Some IFAs feel that making contact with lawyers and accountants is a waste
of time because they gain very little business for the effort it takes.
From my experience, nothing could be further from the truth. A structured
approach can lead to long-term relationships which benefit all parties.
Ask yourself who are you going to target? Small and medium-sized practices
are unlikely to have their own in-house specialists, especially after many
tried to offer financial services but found the compliance issues too
onerous and costly. A timely approach could be solving a problem for them.
How you go about approaching them needs careful consideration. Writing
letters, even with a follow-up phone call, has little effect as your letter
will be one of many. A face-to-face meeting will
be more successful.
Before an approach is made, consider carefully your unique selling point.
Are you the only woman IFA in the area? Do you have specialists in any
particular area within your company? The company I work for has an
insolvency/bankruptcy trustee department which can offer a tailor-made
Accountants and solicitors are the same as you and I – they eat, drink and
socialise, so get out there and network. Join the clubs that other
professionals join, such as Rotary, Lions, National Association of Ladies
Circles, Round Table, golf and sports clubs.
You will also find that most local chambers of commerce hold breakfasts or
lunches that can prove to be an invaluable source of contacts.
Once you have become a member, find out what other events members attend
and you will soon find a network circuit in which you can become involved.
Remember, this all takes time. The more you are seen, the greater your
profile. Make sure your contacts understand your role and see you as the
person to approach to solve their problems. Even if they use somebody
already, do not give up. Make sure your name is second in the frame
because, if their contact lets them down, they will turn to you.
From these meetings, find out their specialist areas and the financial
issues they have difficulty with. You will be surprised how little is
understood of financial legislation changes. Obviously, there would be
little point in discussing pensions in divorce with a personal injury
Consider holding local seminars to advise on such topics. Their office
would be a good location as then you are seen to be part of their team.
Do not forget the profile-raisers, such as good quality Christmas cards
and calendars. Could you write an article for their client newsletter?
Remember, business needs to flow both ways. Perhaps you can recommend them
to clients who need a will written or accounts prepared.
Always keep a record of the business you send their way and remind them of
this when you meet. Ask for business back. Once the introducer terms are
agreed, the relationship is usually cemented. But, like a marriage, you
will need to keep working at it or somebody else will move in.
The reason the exercise of relationship building is so important is that
all parties involved will benefit. The client benefits from having
specialist advisers in all areas. They put great trust in their accountants
and lawyers and, therefore, a referral they make is highly thought of. The
lawyer and accountant benefit from knowing that the financial advice given
is strictly regulated, which takes the onus off them. The IFA benefits as
the relationship will produce more profitable business now and in the
future. The IFA industry also gains as we are seen as a professional team.
Caroline Anstee is business development manager at Berry Birch & Noble