Using Centers of Influence to generate referrals

Practice Management

Using Centers of Influence to generate referrals

What’s Your COI IQ? Learn to maximize referrals from centers of influence.

If centers or influence, or COIs, aren’t already the VIPs of your referral strategy, they should be. According to a recent survey of financial advisors, more than 80% said that referrals from other professionals were a very important source of new clients.*

COIs are established professionals – most often CPAs and attorneys – whose strong reputations and, as the name suggests, influence make them excellent gateways for referrals. And building up your network of COIs could be easier than you think.

Participants in the survey emphasized the importance of joining outside networks to meet centers of influence – especially for younger advisors. They recommended looking into community groups like:

  • Country clubs
  • Rotary clubs
  • Cultural organizations (e.g., museums, theatres, etc.)
  • Kid’s activities requiring parental support (e.g., Little League, Girl Scouts, etc.)

Once you’ve made the connections, it’s time to ask them to make introductions. Many advisors say the key to initiating a referral lies in timing, knowing when to tap into those networks.

“I’d recommend asking a member of your networking club to invite a prospect to join you both for breakfast or lunch before a committee meeting,” said Bob Patrick an advisor with the Patrick 100 Wealth Management Group of Raymond James. “Simply saying ‘Would you mind if the three of us have breakfast before the next club meeting?’ can lead to a new connection and a new client,”

According to Margaret Starner, CFP®, The Starner Group of Raymond James, “What I’ve learned is that if I call up an accountant or an attorney for lunch, within two weeks I will get another referral. I just ask people to go have lunch. You have to be out there. You have to be in front of people, or they’ll forget about you. Even if you are great, they’ll forget about you unless someone has a pressing problem – and there aren’t that many pressing problems.”

And as important as it is to know when to tap into your networks, it’s equally important to know when not to. “A lot of CPAs in this area are licensed themselves, so they don’t want or need a relationship like mine,” said Jeff Rush, an independent Raymond James advisor in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Every relationship you forge with a COI will be different, some may become a consistent source of referrals while others might only refer intermittently, if at all. The key is to stay in contact and work to create and maintain a mutually beneficial relationship. 

*Raymond James Marketing Research, “Financial Advisor Survey on Referrals,” January 2012

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