Better client onboarding: Managing the professional network

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In the previous installment of this series, I wrote about the usefulness of knowing your client’s family tree. After all, these are the folks who are impacted by your client’s financial decisions. There are other important relationships you need to understand in order to be your client’s most trusted advisor — their professional network. These are the professionals weighing in on your client’s most important financial decisions.

As the trusted advisor, you need to assume the role of the point person, or integrator. You’re the one who’s responsible for coordinating and facilitating the efforts of all the other people in your client’s life — all the people who have a seat at the “decision table.”

This network could include:

  • Your client’s banker (i.e. who they use for lending);
  • Investment advisor;
  • Business insurance advisor;
  • Personal insurance advisor;
  • Estate attorney;
  • Transaction attorney; or
  • Other specialized tax and accounting relationships other than what you provide.

Approaching high-profile members of the team

As you have probably discovered in your practice, some of the specialists above are accustomed to being in charge. You may have to do some ego massaging at first to get them on board. As your client’s Personal CFO, you should think of yourself as the Integrator — the most trusted advisor who manages all these relationships. My book has more tips and tactics for leveraging your role as The Integrator of your client’s professional network.

If nothing else, you want to establish two things at the outset when first contacting those specialists in your client’s network:

1. That your client has given you permission to take on the role of point person.

2. That you’re not interfering or trying to override any of their expertise

As the “expert in your client,” your role is to facilitate the different moving parts in your client’s financial life to achieve the desired outcomes.

Team member worksheet

When it comes to managing your client’s network of experts and specialists, you need three key pieces of information:

1. Who are they?
2. How do I get ahold of them?
3. How does your client rate them on a scale of 1-10 (no 7s)?

Note: Don't let your client give someone a 7, since 7 is noncommittal.

If your client rates someone 8 or above, ask them for more information about that specialist. That way, when you introduce yourself to that well-regarded specialist, you have an instant relationship builder: “Hello Mary. John [my client] speaks very highly of you and says you do a great job.”

Try to find out what enables Mary to provide great service to her clients. Maybe she would be a good person to add to your network. Or, if your client gives someone a 6 or below, find out why they didn’t rate them higher. What specifically isn’t hitting the mark? If you don’t get a satisfactory answer, this is a team member who needs to be replaced ASAP.

Contact me any time for a sample Team Member Worksheet.

Multiple options aren’t an option

When going through the team worksheet with your clients, it’s common for some of the current client providers to not be hitting the mark (below an 8). This is an opportunity for you to provide value to your clients with your network. For your client, you’re the ultimate auditor/gatekeeper. In this scenario, I usually see the advisor give three options, tell the client to meet with all of the team members, and pick themselves. They’re looking for guidance from you, not just a menu of choices. If they simply want choices, they can Google “estate attorneys” or “key man insurance.” A list of choices isn’t a recommendation; it’s a hedge because you haven’t done your homework on the most appropriate provider, and don’t want to be accountable to the outcome.

I don’t want my heart surgeon to give me three options for a brain surgeon; I just want her to tell me, “Call Dr. Watkins. He’s the only one you want cutting your head open.” Same goes for financial professionals.

If you can’t make recommendations with 100 percent confidence, then you’re going to have to audit your relationships better and do some pruning from time to time. It takes some work, but if you make the effort, you’ll end up with a core group of professionals you can rely on who are the best at what they do. Not only are they highly competent, but they understand the dynamic between you and your client — and how they fit into the equation.

Your network is one of the biggest assets you bring as a trusted advisor. A client may love a certain service provider. But, if that person is doing a lousy job, you need to point out that deficiency to your client and recommend a better alternative.

Business owners don’t always know what they should be looking for in a banker, attorney, insurance pro or other specialist. One of your values as the trusted advisor is your ability to coordinate the network and to introduce new parties as needed.

Serving as the Integrator of your client’s team will build more value with your clients and will continue to separate you from the pack as The Personal CFO.

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