If I asked 100 advisers for their ideal source of new clients, I would place a hefty bet that most would say recommendations from existing clients.
For many advisers that would be closely followed by recommendations from professional connections, by which of course I mean, accountants and solicitors.
A long-term and profitable relationship with an accountant or solicitor is the holy grail for many advisers. Yet I rarely see any which are productive over a prolonged period, with many quickly fizzling out.
We believe so strongly in the benefit of professional connections that we’ve recently recruited a new member to our team, Richard Jephson, and given him the remit to help our partners develop such relationships.
But, as the old proverb says: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. This is why Richard is spending much of his time teaching and coaching our partners to form profitable relationships.
It’s in that spirit that I thought I’d share some of that knowledge with you. So, here are our top tips to forming profitable and enduring relationships with professional connections.
1. Build trust
You are asking solicitors and accountants to hand over to you the most precious of things; their clients. In so doing, they are putting their reputations on the line and therefore will only do so when they truly trust you.
And frankly, who can blame them? Without trust, the relationship will never succeed. As Stephen Covey (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) said: “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”
Trust takes time to build. It means investing time in getting to know them, finding out how you can add value (see below) and delivering on your promises, every time.
2. Add value at every opportunity
You need to be seen as an expert, the ‘go to person’ for financial advice. That means adding value to the solicitor or accountant, and their clients, at every opportunity, and showing clear evidence that you are doing so.
Adding value builds trust and shows you are prepared to invest your precious time in the relationship; giving far more than you receive, at least in the early stages.
That means getting to know their needs and those of their clients, then thinking about ways you can help. For example, adding questions to your fact-finding process to enable work to be handed back to the solicitor or accountant. Equally, it could mean asking them to present at seminars you arrange or putting on workshops, such as the CPD seminars we arrange for professional connections, to update them on, key issues and how these may present opportunities for them when they are sat in front of their clients.
3. Speak in their language
Professional connections need to know you understand them. There’s no better way of doing that than speaking their language.
4. Understand how lawyers and accounts qualify
Understanding the process accountants and solicitors go through to qualify and maintain their CPD is important, especially if they are relatively recently qualified.
Taking the time to understand the relevant qualifications and professional bodies will show you’ve done your homework, are prepared to invest time in the relationship, and that you understand how they work.
At the same time, make damn sure they know how qualified you are. Explain the qualifications you hold and your annual CPD requirement. If appropriate, talk too about what you must do to attain your Chartered or Certified status and how it benefits your clients.
5. Understand how a practice works and how they market themselves
It’s as important to get to know the professional connection’s practice, as it is them as individuals.
Who are the key people you should get to know? What relationships have they had in the past with advisers? Did they work?
It’s vital that you get answers to these, and other questions, if you are to make your relationship a success.
6. Know their rules
What can they, and can’t they do? What limitations do their regulatory bodies place on them?
Study the SRA Code of Conduct; I guarantee that very few advisers they have spoken to will have done this. By taking the time to do so, you will set yourself apart from other advisers, show you are prepared to invest in the relationship, whilst helping you talk their language.
7. Remember, you know your stuff
Never forget how well qualified you are, and your years of experience.
Your in-depth knowledge will help the relationship and is an asset to them, their business and their clients.
8. Be professionally assertive
Advisers need to take control and drive the relationship.
That might sound strange, but if you don’t, in our experience the lawyer or accountant won’t either.
Treading the fine line between being pushy, and professionally assertive, is an art; for the advisers who get it right, fruitful relationships are the reward.
9. Finally, the three Ps: patience, persistence & politeness
Rome wasn’t built in a day and it will take professional connections time to trust you.
Be patient, yet persistent, keeping regular contact and reminding them you are there waiting to help them and their clients is essential.
Thank them personally for any introductions they give you. A personal card can go a long way. And where appropriate, keep them updated on work you are doing with their clients.
Newsletters and “I saw this and thought of you” emails, work well, as does utilising social media to acknowledge their updates, posts and shares.
You might feel nervous that you are pestering – don’t. Providing you are adding value and improving their knowledge, your communication will be welcomed.
There’s no doubt in my mind that investing time and resources into building relationships; from introducer agreements to formal joint ventures, with professional connections, will help you build a stronger business.