You may recall our blog article The Ins and Outs of Centers of Influence from September explaining the importance of COIs and how to use them to bag referrals. As you know, COI relationship building should be a broker’s highest priority. Without a strong COI or a strategic relationship building plan you won’t be able to turn a profit. But how do you get started on surrounding yourself with powerful industry leaders and trusted advisers? Luckily our CEO Tom O’Rourke has taken it one step further by outlining the process to building a strong COI in this month’s issue of Colorado Banker Magazine. These are his 7 steps to building productive COI relationships to allow you to reap the rewards of short and long-term benefits:

  1. Create a compelling story – First impressions are everything. You have to determine what makes you special and stand out from the competition. Make a tailored message to your COI and clients outlining why they should work with you and how they will benefit from it.
  2. Identify your niche and target the right people – Think about where your expertise lies. When you specialize, the quality of the services you can provide improves. Having a solid understanding of the tools you have to work with can really help in creating a service specific to that client. The knowledge needed to serve a particular group of clients is crucial to becoming a valued specialty broker. Once you’ve defined your niche, figure out which of your COIs will help you target those clients or businesses. There are of course CPAs, associations, lawyers, and business partners, but don’t forget about the media. Local journalists, publishers, and editors are great relationships that can allow you to be a quoted publicly and seen as the niche industry expert.
  3. Smart marketing and contact – It’s important to keep your clients close. Make sure you’re consistently planning a smart and varied outreach strategy. Schedule to make phone calls, meetings, emails, and in person meetings. Calls to actions (CTA) are another great way to increase engagement with your COIs. And be sure to keep track of who you’re getting in contact with, what they have to offer, and your return on investment.
  4. Continuous active outreach – So you have a strong COI network and advisers surrounding you, but you’re not done. Make sure you’re actively keeping in touch with your clients and COIs. A great way to do this is to set up a calendar with specific days or times dedicated to emailing, calling, or meeting with your contacts. It’s always important to stay at the top of mind so you’re not forgotten when the opportunity presents itself for them to make a referral.
  5. Scheduling introductory appointments – Once you get on the phone with your COIs be sure to discuss:
    1. Why you chose this person, firm or group.
    2. Your expertise, credentials, and services you provide.
    3. The types of clients you serve.
    4. How you’re different from other bankers.
    5. How you see yourself helping them and their clients.
    6. Mutual benefits.
    7. Next steps.
  6. Build momentum – Once you’ve established your COI relationships and they’ve given you your first opportunity, it’s time to take it and run with it. New referral introductions are a critical task. You only have one shot to make a good impression. It’s now that you will use your professional training and experience to share with the client why you’re the best candidate to help them. It’s also important to remember your manners. Don’t forget to thank your COI for the referral and give them an overview of how the meeting with your referral went.
  7. Onboard new clients – Efficient and streamlined on boarding for your new client is essential. Clearly express your expectations and clearly explain your process so your clients and COIs know what to expect. Make sure you’re letting your client and COI know as problems come up or as achievements are made. This will ensure you will have a steady stream of referrals for the future.

These steps will help ensure you have the biggest ROI with your COIs and referrals. Always remember that at the end of the day, you’re in the referral business. Once trust is established, make sure you’re consistently reaching out to your people, building new connections, and asking for referrals. Soon you will have built a strong COI network rewarding you with a steady stream of referrals to help your business grow and cement you as an industry leader.