Doug Mathlin and Peter Dunworth: Mastering business relationships

May 6, 2015 - Industry Round Tables:  MFAA National Convention 2015, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Credit: Pat Brunet / Event Photos Australia

May 6, 2015 – Industry Round Tables: MFAA National Convention 2015, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Credit: Pat Brunet / Event Photos Australia

A broker’s greatest referral source should be their client base, according to Doug Mathlin, while brokers in the round-table audience listed their best single referrers as accountants and lawyers, particularly in family law.

While the key to gaining client referrals, according to Peter Dunworth, is to earn the right to ask for them before doing so, professional referral partnerships can be trickier to build, particularly as accountants, lawyers and other related professionals are approached for referrals so often.

Offering pointers on building strong professional partnerships, Mathlin suggests that the best relationships with referrers are based on:

  • personal rapport outside professional communication
  • having used each other’s services personally
  • trust in each other’s services
  • seeing each other regularly (at least on a monthly basis).

The ideal situation is to be housed in the same office, with visibility on a daily basis and the opportunities to be introduced to clients on the spot hard to beat.

On the topic of referral fees, most in the room believed that brokers shouldn’t be paying them, because it may impact the quality of leads and could have a detrimental effect on a client’s perception of the relationship and both professionals.

Both Dunworth and audience members said that reciprocal referrals are among the best ways to build a referral partnership, with other ways of thanking referrers including the usual wine, movie tickets, thank you cards and meals.

As referral volumes build, however, there is a conundrum: that 10th thank you card is going to nothing to build a relationship, so what’s next?

Mathlin and Dunworth agree that personally showing appreciation is important, and suggest arranging a meeting to ask the referrer how they want the relationship to work and what is important to them. Mathlin, however, says that this meeting could come before the first referral is ever received – it is an opportunity to build a partnership based on a solid statement of intent.

“It’s easy to get people to agree to send business to you,” Mathlin explains. “It is hard to get them to actually send business to you.”

While the ‘statement of intent’ meeting will go a long way by allowing brokers to show that they are aligned with their referrers and offer similar service levels, he also suggests leading the way by sending a potential them a couple of referrals. “Givers tend to get as well,” he says.

Mathlin also highly recommends grading referrers – gold, silver and bronze – based on the volume and quality of leads. This ranking system can then guide how much time is invested in meetings and provide insight into which relationships need a little more work. Overall, says Mathlin, it’s important to systematize an approach, and it’s usually far more complex than just knocking on doors and asking.

Part of the system should be an annual meeting to discuss each partner’s goals over the coming 12 months, aside from the regular catch-ups. Dunworth suggests that if an accountant’s goal was to increase referrals coming in by 25 per cent, for example, a broker could then track their impact on the achievement of that goal to better quantify the contribution they make to their partner’s success.

Mathlin wrapped up with his top four tips, all of which are simply implementable by a broker:

  • Analyse lead generation sources over the past six months and create action items based on the analysis.
  • Sit down with referrers to create plans with each.
  • Document ideal referrers.
  • Become known as a referrer – givers get.

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