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5 Less Than Obvious Ways to Ask for Referrals

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Most advisors loath prospecting.  They see it as an initiation process to get into the business.  Experienced advisors sometimes bring on a junior, assigning them their least favorite task as a full time job, then being surprised when they quit. Referrals makes sense, because your client does most of the work.  The interested prospect is delivered to you.

You’ve probably heard every strategy for asking for referrals a dozen times over.  Asking for referrals is a popular strategy because it works. 

Related: 10 Free Websites That Help You Find HNW Prospects

Consider five ways of doing it where you don’t feel you are asking for a favor.

1. The retiring client.  Over the years, you’ve helped them prepare for this day.  Invite them to lunch to celebrate.  Ask them to bring along a couple of friends from the office, specifically friends who will be retiring later this year.  The rationale is obvious.  They can share in your client’s joy because they are heading out the door too.  Over lunch, raise your glass of sparking water and toast their retirement.  Lots of clinking glasses.  Ask your client what they are going to do on the first day of their retirement.  They are on center stage.  They are loving it.  Without any prompting or coaching, they will likely send plenty of praise in your direction for your role in getting them prepared.

What Happens Next:  The other guests see their friend as your success story.  They need the same help.  If they don’t ask immediately, they will likely approach your friend at the office.

2. The complainer.  Advisors often request referrals in the context of fresh money.  “Who do you know…”  Clients often see an implied risk:  If you mess up, that friend will remember you made the connection.  Also, there’s a lot less fresh money out there than we think.  Here’s the upside.  Everyone knows at least one complainer.  “My advisor never calls…”  “Some guy got me into this stock, it tanked.  I never heard from him again.”  “My advisor retired.  Now I’m getting calls from someone saying she’s my new advisor.  Don’t I get a choice?”  When we see pain, its human nature to want to help.  It’s so easy for your friend to say:  “You should really talk to my guy.  We’ve been together seven years…”

What Happens Next:  Ideally the complainer calls.  If the complainer still moans to your client, they will probably say: “Didn’t you call?”

3. Coaching.  We get referral training.  We ask clients to give us referrals.  So far, so good.  But no one gives the client referral training.  When they suggest to a friend they should call you, that friend might ask: “Why?”  Your honest client says: “My advisor wants more clients.”  The next part of the conversation has them squirming.  Give your friend some verbal coaching.  Think “Problem.  Solution.  Action.”  Your client had a problem.  You suggested a solution.  They took action.  They can almost repeat it word for word.  “I was worried about providing for my family.  My advisor came up with a solution involving a special type of life insurance.  My problem is solved.  You told me you have the same problem.  You should talk with my advisor.”

What Happens Next:  Once a problem is identified, it doesn’t go away until you find a solution and take action.  Your client’s friend has a problem.  They had zero solutions.  Now they have one.  Calling you to learn more is taking action.

4. Do they advise someone else?  We think we have all a client’s money.  We probably do.  They feel the same way.  Few people think to ask if there’s someone else close to them, someone who considers them a trusted advisor.  They might have aging parents who collect income when they roll over CDs.  They might sit on the finance committee at their college or a local community organization.  There’s an endowment that funds scholarships.  They are influencers.  Try to learn more.

What Happens Next:  Your client is intelligent, but they aren’t a professional.  You are.  They might not see the big picture.  You can help, if they bring you into the discussion.

5. New in town.  If your client is an executive, new faces probably turn up in the office from time to time.  These relocated executives want to hit the ground running.  They usually need a series of local services.  Many prefer face to face relationships.  Suppose your client isn’t an executive?  They own a business or are a medical professional.  They live in an upscale development.  They just got new neighbors.

What Happens Next?  Ideally, you and your client go out for drinks occasionally.  You are part of a larger group of friends.  Ask them to include a couple of the new faces this week.  It will make them feel welcome.  You are part of the group.  Since you don’t work at the firm or live in the development, your client will likely introduce you in your professional capacity.  “She’s my advisor.  We’ve been together five years…”  The seed has been planted.

Is there anything new on the referral front?  Maybe not.  These are five painless ways to look for referrals without putting clients on the spot.

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