your strategic partner’s clients and associates. These events may be conducted in live presentations, webinars or both.

Successful events will both draw qualified prospects into your consultative process and position you well in the eyes of your strategic partner. And thanks to today’s technology, you have an option for live events in addition to the traditional in-person meeting: webinars. 

Powerful Joint Presentations: Step by Step

Key Takeaways

  • Live presentations conducted jointly with your strategic partner can be a fertile source of qualified prospects.

  • To help you get started with your events, we have provided content for a presentation that is well-suited to an affluent clientele.

  • There are four key steps that will ensure successful presentations:

  1. Drive attendance by having your strategic partner send personal invitations to his or her clients.

  2. Incorporate the seven elements of a powerful presentation to make sure that you event is as useful as possible for attendees and as productive as possible for you.

  3. After the presentation, quickly follow up with attendees in the way that each indicated they wanted.

  4. Use our specific recommendations to enhance the overall quality and professionalism of the presentation.
     

As you know, presentations conducted jointly by you and your strategic partner for clients (and clients’ friends and associates) of your strategic partner are one of the best practices that we recommend for your strategic alliances. Not only will you receive access to the partners’ clients who attend, you will greatly enhance your credibility with each strategic partner as they see you making a highly compelling and professional presentation.

Because these events can be so important to the success of your strategic alliances, we will take you through each step that will make yours a winner.

In addition, we have provided content that is well-suited for a joint presentation. Entitled Wealth Preservation, this content provides an excellent overview of specific steps that individuals can take to address their concerns about preserving their wealth, as well as an overview of your consultative process. We believe that you will find it to be an excellent inducement for attendees to request a second opinion on their finances. At the bottom of this page, you will find two files for download:

  1. Wealth Preservation manuscript. This Word document that can serve as your presentation handout. We recommend that you work with a graphic designer to create a high-quality handout that includes your branding.

  2. Wealth Preservation PowerPoint presentation. This PowerPoint is designed to be used at each step of your presentation. As with the Word document, we suggest that you work with a graphic designer to apply your branding to the slides.

 Resources

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Response Sheet

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Event Invitation Letter

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Wealth Preservation Presentation

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Wealth Preservation Handout Manuscript

Step 1. Drive Attendance

Your goal is to ensure that the right people are in attendance for each of your presentations. You are not looking for warm bodies to fill the seats; you want true prospects who are highly qualified for your offering. The best way to do this is for your strategic partner to send invitations directly to his or her clients

Below is a sample of an invitation to the Wealth Preservation presentation. You may also download a template of this invitation from the bottom of the page.

(Your strategic partner’s letterhead)

Client’s name
Client’s address
City, state, ZIP code

Dear Client:

Are you on track to achieve all your most important financial goals? In today’s world with its complex financial environment, it’s easy to second-guess yourself. To gain peace of mind, you need a high-quality approach that addresses not only your investments, but also your entire financial picture.

I’d like to invite you and (spouse’s name) to attend a complimentary presentation that we are conducting jointly with our wealth management partners at (your firm’s name).

Entitled Wealth Preservation, this presentation will provide you with a road map for making informed decisions about your most important financial issues. Here is what you will learn:

  • The five key financial concerns facing families today

  • The five key principles used by highly successful investors to guide their investment decisions

  • An approach for systematically addressing your most important financial issues beyond investments

  • How to choose a financial professional who can provide the assistance you need to maximize the probability that you will achieve all your financial goals

In addition, we will also offer you the opportunity to obtain a second opinion on your current investment portfolio. This will show you what changes, if any, you need to make to better position your portfolio to achieve your financial goals. Our wealth management partners at (your firm’s name) will provide this service at no cost or obligation to you.

Wealth Preservation
Date: Thursday, March 13
Time: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Location: The Ritz-Carlton Hotel, 555 Main Street, Any City, AA

Seating is limited. Please call Marlene Martin at 888–555–5555 to reserve your space.

This presentation is part of an ongoing educational series offered by (name of strategic partner’s firm). There is no charge.

