by Tony Vidler
Advisers should not overlook the potential to generate more interest with influencers in referring clients by appealing to their self interest.
I am talking about their self-interest in the context of helping them keep their clients in business – not from the perspective of tryin g to simply make more money from clients.
Every professional out there makes a living from keeping clients engaged and continuing to work with them, and getting paid. Ergo! It is in each professionals interest to help keep their clients happy, engaged and paying for as long as possible. Not exactly rocket science in that statement, however the emphasis in recent years upon removing conflicts of interest and raising ethical standards and putting the clients interests first have led to a mindset in professional services which is just wrong.
That mindset could be summarised as “we must ignore what is good for us as that could be construed as not being good for the client“.
Wrong. Maybe what is good for us is also very good indeed for the client: helping them stay in business. Or helping them prosper and get wealthier.
I will be the first to argue that the clients interests come first, and that every professional must be delivering specific value to every client in every engagement. That does not however negate the need for every professional to also be obtaining value from clients in return. So the professional’s “self interest” does actually matter, and there is nothing wrong in my view in taking that into account when making commercial decisions – such as partnering with another professional who can potentially be a centre-of-influence and who has the same professional commercial and ethical challenges. Getting other professionals to see beyond the “fiduciary” element and consider their own needs is the trick to getting them to think differently about working more closely with you on a referral basis.
So here is the simple question which triggers the self interest conversation with potential COI’s:
It is unlikely that ALL of the top 10 clients of any professional will “go out of business” in the short term of course, but it is a question which generates some immediate focus I assure you. Especially these days….as the prospect is not quite as wild as it might have seemed a couple of years ago.
The reality for nearly every professional is that a fair proportion of their top 10 clients could “fall over” in the short to medium term. They could go out of business, but then they could still be in business but with dire circumstances. Even in normal times (as if there might ever be such a time again) a death or disability or serious illness of a key decision maker, or normal new business risks (litigation, new technology, exchange rates, etc, etc) which could jeopardise the clients ability to continue working with the influencer, are just some examples of what can make the account fall over even if client themself is surviving.
The point is there are any number of reasons why a great client account could fall over. A great professional will try and figure out ways to help their clients by catching them before that happens.
This of course is the cue for one of the greatest reasons why professionals from different disciplines can and should work more closely together with clients: each brings different risk management skills or technical expertise which can help makes the clients business or plans more likely to succeed.
If the client succeeds, then that is good for everyone – especially the client.
Some professional self-interest is not necessarily something which is bad for a client therefore.
Protecting the client by introducing lawyers into the equation who you know have the skill set to isolate risk or ensure continuity through good contract and structures is a very smart move. Similarly, introducing accountants who have the deeper analytical skill mixed with wider commercial experience to identify commercial risks and opportunities and introduce efficiencies into a client’s life or business is an excellent thing. Ditto with bringing in a risk management specialist, or introducing a financial adviser with loan construction and sourcing expertise, or one who is able to construct a portfolio which provides a level of capital or income certainty outside of the client’s own earnings ability….
The point is that many professionals have a key part in helping any given client to succeed – or at least “not fall over”. Every professional typically has some of the skills, knowledge and expertise. Every professional should be looking after their client by making sure other excellent professionals are handling those aspects which they themselves cannot.
It is in the interest of each professional to safeguard the client, and the clients future business with them, by working together closely with other professionals to assist the clients to survive, if not prosper.
Have that conversation with potential influencers….it should open up some thinking and some new possibilities.