Practice Management

Building a network beyond CPAs

Strategic partnerships with the right financial professionals can help expand your business

Oct 19, 2014 @ 12:01 am

By Paul Saganey

Throughout my career, every adviser I've worked with has had the same goal — to increase revenue while maintaining or improving their quality of life. This is a daunting task for the majority of advisers in our industry and a reality for a select few. The question is, then, “How do you join that select group, or if you are already in the select group, how do you keep driving forward?”

There are only two ways to increase your revenue — one, you can work with more clients that look the same as the typical client that you work with today or, two, you can build a plan to continually increase the net worth and complexity of the clients you will work with in the future.

If you choose the first path — working with more of the same clients — I encourage you to look at your business as a production factory. Companies that produce the same products over and over again always need to improve efficiency and effectiveness. You must work to find a cheaper and more effective way to get your product in the hands of the desired consumer in order to move the revenue needle.

If you envision your firm growing along the second path — increasing your prospective clients' net worth and complexity — you must look to build strategic partnerships with other financial professionals. Wealthier clients tend to meet their advisers via referrals. Therefore, assess your relationships with other financial professionals in the community and create a plan to develop more relationships or significantly strengthen the ones you have now. You may be the best financial adviser in your community, but unless you can communicate and demonstrate your area of expertise, you will not get the referrals to higher-net-worth prospects.

For 20 years, I have been helping advisers form revenue-sharing relationships with accountants. My experience tells me that clients appreciate having a team approach to handling their financial affairs and, as long as the revenue-sharing agreements are disclosed, they are very comfortable. You, the adviser, and the CPA make up only part of this team. You will also need to work with attorneys and insurance agents. As you work your way up the client asset scale, you will discover that the size of clients' financial teams correlates with their level of assets.

MEANINGFUL CONVERSATIONS

To connect with these professionals, you will need to go beyond the usual networking tactics. I am talking about having meaningful conversations with other financial professionals. Where customary networking may be somewhat informal, to build these relationships you will need to roll up your sleeves and make sure that the other financial professionals in your community know exactly what it is that you do better than anyone else.

In addition to meaningful conversations, I have found that word of mouth speaks volumes with this financial professional crowd. When talking about the importance of chatter in the financial community, a good friend of mine coined the phrase, “building your invisible sales force.” You want your invisible sales force to be out networking on your behalf every day. Like a great restaurant or a wonderful movie, you want people talking about you and the value you bring to their financial lives.

SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT

Make sure that you are constantly giving your “invisible sales force” something to talk about. Having them say that you are a good person or you helped organize their financial affairs is simply not good enough. You must be as specific as possible. “My adviser helped to clarify how we should spend our assets during retirement so that we will not run out of money,” or “We had no clue about the impact a comprehensive estate plan would have on the financial lives of our children until we went through the process with our adviser.” These are comments that will prompt people to want to sit down with you.

As you ascend the net-worth scale, you will be eliminating competition from other financial advisers. The air gets much thinner as the complexity of your prospects' financial needs increases. Take the time to do a self-assessment and, if you would like to work with wealthier clients, make sure the services you offer and the advice you provide is impactful, timely and professionally delivered.

Paul Saganey is founder and president of Integrated Financial Partners Inc., which helps advisers build revenue-sharing relationships with accountants and attorneys. He can be reached at psaganey@ifpadvisor.com.

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