Financial advisors receive the largest percentage of their clients via referrals. These come primarily from family or friends, but in many cases, they come from a professional such as an attorney or accountant, whose clients may call to recommend the services of a financial advisor for issues outside of their attorney’s or accountant’s expertise. These gatekeepers, who have worked hard to establish their client’s trust, consider referrals to be a value-added service, and before recommending a financial advisor will make sure he or she will not act in a manner that would jeopardize that trust.
“It’s…to help the client,” states an accountant surveyed by Sprectrem Group for our study. Centers of Influence: The Influence of Gatekeepers on Referrals and Wealth Transfer . “I’m always trying to look out for (their) best interests so they can be successful. So I try to put them with the right people.”
This study incorporates feedback from interviews with 25 attorneys and 25 accountants recruited by professional recruiting firms throughout the United States. All of the accountants are CPAs The participating attorneys focus their practices on trust and estate, guardianships, business formations and litigation. Both groups work with clients with a net worth of at least $1 million and refer clients to advisors for financial planning and investing purposes.
According to these gatekeepers, the right person is someone who will help their clients, and in doing so, will reflect well on them for providing that recommendation. Some will recommend a financial advisor who adheres to their own investment philosophy. Others will refer their clients to someone “really smart, on top of their game.” Others will recommend an advisor based on a personality the gatekeeper considers would be a good fit with a particular client.
But there are instances in which a gatekeeper will block an advisor or remove him or her from their referral list. According to our survey, one of our surveyed gatekeepers’ biggest pet peeves involving advisors is cold calls and to a lesser extent random individual or mass emails. “If I get emails randomly, I delete them,” said one attorney. “I’m not usually open to just taking random phone calls from financial advisors. It’s going to be…a referral through somebody I trust.” Accountants we surveyed said that when they get a cold call during tax season, they know the person does not understand their business. “If anything, that’s kind of a turn-off,” one stated.
The surveyed attorneys and accountants did indicate thar they were more receptive to cold calls or random emails that were linked to a specific invitation to an event or for an opportunity for continued education. “I got a phone call from a guy saying, ‘Here’s a couple of tips for the year end’ and that was really good,” one accountant reported. In regard to emails, gatekeepers indicated that they took more notice of an introductory message through LinkedIn rather than a random email.
There are other instances in which gatekeepers indicate they would not recommend a financial advisor, but they have little to do with the advisor personally. For example, a gatekeeper might not feel like the client has enough assets to interest an advisor. They also might not recommend an advisor if they know the client has an existing one, our study finds. In some extreme cases, the gatekeeper might not want to saddle an advisor with a troublesome client. “Sometimes when…you feel the client is just brutal, I don’t want to put that on the advisor,” an attorney said.
Top Takeaways for the Advisor
· To avoid being blocked by a gatekeeper, advisors need to focus on relationship-building. Research and networking are effective tools to learn about the professional.
· Gatekeepers indicate that cold calls are more effective if they if they are linked to a specific event or invitation.
· A message through LinkedIn is considered more effective than a random email. It allows the gatekeeper to check your profile and to increase their contacts with financial advisors.