Sincerely,

Name of Strategic Partner
Name of Strategic Partner’s Firm

Step 2. Deliver a Powerful Presentation

For a highly effective presentation, we recommend that it contain each of the following seven elements.

 

1. Pre-Presentation Host


Before each presentation, you and your strategic partner should greet each participant personally and with a smile. You want to show that you are genuinely happy that they chose to attend. Remember that it’s much easier to create an impression than to change one.

 

2. Introduction


You should be introduced casually but with enthusiasm by your strategic partner. He or she should explain to the audience that you are there to help them to make informed decisions about their finances. Remember that everyone in the audience is asking, “What’s in it for me?”

 

3. Opening


Use a well-rehearsed two-minute opening. Begin by pausing for five seconds to let the audience take you in. Open with a question to involve the audience and to clearly explain “what’s in it for them.” Use humor, but no jokes. The audience came to see you, so address them as the authority that you are.

 

4. Content


In the content section of your presentation, you will first tell the audience what you are going to tell them. You will then cover the major themes in the presentation. Then you will tell the audience what you told them, by summarizing the broad themes and their benefits. Finally, you will tell the audience how they should feel once they have taken action. Carefully work out with your strategic partner who will present which content so that, between the two of you, the delivery is seamless.

 

5. Commercial


For the next section of the presentation, explain what the attendees should do next and why they should do it. Identify the specific action that they should take: obtaining a second opinion on their finances from you. At this time, you will pass out response sheets for attendees to indicate their interest in getting a second opinion. (A template for the response sheet is available for download from the bottom of the page.)

 

6. Question-and-Answer Period


During the Q-and-A period, respond to the audience in a patient and helpful manner. Listen to each question in its entirety and then repeat or rephrase the question to ensure that the audience heard and understood it. Pause to think, and then respond, addressing first the questioner and then the entire group. Watch the clock and announce when you can take one or two more questions. Remind the group that you and members of your firm will be available following the presentation for further questions.

 

7. Close


Speak slowly, simply and with emotion. Repeat the conclusion and the suggested next step. Convey an honest sense of gratitude.

 

Step 3. Follow Up Effectively

Within 24 hours following the presentation, follow up with attendees according what they indicated on their response sheets.

  • Attendees who requested a second opinion: Have one of your staff members contact these individuals to schedule a Discovery Meeting with you.

  • Attendees who indicated that they might be interested in a second opinion: Have one of your staff members contact these individuals to discuss whether it makes sense for them to receive a second opinion from you. The staff member should describe the second-opinion service offering and the type of client you typically work with. From this conversation, it should quickly become clear whether they are interested in and suited to your service.

  • Attendees who indicated that they were not interested in a second opinion: Do not contact these individuals.

 

Step 4. Enhance the Quality of Your Presentations

As you and your strategic partner go about planning, creating and delivering your presentations, focus on each of the following actions that will enable you to fully leverage every event.

 

Plan Thoroughly


Define the specific results you want to achieve. Work with your strategic partner to identify key characteristics of his or her clients so that you can fully customize your material to meet their very specific needs. Script and rehearse your presentation—both alone and with your strategic partner—and ask others to critique your delivery.

 

Prepare Quality Handouts


Your attendees’ perception of the value of your presentation will greatly increase if you give them something tangible and of high perceived value to take home. We encourage you to work with a graphic designer to create a high-quality handout from the Wealth Preservation manuscript we have provided.

 

Choose the Right Time and Place


It’s important to have a date and location for your presentation that is suitable for strategic partner’s clientele. Check your calendar to make sure that there are no potential conflicts of any kind, such as holidays, major national events or local events directed to the clientele.

Generally, if you are scheduling presentations on weekdays, the best days are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Saturday is the best day on the weekend to deliver your presentation. Evening presentations are best when scheduled to start at 6:00 or 6:30, to allow attendees time to eat before arriving at the presentation. Half-day presentations on Saturday are also very effective. These are typically scheduled between 9:00 a.m. and noon.

