Most professional advisors, in some capacity, face the same challenges of gaining new clients and growing their practices. In addition to those challenges, Exit Planning Advisors are met with hesitation and disinterest from business owners who aren’t ready or don’t realize the importance of Exit Planning.
A referral from a colleague, friend, or industry expert can go a long way in networking and connecting with prospective clients. BEI Members have found that the act of networking alone is simply not enough to build a sustainable, client-centered approach to referrals that will enhance the long-term growth of their client list.
We are all aware of the power of word-of-mouth. However, Exit Planning Advisors must ensure that all stakeholders (advisors, business owners, their families, etc.) are speaking the same language. This article will provide tips and share insights from BEI Member, Robert DePalo, on how to bridge that gap and use referrals as an advantage.
Become the Credible Exit Planning Expert
While building a credible reputation may take time, once clients and peers recognize you as an Exit Planning expert, doors begin to open. Unless referring advisors view you as an expert in your craft, it is unlikely that they will send referrals to you from their networks.
Showcasing your expertise in Exit Planning, or any professional service for that matter, is crucial to gaining credibility with your clients and prospects. After all, your clients are essentially paying for your expertise. Clients buy services because they trust that you have the knowledge to solve a business problem and lead them to pursue an opportunity that will better their business and their life’s work.
You can improve your chances of working with a client if you offer a service or solution that their current advisor(s) lack. Alternatively, other advisors will be more inclined to refer you to their existing clients if you work in a niche that they do not. Pairing up with these advisors to combine your skillsets to better serve clients is a way that referrals can elevate the entire business planning process.
As BEI Member Robert DePalo recently recounted in a podcast episode, advisors should look at Exit Planning as a differentiator. He mentioned that many business owners start with a narrow lens, relying on education and recommendations from trusted sources about what Exit Planning is and why it is important for them and their business.
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Lean Into a Team of Advisors
In the same podcast episode, Robert DePalo mentioned that most of his clients come from referrals. His explanation lies in his belief that Exit Planning Advisors are in the education business. “If we educate people in other fields such as accountants, lawyers, insurance advisors – they're working with business owners just as much as we are,” DePalo said. “They often overlook Exit Planning opportunities because they don’t know what they don’t know.”
Taking this opportunity to educate these professionals on Exit Planning topics will lead them to raise their hands and say, “I know someone who needs that planning service.”
By building up and leaning into your network of advisors, you can show them how referrals not only benefit their clients, but also benefit them:
Exit Planning results in more work for the referring advisor as they can be brought in on the Advisor Team to help execute the Exit Plan.
Advisors who refer their clients to Exit Planning Advisors retain relationships with their clients after their exit because they will likely take on new endeavors that require additional support.
By being involved in the Exit Plans, the referring advisors have helped those business owners achieve their values-based goals, which would not have been possible with their own core services.
While working together with an Advisor Team to complete an Exit Plan, the referring advisor will network with the whole team, opening their referral clients to the entire team, and vice versa.
As the Exit Planning Advisor, the people who have come to surface in these team discussions have lined up as the next round of Exit Planning clients simply because you are providing services no one else in the area is doing.
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Implement Additional Marketing Techniques
Referrals work great as a marketing method, but when an advisor relies on referrals alone, they are not able to grow their practice at the speed at which they could if combined with additional techniques.
Social media can be both a lucrative opportunity and a slippery slope. Starting with small steps like connecting with clients and prospects on LinkedIn or sharing articles and content that will position you as a thought leader and can lead to more engagement over time.
Robert DePalo has found success in implementing branded, bi-monthly newsletters on a variety of business topics. By sharing articles about broader business topics, not strictly on the topic of Exit Planning, he has started conversations and identified themes that are important to the readers.
Emails & Email Signatures
Another best practice that Robert DePalo shared was the importance of capturing email addresses and contact information and adding it to his mailing list or CRM platform. Saving business cards from events and staying connected has helped grow his list to thousands of contacts. Additionally, he utilizes his email signature to add links that will prompt people to take an action, such as schedule a meeting, subscribe to his newsletter, download an article, and more.
Automated Marketing Efforts
BEI Marketing and Full-License Members have access to a variety of additional resources that can be used to improve their referral strategy. From presentation templates, assessments tools, brandable whitepapers and more, these capabilities can leverage growth of your client list, regardless of referral.
1. Referrals should be a result of good business, not the core of your business or sole growth strategy.
2. Expertise in Exit Planning is a strong differentiator – use that to your advantage.
3. Gaining recognition as an expert is the most important factor in securing referrals.
3. There are several benefits to referring advisors – share those with them and work together.
4. Combining referrals with other marketing techniques allows Exit Planning Advisors to grow their practice at a more desirable rate.