In medieval times, stairs could save a kingdom. Since most attackers were right-handed, clockwise-spiral stairs created a disadvantage for them as their sword swings were inhibited by the inner wall. Descending defenders could easily swing their swords. As a result, stairs provided defenders a competitive advantage.
Likewise, you can create a competitive advantage through the design of a center of influence (COI) network. As the needs of aging clients keep getting more complex, many financial professionals struggle to meet these needs because they lack longevity expertise. But with a network of longevity professionals, you can be better equipped to help clients meet those needs, while also gaining referral sources and differentiating your practice.
First, How To Find Longevity Professionals With LinkedIn
A professional COI network consists of local professionals who may serve your clients or prospects in areas directly or indirectly related to financial planning. Occasionally, as their clients’ face challenges outside their area of expertise, they may refer them to other professionals. If you develop a relationship with them, they may refer clients to you on an ongoing basis.
For financial professionals, typical COIs include accountants and attorneys. But why stop there? Expand your COI network by establishing relationships with longevity professionals to better meet the complex needs of aging clients. Longevity professionals are experts and service providers that address various dimensions of aging, e.g., housing, transportation, care management, etc.
Two Ways To Identify Longevity Professionals
First, when meeting with clients, listen closely to problems they’re trying to solve. Are they struggling with downsizing or moving to a retirement community, caring for an aging parent, or working during retirement? As you hear these challenges, consider if there are local professionals who could help clients solve these challenges and search for them on LinkedIn (Utilize search terms in Figure 2). Also, begin making a list of any professionals that clients mention that are doing a great job in services related to aging.
Second, the MIT AgeLab’s Longevity Planning Advisory Team Model (Figure 1) suggests how financial professionals can better serve aging clients by expanding their traditional financial planning team to a longevity planning team. This model highlights categories for new potential COIs.
Then use LinkedIn to search for professionals that align with the blue outer ring (see Figure 2).
Figure 1. Longevity Planning Advisory Team (LPAT) Model
The LPAT model places the financial professional at the center of a client’s longevity planning. Although the financial professional need not, and cannot, be an expert on all these issues, they can serve as a trusted agenda-setter who identifies future issues and either hires expertise or coordinates access to range of experts and services that respond to a client’s evolving needs throughout retirement.
Source: MIT AgeLab, 2019
Second, How To Connect With Them
After you identify longevity professionals to add to your network, it’s time to connect with them. But first, understand two things about collaborating with COIs:
Therefore, before reaching out to them, consider how working together can add more value versus independently. In other words, how they may be able to help your clients struggling with a longevity issue, e.g., caregiving decisions, and you how you could help their clients who are preoccupied with market volatility or having enough money for retirement.
Once you identify some potential professionals to add to your COI network, do some vetting by checking their online reviews. If the reviews are positive, send them a personalized LinkedIn connection request that conveys the mutual benefits of working together. For example, if you were reaching out to a real estate professional you might say, “I came across your profile yesterday. I oversee the finances for a handful of families in the area and some of my aging clients struggle with downsizing decisions. I was hoping we could connect to see if you could be of some help to them.”
Figure 2. Types Of Professionals In The LPAT Model
|401(k), 403(b), 457
If They Connect, That’s A Good Sign
But even if they don’t, follow up with a call. During the call, keep the conversation focused on them at first: What makes their organization stand out amongst the competition? Understanding their mindset, workload, and clients’ concerns are effective steps when starting a relationship. Listen to them as they respond and place yourself in their shoes.
Before ending the call, suggest a way you may be able to help their clients and vice versa. It can be phrased as: “If you have clients who are preoccupied with market volatility or concerned about their retirement, send them to me. I can help. I’ll do the same for you when I talk to clients I think you could help.” You want them to understand that you’re willing to take a look at their clients’ portfolios. Ask the COI their thoughts about how you could be introduced to any clients who need help with financial planning. If they’re unsure, suggest that they email their client and suggest they should consider meeting with you.
Initiating and building connections with new COIs is a great start, but you can also initiate prospecting opportunities with them.
Third, How To Work Together
Consider hosting a virtual event. Invite three longevity professionals to participate. Use a webinar platform with video so your clients can see you and your COIs. Invite your clients, and let them know their friends are welcome to join. Ask your COIs to do the same.
The event should last about 90 minutes. Open the event by welcoming clients, introducing your COIs, and sharing a personal story or example about how longevity is affecting retirement. Then allow each of the COIs 15 minutes to share a challenge they see affecting aging adults and how they help address it. Next, moderate a half-hour Q&A session, when attendees can ask your COIs questions. Our Hartford Funds representatives who’ve held these events found that they’re extremely popular and engaging for attendees because clients get to hear expert insights on longevity challenges they’re facing or potentially will face.
“But I’ve Never Really Used LinkedIn That Way”
That’s pretty common. Most financial professionals are more focused on financial planning than on COI network building on social media. But according to the MIT AgeLab, aging consumers’ expectations for retirement are growing and their needs are getting more complex. Financial professionals who can coordinate a team of longevity professionals to address these needs and expectations will stand above the competition. That’s where LinkedIn comes in. LinkedIn, more than Facebook or Twitter, is the social media place where professionals collaborate. That’s why it’s an effective tool to find, initiate, and nurture a team of longevity professionals.
Remember Three Things About Expanding Your COI Network With LinkedIn
First, LinkedIn’s search capability makes finding local COIs easy. When considering new professionals for your COI network, focus on those that solve longevity challenges. Second, use LinkedIn to initiate a relationship by making a personalized connection request to a new COI. Suggest a phone call with the COI to discuss why it makes sense for the two of you to work together. Third, begin planning a virtual longevity panel with three of your COIs.
Your Longevity COI Network Can Be A Differentiator
Including longevity specialist in your COI network can help clients see you as a retirement problem solver. Although you need not, and cannot, be an expert on all these issues, you can serve as a trusted leader who anticipates issues and coordinates access to range of experts and services that can meet a client’s evolving needs throughout their retirement. Like the clockwise design of the medieval castle steps, your COI network can give you a distinct competitive advantage.
|1||Use the table above to make a list of potential new COIs|
|2||Find three of them on LinkedIn|
|3||Send them personalized connection requests|
The MIT AgeLab is not an affiliate or subsidiary of Hartford Funds.
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