Don’t Ask For Referrals: How Professional Financial Advisors Get Referrals From Clients
Don’t ask for references? Heresy, you say! Well, listen to me before you disconnect. Like you, I have heard various so-called sales experts extol the virtues of why you should ask for referrals. I have listened to these experts and have attended conferences and workshops where the topic comes up over and over again. And I hear the same confessions from millionaire producers lamenting the fact that “they still don’t ask for references even though they should.” And those who ask don’t claim to get great results even though they have a successful practice. The reason? Clients don’t want to be pressured to “sell” their services to their friends and family. They don’t want to be made to feel like they are doing their job for you as much as they like and appreciate.
Well, I’m here to ease the guilt of those of you who feel inadequate because you don’t ask your clients for referrals. I think you’re doing the right thing by not asking for referrals … at least not in the way you’ve been ostracized for not doing so. Clients will recommend you if you are professional in the way you do it.
I think asking your clients for recommendations or putting cute phrases on your business cards or email templates that say “the best compliment you can give me is a recommendation” only serves to cheapen our profession and your practice in particular. When was the last time you visited a doctor and when you finished they said, “Hey Joe, I’m glad we could cure that nasty case of athlete’s foot? If you know of someone who can use my services please give them one of my cards? “Or, when was the last time you met with an attorney and he or she said,” Well Sally, I’m glad we could get what you wanted out of your divorce. If you have friends who can use my services, please, do you know about me now? “
Financial advisers are professionals and should act like professionals when it comes to referrals. Here are two suggestions. First, if you want references, give it references. I believe in Zig Ziglar’s creed, “You will get what you want if you help enough people get what they want.”
You know your customers. You know what business they are in. So the next time you meet with them, ask how you can help them grow their business. What is an ideal prospect for your business? Then follow up by referring people to your customers. They will follow suit when you do, I guarantee.
Second, if you want referrals from your clients, give them a value-added reason to do so. You can do this with customer events. I heard from a consultant who invited five of his best golf-loving clients to a retirement income planning breakfast on Saturday morning, followed by a golf lesson and nine holes of golf. He had a product partner who covered the cost of the golf and breakfast. The only requirement he gave his clients was that they had to bring a friend. So the advisor got in front of five new prospects during the morning events and was able to secure two of them as clients. More importantly, he made his clients look like heroes by giving them the opportunity to invite their friends to such an elegant event and show off his advisor. It is much more effective than telling them about your advisor.
I’m sure you’ve heard of a number of variations on the invite-a-friend / customer appreciation event. The bottom line is that it works. Personally, if my doctor invited me to a lunch workshop on “heart problems after 50” and asked me to bring a friend, I would probably do it and think more about him than if he directly asked me for a referral. Similarly, if my attorney invited me to an estate planning workshop and asked me to invite a friend, I would appreciate the value of such an invitation. At the same time, I am not naive enough to lose the sense of bringing a friend. They are professionals and want to grow their business.
And the same goes for financial advisers. They are professionals and want to grow their business. You have the opportunity to conquer the client referral conundrum in a way that works and illuminates you like a true professional. Your clients will appreciate the fact that you are willing to recommend and / or invite them to a meaningful event and they, in turn, will fill your pipeline with new prospects. At the same time, you will maintain your reputation as a trusted professional.