The location should be convenient for your target audience and consistent with the image that you wish to create. Make sure there is adequate parking. While there has been great debate on whether you should use an upscale hotel or an educational facility (such as a library or university classroom), either will work. What is important is that it is suitable for your audience and presents you in the best light possible.

As you choose the time and place, it’s important to consider any limitations from your strategic alliance partners. If you’re doing a presentation with a CPA strategic alliance partner, you will not want to schedule a seminar during the CPA’s busy tax season of March through April 15. Most accountants take off at least a week after April 15, as well.

 

Keep the Audience Small


More is not better. Ask your strategic partner to limit the audiences to no more than 30 people. You want to create an intimate, comfortable atmosphere that suggests exclusivity, and that is just not possible when you have more than 30 attendees. A smaller group will also mean more opportunity for you to address individual questions from the audience, as well as to make personal contact with attendees after the presentation.

 

Make Your Presentations Enjoyable


Organize your material in such a way that it captures the audience’s attention. Keep your delivery focused but lively, staying on track and on time. Let your passion about the subject show through, because attendees won’t believe in what you’re saying unless they are convinced that you believe in it too. Be relaxed, friendly and sincere throughout, using humor and personal anecdotes where appropriate, but never jokes. Above all, your presentation must never be boring.

For small rooms, a flip chart with markers is quite effective. If your penmanship and/or memory are not good, you can write up many of the pages in advance. Using a flip chart positions you well as the expert.

For larger rooms, a PowerPoint presentation with a computer projector is most effective. The key to using PowerPoint well is to have it provide the structure of your presentation only, not the details. Don’t make the mistake of reading each slide to the audience. They are there to hear you and your strategic partner, so the two of you—not the slides—must be the experts.

Remember Key Administrative Tasks

 

  • Signage. If you are using a large venue (such as a hotel), strategically place a professionally produced sign to help attendees find you, as well as to make nonattendees aware of what they are missing.

  • Lighting. Lighting should be bright enough for everyone to take notes and to read your visuals.

  • Audiovisual. With small groups of 30 or fewer attendees, a flip chart and markers are all you should need for your presentation. With larger groups, you will need to use PowerPoint and a computer projector to effectively capture the group. In groups larger than 30, you should also use a wireless lavalier microphone.

  • Seating. Classroom seating—whereby there is a table in front of every participant—should be used for all but the largest gatherings.

  • Food. Provide only appropriate refreshments. You’re there to do business, not serve a meal.

 

Plan a Series of Events


Leverage your time and energy in putting together the program by planning multiple uses for it. Repeated use will allow you to fine-tune the presentation over time, dramatically increasing its effectiveness in bringing new, qualified prospective clients to your firm.

You and your strategic partner should also consider putting together a yearlong series of quarterly presentations so that you have a systematic way of generating new business. As you will see in the Wealth Preservation handout that we have provided, the introductory letter positions it as just the first of a series of events that you will conduct together.

Powerful Joint Webinars, Step-by-Step

 

Key Takeaways

  • In addition to (or in lieu of) live presentations, consider webinars to directly reach clients of your strategic partner.

  • These are the key steps for successful webinars:

  1. Review our list of issues to consider to determine the optimal webinar platform.

  2. Obtain any hardware that you will need to conduct the webinar.

  3. Put the right technical support in place to accomplish the specific tasks needed before, during and after each webinar.

  4. Be thoughtful in how you structure your content, be particularly aware of your time limits.

  5. Use all the tools available to you to fully engage your audience.

  6. After the webinar, immediately follow up with the attendees who requested your second-opinion service.
     

Depending on your market, it may make sense to offer your joint presentations with strategic partners via webinars, in addition to or instead of in-person events. This is particularly true if your strategic partner’s clientele includes people who do not reside in your immediate geographic area.

While we do not believe that webinars are as powerful overall as in-person events for drawing qualified prospects into your consultative process, they do offer some distinct advantages:

  • Ability to reach people who would otherwise be unavailable or uninterested in attending an in-person event

  • Lower cost than conducting in-person events

  • Ability to offer playbacks of the webinar in order to reach additional people

In this section, we will detail the key actions you will need to consider and undertake for effective webinars.

