This is the second part of a two-part series on profiling professionals for strategic partnerships.
Finding one or more professionals that can be reliable sources of new business can have a transformational effect on your practice. The key is finding the right prospects, and that depends on having a keen understanding of your ideal partner, screening effectively for those qualities, and the unique skills and value that you can bring to a strategic alliance.
Randomly choosing an accountant or attorney won't deliver the results you want. You need to carefully evaluate each candidate for their ability to meet your needs. In my last article, I discussed the Professional Profiling Tool adapted from the profiling methods used by leading advisors to identify the right partners for their business needs. While the profiling process will vary from advisor to advisor, based on experience and personal preference, nine areas should be part of every conversation you have with a potential partner.
The comprehensive information you gather using the nine-part frame work described below can be used to conduct a detailed assessment of each professional and his or her fit with your business model and long-term goals.
1. The professionals as people.
2. Their goals and objectives for their practice.
3. Their perspective on various financial services and products.
4. How they are managing their practices.
5. Their current clientele.
6. The marketing approaches they employ.
7. How they are compensated and how this is impacting their lives.
8. Their relationships with financial advisors.
9. Their openness and willingness to working with you.
The Role Of Profiling
In profiling potential partners, you are consciously changing your approach and distinguishing yourself from the majority of advisors who target attorneys and accountants. Most believe the brief amount of time they have with their targeted referral sources is best used as a showcase for their own advisory capabilities. Not surprisingly, a canned presentation and fistfuls of business cards don't often result in meaningful and productive strategic partnerships. Profiling is a more consultative process that allows you to fully assess the potential of each situation and begin to identify ways that you can add value to (and extract value from) another professional's established business.
Successful profiling of professionals will help you uncover their accomplishments and failures, their priorities and concerns, their motivations and their hot buttons. Their professional jargon will come to the forefront, as will the objectives for and deficiencies in their business.
I view the three primary goals of the Professional Profiling Tool as:
Any partnership, whether it's professional or personal, is based on
some kind of connection or chemistry. Learning more about another
person will help you identify the topics and activities that will help
you develop the ideal connectivity.
Evaluate Potential. Not all professionals are created equal, and some will be more discerning, more qualified, more experienced and more successful than others. Not everyone deserves to work with you and benefit from your experience. As you learn more about the professional, you can decide if they are a viable partner based on the kind of clients they have, their willingness to refer business and the value they can bring to your practice.
Add Value. The easiest way to accelerate the formation of a strategic partnership is to have the parties bring meaningful value to one another's businesses. The profiling process will help you understand them in the context of their business and shed light on the problems they face that you may be able to help them solve, or the goals they've set for themselves that you can play a role in achieving. The contribution of value will help you change your status in their eyes from neutral to relevant. The consistent addition of value can help you become an essential partner, someone to whom they will provide reciprocal support as a way to strengthen the partnership.
The Implementation Road Map
Careful planning always pays off and the same is true when it comes to embarking on the process of finding new professional partners and using the Professional Profiling Tool. The following three-step process will help you navigate the process more smoothly:
Step 1: Identify And Rank Potential Partners
Create a short list (no more than ten) of potential strategic partners drawing primarily from two sources:
Attorneys and accountants who have given you referrals in the past.
Professionals who you do not have a referral history with, but have some of the qualities you want in a strategic partner. As you think about professionals for your target list, do not limit yourself to attorneys and accountants. Anyone with a high-net-worth client base and a product or service capability that complements your own can be an important source of new business and should be explored. Depending on your core business this might include insurance agents, brokers, divorce attorneys, bankers, executive coaches and many others.
rank the prospects on your list from lowest to highest based on their
potential; a professional ranked "1" has the greatest potential while a
ranking of "10" represents the professional with the least potential,
relative to the other individuals on the list. "Potential" represents
the professional's ability and willingness to refer high-quality
THE CONSISTENT ADDITION OF VALUE CAN HELP YOU BECOME AN
ESSENTIAL PARTNER, SOMEONE TO WHOM THEY WILL PROVIDE RECIPROCAL
SUPPORT AS A WAY TO STRENGTHEN THE PARTNERSHIP.
clients based on the knowledge you currently have about them. Although your knowledge may be limited at this stage in the process, the purpose of ranking your prospects will allow you to hone your profiling skills with the professionals at the bottom of the list before targeting the professionals with the greatest ability to impact your business.
There is a caveat when including professionals on your list with whom you have an existing affiliation-someone you may have given or received a few referrals from over the years without any regular contact or interaction. Often your past experience together will be ingrained in their mind, and they will revert to specific behavior patterns or roles and be resistant to change. That creates a form of relationship inertia that is difficult to overcome. Keep an eye out for this obstacle, especially if you were the primary source of referrals in the past, and turn your focus to the next prospect on your list.
Step 2: Preparing To Use The Tool
As discussed in my last article, you can ask thousands of questions as part of the profiling process and you don't want to inundate your prospects or waste precious time. Review the sample questions (see "Sourcing Private Wealth" in the August/September 2007 issue of Private Wealth) and take the time to identify those that you feel will have the highest impact and allow you to access the information you want and need. Write down any additional questions that you think might be valuable. With your "hit list" of questions in hand, practice running through them with a colleague, co-worker or coach.
This will help increase your comfort level with the topics and allow you to experiment with sequencing and phrasing.
Step 3: Conduct And Review Meetings
Start scheduling and meeting with the individuals on your prospect list. As mentioned, you should start by working with those professionals outside your top five. It's a good way to gain some "real world" expertise while you pursue your goal of securing a strategic partner.
If possible, review each meeting with the person who helped you practice and prepare. Analyzing the outcome of your first few meetings will give you a chance to rework questions, get a feel for the types of verbal and physical responses you can expect, identify problem spots, and work out kinks-all with an eye toward running an effective meeting at the right pace with the prospects you have identified as having the highest potential for your business.
On The Path To Success
The practices of the nation's leading advisors have made it clear that strategic partnerships play a critical role in success. The next step in kick-starting your business is finding the right partner and that's where the Professional Profiling Tool can be an invaluable guide. The Tool can also play an important role on an ongoing basis as a way to mine your professional relationships and maximize your strategic partnerships.
Brett Van Bortel is an authority on advisory practice management and the head of Van Kampen's advisory consulting services division.