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Referral Dos and Don’ts: CPAs, Lawyers Grade Advisor Pitches

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Turnkey asset manager Loring Ward is doing more than helping advisors better understand portfolio theory and strategy these days. It just wrapped up a three-day conference in Austin, Texas, that aimed to help about 80 reps boost referrals.

“We handle investments, but we’re really in the relationship business. That’s what this conference was about,” said Steven Atkinson, head of advisor relations, in an interview with ThinkAdvisor.

During the event, a group of CPAs and estate planning attorneys gave “live” feedback about advisor presentations.

(The discussion was moderated by Michael Maslansky, head of maslansky + partners, a strategic communications firm.)

“We recorded a few advisors and their answers to the questions these types of professionals ask and then showed it to the panel,” Atkinson said.

“The main takeaway from the exercise was that this is not about getting referrals. It’s about relationships, and it’s all about the client.”

The CPA and attorney panelists seemed to find discussions about potential partnerships unappealing.

“When advisors talked about jointly building a business, it was a big turnoff,” Atkinson said. “Many advisors lead with this, and it’s a turnoff across the board.”

Instead, potential partners want to know what you do to benefit clients.

CPAs and attorneys want to see advisors identify client problems, like tax issues or estate planning, that would involve them. “That should be the impetus for relationship with other professionals,” Atkison noted. “Bring me a problem I can provide service for!”

This is a good way to start, putting the emphasis on how both potential partners can evaluate client needs and fill these needs, he says.

“This is really what advisors should be doing. Make the message and the conversation about the client and not about the advisor,” Atkinson stressed. “It should be about how you want to build  team, invent a team to meet the client’s goals.”

Many advisors know they need to work with such professionals, but find it a challenge to do so.

The focus group gave information that “really jumped out,” Atkinson says.

The event in Austin was held on the campus of Dimensional Fund Advisors, one of Loring Ward’s portfolio partners.

Check out How a Fast-Growing RIA Gets Referrals on ThinkAdvisor.