Practice Lab: Conducting business with COIs

By Juli Leith and Kim Poulin | September 19, 2008 | Last updated on September 19, 2008
4 min read

(September 2008) Your clients are your best bet for finding strong centres of influence, or COIs. Not only can clients refer your services to others, but, most likely, they have other professionals they deal with. You can expand your network by inviting those professionals to be part of the financial planning process.

When you involve them in this way, they will see how you conduct your business, you will reduce any potential barriers and they will likely endorse what you do. Beyond the planning process, stay connected by proactively meeting with them to review concepts and new ideas that might help them with their clients. This might be done over breakfast or lunch meetings and/or by offering to make presentations within their firms.

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  • The amount of time you spend will depend on how significant this key success factor is for you. If developing COIs is key, then plan to take appropriate action in your annual, quarterly, weekly and daily plans. Define your action plans. Be proactive. For example, book one luncheon appointment with a COI two times per month. Ensure they are on your e-news lists and include them in any other pertinent relationship strategies you may have with your top clients, like events, seminars, bulletins or greeting cards. Stay in touch so the COI keeps you top-of-mind.

    Josh McWilliam, a Moncton-based advisor, has had great success with a gentleman who prepares tax returns. Another client has a mortgage broker as his COI. The mortgage broker is considered part of the advisor’s team, and receives invitations to the advisor’s monthly team luncheon and team social events.

    Great ways to meet COIs would be by joining a tax and estate planning group or by becoming involved with a networking association, community organization or social club.

    Once you’ve built a personal rapport and a level of trust, invite the professional advisor to join you for an introductory meeting to explore each other’s businesses. It is important to invite COIs who are at a similar stage of business as you, want to grow, are open to ideas, and may also be working with a similar clientele.

    Making a professional introduction

    When you hold your introductory meeting, compare ideal client profiles and demonstrate the value you provide to your clients. For example, if you are a financial planner, show a sample financial plan and describe how you solved the sample client’s issues. Share some of your client stories and comments or testimonials.

    Ask COIs if they have clients who would benefit from the work you do. If they do, ask them to identify one client you could introduce your process to. After COIs see the quality of your work, they will give rave reviews about your services to other potential clients.

    Give professional advisors an opportunity to introduce their business at the same meeting and reciprocate by introducing one of your clients to them.

    Nurturing the relationship

    The traditional approach to building a business relationship is to return the favour. If they have introduced you to key clients and prospects, introduce clients to them or determine some other way to provide value.

    Ask your COIs what they may need help with. Perhaps you could write some financial advising tips that can be sent to your COI’s client base, fulfilling their need to keep in touch.

    Or if they are stressed out during tax season, why not send them a care package? Any gesture of goodwill will be appreciated by the COI. And it’s also an effective way to keep the referrals flowing.

    The important thing is to stay in touch and be proactive. Define a relationship strategy and use your contact management system to manage the process.

    Providing validation

    When you lend a hand to someone, don’t you expect or at least appreciate it when that person says “thank you?” The same principle applies with your COIs. They deserve your thanks and validation. A handwritten thank-you note or card is a time-honoured way to do this. Taking things a step further, inviting them to lunch, dinner, a round of golf, or even for a friendly squash game, are all great ways to pay them back.

    COIs are integral to your business. If they were kind enough to help you grow your business, show them you appreciate it. And in the end, not only will you and the COIs benefit from it — your clients will, too!

    Kim Poulin is a coach based in Montreal and Juli Leith is a coach based in Kitchener-Waterloo. They both provide one-on-one customized coaching to financial advisors, helping them to achieve greater confidence, focus and freedom. They can be reached at or

    Juli Leith and Kim Poulin