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In my 18 years as a referral coach for financial advisors, I’ve heard every complaint about center-of-influence (COI) relationships. The number one complaint centers on reciprocity. My clients want the secret to productive, reciprocal COI relationships.

Some advisors think that if they can just give more to the COI, somehow that person will automatically respond and return the favor in a kind act of another referral. In some cases, that might work just fine. But in other cases, lack of reciprocity is a result of multiple symptoms in the relationship. Any time there are two people involved in a relationship there are opportunities for miscommunication, misunderstanding, and simple differences that cause frustration and sometimes friction.

I remember one client, we’ll call her Mary, who was complaining about a banker. Mary really liked this banker and thought he treated her clients extremely well. The problem was that he never referred any of his clients back to her over numerous years. Mary was getting more and more frustrated and didn’t know what to do about the situation. I asked her, “What did he say when you spoke to him about it?” You might suspect that her answer was, “I’ve never brought it up. I don’t know how to have this conversation.”