by Tony Vidler
Advisers historically – for all their networking and personal sales and relationship management skills – have not been terribly successful at creating long-term professional networking circles that continually deliver the right type of prospects though.
Generally because they don’t really understand how the potential centre of influence (referrer) will win.
For example, it is often a logical fit for financial advisers to work with accountants. They are after all dealing with related professional issues, usually with the same clients (or types of clients), and their respective knowledge sets are highly complementary. Many times an accountant and a financial adviser will consider the concept of networking professionally, and cross-referring clients or working jointly….but the concept mostly never really takes off.
There are the expected issues that have to be resolved, like the professional danger for a referrer in transferring trust and lending their own reputation to another person. But that is simply a necessary step in forming any professional business relationship, which is resolved by demonstrating the right behaviour and level of expected professionalism repeatedly over tie. The centre of influence eventually is completely comfortable with lending their trust and reputation when you have repeatedly demonstrated that you are safe with it.
Creating the opportunity in the first place is the primary challenge though. What is missing is understanding what the real WIN is for the centre of influence – and how the adviser can help best.
Let’s use accountants as an example (and I know I am about to engage in a lot of generalisations – but it is the principle here that is important).
Most accountants are looking for the right job.
The majority of accountants are working in “compliance” type work for their clients. The hard graft of sorting and preparing financial records, compiling tax returns and supporting information, trying to explain to their business clients how the tax system works….and often being seen by their business clients as the person who is “not allowing” (say) the family vacation to Disneyland to be claimed as a deductible business expense.
In this scenario the accountant is doing a lot of repetitive work, that is often uninspiring and professionally not fulfilling for them….and it is often a begrudging client on the other side of the table. The client doesn’t want to pay any tax….would rather that their financial records were kept hidden from the rest of the world…wants to be able to use their business and its money however they see fit….and their accountant is the only human being they get to see standing between them and their desires. The business owner never, or rarely, actually interacts with the rule makers or tax department officials – it is the accountant they deal with. And at some point the accountant gives them an invoice for dealing with it all, which the client resents to some degree as they didn’t want to engage in this process at all anyway.
Do you think that’s the type of business, and business relationships, that most accountants want? Of course it isn’t….most would love to be able to get away from this type of financial compliance work – kick it down to the entry level accountant or junior associate to do that stuff!
A smart adviser would recognise this problem when forming the business relationship with the accountant, and an even smarter adviser would work out how to take some of the pain away and help the accountant get into the type of work they DO want to do.
When a professional financial adviser engages in their full process of discovery with a client they get a much wider view of the clients personal position, values and aspirations – very quickly. Using a professional and comprehensive advice process uncovers the critical information that helps us understand what clients really value, and where they want to go.
For the accountant, that knowledge is gold. It is the key to moving them out of “compliance work”, and into “business development” work with their clients. That is where the enjoyment factor and the real business value is for both the accountant and the client.
The financial adviser’s real value in this professional relationship is identifying the opportunities for the accountant to get the types of jobs they want with business clients, and then positioning the accountant to do this work and create value for their clients – in both the accountant’ and the client’ minds.
As stated earlier, these are generalisations, but the thing about generalisations is that they are generally correct!
Financial advisers can bring professional process that discovers valuable information of a much wider scope, and at a far deeper emotional level, than accountants generally uncover with their business clients. Indeed, financial advisers HAVE to do this if they are doing their work properly – and they have a professional obligation to identify issues where other professionals have the requisite expertise that the client needs.
Financial advisers have the sales skills and relationship management ability to get clients to work with their accountant in new and better ways, on far more valuable and important issues than mere tax returns. Financial advisers working professionally with the accountants own clients can uncover and create opportunities for the accountant to get the type of jobs they really want.
That’s the type of win-win that leads to successful networking for all – and for the benefit of the client.