A Low-key Approach to Create Awareness For Referrals
At a recent conference, I had conversations with several top-caliber financial advisors about how to attract a higher quality and quantity of referrals from their best clients. Once again it was confirmed that the elite in this business don’t use esoteric referral systems or pushy sales tactics. They simply remind their clients that they are available to meet with a friend, family member or business associate. What’s more, these advisors have found that they don’t even need to actually ASK for referrals and look needy or desperate in the process. Again, they subtly and repeatedly create an awareness for their clients that they accept referrals and they position the concept as a service they are providing to them rather than as a favor they are asking of them.
Now I don’t want to oversimplify this concept. Ultimately you have to be refer-able in the first place by having good credentials, strong chemistry with clients, and consistent service driven by the habitual deployment of best practices. But there is one last number in the combination that has to be dialed-in to unlock your referral potential: communication. You have to talk about it.
And while every advisor has been told repeatedly at seminars and through coaching programs that they “Should always be asking for referrals”, many don’t go there because they don’t want to put their clients on the spot and jeopardize the relationship. The distinction between salesmanship and stewardship is that a salesperson wants to impact their next paycheck and as a result they project a climate of expectation or obligation that the clients need to refer people. Consultants know that the lifelong value of a relationship is more valuable than occasional commissions, and as result, they are more reserved. The irony though, is that you can still have persuasive impact without being pushy. Keep in mind, the more you push, the more you actually repel. So the key is attract don’t chase.
I mentioned that you want to create an awareness for the concept of referrals. This is the first step in the process. There is a natural stage of readiness that exists between your clients and the people they can influence. Said another way, you don’t know when a friend of a client will give them the opportunity to talk about you, but it is inevitable. You just want to make sure that when that moment of truth occurs when a friend asks your client, “Are you happy with your advisor?” you are top-of-mind and easy for the client to endorse.
Here are 4 Pieces of the Awareness Puzzle and a Few Actionable Proven Strategies:
- Give them a reason to talk about referrals. Nothing is more powerful than a client inquiring about the concept of referrals or even asking you if they can introduce someone to you. You can create that situation with gentle, subtle reminders. For example, we’ve told many advisors to professionally frame and display this quote in their offices to serve as a trigger to get clients thinking about and inquiring about waving your flag: “A referral from a client is a tremendous compliment and a huge responsibility that can never be taken lightly.” You will be amazed at how many clients will say to you, “I didn’t know you were accepting new clients.” And best of all, you weren’t the person who started the conversation. But their comment gives you permission to segue into your sounding-board value proposition.
- Make it Easy for Clients to Discuss Referrals. When you put someone on the spot and ask them for a referral, I believe it hurts you more than it helps you over the long haul. But when you create a relaxed atmosphere, you disarm the client and eliminate any tension or anxiety. The best way to do that whenever you are discussing the concept of referrals is to mention this, “Keep in mind, if you ever happen to introduce someone to me, they do not need to become a client of mine to take advantage of my sounding board process.” You simply want your clients to feel relaxed and comfortable with the concept of making a call to you to introduce someone. You want your phone to ring. Your Fit-Process will take care of the rest.
- Remind Them Forever. In every form of communication you have with a client, you can remind them that you accept referrals without asking for them. Again, just keep putting it out there. In phone calls, review meetings, at events and even in emails, you can remind them. Many advisors we work with add this tag at the bottom of their emails: “Keep in mind that if you have a friend or family member who is anxious about their personal financial plan, they can take advantage of my Sounding Board Process – a one-hour consultation where I offer them feedback about the track they are on. It’s a free value-added service that people find to be of real value.” You may only want to include that in emails to your very best clients. And resign yourself that this activity – based on cause and effect – leads to great productivity. As Confucius said so long ago, “Water dripping on a stone will eventually leave a mark.” Keep reminding them and the stars will align for you.
- Validate Them by Deploying an Impeccable Process Driven by Best-Practices. Whenever a client or partner introduces you to someone, you have to know that at some point down the road those two people will talk and the experience you provided will come up in the conversation. Ensure that the person that was introduced says to the rainmaker “Thank You!” Your commitment to service prompts him or her to go back and validate to the person who referred that they were delighted with you. And that validation opens the referral floodgates in the future.
Contributed by Duncan MacPherson