The Secret to COI Referrals
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The Secret to COI Referrals

by Stephen Boswell & Kevin Nichols | @stephenboswell | @kevinanichols

There are two critical components for effective COI relationships – personal connection AND structure. We often talk about getting personal with your CPA and attorney partners. In our opinion, it’s the most overlooked component of the relationship. But for today, let’s shift focus to the structural piece of this puzzle.

Chances are, your CPA and attorney partners don’t get as much training as you do on the topic of working with other professionals. In many ways, it’s up to you to create the structure on which these relationships thrive.

So what’s the secret? If you want more business from COIs, host review meetings with them. The purpose is very similar to client review meetings – you’re looking to build the relationship and cover the business essentials. It works because it’s a client-centric approach. It differentiates you from the masses of other advisors approaching these same COIs with their marketing foot forward.

We’ve seen a number of examples of this concept in action and have created the following game plan for you to follow.

Explain the Concept

The first time you do this, you’ll need to explain the concept of review meetings to your close COI partners. You might say something like, “We find that these types of partnerships work best when we get together regularly – sometimes informally to talk about a specific client – and other times with a bit of an agenda to make sure we’re leveraging each other properly.”

As a next step, suggest a one-on-one lunch or dinner, your treat. Let them know you’ll send a brief agenda in advance, but you’d like to talk about mutual clients and trends in your respective industries. Once you’ve nailed down a time and place, create an agenda for them to review. We suggest including components such as:

  • Trends in your respective industries
  • Updates on mutual clients
  • Ideal client profiles
  • Other recommended professionals

Crush the Meeting

The tone should be lighthearted and enjoyable. You want this to be something they look forward to in the future. As part of this, make time for relationship building before you jump into business. Reconnect on shared passions. Ask about their family. More than anything, show a sincere interest in them as a person.

When it comes time to get into business, use your agenda to guide the meeting. Pay special attention to how you discuss mutual clients. You do not want one aggregated list of all those sent back and forth over the years. Discuss the clients you’ve sent them, then discuss the clients they’ve sent you. Why? You want to subtly call out the fact that you’re (probably) sending them more business than they’re sending you. 9 times out of 10 they’ll notice the discrepancy without you saying a word. It’s not uncommon for this to trigger some immediate referrals.

Establish the Next Point of Contact

Part of the challenge is staying in front of these COIs throughout the year. Use this review meeting to set up the next point of contact. Ideally, this is set up before you leave the dinner meeting. If not, put some real thought to how to keep them engaged. This might take the form of:

  • Sending them a new client
  • Inviting them to a client event
  • Asking them to present at a client event
  • Having a social media meeting with them to compare usage
  • Inviting them to another social outing (lunch, ballgame, etc.)

This process will increase the referral flow – if you commit to it. It’s not something you do with 30 different partners – only your top two or three. Give it a try! You’ll be glad you did.  The strategy mentioned above is simply one facet of our overall COI marketing recommendations. 

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