 

Step 1. Determine The Optimal Webinar Platform

There are hundreds of webinar platform providers, each offering varying benefits with varying costs. Some of the major platforms include Microsoft’s Live Meeting, Adobe Connect, GoToWebinar, ReadyTalk and Cisco’s WebEx. There is no single solution that is right for everyone, so it’s important to be able to ask informed questions to determine the one best suited to your needs.

Consider these issues in your decision:

  • Audience capacity. How many participants do you expect at each webinar? Is the platform optimized for that number?

  • Interactive features. Does the platform have Q-and-A and polling capabilities? Look for packages that offer the most options for interactivity, as they typically cost no more than less-robust packages.

  • Audio and audio integration. Do you prefer your audio interaction with the platform through the telephone or streaming through your PC speakers and a computer microphone? Does the platform support your choice? Or better yet, for maximum flexibility and reliability, does it offer both options? Does the platform bridge to teleconferencing so that attendees may speak?

  • Webcam support. Do you want to use a webcam? (We recommend it.) If so, does the platform support webcam use?

  • PowerPoint support. Do you want to use a PowerPoint presentation to help structure your webinar? (Again, we recommend it.) If so, does the platform support it?

  • Download support. Does the platform support file downloads, PDFs in particular? This capacity allows you to offer attendees your presentation, your presentation workbook or any other materials you wish to provide in PDF format.

  • Participant anonymity. Some platforms provide hidden or anonymous participant functionality, making participants unaware of others in the same webinar. Is this a feature you think would be important to your audience?

  • Registration and email options. Some platforms include functions for registering attendees and then sending them reminder emails. Depending on your current capabilities in this area, you may or may not require this.

  • Recording and playback. The ability to record webinars is typically standard, but charges may vary widely, with some charging a flat fee and others a fee per viewing. Determine which is most cost-effective for you.

 

For conducting our own webinars, CEG Worldwide works with PGi, a global firm that both offers its own proprietary webinar platforms and resells platforms from major vendors. Our PGi sales representative has agreed to assist our coaching clients in choosing the right webinar platforms for their own firms. Feel free to contact him directly:

Lou DiRienzo
Office: 401-845-5001
Mobile: 314-580-7777
Lou@SageSolutionsLLC.com

 

Step 2. Obtain Needed Hardware

Your hardware requirements will depend on your choice of webinar platform and the features you use, but these are the major items you can expect to need:

  • Webcam: We recommend a desktop model. A middle-of-the-line one (in the $60 to $100 range) should be adequate for most uses.

  • Telephone with headset: Again, a midrange headset should suffice.

  • PC speakers and a headset with microphone: You will need these if you choose the streaming audio option. Do not use your webcam microphone, as it will have too much potential to pick up background noise.

Also, be sure to use a wired—not wireless—internet connection for better reliability and audio quality.

 

Step 3. Secure the Support You Need

Conducting an effective webinar is a team effort. You need the right support in place so that you can focus on your role—presenting great content to pull in qualified prospects—and not have to worry about technology issues.

There is a wide range of tasks to be completed before, during and after each webinar.

Before:

  • Set up the webinar registration form.

  • Set up and monitor the pre-webinar email campaign, which should include up to three emails to each attendee: a registration confirmation and two reminders—one two days before the webinar (optional) and one the morning of the webinar.

  • Facilitate a complete rehearsal one week in advance of the webinar to test all equipment.

  • Set up the webinar room, including loading the PowerPoint and any downloadable files.

  • Perform all pre-webinar checks of connections, audio, visuals and participants’ logins.

  • Create and open polls.

During:

  • Moderate the webinar by introducing the presenter and making any needed announcements.

  • Stand by to address any technical glitches that occur during the webinar.

  • Stand by to respond to tech support requests from attendees.

  • Initiate and end the webinar recording.

After:

  • Save and check the webinar recording and post to Web site or blog.

  • Send to each attendee a follow-up email that contains a link to the webinar playback.

