4th Annual Dollars & Sense Survey: Turning up the heat

(February 2003) Imagine this scenario: A client calls with a tax-related question. You think you know the answer, but ask your client to give you a moment while you speed-dial one of your professional advisory board members — a tax specialist — who, because of your ongoing relationship, comes to the phone immediately. He not only gives you the information you require, but also offers additional questions to ask your client. You thank him, give your client’s name for his reference and return to your client on the other line.

After explaining the answer and posing the additional questions, you determine there may be a “red flag” waving, and suggest that your client make an appointment to talk directly to your advisory board member. You tell him that you will make the introduction and give him the advisor’s name, address and phone number. After the call, you fax the advisor a note with the client’s contact information and ask him to phone the client in the next three days if he has not heard from him in the interim. You then send a confirmation letter to the client with the advisor’s information.

Areas of outside professional advice
When putting together your advisory board, consider professionals with expertise in the following areas:

1. Wills/Trusts. Most clients have not spent enough time exploring their estate planning needs. We ask every client when their wills were last reviewed and who is the residual trustee for their family trust. Most clients have a need for someone to review and/or redesign their estate plan.

2. Insurance analysis. You should have every client’s insurance policies reviewed by an outside insurance professional. Examine the quality of the carrier, the features of the product and the price.

3. Accounting and tax advice. Many of your clients may be dissatisfied with their current tax advisors. Use this as an opportunity to introduce this advisory board member to your client.

4. Business planning and development. With many managers being downsized, we have suggested that our clients look at consulting as a new career in their remaining pre-retirement years. This allows them to gradually leave the workplace and to take advantage of the many retirement planning options available to them as self-employed consultants.

Later in the week you are called by one of your professional advisory board members with a referral who needs investment management consulting help.

The value added in this situation is immeasurable. Your client has received the information he needed, an outside professional has a potential client, you have increased your service as a consultant to your client and you have reaped the benefits of your professionalism.

What is a professional advisory board?

The advisory board consists of a group of professional advisors that extends and enhances the services you provide to your clients. This group is established with your clients’ best interests at heart. Often the outside professionals your clients work with on a regular basis are not able to take the time to sit back and examine their entire situation. After you have conducted your client profile, risk analysis and asset allocation analysis, you have a better understanding of the client’s overall situation than any of his outside professionals. At the front lines, you are best able to identify potential issues or concerns.

How to recruit board members

Start first with the professional advisors who already have relationships with your clients — they are always looking for new business. Ask your clients who their outside advisors are and if they’re happy with their services. If the answer is yes, explain that you are always looking for outside professionals to refer business to and ask if you could contact their advisor. If the answer is no, then you have an opportunity to introduce your client to a professional with whom you have a relationship.

Other Advisor.ca articles by
Lloyd Williams

  • Knowing what motivates each of your team members: Priceless
  • Vision: The prerequisite to building a better team
  • If you identify a professional you want to work with, invite him to breakfast. Take this opportunity to describe the type of clients you work with and why they work with you. Tell him exactly what it is that you do and how it is substantially different from your competition. Then ask him to explain some of the services he provides that would be beneficial to your clients.

    How your board functions

    Every member of your professional advisory board agrees to meet with all referrals you send them for a free one-hour consultation to determine problems or services needed. All resulting work is then billed at their normal rate. As a formalized group, you are also able to easily structure seminars and workshops for your clients or prospective clients. Your role as the hub of your client’s financial needs is the most crucial part of the equation.

    Get “onboard” this year!

    Take time in this new year to identify several outside professionals you can work with to extend your advisory services. The benefits far outweigh the time invested. This is truly a value-added service for your existing and prospective clients.

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    Lloyd Williams, CIMA, is a nationally recognized author, executive coach, trainer and speaker. He has conducted seminars, workshops and keynote addresses in the financial services industry for over a decade. Lloyd’s free monthly eLetter is available at www.finishwell.net. For more information about Lloyd Williams & Associates, please visit www.lloydwilliams.net.