When it comes to improving advisor productivity, our coaching process typically looks at two areas that exist, to varying degrees, in every business: identifying untapped opportunities as well as overlooked vulnerabilities.
When it comes to untapped opportunities, we want to identify the lowest possible hanging fruit that exists that an advisor can zero-in on and convert into new business quickly and predictably. And while the list of untapped opportunities can be substantial, more often than not the issue that is the easiest to address is that of client referrals. It's rare to find a financial advisor who is anywhere close to maximizing the potential that exists in terms of consistently attracting a high quality and quantity of referrals from their best clients let alone from strategic partners.
Many advisors, while being refer-able because of their financial skill set and professionalism, simply don't ask for referrals. The reasons are clear. They either fear rejection or they fear putting their relationships at risk by looking needy or desperate. So they simply don't go there.
It's amazing however when we ask advisors to start by re-positioning the concept of a referral as a service they are providing to their clients rather than as a favor they requesting of their clients. In doing so they don't actually ask for a referral they simply communicate to their clients that they will make themselves available to act as a sounding board for friends and family members who have some apprehension or anxiety about the future and the track they are currently on. The advisors who make this transition and re-frame the concept feel more relaxed and confident discussing the concept of meeting with a friend and clients see it as a value-added service that is of true value.
But here is where it often gets interesting. Sometimes a solution to a problem can create new problems over time. It's very common that an advisor starts to see an increase of inbound phone calls from clients who have endorsed the advisor to a friend, and due to the absence of a solid relationship management process, things start to fall through the cracks. Meetings get double-booked, confirmation calls are forgotten, follow-up calls get delayed or missed, introductory kits don't get sent out, proper tracking in terms of thank-you cards are neglected, and on it goes. This lack of consistency will turn the referral tap off and your refer-ability will have been short-lived.
You have to keep in mind that the primary issue that can undermine your refer-ability with clients and partners is their lack of clarity or confidence in terms of how the endorsement will ultimately come back to reflect on them. As easy as it is for someone to refer a friend to you, guess what? It's always easier not to refer someone. In other words, your clients want to know that their friend is in good hands, will be well taken care of and in time will come back and say thanks for making the introduction. If there is a lack of certainty, you won't be recommended - at least not more than once.
This brings me to the issue of overlooked vulnerabilities. If you modify your approach to referrals and position it as a service you are providing and continually remind your clients of this service throughout the lifetime of the relationship, you will have addressed an untapped opportunity and will attract more referrals. However, if you don't have a process to manage and track your referrals in a professional and predictable manner, things will fall through the cracks and you will manufacture a subtle yet overlooked vulnerability.
Contributed by Duncan MacPherson