Ideally, you will have one person who is dedicated to all of these tasks. If you do not have someone with this technical ability available, most webinar platforms will, for an extra fee, make a technical support person available to you immediately prior to and during your webinars.

 

Step 4. Structure Your Content Thoughtfully

For the most part, you can structure your webinars in much the same way that you structure your in-person events, albeit while keeping within a strict time limit. (We recommend that your webinars last 60 minutes—no more, no less.) However, there are a few key differences:

 

Opening


Bear in mind that, unlike at in-person events where people generally feel obligated to remain until the end, webinar attendees will feel no such obligation. If they do not hear a compelling reason to stay, they will simply sign off. For this reason, include a clear promise in your opening that what you will be offering is well worth their time and that to get the full benefit they need to stay to the end. Say this in a simple, straightforward way:

“By the end of this webinar, you will have learned a clear-cut process for making informed decisions about your money that will help you to maximize the probability of achieving all that’s important to you. But it’s important for you to stay throughout the entire webinar to get the full benefit of what you’ll learn.”

 

Sharing Your Story


It can be tempting in a webinar to simply list your credentials, thinking that this will be a compelling enough reason for people to listen to you and trust what you say. It is not. Sharing your personal story is even more important in a webinar than at an in-person event, because you do not have the benefit of shaking hands and making eye contact with attendees. By sharing your story, you will help create some emotional intimacy that would otherwise be missing, so do not skip this step.

 

Content


The Wealth Preservation content that we provided in Powerful Joint Presentations, Step-by-Step is suitable for a webinar. However, to keep within your time limits, you will likely need to judiciously trim some parts and then remove the PowerPoint slides that are not needed.

 

Commercial


As for an in-person event, your call to action will be to take advantage of your second-opinion service offer. In the webinar world, this is called a “no-brainer offer”—something that attendees just won’t have a reason to turn down. You will want to transition from your content to the offer in a way that reconfirms the promise of value that you made during the opening. We recommend this type of language:

“Hopefully, you have found a lot of value in this last hour. But now I would like to help you to begin to actually implement what you have learned into your own financial life.”

Then make your second-opinion offer as usual. To create a sense of urgency, you might say that you must limit this free service to the first ten people who sign up (or whatever number is appropriate for your number of attendees). Alternately, you can limit the offer to only those who sign up for the offer that day or within the hour.

 

Delivery


During in-person events, there is some leeway for less-than-perfect delivery of the presentation—attendees won’t get up and walk out of the room just because you stumble on a sentence or two.

This is not the case with webinars, however. You should assume that your attendees are multitasking—checking email, looking at Web sites and so forth—so it is very easy to lose them if you ramble. Your delivery should be clear, focused, concise and well-rehearsed. Make every word count.

 

Begin and End on Time


Start your webinars at exactly one minute past the hour. It is tempting to wait for more attendees to show up, but not only is this disrespectful to those who do show up on time, you are very likely to lose the on-time arrivers. While a late start of a few minutes at an in-person event generally goes unnoticed, a few minutes will drag by for people sitting at their computers waiting for you to begin.

 

Step 5. Fully Engage the Audience

Some people compare leading a webinar to hosting a dinner party in the dark. In face-to-face presentations, you get plenty of audience feedback in the form of eye contact, expressions and body language. Not so with webinars, where you can feel like you are speaking to an empty room. This in turn can make the audience feel that your webinar is lifeless.

Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to overcome this challenge and give your webinars the same energy and interactivity as an in-person event:

 

Leverage Interactive Tools


Give your audience something to do besides just sit and listen to you. Most webinar platforms include tools for audience interactivity that you should absolutely use. The two most common:

  • Polling: Ask questions and get immediate audience feedback through polling. Make these questions the jumping off point for further discussion. For example, the two questions we recommend you ask during the opening of your presentation—“May I see by a show of hands how many of you are confused by investing today?” and “How many of you consider yourself to be sophisticated investors?”—can both easily be asked via polling.

