Note: If you’ve been reading my blog for years, this post may sound familiar. I originally posted a version in 2012. The subject came up again recently, so I decided a redux was in order …
“I know I probably should but …”
What’s your favorite excuse if you don’t routinely ask clients for referrals?
It feels pushy. It’s not my style. This isn’t the right time/place. I forgot. What if it isn’t a good fit? I’m not currently seeking new clients. I’m just no good at it. … Do I have to?
If any or all of these sound familiar, I challenge you to shift your mindset: Asking for referrals doesn’t have to be a chore or an embarrassment, and trust me, the more you do it, the easier and more natural it will become. Once you become comfortable with it, it can become a three-way win for you, your clients and those being referred to you. Here’s how:
It feels good.
Advisors who routinely make referral requests know a big secret: Happy clients actually appreciate being asked something like, “If you’re aware of others we can help, please know we’re always happy to meet with them,” or “Is there anyone else who might benefit from a conversation with us? We’d love to see if we can help.”
I know happy clients appreciate being asked, because I am a happy client myself. Remember, we love you. We are grateful for your help and flattered when you ask for our advice for a change. We love having the opportunity to give back, and to show off how smart we were to have identified such a great advisor. Everything about referring others to you makes us feel good.
It makes things stick.
In contrast to any fear you may have of annoying your clients, I believe asking for referrals actually further cements your relationship. After pointing some of my friends to my advisor and hearing that they, too, are happy and grateful, it makes me feel even more certain that I’ve made the right choice. It also creates another bond between me and my advisor, making it less likely I’d walk away on a technicality. I now feel vested in my advisor’s success.
It highlights the sticking points.
I recognize that some clients may take it the wrong way anyway. But think about it. Might this not be a blessing in disguise? If someone is regularly suspicious of your motives or routinely misinterprets your intents, you may ultimately be grateful if they choose to move on.
It works when it works … and even when it doesn’t.
What about referrals that aren’t a good fit, from your perspective or theirs? They can still be worthwhile:
- If you are forthright about your services and respectful of others’ needs, even if someone is not a perfect match, they’re likely to respect your integrity and bear you no ill will – especially if you have additional resources to recommend when you are not the best solution.
- An imperfect possibility may become a better fit later on. They also may be able to refer you to others who could turn out to be your best clients ever.
- If you’re introducing someone to evidence-based investing for the first time, think about how important that is. Even if they’re not ready to embrace the message today, you’ve planted the seed. One way or another, the good deed will likely come back to you further down the road.
Low-hanging fruit is still the sweetest.
Time and again I hear that, for most advisors, the vast majority of new business comes via word of mouth, especially the mouths of your clients. So, why fester over fancy strategies, spin increasingly complex tactics, or build ever-more-elaborate business development schemes? This easy-as-pie solution costs almost nothing but a smile. That, and one simple question, routinely slipped into your writing and casual conversations: “Who else might we help?”
Go ahead, ask for it!