If you have followed the news of late, I am certain you have heard all about the illicit and immoral nature of quid pro quo, from the Latin meaning “a favor or advantage granted or expected in return for something.” Or, more directly defined, “this for that”. Let’s set the record straight on how, when implemented properly, quid pro quo is the lifeblood of professional partnerships. The key to any professional partnership is the expectation and achievement of mutual benefit between multiple benefactors and beneficiaries: the professional partners, and more importantly, the clients that will ultimately prosper from the products and services received. In Red Rock Strategic Partners’ experience of working with wealth advisors, there are 3 main challenges to creating and maintaining successful professional partnerships.
1. Too much “this”, not enough “that”
We often pose a question to financial professionals “what is your number one challenge with growing your partnership network?” The number one response is “I feel the partnerships always end up rather one-sided. I tend to give a lot more than I get in return.” Excessive one-sidedness is a common problem and why quid pro quo is oftentimes viewed as a negative. The root cause of this challenge is generally a misunderstanding of what the ultimate goal of a professional partnership should be. It goes beyond a simple sharing of client leads and introductions. As with any successful component of a healthy business, creating strong partnerships begins with proper planning. Cultivating a mutually beneficial professional partnership depends of 3 foundational components:
Having a thorough understanding of your partner’s business and value proposition. This should be established via a formal conversation that informs the critical element of the partnership: how will your offering benefit my clients and how does it align with my offering?
Defining both the qualitative and quantitative characteristics of the clients who can most benefit from your combined offering. Both partners must define who they serve best and where it makes the most sense to make introductions accordingly.
Establishing realistic expectations of what business results the partnership will produce. Both partners need to come to an agreement on what the definition of success is for the proposed partnership and if it makes sense for their respective businesses. Too often we see partnerships forced because it seems like the logical thing to do, but the effort ends up being an exercise in futility leading to wasted time and opportunity cost.
2. Defining the Partnership Path
Once we have answered the question of “how can we work together?” now comes the second, and more difficult question of “how should we work together?” In Red Rock’s experience, professional partnerships start off strong and then lapse over time because no defined partnership path has been agreed upon. Establishing a sustainable and repeatable partnership path requires formally laying out an end to end process and client experience that aligns best with the foundational components discussed previously. This will require some grunt work and compromise from both partners, but will pay massive dividends in the long run of the relationship. When creating a partnership path, 3 critical elements must be agreed upon:
What are the similarities and differences in our sales and service models? Some professional relationships are transactional, some more consultative. We have to pinpoint with our partners where it makes the most sense within our respective client experiences to make client introductions. We must also establish who is responsible and accountable for specific client activities and outcomes.
Establishing your combined core story: once partners have established the ways they can collaborate to add more value to their client relationships together, they must create a way to express how and why this is mutually beneficial to a select group of their clients. We suggest an agreed upon script used by both partners at the outset of the relationship.
Creating specific action steps and timelines: The second big challenge we experience in the partnership model is a failure to define what action steps will be taken by each partner and when those action steps will occur. It is critical that partners hold each other accountable to when and how client interaction will happen and what follow up items are necessary to ensure a fluidly executed client experience. We strongly suggest this be a written document that is communicated between partners on a periodic basis.
3. Establishing Communication Protocols
In a recent meeting with one of our clients, a senior leader suggested a great definition of partner communication: “They have my cell phone number, I have theirs, and we speak at least once a week.” This is a simple, yet highly effective way to gauge how well you are engaged in a true partnership. The third big challenge to partnerships we encounter is the feeling of giving up control of a component of your client relationship. As in any healthy relationship, great communication is vital to sustainability and success over the long term. Great communication breeds trust and confidence, which ultimately begets a willingness to both give and receive a greater number of client opportunities between partners. Three critical elements of professional partnership communication are:
Creating a formal communication process: we suggest the establishment of a formal, weekly conversation that has an agenda to address all of the elements defined in the prior two sections of this article. Partners need to discuss who they are or will be speaking to when and about what. This is not a “check in call”, there are agreed upon outcomes for activity and results.
Involving additional team members where appropriate: it is vital that if you work as part of a team that your partner understands who your teammates are, what role they play in your organization, and who they may contact for specific reasons. Getting teammates involved where appropriate in your formal weekly conversations is an excellent idea.
The power of breaking bread: professional partnerships will not stand the test of time without a personal relationship being established as well. It is much easier to do business with someone you like and respect on both a personal and professional level. Take the time to share a meal and get to know the person you are entrusting client relationship to. I know this sounds self-evident, but you would be surprised how often this does not happen.
Establishing and sustaining professional partnerships is necessary to the growth of any financial services practice both now and in the future. When done properly, it can lead to a well vetted and qualified pipeline of potential new client relationships. Such partnerships require time and effort, and results will not be immediate. However, over time the benefits greatly outweigh the challenges. Quid pro quo is not a dirty word and when executed well it is the lifeblood of any great professional partnership.
To learn more about creating and sustaining great professional networks, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Execute better, grow faster.