In order to ensure you maximise the opportunities in working with a Professional Connection, this article will take you through an 8 step process. This process will allow you to check how your process stacks up against the framework and hopefully provide a few ideas you can use to improve your approach.
The 8 step process
This process applies to any professional connection that you want to develop an efficient and effective relationship with. So let’s start at the beginning.
As a financial adviser you will be skilled in putting your client at the centre of your business. Professional connections are no different, in fact solicitors have a set of principles and ‘outcomes focused regulation’ similar to financial advisers ensuring the client receives the best client experience which have been defined by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. One of the principles specifically focuses on running their business effectively. Each firm will have a Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (COLP) and you should consider how you can help this individual deliver their responsibilities. Using a process similar to this 8 step process will help you act consistently as well.
There are a few questions to consider:
How does the client receive a better outcome by you and the professional connection working together?
Do specific client types benefit in different ways? If so, in what way do they benefit?
What additional value does the professional connection gain by working with you or your firm? Can you both measure the value added?
Do your efforts as a financial adviser contribute to the professional connection achieving their business objectives?
In what way does working together enhance your ability to achieve your objectives?
All great business relationships thrive because they have a mutually beneficial plan in place. It is important both parties understand each other’s objectives for working together. There should be clarity around the roles and responsibilities as well as detail around how success will be measured for both parties. Financial considerations should also be explicit including where the agreement states there are no financial consideration for either party. A business plan jointly created and written down will later provide the benchmark to measure progress against to ensure there are benefits in continuing the relationship.
I mentioned earlier that both firms will be putting the client at the centre of everything they do. However what is the profile of the client you are both talking about? Are both firms trying to attract new clients, retain existing clients or both? What are the advice areas that create opportunities to improve the client experience by working together? This may require a bit of research beforehand to ensure you have identified areas of common interest. It is your role as the financial adviser to identify a few client types that would benefit from your input.
You need to ensure both firms understand how to articulate each other’s proposition to clients so that opportunities for each firm are recognised and acted upon. You will need to demonstrate where each proposition has the potential to add value for the client. You should also include in your plan the various methods you will use to ensure you both communicate each other’s propositions effectively with clients.
Process - E2
Both firms should want to make the relationship work. So E2 = efficiency x effectiveness. The process of engaging with clients and ensuring they get the results they are looking for must be delivered by this formula. Your process should include:
How opportunities are identified and passed on between firm
What documentation should be created and used to smooththe process and aid effective communication
Where do client meetings take place
How will success be measured and reported to each firm
How are roles and responsibilities allocated across each firm
How will you review and adapt performance or exit from the relationship where it is not working
It would be easy to write a whole article on marketing on its own. However at this stage all I will say is that you need to pay particular attention to creating an effective marketing plan otherwise little benefit will be created for either firm. Communication is critical. Is there synergy in the style, content and branding of each other’s materials including websites and brochures? How will you create case studies to showcase the value specific client types gain from your combined approach?
It is important you look for opportunities to develop the skills and knowledge to make the relationship work even better. This may be by providing training to each other’s firms for CPD purposes. It could be you enhance your own value by becoming accredited through STEP or SOLLA.
Finally it is important that you review performance to ensure all parties are getting what they need from the relationship. The most important bit first is to gather client feedback. Are the clients happy with the services they have received? Earlier during the process section I suggested agreeing success criteria. Now is the time to check both firms are getting what they want out of the relationship. Is value being created for both firms? It is important to agree the frequency of reviews and stick to the programme so both firms benefit from a long and productive relationship.
So there you have it an 8 step process to help you be professionally connected.
Prudential offers a number of guides that can help you develop your business and professional connections. You’ll find all of them here.