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.
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:
You will reap new sources of revenue through client introductions from your strategic partners.
You will earn your clients’ loyalty as they benefit from both your skills as a wealth managers and the expertise of your strategic partners.
You will move beyond linear growth in your business to truly exponential growth.
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.
Forge Powerful Strategic Alliances Contents
1. Stand Apart With Wealth Management
2. The Consultative Client Management
3. Know The Potential Partners
4. Implement The Consultative Strategic Alliance Process
5. Key Stakeholder Meetings
6. Strategic Action Plan Presentation
7. Ongoing Meetings
8. Maximizing Your Process
9. Launch a Pilot Program
10. Pilot For Strategic Partners
11. Pilot For Top Clients
12. Offer The Second Opinion Service
13. Conduct Private Client Events
14. The Irresistible Offer
15. Billionaire Money Rules
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
1. 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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
2. The Consultative Client Management
The Consultative Client Management Process
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
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.
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.
3. Know The Potential Partners
The Range of Potential Partners
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
4. Implement the Consultative Strategic Alliance Process
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:
Open the meeting by briefly communicating the potential benefit of a strategic alliance.
Conduct the exploratory interview using our interview guide.
Set expectations for the strategic alliance by explaining the pyramid of business relationships.
Make a decision about the suitability of the candidate.
Ask for a precommitment for moving forward in the process.
Schedule Key Stakeholder Meetings with the key decision-makers at the candidate’s firm.
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.
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
Introduction to meeting
Explanation of the pyramid of business relationships
Assessment of suitability
Precommitment for moving forward, if appropriate
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
Where do you think the business for CPAs/private client lawyers is going?
What are the three key services that your clients are asking you for today?
What target market(s) are you interested in focusing on?
Please describe your ideal client.
What services do you provide to your clients?
How do you differentiate your firm/practice from your competition?
What’s important about success to your firm/practice?
What are some of the biggest challenges you face in your practice today?
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.)
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?
What have been some of your biggest marketing successes?
Do you have a marketing plan for your practice? What do you think of marketing plans in general?
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?
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:
Integrity: Are both partners principled, trustworthy and reliable? Will you be able to fully trust one another?
Chemistry: Do you connect with each other on both a professional and personal level? Do you have genuine rapport?
Empathy: Do you understand one another’s issues and challenges?
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:
Conduct a pilot program whereby the strategic partner and ten suitable clients go through your wealth management consultative process.
Conduct a second-opinion campaign to motivate additional clients of the partner firm to go through your consultative process.
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 Pre-commitment
Now ask for a pre-commitment 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
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.
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
5. Key Stakeholder Meetings
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:
Open the meeting by stating the goal of the meeting.
Conduct the exploratory interview as you did during the Exploratory Meeting.
Explain the pyramid of business relationships.
Assuming that a successful strategic alliance looks promising, get a precommitment for moving forward.
Close out the meeting by describing the next steps in the process.
Schedule the Strategic Action Plan Development Meeting with your champion.
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
Introduction to meeting
Explanation of the pyramid of business relationships
Commitment for moving forward, if appropriate
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 Pre-commitment
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
6. Strategic Action Plan Development
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:
Open the meeting by providing an overview of what you wish to accomplish during the meeting.
Review the strategic action plan draft that you created.
Invite your strategic partner to provide recommendations and refinements to the plan.
Close out the meeting by committing to incorporate your strategic partner’s comment on the plan.
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.
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:
Strategic alliances with CPA firms
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.
Strategic Action Plan Development Meeting Agenda
Thursday, September 29
Introduction to meeting
Review of draft
Any fine-tuning of draft
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