  • Q-and-A: Allow attendees to ask questions through the chat function while you are speaking. Do not respond to these immediately—that would be too distracting—but do address them before moving on to a new topic. You can also have an open Q and-A session near the end of your presentation, ideally allowing attendees to ask questions via audio. If you run out of time to answer every question, promise to post the answers within three business days on your Web site or blog—and then do it.

 

Work Closely with Your Strategic Partner


The banter of two people back and forth is not only more interesting to the audience, as a presenter it will make you feel more engaged. While you should remain the star of the show, it can be appropriate to bring in a second presenter for certain segments of the webinar. For example, you might work with a strategic alliance partner to present content on a particular advanced planning area.

In addition to your strategic partner, consider having a moderator who introduces you and your partner at the beginning and gives instructions to the audience as needed. Ideally, this person would be physically in the same room with you as you present. Look at this person as you speak—his or her facial responses will ward off that “hosting a dinner party in the dark” feeling.

 

Keep the Visuals Interesting


Prepare your slides to have maximum visual interest. Limit the words and maximize images, including exhibits, photographs and even live video if appropriate.

 

Provide Downloads


Make the audience feel that they are receiving more than just your presentation. Allow them to download supporting material, such as the presentation workbook.

 

Step 6. Follow Up Immediately

As with your joint in-person events, close the loop by immediately following up with attendees who requested your second-opinion service.

In addition, post the webinar recording on your Web site or blog and email the link to all attendees. If you promised to answer any additional questions on your Web site or blog, take care of that, as well.

Mind Mapping Programs

Mind mapping has proven to be a powerful tool for supporting the consultative process in two key ways. First, it enables you to systematically capture vital information about your clients, prospective clients and potential professional network members. Second, it effectively documents and prioritizes myriad advanced planning activities. Its flexibility also lends itself to many other uses, including strategic planning and project management.

Listed below are several of the major mind mapping programs available today, with a brief overview of features and links to purchase information.

 

MindView

  • Easy to format, with customizable colors, shapes and lines

  • Fully integrated with Microsoft Office; allows imports from and exports to all MS Office products

  • Works with both Mac and PC

  • Includes professional templates and styles

  • Enables online collaboration with multiple users through a shared workspace

 

NovaMind

  • Flexible formatting, with customizable colors, gradients and visual effects

  • Pro and Platinum versions integrated with Microsoft PowerPoint, allowing imports and exports

  • Platinum version includes presentation tools

  • Includes large repository of map templates

  • Works with both Mac and PC

 

MindMeister

  • Cloud-based to easily facilitate real-time collaboration with multiple users from within standard web browsers

  • Mobile access from iPad, iPhone and Andriod devices

  • Simple, intuitive interface, but limited customization features

  • Works with both Mac and PC

  • Compatible only with newer versions of Firefox, Chrome and Safari

The Irresistible Offer

You have just received an introduction to a qualified wealthy prospective client. The introduction could have been from a current client, from a strategic partner or from someone else—the source doesn’t actually matter. The only thing that does matter is what you will do next.

So what will you do next? The fact is that these days, it’s very difficult for the affluent to tell financial advisors apart. To them, we all look pretty much the same. To truly set yourself apart from your competition, you need to deliver worthwhile results in advance of the client engagement.

This means that to substantially increase your wealthy client engagements, you need to make an offer your prospective clients can’t resist, and then follow through with an experience they won’t forget. We’ll show you how.

 Resources

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Introduction Audio

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Introduction Transcript

The Compelling Value of Stress Testing

When you are introduced to an affluent prospective client, you need a highly compelling offer for this person—something that will motivate him or her to explore working with you and possibly to become a client.

If you are not being introduced for a very specific service such as investment management, we recommend that you offer to stress test some aspect of the prospective client’s financial situation—it could be a plan, product or service—to confirm that it’s the optimal solution to address the client’s goals or concerns.

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Compelling Value Audio

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Compelling Value Transcript

Here’s how we define stress testing:

Stress testing challenges the wealth planning a client has implemented or is
considering implementing to assess the likelihood of its efficacy in different
scenarios and at delivering the expected results.

