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Do Estate Planning Attorneys Make Good Strategic Alliance Partners?

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I’m a big proponent of relationships with CPAs, enrolled agents and accountants for the reasons I outlined last week. But what about estate planning attorneys? Do they make equally good referral partners? They can, as long as you understand the following three points.

  1. Generally, estate planning attorneys do not have the same level of relationship with their clients as tax planning professionals do.
  2. Because of this, it’s vital to the success of the relationship that you alter the approach to getting in front of their clients.
  3. Be prepared to split commissions.

Level of Relationship

One of the reasons I’m such an advocate of forming alliances with CPAs and other tax professionals is because of the deep level of connection they tend to have with their clients. This is due in large part to the nature of the tax planning process. The tax professional must meet with their clients at least once each year to prepare their clients’ income tax returns, and by default a relationship of trust is formed. 

In contrast, estate planning attorneys tend to be more transaction-oriented. They find a client, prepare the documents, charge a fee, then are on to the next one. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but for you as an annuity producer, understanding the different levels of client relationships is key. The reason this is so important is because the deeper the relationship these professionals have with each client, the more likely it is for that client to follow their advice. And when they explain to their clients that you are the one they trust, the clients will feel more comfortable choosing you to work with for their retirement and insurance planning needs.

Gaining Exposure to the Estate Planning Attorney’s Clients

With a CPA or other tax professional, you can start off the new relationship promoting your services to the client base at large. But when it comes to the estate planning attorney’s clients, consider tweaking your approach as follows. Rather than marketing your services to all of the attorney’s past clients (many of whom most likely do not have very a real relationship established), consider providing more timely value to all clients the attorney has worked for in the past 60 days. By focusing on serving those clients that are still heavily engaged in the legal counseling process, you will find them to be much more receptive to the attorney’s recommendations. Therefore, they will learn why they should consider meeting with you to make sure their new estate plan is working with their retirement, insurance and other financial plans.

One approach that has been effective to gain exposure to these active planning clients is to provide free content to them on subjects you know they are currently interested in. A free report on “Why placing your IRA in a trust could be a huge tax mistake” is an example. Many of the attorney’s clients find themselves wondering how to go about funding their trusts properly, and very few are actually aware of how IRA and qualified plan distributions are handled when paid out through a trust. 

Another effective way to take this concept to the next level would be to hold trust funding workshops every 60 days for any of the attorney’s clients who have purchased a trust within the past two months. This is a great value-added service that the attorney can provide to his/her clients that not only helps them but also ultimately gives you what you want, which is an opportunity to speak in front of high-net-worth prospects.

Be Prepared to Split Commissions

In my experience, estate planning attorneys are more transaction-oriented, so don’t be surprised if they are quicker to expect a commission split of some kind for the exposure they provide you to their clients. Whereas CPAs are oftentimes hesitant to receive any compensation for money you earn from working with their clients, attorneys are much more likely to want to negotiate something for providing you the same opportunity. However, I believe that if you structure your value proposition correctly, you can form a mutually beneficial relationship without splitting commissions. The key, as always, is to bring value to the other professional and obviously value to the clients. As Zig Ziglar says, “You’ll get all you want in life if you just help enough other people get what they want.”

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