The lifeblood of a financial advisor’s business is referrals, which come mostly from a prospective client’s family or friends. But another key source may be the so-called gatekeepers; professionals, such as attorneys or accountants, who may be called upon to refer their clients to a financial advisor for issues outside of their own expertise. Gatekeepers primarily do this as a service to their clients. “I am not a financial advisor,” an accountant told Spectrem Group. “I am a tax advisor and I understand financial, but I’m not licensed for that type of service, so I do not provide it.”
How can you get your foot in the gatekeeper’s door, and better still, keep it there? Our new report, Centers of Influence: The Influence of Gatekeepers on Referrals and Wealth Transfer. finds several points of entry. This study incorporates feedback from interviews with 50 attorneys and accountants recruited by professional recruiting firms throughout the United States. All of the accountants are CPAs. The attorneys focus their practices on trust and estate, guardianships, business formations and litigation. Each works with clients with a net worth of at least $1 million and refer clients to advisors for financial planning and investing purposes.
Perhaps the most effective thing financial advisors can do in getting on an attorney or accountant’s radar is a simple, but overlooked maxim: Know Your Audience (KNA). Timing, for example, is everything. Accountants we interviewed told horror stories about being besieged with introductory emails and phone calls during tax season. “They need to be aware of the timing of who it is they want to market and what their job might be,” one told us. “Am I going to do networking events during my busy season which is in full steam February 1 through April 15? No, it’s not happening.”
Financial advisors are encouraged to put in the research or networking time to learn about the Gatekeeper and identify what has worked as an effective means of introduction, be it a LinkedIn connection request or a professional presentation. This, too, comes under the heading of KNA. Accountants and attorneys indicate they tend to respond to financial advisor whose personality is a good fit with their own. “I (Know) insurance salesmen that are relentless,” one attorney noted. “That’s not how I do business and that’s not how I want the people to be that I’m referring my clients to.”
Gatekeepers we interviewed indicated that word of mouth is the most impactful introduction to a financial advisor. They will accept cold calls and e-mails, but that does not mean they are thrilled at the prospect. What resonated with these accountants and attorneys was financial advisors who distinguished or set themselves apart in some way. This may be a simple matter of proffering an invitation for a cup of coffee, a lunch, or a drink.
Better still, surveyed gatekeepers recommend, are introductions at networking events. “You get to mingle and meet with people,” one accountant said. Added an attorney, “I meet a lot of financial planners…through networking, whether through the bar association or through an estate planning council or just day-to-day. Another partner may say, “I have a friend who’s a financial planner. You should meet him or her and you can see if you can drum up (some business).”
Professional presentations with a Continuing Education (CD) credit are another preferred method by which financial advisors can inaugurate relationships with gatekeepers. “(I) recently went to one (presentation) about interest rates and whether they think they would be increased or when,” an attorney relayed. “There's one about the price of oil and gold, which I thought were timely and interesting. Usually events that have some relevance and could be beneficial….”
The name of the game is “getting to know you,” and the more care taken by a financial advisor to cultivate relationships with gatekeepers, the easier it will be to unlock a new and mutually rewarding relationship.
Top Takeaways for Advisors and Providers:
· In reaching out to a gatekeeper, use cold calls and emails sparingly and thoughtfully. Professionals respond best when there is a benefit to them, such as expertise you can offer, or an invitation to an informal get-together or networking event.
· Use LinkedIn to familiarize yourself with the gatekeeper. Visit his or her website and read any articles or blogs they may have posted. This will provide insight to their personality as well as their areas of interest or expertise.
· Educational presentations, especially ones that provide Continuing Education credit are a particularly appreciated forum by which you can put yourself in front of a gatekeeper and establish credibility.