Developing relationships with Centers of Influence ( COIs ) is key to building a network of influential people who can help you grow your business. Often, one of the easier ways to go about this is to acquire the names of your clients’ COIs.   If you’re like a lot of advisors, you may be afraid of offending clients when asking for this information. “Why do you want to know?” your clients may ask suspiciously. To avoid negative reactions, here’s a script you can use:

YOU: “I recently started working with a coach, and we’re making a change in our practice in order to be more systematic about coordinating the activities of the various professionals that impact your finances. At this point in our relationship, along with an emphasis on coordinating your investment strategies, we want to start coordinating the efforts of the professionals who are a part of your team. “Some of those individuals are paid on an hourly basis, like your CPA or attorney, while some are paid on a more transactional basis like your insurance provider. In any case, they all tend to rightfully be focused on their own narrow niche or discipline, whereas I’m responsible for the final results of your financial health.

“I want to go over a list of who those individuals are, and where appropriate, I’ll reach out to them to make sure our efforts are coordinated and we know each other. You should know that if you’re not happy with any of those professionals, I’m more than happy to make a recommendation. If you particularly like certain professionals, and any of my clients are looking for a recommendation, I would certainly be okay with referring that individual to them.”

When you start off by saying, “we’re making a change in our practice” or by giving another explanation, you will have answered the fundamental question on the client’s mind, which is, “Why do you want to know? Why are you suddenly looking to do this now? Why not before?” You’ve answered their questions in advance.

In some cases, using specific analogies during this conversation can be helpful, such as:

1) “I consider myself the quarterback of your financial life, and it’s my job to make sure that all the players on the field are coordinated.”

2) “I view my role as being something similar to an air traffic controller. It’s my job to make sure that I know where all the planes are in the air and to ensure that you land safely and arrive at your investment goals.”

You need to prepare for a situation in which the client has an objection:

Handling an Objection

Client: “I’m not comfortable with that.”

YOU: (Replay) “It sounds like you have a concern.” Client: “Yes.”

YOU: (Acknowledge) “Thank you for letting me know. It sounds like you are concerned about giving me the names of other advisors you work with.”

Client: “Yes.”

YOU: (Probe) “Can you tell me more about that?” Probing helps you uncover more details about clients’ concerns. Based on the reasons your clients give, you might try to reframe their objections and see if you can change their minds. You also could negotiate the issue, or in some situations, choose to walk away.

Don’t expect a 100 percent closing ratio when it comes to asking clients for a COI introduction. Yes, the closing ratio will likely be much higher than with a cold call or a low-leverage situation, but don’t become insensitive to the fact that ultimately it’s still a numbers game. You don’t want to push your clients, but if they are not forthcoming with COI information, here is a way to gracefully exit the conversation:

YOU: “What’s important to me is that you’re comfortable with our approach, and that we offer you the same services we provide our other great relationships. Please feel free to let me know if you decide you would like us to meet with your other advisors at a future date.”

This is also a great opportunity to say something that reinforces the value of your relationship with that client. Let them know you appreciate them.

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