Everyone’s favorite way of getting clients is someone sending them in your direction. Don’t you love those incoming calls beginning “I was told to call you”? To get referrals, we need centers of influence.
You’ve likely bought into this strategy years ago. Let’s step back and add some clarity. A center of influence is someone who is often asked for advice by others. They can send you business. They can also point you in the direction of opportunities or provide introductions to people you want to meet.
Accountants and lawyers are well-established sources of referrals for financial advisors. But there are plenty of other centers of influence in places you frequent.
Start by thinking about people who can point you in the right direction or send people over to talk with you. I was interviewing a senior executive who explained why you want to cultivate the bartender and maître d’ at your country club or private city club. If you don’t belong, put this on your to-do list.
Bartender. In private clubs, bartenders and dining room staff know and greet members by name. They know the new members — relocated senior executives who just joined. It’s easy for them to tell you: “See that guy at the end of the bar? He’s new. President of XYZ. You should go over and make him feel welcome.”
Maître d’. The previous example works both ways. As a gregarious person, you are known for being friends with everybody. At the same country club, the maître d’ notices a woman dining alone. He knows she’s another relocated executive, newly admitted to the club. He tells her: “Welcome to the club. See that woman sitting at the bar? She’s one of our established members. She knows everyone. Since you are new here, she’s one of the people you should definitely get to know.”
Hotel concierge. Some hotels are golf resorts. Big city hotels are not. Ever wonder what happens when a city hotel guest approaches the concierge, saying they would like to play a round of golf? Another financial advisor nailed down this niche. He told the concierge his ideal client profile, explaining if someone matched, he would be willing to take them to his golf club and play a round. The concierge extends the invitation to the hotel guest.
Development chair at your nonprofit. Certain people are gatekeepers at your local charity. They know everyone, because they are cultivating them for future donations. You want to meet certain influential people. You say, “They are such generous people! You can’t open the newspaper without reading about something they have endowed. I would like to meet them and thank them for what they do for the community. Would you introduce me?” Of course they will! They know exactly why you want to meet them, but you asked the right way.
Pastor or religious leader. Like accountants and lawyers, your pastor is often approached for advice by members of their congregation. They do spiritual counseling, but sometimes they are asked for financial advice. This isn’t their area of expertise. It’s a referral situation. They need a safe set of hands. They likely know a few agents or advisors in the parish. You want to be on their short list.
Become a center of influence yourself
Membership chair at your nonprofit. The scenario is similar to the previous one. In this example, you want to be the volunteer in that role. You meet every new member as they join the organization. You take them in hand, introducing them to various members at meetings. You make them feel welcome. You are one of the first people all new members meet. Eventually, you know almost everybody.
Organizing the local sports league. A New England advisor took on the role of managing the community soccer program. Lots of kids means lots of parents. To notify everyone about scheduling, he had the parent’s home and work email addresses. When he talked to parents, he might ask: “You work at XYZ Technologies. I’ve always wondered what they do.”
The advisor above learned things weren’t going so well at XYZ Technologies. They were doing layoffs. This parent was affected. The advisor learned what they did, called another friend in the same field and hooked them up. One thing led to another. The downsized parent got a new job. Three guesses where the rollover went.