How can I develop my professional connections?

Taking you through how to make connections, and how to make those connections stick

As we move through the summer months it is perhaps a good time to pause and reflect on whether the plans you have made for your business are bearing fruit. One area we at PruConsulting know many advisers have been focusing on is the development of business from  their Professional Connections.

The focus of this article is about how to ensure you maximise the opportunities in working with a Professional Connection rather than some of the more technical concepts covered by others. I will take you through an 8 step process that will allow you to check how your process stacks up against this framework and hopefully provide a few ideas you can use to improve your approach.

The 8 Step Process

This process applies to any Professional Connection that you want to develop an efficient and effective relationship with. So let’s start at the beginning.

Value

As a financial adviser you will be skilled in putting your client at the centre of your business. Professional connections are no different, in fact Solicitors have a set of principles and ‘outcomes focused regulation’ similar to financial advisers ensuring the client receives the best client experience which have been defined by the Solicitors Regulation  Authority (SRA) (http://www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/handbook/handbookprinciples/content.page).

One of the principles specifically focuses on running their business effectively. This means that part of your value to a solicitor could be in working with them to ensure they have a robust process around how they ensure consistency of approach around referring clients that need advice.

Each firm will have a Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (COLP) and you should consider how you can help this individual deliver their responsibilities. More information appears in the SRA website accessed with the link above. Using a process similar to this 8 Step process will help you act consistently as well.

So there are a few  questions to consider:

  • How does the client receive a better outcome by you and the professional connection working together?
  • Do specific client types benefit in different ways? If so, in what way do they benefit?
  • What additional value does the professional connection gain by working with you or your firm? Can you both measure the value added?
  • Do your efforts as a financial adviser contribute to the professional connection achieving  their business objectives?
  • In what way does working together enhance your ability to achieve both your objectives?

Plan

All great business relationships thrive because they have a mutually beneficial plan in place. It is important both parties understand each other’s  objectives for working together. There should be clarity around the roles and responsibilities as well as detail around how success will be measured for both parties. Financial considerations should also be explicit including where the agreement states there is no financial consideration for either party. A business plan jointly created and written down will later provide the benchmark to measure progress against to ensure there are benefits in continuing the relationship.

Clients

I mentioned earlier that both firms will be putting the client at the centre of everything they do. However what is the profile of the client you are both  talking about? Are both firms trying to attract new clients, retain existing clients or both?  What are the advice areas that create opportunities to improve the client experience by working together? This may require a bit of research beforehand to ensure you have identified areas of common interest. As an example prior to visiting the Head of Private Practice at a Chartered Accountant to discuss business development  I reviewed their  website. I noticed the accountancy practice featured  a service where they acted as trustees to different trusts. So from a business development position I was curious to know if the Head of Private Practice knew how well they supported their accountant colleagues in delivering a great client experience to the trusts. A few questions like, how many partners are trustees?; how many trusts does the firm act as trustee for?; how many trusts have their investments reviewed by a competent adviser, annually,  to ensure they meet the suitability criteria laid down by the Trustee Act 2000?, soon highlighted many areas where the financial advisers could help deliver an improved client experience in conjunction with their accountant colleagues.  It is your role as the financial adviser to identify a few client types that would benefit from your input.

Proposition

As financial advisers you will have spent some time creating material to help you articulate your proposition to your clients. Now you need to ensure both firms understand how to articulate each other’s proposition to clients so that opportunities for each firm are recognised and acted upon. You will need to demonstrate where each proposition has the potential to add value for the client. If you create written material to support the explanation of both your propositions you will increase the consistency of approach again resulting in a better client experience. You should also include in your plan the various methods you will use to ensure you both communicate each other’s propositions effectively with clients.

Process - E2

Both firms should want to make the relationship work. So E2 = efficiency x effectiveness. The process of engaging with clients and ensuring they get the results they are looking for must be delivered by this formula. Your process should include:

  • how opportunities are identified and passed on between firm
  • what documentation should be created and used to smooththe process and aid effective communication
  • where do client meetings take place
  • how will success be measured and reported to each firm
  • how are roles and responsibilities allocated across each firm
  • how will you review and adapt performance or  exit from the relationship where it is not working

It is worth setting this up as a pilot for a period of 3-6 months to ensure enough momentum is created to make both parties commit to the future of the relationship.

Marketing

It would be easy to write a whole article on marketing on its own. However, at this stage all I will say is that you need to pay particular attention to creating an effective joint marketing plan otherwise little benefit will be created for either firm. Communication is critical. How will clients find out that this new enhanced proposition exists? How will each firm consistently identify and communicate the other firm’s  value to clients old, new and on profile? Is there synergy in the style, content and branding of each other’s materials including websites and brochures? How will you create case studies to showcase the value specific client types gain from your combined approach? Are there any topics where a joint seminar would unlock potential value for you, your connection and each other’s clients?

The following are links to a marketing guide and a couple of example brochures to help you create your own material to support your approach:

The marketing toolkit - http://www.pruadviser.co.uk/toolkit

Professionally connected - http://www.pruadviser.co.uk/connected

Developing professional connections - http://www.pruadviser.co.uk/DPC

Development

It is important you look for opportunities to develop the skills and knowledge to make the relationship work even better. This may be by providing training to each other’s firms for CPD purposes. It could be you enhance your own value by becoming accredited through Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) or Society of Later Life Advisers (SOLLA).

Review

Finally, it is important that you review performance to ensure all parties are getting what they need from the relationship. The most important bit first is to gather client feedback. Are the clients happy with the services they have received? Earlier, during the process section, I suggested agreeing success criteria. Now is the time to check both firms are getting what they want out of the relationship. Is value being created for both firms? Can you make it even better? It is important to agree the frequency of reviews and stick to the programme so both firms benefit from a long and productive relationship.

So there you have it. An 8 step process to help you review, reflect and adjust your process to be professionally connected.

Prudential can offer a host of support to help you with estate planning, including:

  • Estate planning hub– easy access to online tools and support material
  • ClientFinder – shows you the concentration of different client types in your area – including those who could be looking for estate planning advice right now!
  • Planning Matters– read Margaret’s case study

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