How a to Generate More Time, Profit and Satisfaction in Your Practice
As a professional, have you ever felt that you are torn in two directions? Part of you wants to provide an exceptional level of service to your existing clients, but the other part of you wants to generate new business and grow your firm. But which is a priority? Service or sales?
The truth is that both existing and new clients are equally important and neglecting either of them could be catastrophic. If you invest all of your time into ongoing work, you will eventually run your pipeline dry and experience decreased profits. However, if all of your efforts are focused on generating new leads and revenue, your loyal client base will become disenfranchised and their dissatisfaction will push them straight through your competitor’s door.
So, what is the solution? Employ a sales team? Take on a team of service-based professionals to nurture your clients? If you work for a huge corporate firm, this is probably the exact solution you’d implement, but what is you don’t have the financial resources to fund such an expensive strategy? And, more importantly, what if your clients want to form a meaning relationship with you, rather than being passed from pillar to post?
As a Chartered Financial Planner and business owner myself, I have been in this exact situation. Dealing with delicate financial situations requires a huge investment of time to build rapport and trust with my clients. And, frankly, building these relationships is what I love to do. It gives me a huge sense of purpose and satisfaction when I can use my knowledge and expertise to help people who I have grown close to. However, I also have a vested interest in growing my business and expanding my reach, so that I can help more and more people and continue to run a profitable practice.
A bit of a quandary, I’m sure you’d agree, but trying to prioritise between service and sales wasn’t my only problem: I am not an expert in everything. Life often has a way of throwing us problematic curve balls, sometimes found in the pursuit of exciting new ventures, sometimes found in times of great sadness. With my clients, it didn’t matter how prepared they were, or how smoothly everything seemed to be running, challenges transpired that were beyond my capabilities to solve and therefore required external help.
Financial Planning, very much like life, can rarely be achieved through using just one strategy, just one approach, or even just one professional. Whether my clients are faced with a tax-dilemma in their business, a personal domestic crisis like divorce, or buying a home for their retirement, to achieve the outcome they need or want, I often need support and guidance from a variety of sources. I call these experts my ‘Trusted Team’, and they have helped to also solve my sales versus service dilemma.
Most successful people need the help of an accountant, a solicitor and a Financial Planner at different stages in their life, as well perhaps some specialist advisers for their unique situation. Historically the client sat in the middle being given advice from the different sources: The accountant may be advising them to pay themselves a dividend as they have made good profits; the solicitor is helping them with organising their estate better; and the Financial Planner is advising them to fund their pension. The client is getting direction from the individual parties, but no one is looking at the bigger picture, except the client. There is no joined up approach, and no-one seems to be looking at whether one set of advice is conflicting with another’s, because they appear to have different priorities.
I saw this problem and used it to my advantage. What if we could all work together and provide a superior level of service to the client? Not only that, but what if we could refer each other business, whilst still being able to fully service our clients? These are the founding principles of the ‘Trusted Team’.
Working in the world of finance, I regularly cross paths with numerous accountants, solicitors and tax experts, so I decided to approach the professionals I came into contact with to see how we could work in collaboration. Most of these professionals were also my client’s advisers, so selecting who would complement my business was a very easy decision. I also had a very good idea of who, in my local area, was well regarded and held the level of qualification and experience my client’s deserved.
Once I had decided who to work with, I then contacted these other professionals with my idea of the ‘Trusted Team’, which was met with a really positive response. Without sounding arrogant, I wasn’t surprised by this response; after all, if someone came to me and said that they could provide me with qualified leads, give me more time to focus on my existing business, and ensure that my all my client’s needs were met, I’d jump at the opportunity!
I’ve found that it is relatively easy to find other firms that will agree to do this in concept, but much more difficult to then actually make it work. However, it boils down to one key principle: You need to establish what is in it for them.
There are many ways to incentivise other professionals to work with you. The most obvious way is to giveaway a share the fee you charge your client. This is perfectly fine, and I am more than happy to do this, but be mindful that there are some regulatory requirements, and this should be done above board and with a Professional Introducers Agreement. If you want to see a copy of ours, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if that helps. In general, I have found that accountants and estate agents want a share of the fees, whereas solicitors prefer to remain truly independent and therefore don’t. I am happy with either, but bizarrely I prefer them to take a slice of the fees, as it typically means that they continue to refer more business to us when they reap the rewards of their referrals.
If the professionals you approach aren’t looking for a share of the fees, you need to be clear what is in it for them. Is it adding value to their existing client service, or are they expecting referrals back? Make sure this is clear at the outset of the relationship, and that you can deliver, as sometimes it isn’t easy to refer in the opposite direction. Or perhaps they don’t want a fee share, and you cannot refer back, so find something else. Is it a day out, or offering your service for free? There is always something you can do, obviously taking care to avoid issues with the Anti-Bribery Act. If it is an activity or an experience, try and find something that allows you to spend quality time with them, so that you can reinforce and strengthen your relationship, for example a meal out, a day at the cricket/rugby, or maybe a game of golf all work well for me, but find something that works for you. The important thing is to establish what motivates them to refer clients to you, and to make sure you deliver on that.
Once you have established the framework, and built a good relationship with your Trusted Team, I fully believe that you will start to see a positive impact in your business. You should have more time to service your clients, be in receipt of new leads to help grow your firm and have the ability to sense-check issues outside of your remit with an expert in that field. Overall, this leads to happier clients and more longevity for your practice.
If you take one step today, go out and identify who you could work with and meet them to discuss how your needs overlap. I will also be at Accountex in May, so if you’d like to come and pick my brains some more, I’d love to talk to you.