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Influential Advisors: Your Key to Consistent Referrals

Don’t just cultivate centers of influence, cultivate those who advise others. Find out how.

By Julian Good Jr., CLU, ChFC

How many of you are interested in generating a minimum of two qualified referrals each week? I will share with you how I methodically and consistently receive at least two qualified referrals each week. The key is building long-term relationships with other influential advisors.

THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO REPLACEMENT FOR CONSISTENT DAILY, WEEKLY AND ANNUAL ACTIVITY.

An influential advisor is not a center of influence—someone who has the ability to influence others to talk to you, or at the least provide a worthy introduction. Instead, an influential advisor is a person who fulfills a role of giving advice to others.

Let’s first look at who could fill the role as an influential advisor.

“A” clients
The first category is your existing “A” clients who are in a position to give advice to others, such as accountants and attorneys. They can also be physicians, consultants, salespeople, etc.

Accountants
It is critical that we target which accounting practices we wish to develop relationships with. My efforts are focused on sole practitioners and small accounting partnerships of two to three principals. New Orleans is comprised of many small to midsize, closely held, family businesses. Many of these businesses work with sole practitioners and smaller accounting partnerships. Because these clients see their accountants and me as advice givers, I have chosen to focus my prospecting efforts here and that is where I have had the greatest success.

Attorneys
Many of us strive to develop relationships with attorneys who are tax and estate-planning specialists. Much of my effort is directed towards these legal specialists since they are in a position to refer their clients to us. However, I have had some success in two other areas. Several of my attorney clients have become judges. In certain cases, they have been in a position to impartially suggest to both the defense and plaintiff attorneys involved that they should perhaps speak to a financial or insurance professional. Plaintiff attorneys can also be an excellent source of referrals. They are a very influential advisor to their clients when monetary settlements are involved. By strategically positioning yourself "next to" the plaintiff attorney in settlement proceedings, you can become the influential advisor of choice.

Other financial services professionals
Believe it or not, some of the best influential advisors that I have developed are other financial service professionals. What happens is that these other professionals will refer business that they do not or cannot engage in. We do not work together where it involves products and services that they provide to their clients. We keep it simple. And we do not split commissions. And they know that they can trust me. They know that I will not speak to their clients about anything except that product or service for which they are being referred.

Meeting influential advisors
You might be wondering: How do I meet other influential advisors? How can I be introduced to them? Here is what I have done and continue to do today.

Referrals from my “A” clients
Who are the advisors that my “A” clients work with? Who else do my clients know that might be a giver of advice? The best opportunities to obtain referrals from these clients is during an annual or periodic review, or while we are eating a meal together.

Local estate planning council
I have been a member of the New Orleans Estate Planning Council for over 15 years. Our local council is made up of life insurance professionals, attorneys, accountants, trust officers and planned giving professionals. At each of our dinner meetings during the year, we will average about 80 attendees, so the opportunity to network and begin building relationships is easy. The key is to attend meetings regularly.

MY EFFORTS ARE FOCUSED ON SOLE PRACTITIONERS AND SMALL ACCOUNTING PARTNERSHIPS OF TWO TO THREE PRINCIPALS.

Volunteer work in the community
I have developed several important relationships with influential advisors over the years by serving in the community. I've volunteered time with a number of community and religious organizations, educational institutions and industry-related organizations. Yet, I don't remember ever soliciting anyone that I met through my volunteer work. Rather, these individuals asked me if I could help them. If you volunteer for the right reasons and work hard at that chosen activity, you will certainly get back as much or more than you have given.

“Being out there
Weekly activity of 10-15 appointments per week typically keeps me out of the office. If that amount of activity is sustained for the 45 or so weeks per year that I work, it will consistently produce 100-150 cases per year, and still allow for plenty of time to work with my influential advisors. There is absolutely no replacement for consistent daily, weekly and annual activity. Things happen when you are busy. Things happen when you are traveling to appointments and run into other clients, who ask you to give them a call. Things happen when you eat breakfast or lunch with an influential advisor at a "hot spot," and you bump into one or two prospects or clients.

If you begin with these steps to cultivate influential advisors, you will be well on your way to getting consistent referrals.

This is an excerpt of a much longer presentation given at the 2004 MDRT annual meeting. Used with permission from MDRT. All rights reserved. For more information contact MDRT at www.mdrt.org.

Julian H. Good Jr., CLU, ChFC, is a 21-year MDRT member with two Court of the Table qualifications and a member of NAIFA-Greater New Orleans. You can reach him at 504-613-2220 or julian@jgoodjr.com.

 


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