Referrals are essential to your business’s growth. I’ve worked with coaches who say some of their best clients have come from referrals.
Yet when I ask about their strategy for collecting them, many financial advisors say they don’t have one.
It’s not enough to sport a sign in your office that says, “we accept referrals” – you need to proactively seek them, too.
For an introverted advisor or one who isn’t as strong in sales, this can be an intimidating prospect, even in the best of times. You might think it’s weird or wrong to ask clients for referrals. Maybe you’re not confident, or don’t know how to ask.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought new issues – you wonder if now is really the right time to ask clients for introductions.
The answer is yes! In fact, there might be no better opportunity. Right now, people are particularly worried about their retirement and looking for help managing their assets and planning for the future. You became an advisor to help these very people.
But to do that, you need to connect with them first.
You’re already calling and checking in with your clients during this time. Use the time to also ask if they know anybody who might benefit from your services.
The biggest obstacle advisors face when it comes to asking for referrals is having the wrong mindset. Once you shift your mindset around how you view referrals, the other issues – confidence, timing, know-how – will solve themselves. So, I present you with the introvert’s guide to asking for client referrals.
Advisors view asking for referrals as asking for a favor. It’s a limiting belief, because the more they convince themselves of it, the less they’ll grow.
Referrals aren’t favors, though. By asking your client for names of people they know who might benefit from your service, you’re providing additional value to them. You’re asking if you could help someone they care about.
Not every introduction will turn into a sign-on-the-dotted-line agreement. Approach new prospects as just that – prospects. Whether they become a client or not, you can still add value to their life.
Convince Yourself First
Once you accept this mindset shift, you have to constantly remind yourself of it. It’s just like developing any other muscle or skill – it’s about repetition over time, especially if you’ve been in the business for years with the same thinking.
You might tell yourself that when you ask a client for a referral, that they’re doing you a favor. That it doesn’t add value, and it’s extra work for them. It’s easy to stay stuck in this repetitive and defeating self-talk.
Remember that you take great care of your clients, and any referrals will see that. Therefore you can provide extraordinary value to them if they become a client.
Block out five minutes every day to journal about a recent scenario where you added value in a client’s life. Or, start listing all the things you do for clients on a regular basis. This will help remind you of the value you’re delivering.
You know and believe you’re doing great things – you just have to remind yourself enough to keep it top of mind for yourself and, eventually, your clients.
Convince Your Clients
The best way to position referrals is before the client relationship even starts. Fellow business coach Tammy Breitenbach has an advisor who builds referrals into their yearly fee. Clients are aware they owe two referrals every year.
In Tested in the Trenches, Ron Carson describes the two ways advisors are paid: by their fee and more abstractly by referrals,which have the potential to become fees in the future.
Another time to bring up the referral conversation is during a yearly review. You have the opportunity to position the value you’ve shared over the past year or relationship, and remind the client of that value. This is a fantastic time to ask, because you’re already going through everything you’ve already done and everything you’re going to be doing for your client in the future.
Anytime you provide value above and beyond and your client makes comments like, “You’ve really helped me,” “I love working with you,” or “It’s been such a great experience,” recognize that your client is feeling good about you and your work in that moment. Those are great times to also bring up referrals.
Ask the “Who” Question
When you’re in a client review or other client meeting, ask the “who” question. You’ll likely catch up on big life moments, recent vacations, what they did last weekend, etc. Go a step further and ask who they were with. Who they golfed with. Who they traveled with.
Keep track of the names they mention. You can enter them into your CRM or an Excel sheet. When you remind your clients of your value, weave referrals into the conversation. This also will show that you’re listening to them and paying attention to who they care about.
Say something like, “If you’re really seeing the value that we’re delivering for you, do you feel there’s an opportunity for us to share that value with someone you care about? Is someone we should have a conversation with?” If the answer is no, that’s OK. You asked and there’s no harm done. If the answer is yes, great! Now it’s time to make the introduction
Make the Connection
Once you get the green light from your client, it’s time to reach out to the referral. Advisors have a few options here, and the right one comes down to the client’s opinion. Ask the client what kind of interaction they think the referral would feel most comfortable with.
The first option is to invite the client’s referral to a passion prospecting event. Ask your client if they’d attend and bring their friend or family member.
The second option is to ask your client and their referral out to lunch or dinner. Frame the outing as a friendly conversation sans business talk. You just want to get to know them – you can always set up another meeting to talk business.
The third option is to ask your client if you can call or email your client directly. Mention you work with your client/their friend or family member who thought it was a good idea to connect.
The fourth option is to ask your client to make an email introduction, copying you on the email.
Think of referrals as introductions
Referrals are a necessary part of your business, but asking for them shouldn’t make you feel uncomfortable or hesitant. Think of referrals as introductions. This can feel less threatening to both the advisor and client. A simple change in vocabulary can change your feelings about that behavior.
Build them into your business naturally, either immediately with new clients before they even sign paperwork or through sourcing names with current clients through friendly conversation. Keep track of all the ways you provide value and remind yourself and your client of them on a consistent basis.
Change how you view referrals and you’ll find it’s easier to receive them. By growing your business through referrals during an uncertain time, you can serve more people. Referrals don’t have to feel like a necessary evil – but they are necessary.
Our coaches are well-versed in referrals and ready to walk you through that process, as well as ways to improve other key areas of your business. Click here to schedule a complimentary consultation to learn how we can help you accelerate your firm’s growth.