Ten Networking Errors to Avoid | Lord Abbett

Tracked Funds

You have 0 funds on your mutual fund watch list.

Begin by selecting funds to create a personalized watch list.

(as of 12/05/2015)

Pending Orders

You have 0 items in your cart.

Subscribe and order forms, fact sheets, presentations, and other documents that can help advisers grow their business.


Practice Management

Avoiding some common missteps will help you build professional networks.

This Practice Management article is intended for financial advisors only (registered representatives of broker dealers or associated persons of Registered Investment Advisors).

Although financial advisors, accountants, and attorneys all vie for the role of “trusted advisor,” we can better serve our clients by working with others to deliver the best expertise.

But while these professional relationships are a win for everyone, building them is no easy task. Put yourself in the shoes, for a moment, of a lawyer who receives a phone call from a new client, Joanne. Later that day you get a call from Ted, a financial advisor you don’t know, who tells you that he has known Joanne for over 20 years, having been a childhood friend of Joanne’s late husband. He explains that he has been recommending an estate-planning strategy to Joanne for several years involving the purchase of a new life insurance policy.

“I’ve heard that you’re smart, so I know that you will see what a good idea this is,” he says. “The underwriting has already been completed and it’s a great deal.” He assures you that he can change the name of the trust on the insurance application once the documents are executed.

Then, Ted tells you that, although Joanne has an accountant, he hasn’t talked to him yet. He hints that you shouldn’t call Joanne’s accountant either, because “accountants are always such deal killers.” Instead, Ted says it will be most efficient if all communication about the transaction is directed through him, since he has known Joanne so long. At the end of the call, Ted intimates that, when the transaction is over, he expects you will reciprocate and send him some referrals. “You owe me one, because I can help you keep Joanne as a long-term client,” he teases awkwardly. He adds that he’s the only person you should work with at his firm, since he has the most business to refer to people like you.

Based on your short conversation with Ted, you doubt you will ever refer clients or professional advisors to him. You have worked with Ted’s colleague Sharon on multiple occasions coordinating sophisticated transactions. Although you were impressed with Sharon’s work in the past, you now feel reluctant to refer clients or professional advisors to her as well.

Game Over
Ted clearly committed an extraordinary number of missteps in one conversation, but each of these missteps is really quite common. Ted missed an opportunity to develop into a center of influence, and is now unlikely to receive future referrals.

How could he have changed this result? He could have introduced himself and declared his interest in working together. He could have asked for the lawyer’s input and professional opinion. Ted could have suggested that the lawyer reach out to Joanne’s accountant to discuss the transaction further. None of these steps is difficult or time-consuming, but they go a long way toward projecting a capable and professional image.

Here are 10 obvious but common dos and don’ts that will come in handy when you’re building relationships with other centers of influence:

1) Don’t compromise professionalism.
Ensure that you and all of your colleagues who come in contact with your clients consistently provide the same high level of service-oriented professionalism. Don’t resort to the “lower-tier” culture of pressure selling, which can make both centers of influence and clients uncomfortable. Be advice-oriented, not sales-oriented, and expect the same of others.

2) Don’t be condescending.
Nothing extinguishes a potential relationship faster than acting condescendingly or patronizingly toward a client or potential colleague. It’s not necessary to showcase your knowledge or talents at the expense of clients who have been referred to you for advice on matters they don’t fully understand. By the same token, don’t attempt to one-up your referral source. It’s unprofessional and often will be perceived as insecurity. Project professionalism and confidence in your abilities without resorting to bragging or showing up others.

3) Don’t keep referrals to yourself.
Rather than attempting to hoard your referral source so that you are his or her only contact in your organization, introduce your centers of influence to your colleagues at the bank, both horizontally and vertically. For instance, a lawyer might contact you for expertise that you lack, but which another person at your bank might be well positioned to provide. Connect the lawyer and the banker rather than attempt to be the middleman.

4) Keep company politics quiet.
Although incentive models at your bank are often based on new business origination, don’t make your referral source uncomfortable by alluding to those policies. For example, don’t suggest that a referral source should only contact you or that a colleague or referral source “owes you one.” To the extent that a referral causes internal allocation issues, resolve them without subjecting the referral source to discomfort about internal company hierarchy or policies.

5) Make your referral source look good.
When someone sends a referral your way, you must reflect well on the source of the referral. While this might sound elementary, advisors juggle numerous responsibilities, and it’s challenging to deliver top-notch service in every case. But remember that by providing your name to a client or other professional, the referral source has taken a personal risk, and your performance now also reflects on his or her reputation.

6) Keep those referrals coming.
It’s important to reciprocate, referring potential clients to individuals who provide referrals to you. This mutuality strengthens your connection with professional centers of influence and reflects your confidence in them.

7) Don’t be a time-waster.
Many professionals bill hourly and time is valuable to them. You should be aware of using their time in a way they find productive and useful. For example, providing a lunch seminar to educate centers of influence on a new development usually doesn’t take away time that might otherwise be reserved for client meetings, particularly if it provides information that can help the referral source better perform his or her job. Better yet, offer the center of influence an opportunity to talk at your seminar and showcase his or her skills.

8) Be honest about your capabilities.
If you don’t have the specific expertise or resources to provide competent service, be frank with your referral source and instead, provide a referral to a qualified professional who is better suited for the project. At the same time, explain and market the expertise and resources you do have, so the referral source will be more familiar with your capabilities when making future referrals. Your referral source will respect your honesty.

9) Don’t fail to communicate.
Return referral sources’ phone calls and respond to their e-mails promptly. Identify and raise potential legal, business or client issues, ethical boundaries permitting. This helps you too. If a client who is unhappy with market performance complains to a center of influence who knows it’s not a result of your poor judgment, that center of influence can help calm the waters or at least give you the heads-up.

10) Don’t forget to have fun.
Relationship-building is a process. Spend time getting to know potential referral sources on a personal level. Find mutually enjoyable social activities and spend quality time together. If it all goes well, you’ll make some great friends in the process.

Michael LoVallo is a partner at law firm Reed Smith LLP in Chicago. Erica Lord is an attorney at the firm.



Please confirm your literature shipping address

Please review the address information below and make any necessary changes.

All literature orders will be shipped to the address that you enter below. This information can be edited at any time.

Current Literature Shipping Address

* Required field