How advisers can best leverage professional connections

This article first appeared in Professional Adviser.

As professionals in a client-facing industry we all know the importance of building fruitful relationships, writes Simon Goldthorpe, who emphasises the benefits of professional connections and sets out how best to go about establishing and maintaining them…

There are countless professionals who can act as introducers to your services, but we’ll focus on solicitors and accountants here, as they’re often the natural partners for financial advisers.

For example, someone going through a divorce is likely to want both legal guidance and a service to help them plan for their financial future. If they’re a business owner, they’re probably going to need an accountant’s tax advice as well.

Working with other trusted professionals enables you to offer the all-encompassing, holistic service that clients really value.

And finding the right type of professional to complement your business is a three-step process:

  1. Understanding your firm’s strengths
    Consider your proposition and what you can genuinely offer connections. What are your areas of specialist expertise? Exactly what type of business are you looking to attract?
  2. Research
    Look for people with specialisms who are compatible with your offering. Read up on the firms that you’re considering in order to ensure that they’re a good fit for your business and will add value to your service.
  3. Make contact
    There’s no substitute for a personal contact, so reach out to your local business community and see if anyone can make an introduction for you. Sometimes the old-fashioned ways work best; the golf club, local business groups or even the school gates can be a great place to make initial contact.

Next, you want to showcase your services and establish a relationship. Some good ways to do this include:

  1. Finding an opportunity for a ‘practice’ meeting
    Most professional firms hold regular planning or team meetings. Offer to present at one to explain the benefits of a reciprocal arrangement. Remember that this is not a pitch. Present the facts, be clear on how an agreement benefits them – and their clients – and be prepared to answer any questions.
  2. Presenting for local bodies
    Many professional organisations have local subgroups which hold regional meetings during the year. The organisers of these events typically welcome external speakers – provided that you have something relevant to offer.Ask local contacts or research industry-specific journals to find out what is topical and likely to interest the attendees. Such events are an ideal opportunity to demonstrate your professionalism, knowledge and understanding of the solicitor or accountant’s point of view.
  1. Offering seminars for groups of local firms
    If you specialise in subjects of interest to local accountancy or solicitor firms – e.g. business protection, pensions and divorce, or employee benefits – you could host educational seminars or webinars for local professionals. Sessions should cover technical issues, compliance requirements and – mostly importantly – how you can help.
  1. Guest/reciprocal blogging
    Many professional services firms have internal newsletters or regular updates that they send to clients. Some even produce monthly or quarterly magazines.

External voices are often welcome in these publications if you have something relevant and interesting to add.

Offering your insights will demonstrate your skills and knowledge. Plus, returning the favour by featuring connections in your own marketing material will highlight your contacts in complementary areas – and could even open up new business opportunities.

Clients rely on solicitors, accountants and financial advisers at crucial points in their life. From having children to starting a business, every major decision comes with overlapping requirements.

It’s often said that recommendations are the best form of advertising, so establishing strategic relationships can generate a stream of good quality clients to suit your business.

Now you have the know-how, it’s time to formulate a plan of action for using professional connections to further enhance your service.