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Generating Referrals from CPAs and Financial Planners

Advice for increasing your business from financial services partners.

Two of the most important questions asked by loan originators today are, “When is the market going to turn?” and “What will be the best way to compete when it does turn?” No one really knows when the market will turn; however, most top producers aren’t worried about what they will do because they’re already doing it. The advantage they have is that work at receiving referrals from CPAs, financial planners, attorneys, and other professional advisors. They create an annuity-like stream of referrals That can act as a buffer against the onslaught of Internet competitors.

Yet, even with that advantage not everyone has mastered a method for professionally approaching and creating long-term, strategic partnerships with these potential referral goldmines.

In this article you’ll discover a strategy that 95 percent of the top superstar loan originators use. They do it year after year, regardless of what the market is doing. They do it by expanding their knowledge, advice, and presentations as well as leveraging technology to create a referral stream from professional advisors such as CPAs and financial planners.
You need to have a clear understanding of the unique psychology and mindset that drive the mind of the professional advisor.

First, you must realize that both CPAs and financial planners get most of their business from referrals. It is not unusual to find a financial planner who has a cluster of family members as clients (parents and children and other relatives). CPA will have a group of CEOs and business owners that all golf together or belong to the same industry association. You will also find attorneys that have many of their clients looking to them for advice. You’d probably be surprised how many loans an attorney can refer you.
Now add to that dynamic the fact that their business is relational, not transactional. That means they do business month in and month out with their clients and that long-term relationship is the core of their financial security and professional esteem.

You also need to factor in the psychology aspect: These advisors get to know all of the nitty-gritty details in their client’s financial lives. As the relationship builds over time, clients place more trust in the hands of their financial advisors. This trust often becomes dependence—a business owner won’t make a major business decision until he has talked with his CPA and/or attorney and clients won’t move or invest their money until their financial planner has given them the go-ahead.

Once you blend all those elements together you can begin to see why CPAs, financial planners, and attorneys closely guard and protect their client relationships. They rightfully see themselves as the guardians of their client’s financial health, wealth, and future. They shoulder an incredible responsibility. In fact, in many cases they can be held financially liable if they give out bad advice that leads to financial loss.

You can also see why traditional approaches to creating strategic referral partnerships (like lead swapping and expensive lunches) may not be enough to capture their respect. They have too much to lose by giving a referral to just anyone. Their professional reputation and image is on the line every single time they entrust a referral to anyone. They stand to lose isn’t just a single transaction, and several years of future income from the offended client, as well as from all of the friends and family members of that client.

So, before you can ever expect to get a steady stream of referrals from one of these professional advisors, they have to see you as an equal, not as “just another lender.” They must immediately perceive you as a financial professional who has the same authority, stature, and professionalism that they demand from themselves. You need to be perceived as a professional who can help their clients make truly informed decisions that keep their clients long-term financial future and best interests in mind.

Until that happens, there will be no consistent stream of referrals. You may be saying that this is a tall order and would take too much time for you to develop the confidence and skills to meet with these advisors. But there is a simple strategy that works. In addition to joining their associations, attending their meetings, and advertising in financial publications, you should also use technology to create a professional and authoritative image in the mind of prospective referral partners. This includes techniques like faxing, e-mails, voice broadcast, the Internet, and a good customer relationship management (CRM) software.

Ideally, you want to establish credibility before you are ever formally introduced to the professional advisor. That way he or she isn’t thinking, “Who are you? What do you want? And why are you wasting my time?”

Basically, you are probably going to be viewed as an interruption at first.
It’s critical to begin by building name recognition and an image of being an expert with an effective fax campaign. Make your first fax a brief executive summary that alerts them about changes in the market, ways to save their clients money on loan cost, important criteria besides rates and fees they should consider, and more. You can have a graphic designer help you create a professional fax design because you want to be sure you come across with a professional image. It’s important that you include some text at the top that says something like this, “The purpose of this fax newsletter is to save you time and money by summarizing and interpreting economic news and trends that influence interest rates.”

The key is to get planners and CPAs to know who you are when you call them. Keep the first call low key. Don’t ask for referrals immediately. You goal should be to establish a pro-to-pro connection. Try to set up a personal meeting to begin taking the relationship to a higher level, but don’t push it. You can always close on an appointment at a later date. Make sure your faxes have valuable and up-to-date information.

Your primary goal here is merely introductory, but now you have their e-mail and can begin e-mailing valuable information on interest rates and mortgages.

E-mail is the perfect carrier for urgent or fast changing news that would be out-of-date by the time you send by other avenues. You should give your e-mails a name that carries this tone of urgency with it such as “Marketwatch” or “Breaking Mortgage News.” Be seen as the professional “loan consultant/ trusted advisor” who has his or her finger on the pulse of the market, not just another “loan officer/application taker.”

Now that the financial advisor is beginning to perceive you as a fellow professional, it’s time to step up the relationship. You want to become the first loan consultant who these professional advisors call when they have a question about their clients’ real estate financing needs. It’s also important that you have this information on your Web site. Load up your Web site with resources, tools, and articles that the advisors and his or her clients can use to make wise and informed decisions. As “information overload” continues to increasingly confuse consumers, you want to be the one place they know they can turn to for rock-solid advice that will always put their best interests first. Either by letter or a personal call, let the professional advisor know that this resource is available to their clients as well. Keeping up with a large database of potential referral partners can create a logistics nightmare for both you and your staff. If you could update them on their voice mail on a market trend or ask if there is any other way you can help them, it would go a long way towards strengthening the relationship. Thanks to voice broadcasting (VB), it is possible to leave alerting your strategic partners a message. Remind them to send you referrals, and ask if there is a way you can help serve them or their clients better. You can have hundreds of personal messages in your voice sent out at any time. Record one message and it goes out to your full database.

This is important because sometimes technology can leave us wishing for the “human touch.” VB is the one technology you can use to really create and maintain high-touch, high-quality relationships with thousands of people at once.

Maintaining and cultivating all of those different partners at different stages in the relationship—without hiring a huge staff is challenging at best. That’s why you need a good customer relationship management (CRM) software to make this system run. CRM is the thread that holds the entire tapestry of this marketing effort together. Fortunately, it is a technology that many of you are already using everyday. CRM includes software programs like ACT, GoldMine, SalesLogix, Mortgage Quest and others.

In conclusion, you need a more careful and professional strategy when approaching CPAs, financial planners and attorneys. The extra effort can pay huge dividends. Just one year of putting this strategy in play can create a residual stream of referrals that lasts for years to come and gives you a buffer against Internet competitors.

By Michael D. Baker

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