Can Clients Become COIs and Tell Your Story?

We all wish our clients would evangelize. We want them to go throughout the known world, telling our story and sending us clients. We think of Centers of Influence (COIs) as people who are sought out by others for their advice. Anyone remember that line from Fiddler on the Roof? “When you’re rich, they think you really know!” Can clients become Centers of Influence and tell your story?I think the simple answer is no. You can’t take an everyday person and turn them into an influencer on social media, because micro influencers, probably the lowest rung on the ladder, have 10,000 to 50,000 followers. (1) It moves up from there.But wait, we’re not done with this question yet. Back in the late 1970’s and early ‘80’s the brokerage firm E. F. Hutton ran an advertising campaign: “When E. F. Hutton Speaks, People Listen.” That’s a different kind of influencer. Some of your clients, soft spoken or outgoing, may have subject matter expertise or life experience that makes them influencers in their social circle. When certain people who don’t have a vested interest in you buying their product offer advice, people listen. You might ask your wine fan friend: “What’s a good champagne to use at the bridal shower? I want something that will really impress people.” You would likely follow their advice.However, they are also in the position to say: “You are having a bridal shower. You need a champagne that will really impress your guests. Here’s what I used at our daughter’s bridal shower…” They can offer advice when they see an opportunity.

Getting Your Client in a Position Where They Can Be the Most Help

Good clients want you to succeed. They can sometimes go overboard. If they are too enthusiastic, people may wonder if they are getting a finder’s fee. Here’s a sensible approach to use.You want your client to be able to spot an opportunity and take action. This needs to be within their comfort zone. You don’t want them getting technical questions they can’t answer or worse, answering them incorrectly.Start by reminding them how you helped them in specific situations. When the stock market is volatile, maybe you get them grounded when they are jittery, focusing them on the long term. Perhaps they are worried about their spouse having adequate income if they predeceased them. As their advisor, you got something put into place to address that issue.Next, suggest what they might say and where that might lead. You are verbally coaching your client, not handing them a script! That could be disastrous! Logically, you want the person with a need sitting across from you. Then you can gather information pertinent to their situation, put them at ease and setup a future meeting. Suggest your client offer to introduce their friend to you, their advisor over drinks or a meal. You would be picking up the check, of course.

The Three Step Strategy

This simple strategy has three steps, Problem, Solutionand Action. Here’s how it might go:The stock market had one of those down 800 point days. Your friend is anxious about the market. “What should I do?” They do this often. Your client observes there’s a Problemthat is also an opportunity. They say: “I realize you are worried about the ups and downs of the stock market. I was too.” Now we get to the Solution. “Fortunately, I have a good financial advisor (you) at (your firm). When I get anxious, she puts things into perspective. She keeps me focused on the long term. Sometimes she even shows me opportunities other people may be missing.” Now it’s time for Action. She’s talked about having lunch with me next week. She said I could bring a friend. Why don’t you come along? I think you would enjoy meeting her.”Could your client have a conversation like that? Probably yes. Are they leaving their comfort zone? Probably not.

One More Example?

Let’s think about that client who is worried their spouse, unused to running the family finances, will be adrift if the breadwinner passes away first. This can be an issue with older couples.Your client is talking with a friend over drinks. They have a medical condition. This concern is weighing on their mind. Your client sees the problem. “John, I know you are concerned who will look after Emma if something happens to you. I’ve had the same concern about my wife, Eleanor.” Now your client introduces the solution. “Fortunately, we have a good financial advisor at (your firm). His name is Harry. He knows this is very important to me. Eleanor likes Harry. Harry likes Eleanor. I know if anything were to happen to me, Eleanor’s finances would be in good hands.” Now it’s time for the Actionstep. It’s almost identical to the previous example. “Harry wants to get together for coffee later this week. He needs some papers signed. Why don’t you come along? I think you would enjoy meeting Harry.” Problem, Solution, Action.The question isn’t if you can turn your client into a COI. You client may be one without realizing it. When they spot a problem and speak about a solution based on personal experience, they make a very credible case.1.