A Blog for Today’s Top Financial Advisors

Want Better Referrals? You’ve Got to Work with COIs! – Episode 19

Key Takeaways:

  • Centers of influence are the source of most advisors’ best new clients.
  • COIs regularly work with the affluent and understand how financial advisors can add value to clients’ lives.
  • Take actions that really count and that can accelerate your success.

We all know that in today’s hypercompetitive environment, a major key to thriving—and, for some, surviving—is to attract and work with wealthier clients.

What you want, essentially, is a steady pipeline of new, ideal high-net-worth prospective clients.

Trouble is, you can’t just snap your fingers and move upmarket—especially if most or all of your existing clients are less affluent than the types of clients you’re aiming to serve! It’s pretty unlikely that a $500,000 client is regularly rubbing shoulders with folks with $2 million or more in net worth.

The good news: There is an excellent, reliable source of highly affluent prospective clients that you can tap into—if you know how to get their attention and motivate them to send referrals your way.

That source is centers of influence—the attorneys, accountants and other high-end specialists who regularly assist the types of affluent clients you seek to serve.

The effectiveness of referral sources

New wealthy clients can come to you in a variety of ways—referrals from clients, from business contacts, from networking events and so on. That said, some approaches tend to be more effective than others.

Our research with financial advisors shows that the biggest source of new clients is referrals from existing clients: A full 75.5 percent of surveyed advisors report client referrals as the source of most of their new clients. Referrals from centers of influence are a distant second, at 18 percent.

So it’s clear that referrals from current clients produce the greatest number of new clients. But what about the quality of those referrals?

That’s a different story. The research shows that seven out of ten advisors cite referrals from centers of influence as the source of the best new clients. (See the chart below.)

Important: This isn’t to say that referrals from existing clients are bad. If you are currently getting new wealthy clients from existing clients, you should certainly continue.

Why COI referrals are higher-quality referrals

Here are four decisive factors that make COIs superior referral sources compared with existing clients.

1. Gaining access. Access is the connections that clients and COIs have to wealthy clients. It’s usually measured by the number of wealthy clients they can potentially send your way.

The access of a high-caliber center of influence is often many times greater than the access of most wealthy clients. While there are creative and formidable ways for financial advisors to generate referrals from existing affluent clients, the access many of these clients have to other wealthy clients is often limited. This means that even though clients may want to refer wealthy clients to you, they may simply not know many—or any—of these individuals.

This is especially the case as the level of wealth involved rises. While some wealthy individuals know many other wealthy individuals, a large percentage do not. In contrast, most COIs know a meaningful number of wealthy individuals because that is a criterion for their success.

2. Recognizing referral opportunities. COIs are usually better able than clients to identify situations where the capabilities of other professionals such as financial advisors can make a difference.

Example: An attorney engaged to do estate planning will often easily note the need for life insurance or for a professional to manage the assets in a trust. Similarly, an accountant can see the need for a qualified retirement plan or for a financial advisor to manage the funds after a business has been sold.

That said, even COIs can miss seeing some opportunities where you can add value. You need to help educate and inform your COIs about the range and nature of your capabilities.

3. Referring the wrong people. Your clients might suggest to peers, business associates and others that they may benefit from working with you. Unfortunately, they will often address the wrong individuals in the wrong way. It’s very common for clients to make referrals that are inappropriate for your practice.

Working with COIs can help you sidestep that problem, as other professionals working with the affluent tend to be better able to understand the types of clients you seek as well as specifically what you can offer them.

4. Driving the referrals. Clients usually provide referrals in response to their family members, friends or associates asking for an introduction to a financial advisor. However, this occurs infrequently.

In contrast, centers of influence frequently talk to their wealthy clients about financial and related matters. They will often uncover many possibilities for services and products they themselves do not provide. By the very nature of their work, centers of influence are well-positioned to recognize opportunities and make referrals to financial advisors.


As an advisor, you should be seeking to be successful on purpose. That means taking the actions that are most likely to lead to the results you want, in as little time as possible.

There are a range of ways you can source new wealthy clients. But we’ve discovered that financial advisors’ best new wealthy clients typically come from COIs.

The upshot: By focusing much of your business-building efforts on developing relationships with COIs, you can accelerate your success and create a business that supports an amazing life of significance.



To download a transcript of this episode, click here.

What we do and who we are

Partnering with you to accelerate your success is what we do.
Helping you build an amazing life of significance is who we are.

What we believe

We believe you can build an amazing life of significance by serving fewer, wealthier clients extremely well. We also believe you can do it faster and with less effort than you ever thought possible.