by Tony Vidler
The best way to generate constant referrals is by having “centers of influence” delivering qualified and interested prospects to you regularly.
It is a simple idea, and like so many other things which appear simple it requires thought, planning, and excellent execution to deliver the desired results.
A center-of-influence (COI) is an advocate for you and your business…but with a difference to your average referrer. They are an advocate who is superbly positioned to introduce your ideal prospective clients on a regular basis because of their role, or influence.
The process of building the right sort of relationships with the right potential COI is usually lengthy, but incredibly worthwhile if done well, as just a few well-chosen COI’s can deliver virtually all the new prospective clients a financial adviser could need.
There is a process however to cultivating the right COI’s to constantly deliver great referrals.
Before you can begin to cultivate a COI you need to arrange your thoughts and be able to answer these three questions:
1. Who are you targeting in the way of ideal clients?
2. Why are you the best person for those clients to be dealing with?
3. How can you demonstrate – or evidence – that you are the logical choice for a COI to use?
The next phase of the process is to plan the approach and the positioning. You have to know:
4. Who is the ideal COI (or COI’s) for your target market?
5. How are you going to set up the initial approach professionally, and position the discussion?
6. You must be able to provide solid rationale to the COI about why THEY should help YOU. (Hint: focus on consumer benefits; professional process and standards; and ways of eliminating reputation risk for the COI)
7. Can you demonstrate your process and business methodology to the COI, so they can be confident in what you do, and how you do it?
8. Do you have a strategy for ensuring that you are in turn enhancing the COI’s position or business? Are you helping the influencer in return?
Finally, there must be a considered approach to ongoing execution if you want a regular stream of the right sort of referrals to keep coming from the COI.
9. How do you intend staying in touch, and building the depth and strength of the relationship with the COI?
10. How, and what, feedback will you provide to them? (This is a crucial step that is often the single biggest barrier to a successful centre-of-influence relationship if it is not done appropriately and regularly. Bear in mind the requirement to balance professional reputations, privacy/confidentiality issues, and the fundamental human need for reinforcement that a “transfer of trust” has been handled the right way).
11. Optional: Recognition & Reward. It may not be necessary to provide recognition or reward to the COI, but then again, it might be. It IS important though that you have considered it carefully, and have clear parameters as to what is appropriate and how you will manage any needs on the part of the COI for recognition or reward.
12. NOT Optional: Are you prepared to make some serious effort, for as long as it takes, to position and build the right relationship with someone who can generate a constant flow of the right prospective clients for your business?
Anything less than a full effort from the outset to address all of these points for a prospective center-of-influence will result in disappointment – for everyone. To make it work well though, all you have to do is think through, and then follow, the process.