Conducting stress tests is very common among the ultra-affluent because it enables them to make smart decisions, to verify that they will likely get what they want and to confirm they are dealing with the right professionals. And it is an effective way to identify what could be big problems—or possibly huge mistakes—and make changes to get the desired results.

But your prospective clients need not be outrageously wealthy to benefit from a stress test. In fact, we believe it should be part of most people’s due process when vetting financial plans, products and services. In addition to potentially identifying missteps in an existing plan or service, it can—perhaps just as important—deliver some peace of mind to the client when it’s confirmed that his or her plan is on track. We have found that most prospective clients find this to be a very compelling offer.

Stress Testing vs. Second Opinions

The terms “stress testing” and “second opinions” are often used interchangeably. Technically, there is a difference: Stress testing takes place after a client has already taken action on a plan or product, while second opinions take place before a plan or product has been implemented. For our purposes, however, they’re equivalent. For simplicity’s sake, we will refer to the process as stress testing.

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Framing The Offer Transcript

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Framing The Offer Audio

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Framing The Offer

To prompt a wealthy prospective client to meet with you to begin the stress testing process, you need to be able to frame the offer in a way that appeals to who they are and what they want most from their finances. You need to be able to clearly express your value promise—a precise, succinct and compelling description of the clients you serve, how you serve them and how they benefit. Then you need to follow that up with an easy way to explore working with you—in this case, that would be to meet to discuss a stress test.

In the Total Client Model, you will find a three-part process for formulating and articulating your value promise. We recommend that you spend a little time there to land on exactly the right value promise for you, your practice and the clients you serve. For now, we’ll summarize how to frame the stress test offer to inspire your prospective clients to act.

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Super Rich Stress Test Article VFO

First, state the type of clients your serve and the big benefit you deliver to them. This is an example:

“I help high-tech executives make work optional.”

Next, briefly describe the process you use to deliver this benefit to your clients. This is one effective description:

“We use a comprehensive process to help our clients address each of their five key concerns: making smart decisions about their money, mitigating their taxes, taking care of their heirs, making sure their assets are not unjustly taken and magnifying their charitable gifts. We work with a network of professional advisors to help our clients maximize the probability of achieving everything that is most important to them.”

When the prospective client expresses interest, follow up with your call to action: scheduling a meeting with you to begin the stress testing process. This is one way to describe it:

“I’d be happy to explore doing a stress test with you. We would look at where you are and where you’d like to be and then evaluate whether the strategies you’re using have you on the right track. Based on that evaluation, we’ll either recommend that you stay the course or suggest alternate approaches. Would you like to schedule a meeting to discuss a stress test?”

To help you give your prospective clients further details on the stress testing process, we provided copies of a VFO Inner Circle report on stress testing to you when you enrolled in the Wealthy Client Pipeline. A digital version of that report is also available for sharing below.

Stress Testing Process

Stress testing should be conducted in a very systematic way. The chart below sets out the steps in the fundamental process.

Profiling

The process starts with client profiling, or discovery. What are the prospective client’s specific goals and concerns? What problems does this person want to solve? What opportunities is he or she seeking to benefit from?

This goes beyond the typical fact-finding you may have done in the past. Instead, you will delve into a number of very important issues in the prospective client’s life beyond just finances. This depth of understanding should be the driving force behind the financial and legal solutions the client employs. For everything you need to know to conduct this level of discovery, visit the Total Client Model.

 Resources

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Stress Testing Audio

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Stress Testing Transcript

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Stress Testing Process PDF

Solution Evaluation

Once you clearly understand the prospective client’s goals, objectives, concerns and limitations, you (or, more likely, an expert working with you) can evaluate the legal strategies or financial products the client is using or considering. There are numerous ways to dissect and assess the solutions. Fundamental components of this endeavor include:

  • Working the assumptions. Underlying all legal strategies and financial products is a plethora of assumptions. In stress testing or when getting a second opinion, these assumptions are systematically modified to determine how the solutions will work when the “what ifs” of the scenario change. It’s not uncommon for professionals seeking to sell their services and products to use somewhat optimistic assumptions.

