by Tony Vidler
Is it possible to work successfully with multiple COI’s (centre’s of influence) from the same sector? Many professionals would say “no”…or they do to me anyway. The feeling is that if the COI’s are competitors then one has to choose just one to work with.
That is partially true – but only partially.
If two potential COI’s are direct head to head competitors, in that they are offering precisely the same services or products to precisely the same target market and there is negligible difference in their respective value propositions, then it does become nearly impossible to build a long term and highly valued business relationship with both of them. The reason for that is “distrust”. You will have to choose one if you actually want it to be a valuable commercial relationship, otherwise you will simply have two time-consuming and frustrating commercial relationships which are not succeeding in delivering mutually beneficial opportunities.
However, rarely do two firms whom advisers might consider suitable COI’s offer precisely the same stuff to the same people and compete head to head. No 2 law firms are exactly the same, and the type of work they pursue and the types of clients they are after vary significantly. The same can be said of accountants and many other professionals.
The first thing to do therefore in determining whether you can work with multiple COI’s from the same sector is determine what type of work and what type of clients they are after, and where their competitive points of difference are. Helping them determine their value proposition and points of difference may in fact be one of the most valuable things an adviser can do for them, and will contribute to the building of a valued commercial relationship.
Generally most other professionals that advisers can turn into ongoing influencers value “the right business opportunities” being referred to them, rather than simply getting a volume of “wrong” prospects. More often than not a great business relationship with an accountancy practice for example will grow from them receiving just half a dozen ideal clients each year. Delivering 40 referrals for low value transactional work for instance will usually create problems for them, and go a long way towards killing future opportunities for the adviser.
The first way that an adviser can work with multiple COI’s from what appears to be the same sector, and do so successfully with each of them, is to be very clear about what types of clients or opportunities are valued by each of the COI’s – and then ensure that each is getting what they in turn value. But there is another way too….
The greatest opportunity for an adviser to build fabulous relationships with multiple COI’s is to play to their advisory strengths.
Advisers are experts in areas that other professionals are not. Advisers have valuable (and hard-earned and expensive) commercial experiences that others have not necessarily had. Advisers have generally been engaged in sales and marketing functions more than other professionals have. Advisers running practices have also had to figure out compensation and staff management issues, spend countless hours figuring out IT answers and making supplier selections. They’ve had to grapple with laws and tax, and competition and regulation, and evolving consumer tastes.
The point is that financial advisers have a lot of commercial experience and knowledge which is valuable.
Yet, advisers often trivialise it or downplay it. They tend to not consider that their commercial expertise is as valuable as a law degree for example. Nothing could be further from the truth….
One of the most valuable ways to build relationships with multiple COI’s from the same industry or professional sector is to be a commercial confidant. Be the fellow business owner who is able to share useful insights and even perhaps intellectual property that can help another business owner (which is what most other professionals are!).
Think beyond merely having to provide referrals in return or even revenue-sharing, as an advisers knowledge can be far more valuable than those things to another professional.
The keys to working successfully with several apparent competitors and building each of those into center-of-influence relationships which are beneficial for an advisory firm is twofold:
Do either one of those and there is an excellent chance of being able to develop fabulous COI relationships. Do both of them, and it is virtually guaranteed to work out very well indeed.