Nov 01 2022 / Round the Table Magazine
When a center of influence doesn't reciprocate
By Matt Pais
While the reasons you should work with other professionals on behalf of your clients are straightforward, you might not find a more elegant explanation than this:
“We become an orchestra conductor who makes sure everybody’s playing the same song from the same page,” said Elke Rubach, LL.M, CLU. “Because that’s rarely the case.”
Among countless examples, the five-year MDRT member from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, has seen clients with a great tax plan that isn’t documented in a will and might not be implemented in case of an emergency. Or a strong will that isn’t tax efficient. Getting to know her clients — high-net-worth professionals who are too busy to sort out their finances and need holistic guidance — means getting to know their other advisors as well (like lawyers and tax planners) and establishing a reciprocal relationship that benefits all parties involved.
So, what do you do when one of these centers of influence isn’t playing the same song and doesn’t refer back to you? First, Rubach says, consider why this could be happening:
Do they know you are interested in receiving referrals?
In some cases, the professionals thought Rubach — a former international mergers and acquisitions lawyer who changed roles to do more to help families — was too successful and not looking for referrals, which Rubach prefers to call introductions. While she neither needs nor wants an unlimited stream of new clients, she is looking for growth and has seen great progress by simply clarifying this desire with centers of influence. To open the dialogue, consider saying: “I like what you do and the plans you come up with. I think they work well for my clients, but I have not seen you refer to me. Why not?” Or: “I’ve been making a number of these introductions. In five years, I haven’t seen that come back. Is there a reason?”
If they know you are interested in referrals, is there another reason they don’t refer?
“Is it because they don’t trust you or don’t like how you do things or don’t know what you do?” Rubach asked. It certainly could be the latter. In some cases, the professionals said they didn’t know how to introduce Rubach to their other clients, so she walked them through her process to provide ideas and guide them through making introductions. “Everybody takes pride in their clients and is hesitant to refer when they don’t know what to expect,” she said.
Some people are just not referrers.
In those cases, it’s up to you to determine if you are OK with that because they are such great tax planners or lawyers, or if you feel taken advantage of and prefer to work with other professionals instead, Rubach said. It’s also better to have no referral at all than a mediocre referral from someone who isn’t interested in referring and feels forced into it. For those who do refer, however, Rubach sends a gift and a card to say thank you.
If you’re wondering whether any of your relationships lack reciprocity, do as Rubach did at the recommendation of her coach. List the centers of influence you refer to and identify who frequently refers to you, who sometimes refers and who never does. Consider quantifying the number of referrals and the revenue created as well. Then talk with the people listed under “sometimes” and “never” to understand why. “It’s no fun playing tennis alone,” she said.
How can you foster these relationships with other professionals to help drive these referrals?
- Define what you do for yourself. If you don’t know who you are and who you work with best, the professionals you work with probably don’t know either — especially if you’re somewhat new to the profession.
- Clarify your process to others. Rubach explains to clients the importance of meeting with their other advisors and walking them through her process, so they know what to expect when working together. Rubach expresses that she likes to work with professionals who understand and believe in what she does, but is sure to explain that, for her to send referrals, she needs to understand the other professionals’ processes, philosophies, billing approaches and more.
- Schedule quarterly phone calls with other professionals to review the relationship. “I noticed nobody has been referred my way from you; is there anything I can help you with?” Rubach might ask. “Then just shut up and let them talk. Most of the time people are responsive to that.”
- Understand the nuances. For example, Rubach gets a clearance form from a client before reaching out to their lawyer, in case the lawyer bills the client for their time with Rubach. (By developing a good relationship with the lawyer, they now don’t charge if Rubach has a question.) This also might mean recognizing the insurance-related blind spots that other professionals may have. “Insurance might not work for this guy, but have you thought about what it could do for his family?” Rubach might ask an accountant who hasn’t thought about the unknowns of the future, “This is a solid structure they have in place now; how do you unwind it if something happens to your client?”