In the age of do-not-call lists and the inevitable demise of cold-calling, networking has become an increasingly more important prospecting tool for advisors. Unfortunately, the results advisors see from various networking groups is mixed at best.
Some of this is due to advisors joining these groups with no structured plan for engagement. However, much of the lackluster results can be attributed to the group’s actual membership. Often group members have very little “ideal client” potential or even the contacts necessary to refer “ideal clients.”
Think of the movers and shakers in your area. They’re not necessarily the smartest, sharpest or best-looking people in the community but the one thing they do have in common is they’re all well-connected.
Were they always that way? Probably not. Did they become well-connected by joining a BNI group? Probably not. They’re well connected because they made a strategic decision to become well-connected and implemented a well-thought out plan to get there. You can easily do the same.
It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, extrovert or introvert, young or old, brand new in the business or a seasoned veteran. One of the best things you can do for your business is not join another networking group but rather start your own “good old boys or girls” network. It will cost you some time but very little money.
Consider for a moment how big money really changes hands. It’s not because someone belongs to a networking group or went to a seminar or connected with someone on social media. Although all of these activities have a place as part of a comprehensive business development plan, serious money ultimately changes hands because a person gets introduced to a perceived expert by a someone they know and trust.
For those who are not members of a “good old boys or girls” network, the term can have negative connotations but for those who are, it’s a wonderful thing. With a little thought and persistence, your handpicked COI Power Group can be equivalent to having your own power fraternity or sorority and when it comes right down it, isn’t that what a “good old boys or girls” network really is?
There is often a unique bond that can last a lifetime between brothers and sisters of a fraternity or sorority. Many of my clients who were part of one in college still refer to and receive referrals from, their old fraternity brothers or sorority sisters. When building your COI Power Group, you want to cultivate the same exclusivity a fraternity or sorority has, minus the hazing component of course.
Anyone can become better-connected. It’s never too early or too late to get started. Follow these 4 steps to begin building your Influence Infrastructure today so you can start reaching bigger money tomorrow:
1. Expand Your COI Definition
When most advisors think of COIs, they immediately think of CPAs and attorneys. Although you’ll probably want to include a CPA, an estate planning attorney and a divorce attorney in your COI Power Group, expand your definition of a COI to include: any individual who can increase your access and credibility through introductions, referrals and word-of-mouth.
Defining a COI in this manner greatly extends the potential outreach of your COI network. Begin by developing a comprehensive list of the professional services your clients will need over their lifetime. This will likely include everything from bankers and dentists to real estate agents and caterers to business owners and funeral directors and everything in between.
Once you have developed this comprehensive list, filter your list by the professional services most likely needed by your “ideal client” on a somewhat regular basis or professional services that involve big-ticket items. Remember, do not limit yourself to only people in the financial industry.
Now filter your list of professional services by perceived influence. By this I mean, the type of professional a potential prospect would most likely accept as a referral source. While your ideal client might value a financial advisor referral from their dentist, they may be less enthusiastic about a financial advisor referral from their plumber.
Aim for 8-10 occupational specialties in your core group. More than that and you lose some of the intimacy and exclusivity of the group.
2. Choosing Your Members
Once you’ve decided on the occupations you want represented in your COI Power Group, it’s time to choose the specific individuals within those professions you will invite for membership. The most important common denominator all your members must have, is they are highly motivated and actively working to grow and expand their business. Today’s “go-getters” will be tomorrow’s well-connected “movers and shakers.”
Choose people you respect and those who have an excellent reputation in the community. Google reviews about your prospective members to see what the local community thinks about them. To gauge how interested they are in actively growing their business, look for people who are involved in the community or advertise locally on a regular basis.
Try to stick with people around your same age and career stage. Not only are you more likely to have similar interests, priorities and values, but you will grow your businesses together. Your group can help each other through inevitable challenges as well as enjoy sharing your successes together.
3. Positioning & Selling Your Group To Prospective Members
Chances are you won’t have the perfect cohesive group after your first meeting. The chemistry of the group is of utmost importance and something you should be keenly aware of at all times. If you diligently work at it, within a few months, you can and will get the kind of group that benefits everyone involved. As your COI Power Group grows more powerful and influential, so will the individual members.
From the very beginning, membership to this group should be exclusive. Start by calling the people you’ve chosen and explain your goals for the group. Do NOT call it a networking group.
Everyone wants success in the short-term and that will inevitably happen for some group members, depending on their profession. However, you must make it clear to everyone from the beginning that the group has a longer-term vision and mission. You’re assembling a group of like-minded individuals who are all actively working to grow their business, are interested in bettering their community and are committed to building the local influence of the group and everyone in it. Explain that they were chosen for possible membership based on those criteria.
4. Your First Group Meeting
Send out formal invitations to each monthly meeting. You can easily and inexpensively order custom invitations from Vistaprint online. Go to invitations, click on business and then dinner/cocktails. You will find many different templates to choose from. You can get 10 custom invitations for under $7. Sending out invitations gives the event a formality, importance and exclusivity that you won’t get from an email or phone call.
Each meeting should take place at a nice restaurant. Everyone pays for themselves so there is minimal cost to you.
The primary objective of the first meeting is for everyone to get to know one another and for you to gauge the chemistry between potential group members. You’re building your Influence Infrastructure so the chemistry of the group is of utmost importance. It will ultimately be a key factor in the viability and success of the group. Everyone you consider for membership must be motivated and have a success attitude. They must also possess a team mentality and the vision necessary to recognize and appreciate the influence a group like this can have.
Always stress the exclusivity of the group. This is your group and should be a reflection of you, your vision and your style. The first meeting is very important because this will be their first impression of the group. Don’t wing it. Be very clear and convicted on your vision as to how the group will function.
If they don’t share your vision, that’s fine. Get together with the people that do and brainstorm on who you should invite for possible membership at the next group meeting. Don’t be surprised if this takes a couple of tries to get the right people in place for your group.
Every advisor will have a somewhat different vision for their group. Here are some suggestions and examples of areas you should cover in your first meeting:
Your vision for the group:
This is NOT a networking group. It is a Power Group of like-minded individuals who are all interested in actively growing their business, bettering their community and building the local influence of the group and everyone in it.
What is expected of each member:
- Each member must be willing to work to become an acknowledged and respected expert in their field
- Each member must be willing to be an active advocate for every member in the group
- Each member must be willing to refer their clients, friends and family to the other experts in the group
- Each member must be willing to go above and beyond for each referral received from the group and treat them as family
- Each member should have a cause in the community that they are passionate about and be willing to volunteer to better the community in that area
What members can expect from the group:
- Everyone in the group will have a vested interest in each member’s success
- Everyone will get and give referrals to group members
- With each referral given, the group becomes more powerful and influential
- As the group grows in influence so will its individual members and their respective businesses
They have been invited to this dinner to be considered for membership in the group:
- Each person will be given 5 minutes to introduce themselves and talk a little about their business and life
- Each person will say if they’d like to be considered for membership to the group
- Each person will say if they’re willing to commit to the group’s mission and express what they feel they can bring to the group
What you’re working to build is not just another networking group that you happened to start. You’re developing a true “good old boys or girls” network where business is done almost exclusively among group members or with people referred by group members. This is how you begin to build the power and influence of your COI Power Group. With each referral that’s given, the group grows stronger and more influential and as the group grows in influence so does its individual members. Build your influence infrastructure today and start reaching the big money tomorrow.
This is just one business development system that can help you start growing faster and operating more efficiently. Get our Free 9 Essential Systems Quick-Start Guide and start building the systems every successful advisor has in their business.