The Dawn of Professional Collaboration

Referrals are the holy grail of the advisory business. Everyone wants them, and the most successful advisors and planners get the majority of their new business generated through referrals.

Which professionals are the best fit as centers of influence?  Here are some possibilities to consider.

  1. Accountants.

CPAs can be a good fit for working in collaboration with a financial planner.

While some CPAs offer financial planning in-house, many choose not to – whether because they are making a strategic decision to focus on tax preparation as their specialty, or because financial planning is not a good fit for them. If a CPA client’s question ventures into big-picture financial health arena, they may appreciate knowing that they can make an introduction to a trusted specialist for the benefit of the client.  

If you want to grow your professional network of CPA advocates, the best place to start is with your existing clients. Ask them if they like their CPA and would recommend him or her to others. If so, take advantage of the relationship by asking for an introduction and getting to know the CPA’s professional practice to see if there is a mutual fit.

  1. Attorneys

Consider collaborating with estate planning and family attorneys. They often work with clients who need help with financial planning and money decisions. A holistic collaborative attorney-planner team can add significant value by ensuring that all aspects of the situation are analyzed and addressed.

Similar to the approach with CPA referral partners, it’s best to begin by tapping into the network of your current clients. Do they know an attorney that they would wholeheartedly recommend?

  1. Other professionals

The “other professionals” category is large and can include life insurance agents, business brokers, investment bankers, consultants, and association executives.

No matter which category of professionals you choose to connect with, here are some additional guidelines that have proven to be successful.

  • Full disclosure is critical. If you have a revenue-sharing arrangement or a referral compensation agreement with your referral parties, communicate that to the client.
  • Consider the benefits of establishing a formal referral relationship. That means creating a strategic alliance with commitments spelled out for both sides. Some financial planners have found that formal alliances produce better results than casual ones.
  • Be prepared to educate your referral party on what a perfect referral looks like. Your goal is to respect their time and to protect yours. You also want to save them the embarrassment that results from you turning away a referral because he or she is not a fit for your practice.
  • Consistent communication is key to making the relationship work. Be sure you have an outreach plan for every referral party. Put specific touch-points for each advocate on your calendar for accountability.
  • Add value. Keep in mind that every introduction exposes your advocates to risk. If their client is dissatisfied with you, business and personal relationships could be compromised. Continuously work on making the collaboration worthwhile for them, and on minimizing the relationship risk.