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The Art of Gaining Referrals from Clients

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There’s an ocean of new business out there this year! 
Are you “fishing where the fish are”?

Mark Magnacca is one of my all-time favorite best-selling authors in the financial services and sales industries. One of the key points he’s made in his books and seminars, is the importance of fishing where the fish are. While you are prospecting or asking for referrals, are you going to the best location to attract the type of clients you really want to do business with?

When I prospected and cold-called during my days as a wholesaler, I found it exciting to call on a prospect I’d never met and do my best to establish enough rapport to persuade them to become a client. My winning percentage was very good because I asked about their business, listened for gaps I might fill with our product line and followed up as promised.

Asking for a personal introduction

One day during a coaching session with Mark Magnacca, I learned about asking for referrals from my top clients. I was like most of the financial advisors that I called on and did business with. We knew that referrals were important to the growth of our business, but didn’t have a referral strategy and did not want to bother our good clients for referrals. Mark asked about my relationship with my top producers, especially with my Top 20 percent. The Top 20 percent were the advisors that generated eighty percent of my revenue. I’m sure you know about the 80/20 Rule aka The Pareto Principle. I did too, but I didn’t practice it. Most of the advisors I worked with didn’t practice it either. Mark and I talked about the 80/20 Rule and the importance of a Referral Strategy. “Don’t just ask for a referral” he advised me. “Ask for a personal introduction, either in person or by phone.” That was it!!  That was the “AHA” moment that made a huge difference in my business! My best clients trusted me, knew the value I added as a business-building consultant and raved about me every time they could. From that day on, I NEVER cold-called on a prospect again. Each appointment was the result of a “warm, personal introduction” from a top client to one of their friends or business associates. To get back to the fishing analogy, instead of fishing with one hook at a time, I felt like I had cast a net to catch schools of fish. It was really that easy and so much more fun and less time-consuming!

Are you “partnering” with your better clients and contacts? I know we are all told to work hard ~ but learning how to work smarter makes our efforts so much more rewarding! The best question I asked my best clients is this: “Who else do you know whom I can help the way I’ve helped you increase your business or revenue?”  If your relationship is truly solid, they’ll gladly help you with referrals. But remember, you want to get a personal introduction. Years ago, when you asked someone for a referral, they would give you a name and phone number and suggest you mention their name when you called. That strategy worked fine but a personal introduction to a referral works so much better. When I learned about personal introductions, I tried it at an office I visited regularly in New England. When I asked for a referral, the advisor said, “Sure, go see Steve in the other corner office. He’s a great guy, million-dollar producer and has known me for twenty years. Just tell him I sent you over to say hello.” Then I asked if he would invite him to lunch with us that afternoon and introduce me then. Of course he agreed to and by the end of lunch, I had a new client.  Yes, it’s as easy as that!  

Applying the 80/20 Rule to my business

Let’s revisit the 80/20 Rule I mentioned earlier in this article. The Pareto Principle, courtesy of Vilfredo Pareto, an economist in the early 1900s states The 80/20 Rule means that in any set of things (workers, customers, etc.) a few (20 percent) are vital and many (80 percent) are considered trivial. In Pareto’s case, he found that roughly 20 percent of the people in his country dominated with 80 percent of the wealth. 20 percent of product defects causing 80 percent of product problems.  It’s well known by Project Managers that 20 percent of work (usually the first 10 percent and the last 10 percent) consume eighty-percent of the time and resources. You can apply the 80/20 Rule to almost anything, from the science of management to the sciences of the physical world around us. I’ve studied this Rule in depth and found fascinating results. Eighty-percent of the time, the majority of people wear the same twenty-percent of their clothes from their closet. Eighty percent of the car accidents are caused by the same twenty percent of the population. It’s really fascinating how this 80/20 Rule applies to so many things in life, but especially valuable for business people like us.

Hiring a Business Coach

I hired a business coach twenty years ago when I was a workaholic and burning the candle at both ends. When I explained why I was working seven days a week, he asked about my schedule, the clients I focused on and how much prospecting I was doing for new clients. He also asked me to describe my Top 20 percent, how I gained them as clients, their demographics as well as their psychographics. Before I even considered running a report, I replied that most of my best clients were gained at my luncheon meetings and were approximately 30 years old. Oh boy, was I completely wrong!!

That week, I ran the report for my Top 20 percent and was blown away by what I found. The vast majority of my Top 20 percent advisors were NOT gained by luncheon meetings in the offices I called on as a wholesaler. They were referrals and personal introductions from many of my most successful financial advisors. Most of them were “corner office” advisors with a great work ethic, military or athletic background, family oriented and between 35-55 years old. The other AHA moment I had was the realization that they DID produce 80 (eighty) percent of my revenue and rarely asked for anything from me, such as seminar support, golf balls or free meals. The smaller producers that did very little business with me on a relative scale were the ones that constantly asked me for financial support, freebies, trinkets and other things that typical wholesalers handed out. They were more of a pain in the butt than business partners.

So, here is my challenge to you. Just for giggles, run your 80/20 report on your book of business. Know exactly which clients are in your top twenty-percent, generating eighty-percent of your revenue. Then dive deeper into their personalities, how you gained them as clients, what you have in common, how often you contact them. Then dive even deeper. Just how well do you know them? What are their interests, hobbies, favorite activities and favorite vacation locations? Where or if they went to college? Do they have favorite sports teams? How many kids and grandkids do they have? Have you met them? What’s their favorite restaurant? How much do you REALLY know about your top 20 percent?  I was so embarrassed when I looked at my Top 20 percent report and could not answer most of these questions about them. I had known some of these clients for ten years! I immediately created a twenty- question fact sheet, that I gradually completed over the next three months as I met with each of those clients within my top twenty percent. THEN, I really knew my clients and all the things we had in common and the important matters in their life.

My relationships were an inch deep in a book of business that was a mile wide.

Previously, my relationships were an inch deep in a book of business that was a mile wide. After I shared more time with my best clients and got to know them much better, my relationships were a mile deep in a book not so wide anymore. I gave my C and D clients to someone else, because I didn’t have the time to give them what they needed. I’ve only met a small percentage of advisors that have given clients away to another advisor or hired a younger advisor to work on the C and D clients. They need attention also, but probably not worth your time at the moment. I want you to realize something that’s very important. You cannot be everything to everyone who has done business with you. But, you can be everything and the Go-To advisor to your Top 20 percent. These are the clients that will give you excellent referrals and more enjoyment in your career.

Try it, and share your success stories with me!

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