  • Evaluating alignment with goals and objectives. It’s essential to ensure that the legal strategies and financial products will accomplish the prospective client’s goals and objectives. The solution might prove to work extremely well, but it might not achieve the desired results.

  • Calculating the cost structure. The intent is to have the best and most cost-effective solutions possible. When calculating cost structures, all the expenses, including long-term costs, should be specified and transparent.

Analytic Comparisons

Based on the evaluation of the existing or proposed legal strategies and financial products, alternative solutions might be considered. It can be very useful to conduct analytic side-by-side comparisons of the solutions that the prospective client is currently using or that are being proposed and the alternatives by asking these questions:

  • How do the assumptions compare?

  • How do the alternatives rate when it comes to achieving the client’s goals and objectives?

  • Which solutions are more cost-effective?

Recommendations

At the conclusion of stress testing, provide the prospective client with recommendations. As the table below shows, there are four basic courses of action.

Courses of Action

If your stress testing finds that the solutions being used or proposed are on target and of high quality, we advocate staying the course. This is the most common outcome.

If the stress testing finds what is generally called a “system failure,” then the recommendation is to quickly take a different course of action. The legal strategies or financial products being used or suggested are not going to achieve the prospective client’s desired results. They might even blow up, costing the client a lot in money and distress.

When the solutions are appropriate but the professionals currently implementing or overseeing them are really not up to the task or are charging egregious fees, it will usually make sense to switch to providers who are more capable and/or cost-effective. Sometimes stress testing reveals places where slight modifications can make the solutions more effective. In these situations, there’s usually little need to change professionals, as the prospective client only needs to make some minor adjustments.

Get Started with Stress Testing

Stress testing can evaluate complete wealth plans or segments of a wealth plan, such as particular legal strategies or specific financial products. In all likelihood, you will be involved in stress testing of particular aspects of prospective clients’ financial lives rather than their entire financial picture.

Regardless, you will need expert assistance in the area or areas in which you provide stress tests. No one expects you to be a technical expert on every type of financial and legal situation and solutions. Not only is this not possible, it’s not believable.

Instead, we strongly recommend that you have a network of experts in place who can assist you in conducting stress tests. At minimum, you need a go-to estate planning attorney, an accountant and a high-end insurance specialist. These may be experts available to you internally at your firm or external experts with whom you already have a relationship. Of course, they can include your attorney and accountant strategic partners.

You will have three key roles in stress testing. First, you will conduct the in-depth discovery to understand the prospective client’s most important issues and concerns to determine the areas that could benefit from stress testing. As we mentioned, you can find out how to conduct this type of discovery in the Total Client Model.

Second, you will need to work with the prospective client to gather the documentation that your expert (or experts, depending on the scope of the stress test) will need to review to identify any issues with the client’s plan and determine recommendations. The table below provides an overview of the materials that will probably be needed in the various possible areas of the stress test.

Required Material for Stress Testing

 Resources

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Get Started Stress Testing Audio

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Get Started Stress Testing PDF

Your third important role in stress testing will be to facilitate the relationship between the prospective client and your expert(s). You want to help ensure that the experts have all the information they need to conduct an effective stress test, and that the client fully understands the results that come out of the test and is comfortable with a way forward to address any issues identified in the test.

Executing on Your Irresistible Offer, Step by Step

1. Make the offer. State your value promise and offer to conduct a stress test to help ensure that the prospective client is on track to achieving his or her most important goals.

2. Conduct discovery. Uncover the client’s key goals, challenges and concerns through a systematic discovery process such as that described in the Total Client Model.

3. Gather the needed materials. Your expert(s) will need to review specific documents to evaluate the solutions being proposed or used.

4. Coordinate your expert(s). Work with your expert(s) to evaluate the solutions and formulate of recommendations.

5. Bring results and recommendations back to the client. Ensure that the prospective client understands the results of the stress test and is on a path forward to address any issues it raised.

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