Some people will tell you that simply asking for referrals is the key to getting more of them. This is not entirely true. In fact, if the proper foundation has not been laid in advance, asking for referrals can be an exercise in futility. So what is the key to creating a steady referral stream?
1) Create an Experience
Have you ever had such an outstanding dining experience that you simply had to tell your friends and family about it? If so, then you understand the power of creating an experience. From the moment a client pulls into your parking lot, they should clearly see that you run an impeccable organization. Every detail of your office, every interaction they share with your staff, every issue you help them resolve; must be flawless. This is not something that happens by accident. The only way to create a consistent, high quality experience is to have the right procedures in place. What systems does your firm use to accomplish this?
2) Communicate Constantly
Once your clients are impressed with the level of service you provide, your next responsibility is to ensure they don’t forget about you. The old adage ‘out of sight, out of mind’ is certainly true when it comes to getting referrals. If you make it a point to stay in front of your clients constantly, they will always have you in mind. This way, when their neighbor is complaining that he never hears from his advisor, your client will be quick to say, “You should talk to my advisor, I hear from him all the time.”
Here are some effective ways to communicate with your clients:
Weekly Market Update by e-mail – 52 times annually
Monthly Wine Tastings – 12 times annually
Annual State of the Markets Workshop – 1 time annually
Mid-Year Market Update Workshop – 1 time annually
Quarterly letter – 4 times annually
Account reviews – 2 times annually
Touch base calls from you and your staff – 4 times annually
Total Contacts: 76 contacts annually
3) Host Effective Client Events
Once you have happy clients who hear from you all the time, your referral tree will be loaded with low-hanging fruit. One way to reap the fruits of your labor is by hosting effective client events. Effective client events share 5 basic elements:
- They are either entertaining or educational in nature so that everyone who attends will benefit in some way.
- They vary in subject matter so that different clients and prospects will attend rather than having the same group every time.
- They are advertised well in advance with attractive marketing materials.
- Attendees are strongly encouraged to bring guests, and are reminded of this more than once.
- At the event, there is an organized way to capture information from guests who attend, and for them to request an appointment so that their interest doesn’t have time to cool off.
4) Yes, You Should Still Ask – Sort of.
Finally, you still need to talk to your clients about referrals. The challenge is that if you ask for referrals the wrong way, it can make you seem desperate. And frankly, desperate is the last thing you want to seem. The old days of handing your clients a phonebook and asking them for the numbers of 10 people they know are long gone.
The key to successfully asking for referrals is this: Don’t ask the client to do you a favor by giving referrals. Let the client know you’re willing to do them a favor by accepting the people they refer. This small change in approach will make all the difference. Your clients will be more likely to refer you if they believe they are doing their friends and family members a valuable service rather than just helping you grow your business.
Consider how an effective referral conversation might go. Have this conversation with your clients early in the relationship and a minimum of once annually, preferably following their review.
Advisor: “It’s hard to believe we’ve already been working together this long. How would you say your experience has been with our firm so far?”
Client: “It’s been wonderful! You’ve exceeded all of our expectations, and your staff is incredible. I have to say it’s been so nice not having to check the markets everyday because I know our accounts are in good hands. Thank you for all of your help.”
Advisor: “It’s my pleasure. Before our meeting ends, there is something very important I want to talk to you about. The two of you are exactly the type of clients I love working with. Not only are you an absolute delight to be around, but as you already know, you meet all of our firm’s criteria. You may recall when we first met I told you it was never my goal to be all things to everyone, but rather, all things to a few. For that reason I keep my practice fairly small which means I can’t work with everyone. However, from time to time, openings do come up. And in my experience, the best way to fill those openings is with the friends and family of my best clients – clients just like you. So here’s the offer I would like to extend: In my schedule each week, I leave one or two appointments open for referrals from my top clients. So if you ever know of anyone who you think could use my help, just give me a call and we can discuss it. Now I’m not a miracle worker, but I’ll always do my very best to help them.”
Client: “Thank you, that’s wonderful.”
Advisor: “Now, sometimes, people don’t feel comfortable making an appointment with an advisor they’ve never met, so if it’s easier, you can bring them to any one of my events. And let me assure you, you don’t have to worry whether they will meet my criteria. I would never expect you to pre-qualify someone. Just know that if you give me their name, we’re going to roll out the red carpet for them.”
Client: “Thank you again. We know how busy you are. We will certainly keep your offer in mind.”
Simply asking your clients for referrals is not enough. Even so, if you use the approach outlined above, you will quickly increase the number of referrals you receive.