To help manage, maintain and grow their wealth, huge numbers of Americans solicit the professional guidance of CPAs, financial consultants, attorneys and other experts. These advisors typically work independently, focusing exclusively on their area of expertise, and with only a limited sense of each client’s complete financial picture.
For clients with complex financial planning needs, however, this narrow approach is detrimental to their best interests. It also hinders the advisor’s ability to be most effective.
In today’s highly competitive marketplace, establishing and maintaining a successful long-term client relationship requires you, the advisor, to anticipate and serve the broadest spectrum of your clients’ needs. The solution is strategic business alliances.
Strength in Numbers
The idea of collaboration may not agree immediately with your business instincts. But the most successful, comprehensive, long-term plans for a client’s financial growth and security are founded on an understanding of his/her complete financial profile.
To be successful in this regard, you need to consider strategic alliances: a formal network of top-quality advisors who coordinate their efforts on behalf of shared clients through a continuously updated exchange of information.
As an insurance professional, you can create a cumulative “think tank” by working with the clients’ other financial advisors. The team members pool knowledge and synchronize efforts to your clients’ advantage.
Partnering allows you to determine what strategies best balance asset growth, management and protection for each client. When, for example, might an investment opportunity outweigh a potential tax advantage? When might the opposite be the case?
Smoothly functioning strategic business alliances keep all parties in a real-time and integrated communications loop. This collaborative effort will generate more accurate data and a more comprehensive understanding of your client’s profile. That, in turn, allows you to offer each client better and more informed guidance.
You thereby gain increased client satisfaction and retention, referrals, and a collegial network of professionals to consult when questions arise in your work that might benefit from their expertise.
Building a Network
If a client has other advisors deployed on his/her behalf, consider engaging them. If not, you’ll need to forge relationships on your own. Understand, however, that an alliance is only as strong as its members.
So, do your homework. Invest the time to research potential partners. And form alliances only with those advisors who demonstrate a skilled professional attitude and who, like you, are dedicated to taking the best care of clients.
Look for partners among those whom the advisors themselves consult for advice. Ask yourself if you would be willing to refer your most valued client to this advisor.
Four Guiding Principles
Once you have begun establishing strategic business alliances, keep these four key principles in mind:
o Don’t become a competitor with your client’s other advisors. To be successful, strategic business alliances require a free exchange of information and, thus, a high degree of mutual trust and respect.
Think of alliance partners more as colleagues than as competitors. Never attempt to solicit business away from your client’s other advisors.
o Educate your clients and their advisors and keep everyone in the loop. Be generous with your knowledge and expertise. Solicit input from your fellow advisors, as well.
Affirm the value of your services by regularly updating clients and alliance partners on new laws or changes in existing laws that are relevant to their needs or interests. And always keep all parties abreast of significant changes or updates in your client’s profile.
o Become an advisor to your client’s other advisors by helping them to understand your work. The more you understand the factors involved in financial planning and management, the better advisor you can be to clients.
Encourage alliance partners to turn to you for advice when questions arise in their work that fall within your area of expertise. You may find, as I often have, that an alliance partner favorably impressed with your insights may soon become a client eager to employ your services.
o When appropriate, generate referrals for your clients’ other advisors. Inevitably, clients will seek your advice on matters outside your realm of expertise. With strong strategic business alliances in place, you have a readily available network of professionals whose knowledge and integrity you can attest to with confidence. In offering these referrals, assure clients of the unique advantages afforded them when they consult with an integrated advisor network.
One final point: Once established, these alliances should be treated as dynamic, ongoing, strategic relationships. When carefully formed with only the best advisors, they offer virtually limitless potential for your clients and your practice.
Satisfied clients become referral sources. Alliance partners become clients. And your knowledge base continually expands, enhancing your reputation and drawing the most discerning clients to your practice.
Kevin P. Rex is principal and senior financial counselor at Summit Financial Resources, Inc., Parsippany, N.J. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To be successful…you need a formal network of top-quality advisors who coordinate their efforts on behalf of shared clients through a continuously updated exchange of information