How many articles have you read about getting clients to refer business? Lots. There’s another huge pool of people out there – Friends who aren’t clients, yet know what you do for a living. According to the New York Times the average American knows about 600 people. Assuming many aren’t clients, that’s a lot of friends, each knowing their own 600 people, who aren’t sending referrals your way. What do you suppose gets your friends thinking: “Why bother?”
Ten Reasons Friends Aren’t Pulling Their Weight
There are lots of reasons friends aren’t sending other friends your way. Let’s look at the ones connected to human nature.
1. You’re old. They assume most people want to stop working someday and enjoy life while they are still healthy. They do. They assume you do too. They are concerned you are a “short timer,” working a few more years until you leave the workforce. Their friend might want a long-term relationship. That’s not you.
Friends need to understand: You love your job. You are intending to work past their imagined retirement age. If you are intending to retire, they need to know about your team and succession plan.
2. You’re rich. You are successful. You’ve got this great lifestyle. You make a good living with all these clients on autopilot. Although they may not understand the concept of trailers or recurring revenue, they think the money just rolls in. You don’t need more clients.
Friends need to understand: You equate new clients with helping people. That’s how you became successful. Achieving success doesn’t mean you want to stop helping others. Time for anonymous success stories.
3. You’re overworked. You complain about long hours and working on weekends. You complain about lack of sales support. You think enhanced desktop technology is a way to move more of the sales assistant’s paperwork tasks onto the advisor. You lurch from crisis to crisis. Your friends think you have all the clients you can handle.
Friends need to understand: You are making a New Year’s resolution to stop complaining. Seriously, there’s always room for new clients who are friends of friends or connected to current clients. You will make time.
4. You think some clients are idiots. You never mention names, but speak disparagingly about people who won’t take advice or make ill-advised investments, then expect you to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. They think you make fun of your clients behind their backs.
Friends need to understand: Another New Year’s resolution is stop telling tales out of school! Seriously, (again) if an anonymous story somehow slipped out, frame it as an opportunity to help your client realize the value of professional advice.
5. You don’t take your job seriously. They know you come in late, take long lunches and leave early. They know you take many more vacations than they do. They feel no one is “watching your client’s stuff” while you are lying in the sun. They think a friend they refer will be neglected.
Friends need to understand: You take your job seriously. If this scenario is frightenly accurate, hopefully there’s a large team working alongside you handling day to day business. This could be a wakeup call. If friends think you are semi-retired, what do your clients think?
6. Your sole objective is making money for yourself. Its why fiduciary relationships are more and more popular. Friends see the advisor/client relationship as adversarial. Another definition is zero sum game. For someone to make money, someone else needs to lose money.
Friends need to understand: You value long-term relationships. This means doing the right thing for clients. Personally, this means talking much less about how much money you are making.
7. You’re a specialist. This problem is more common than you expect. They have a narrow idea what you do. (Insurance agents sell insurance.) They don’t realize financial services firms have broadened their offerings. You can help clients in many ways.
Friends need to understand: How can you tell your story? Possibly by taking an interest in what they do. Then you might use a technique that’s been around decades: “When you tell your friends about me, what do you say that I do?” That should get their definition of your job out in the open.
8. It’s a money thing. They know friends who need investment advice, but they assume you only work with wealthy people. Maybe they know someone who sold their business, but they think the amount is too big for you.
Friends need to understand: You are willing to help people, even if it means referring them to someone else at your firm. It also helps to talk about your client base in terms of a range, not an over/under threshold.
9. Liability scares them. Suppose they refer a friend. Now suppose it doesn’t work out. This friend sues the advisor and their firm. They think “Who hooked me up with this guy?” They add your name to the lawsuit.
Friends need to understand: This is a tough one. Try asking friends who they know with a certain problem. In their mind, that might be safer than “fresh money.”
10. They don’t know anyone who needs your help. It’s that narrow definition problem again. They think you do one thing.
Friends need to understand: You help people in many ways. Sharing those anonymous success stories when they ask “How’s business?” should broaden their understanding. You can also prompt them with: “Who do you know that…”
By now you’ve noticed a lot of these reasons for reluctance involve “advisors behaving badly.” Time for a fresh start in the New Year.
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