How can you grow your business with professionals?
It may be that your firm has a particular focus, or that you're keen to specialise in a specific area. This could be an emphasis on cashflow modelling or lifestyle coaching, building retainer fees or assets under advice. All these specialisms and more can be supported with the right clients being referred from accountancy and legal connections.
I like to think I'm speaking from a position of experience here, as I have grown my business from scratch over the last eight years through professional referrals.
I also completed a Masters degree from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2013 on this very subject.
As part of my studies, I carried out research with many fee earners and partners across our region by both survey and interviews. This has enabled me to put together a process that I now apply through a consultancy business, and which I've summarised here. It's what I call 'Referology'.
R - Research
Firstly, when it comes a building a network of professional connections, you need to research your local market.
A word of warning here though. You shouldn't be surprised that as you hold yourself out as being an expert, that the professionals local to you or operating in your field of expertise will be carrying out research on you as well. They may well review not only your website, but your social media posts too.
For example, I've had professional firms pick up on old tweets relating to charity work. It's worth thinking about whether what you post is in keeping with your image of being a fellow professional – language and content are important.
E - Engagement
As financial planners, we deal in trust. I don't believe that trust can be conveyed by the written word or by an advert. For me, trust is either gained through referral or by meeting face-to-face. The hope is that the professionals we will be working with will be our advocates, so I believe we need to spend time with them.
Networking is a good way of meeting fellow professionals but again, be prepared to meet people who may not be your first choice.
Plumbers, web designers and copywriters are all likely to be at local networking events, but that's fine as you can still hand out your cards. We have met some great people and some superb supporters by doing this!
That said, we have sought to get to networking groups where professionals are in attendance. They won't 'buy' from you at the first meeting so make sure you book in a follow-up meeting to understand what it is they do, establish whether you can help and to demonstrate your areas of specialism.
F - Favoured position
Our research indicates that only one-third of professionals have a 'panel' of advisers they refer to. The rest allow their fee earners to select their own people in terms of who they wish to work with.
With that in mind, the question then is: how can you help these professionals out? How will they know you excel in a specific area? Is it on your website? Do you have a professionals link or unique URL?
It's also worth considering whether you can support their due diligence of the advice firms they are looking to partner with.
Due diligence documents will need to be easy to use so make them in Word. You need to clearly demonstrate why the firm would recommend you and the accreditations and qualifications you have in your specific area. Our survey found that over half of professionals have never conducted due diligence on advisers – so help them out!
E - Education
Put your knowledge to good use. We are familiar with the concepts, products and solutions that professionals need to be aware of, but do not know about in great detail.
For example, you may have a good grasp of estate planning solutions such as loan trusts and business relief schemes.
Although professionals may be aware of these, typically our knowledge and experience is significantly greater, so we can play a role in educating our prospective connections.
If you're a certified or chartered financial planner, let professionals know. There are other ways to set yourself apart too, through being accredited by professional organisations like the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (Step), the Society of Later Life Advisers (Solla) and Resolution, a national family law network.
It's also worth brushing up on your knowledge in other areas. If you wish to work with law firms, then you need to be aware of the new regulations from the Solicitors Regulation Authority regarding referrals – this is an issue we have worked on extensively with SIFA, an organisation which aims to bring about stronger working relationships between advisers and solicitors.
R - Relationships
This is where we go from simply being two professionals on either side of the table to working together to help our mutual clients.
We are fortunate enough to have built great personal relationships with our introducers.
We know much more about them than where they work and what they do – many have become good, reliable sounding boards on how they see our business from the outside. This helps us deepen the level of trust between us.
If something isn't right then they can tell us. Equally if they need help, we can offer informal support as well as full-on paid for financial planning and investment management.
So, there you have it – Referology. If you'd like to know more, please get in touch.