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5 ways to create meaningful partnerships

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The DOL ruling is out. So what now? It’s time to step off the emotional roller coaster and get back to finding new clients.

For as long as I can remember, industry experts have advocated that advisors partner with other professionals — like CPAs or mortgage brokers — to build new referral pipelines. This makes sense in theory. But very few advisors actually put the effort into making that pipeline a reality. They nod their heads at the concept of forming professional partnerships and either make a half-hearted effort at getting started or don’t even bother to try in the first place.

There are two major truths for professional partnerships:

  • They can be incredibly lucrative sources of new, high-value clients.

  • They take work and effort to build, just like a traditional sales pipeline.

The second part is where many advisors stumble. They practice their sales process. They refine their service model. They perfect their seminar and webinar approach. They track and revise their drip marketing systems. But when it comes to developing an effective partnership, they take one shot and stop.

This is a like a basketball player who struggles with free throws yet refuses to correct his or her technique. If you don’t force yourself to endure the temporary discomfort up front, you won’t sink the game-winning shot when it matters most.

If you want the return from professional partnerships, here are some of the steps you need to take:

1. Rethink the idea of a referral network.

A successful partnership requires collaboration that goes deeper than a simple business card handoff. To effectively generate a two-way street of new client opportunities, your professional partnerships should include activities like shared advertising, joint events, and other activities where you and your partner are in it together.

2. Remember that forming a partnership is a sales process.

It will take a new version of the sales process to convince a professional to become a partner. Just as you do with a prospect, you need to generate interest, demonstrate value, and build trust. This, of course, takes practice, but treating it as a process will help you to approach the challenge with the right mindset.

3. Start with a long term plan.

A one-off attempt of any marketing initiative is unlikely to reveal its full potential. Give yourself set goals over the course of a year for finding potential partners, establishing partnerships, and then systematically leveraging those partnerships to generate new opportunities. If you’re chasing high-value opportunities, the sales process is naturally longer. A high-value partnership will fall into a similar timeline.

4. Force yourself to engage.

Trying something new is always a challenge, and we have a tendency to avoid that discomfort. If you hire an appointment-setting firm or an internal marketing professional to find and set-up these partnership opportunities, you can skip a big chunk of the leg work, while adding a new layer of accountability to your growth efforts. If you’re investing in someone else’s expertise to find ideal partners, you will be less likely to put professional partnerships off for yet another year.

5. Be a good, creative partner.  

To emphasize, the true potential of professional partnerships is in collaboration. If you have a network of two or more partners that share the same target audience but don’t necessarily compete against one another, you have a unique competitive advantage. By uniting your resources as well as your specializations, you can reach prospects in a far more compelling manner than your lone competitors. But you have to be willing to collaborate.

Even with uncertainty on the horizon, there are huge opportunities in professional partnerships that the majority of advisors have yet to tap. While the concept itself may not be revolutionary, your approach to professional partnerships could be.

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