"We act as kind of a quarterback on your team of advisors..."
"We coordinate your financial plan in conjunction with your accountant and attorney..."
"We are like the conductor of an orchestra..."
I have heard many advisors describe themselves this way. And I have heard through several client advisory boards that people appreciate an advisor who can play a coordinating role. In a few cases, clients report that it is one of the things they value about their advisor the most.
But to be able to deliver on a promise like this – for it to be an effective part of your value proposition and help you build loyalty and attract referrals – a few things must be true. And to be effective in attracting clients, you will need to be able to articulate those specifics in addition to simply making the claim.
The financial planner naturally would play a role like this. Attorneys, accountants, bankers and property casualty insurance agents, for example, generally do not prepare comprehensive plans to help guide a client toward their objectives. Other practitioners do not deliberately work to integrate all the other specialties into a unified strategy.
When it comes to implementation, though, many advisors fall short. Some work hard to coordinate the efforts of the clients’ other advisors, but do not have a uniform process for doing it and so have difficulty articulating exactly how they do it. Others reach out to those other professionals only as a specific need arises or when special situations arise and so do not deliver it consistently. And many pay lip service to the role without actually delivering on it very often. In all of these cases, the potential of the promise loses its potency.
Here are some things you must be able to offer to credibly be the client’s quarterback:
Offer financial planning – First, you have to actually plan. If you specialize in investment management, if you do not consistently deliver a written plan to new clients as part of the onboarding process, then there is no good reason why you should be the quarterback. And there is no reason the clients’ other advisors should take you seriously in that role. You are a specialist just like they are. And the coordinator of the advisory team could just as well be the estate attorney or the accountant. Writing a comprehensive plan that shows how all the pieces should interact is the first step in making you the logical choice to coordinate everyone else.
Have a formal point in your process when you will coordinate with other advisors – Consistently reaching out to confer with other advisors at specific points in the planning process or at certain times of year, like touching base with the accountant each spring, helps you make sure you actually are coordinating with those other advisors. It also provides some proof to the client. When you assert to a potential client that part of your value, part of the reason they need you, is that coordinating role, a natural reaction may be to ask how you do it. The ability to pull out your process graphic and point to where you consult with the other advisors is compelling evidence that you do.
Be consistent – Following through on coordinating with other professionals from client to client helps make sure you always deliver on the role and increases the likelihood that your clients will consistently talk about that aspect of your service. It also helps you spread that reputation among those other advisors.
Have a solid, current network of people you can refer the client to – the advisors who most effectively act as a client’s quarterback also have a reputation for being able to recommend other professionals as well as coordinating with them. What I hear from their clients are comments like “If he can’t solve the problem, he can send us to someone who can.” This closely parallels another characteristic of great rainmakers: They are always on the lookout for what else their clients need and making it their business to help them find someone who can take care of it. It can also be helpful to have a formal vetting process. Showing your client some due diligence is much more professional than simply sending them to your buddies.
Beyond what you need to have to be a quarterback, you can strengthen your position as the coordinator if you include some of these in your service offering:
A client vault that can be shared with those advisors – If you want to assume the role that coordinates the efforts of all the clients’ advisors, it is great to have tools to make it easier to work with you. Sending a client’s K-1 forms to their accountant is helpful. Having a secure place in the cloud where you can make it available to both the accountant and the client, instantly, is even better.
An organizer to help clients “get their house in order” – This can be basic and old-school and still be very effective. If not a vault, give the client an expanding file, or some other physical receptacle, in which to store all the documents from the various aspects of their legal and financial lives. If you want to coordinate the clients’ other advisors, help them organize the output of those advisors as well.
Have formal meetings with those other advisors when a new client joins to clarify your role and to discover how you can help them produce great outcomes for your mutual client – Find out what you can do to help the other advisors carry out their responsibilities. Would they appreciate you sending tax forms from investment accountant rather than waiting for the client to bring them in? How far should you go with a client in describing or recommending a strategy before the attorney believes you are treading on their function? Addressing how you can best facilitate their roles can make them more inclined to work with you.
What strategies have you found that help you deliver on the promise to be the client’s quarterback? I would love to hear some of the things your clients have commented are most valuable to them.