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Have Your Clients Teach You the Secret of Getting More Referrals

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One big mistake advisors make is to try to tell their clients how to refer them. The misconception behind that is that people refer because you ask them to. They do not. Clients refer for their own reasons, because it creates benefits for them.

So, it pays for you to find out the reasons they make a referral. There are two significant things we can learn from this: your greatest value to those clients, and their language for describing why they think a friend should choose you over any other advisor.

Here is how a typical advisor may ask clients to give them referrals: "If you meet anyone who needs comprehensive wealth management with a focus on personal service, I would appreciate you letting them know about me." Here is the problem - it is unlikely your client actually describes your service that way and that may not even be why they make a referral in the first place.

Clients just don't say to friends "you really need to call my advisor because he provides comprehensive wealth management." And at least 80% of advisors have a "unique focus on personal service" or some variation on that claim.

Finding those real reasons and learning their language to describe it will make your referral conversations much more powerful.

What are some of the things clients might actually say when referring their financial advisor?

-- "She ties together all the advice from my other professional advisors so I know that everything is coordinated and everyone is singing off the same page."

-- "He really understands my employer's benefits program."

-- "She really understood what I was going through, so I knew I could trust the decisions we made."

-- "He specializes in working with people who have kids from prior marriages, so he can make sure everyone gets what I want them to get when I pass."

-- "She went through a difficult divorce herself, so I know she understands what I am going through."

-- "I really appreciate how professionally he treats my wife. I think he is helpful to me, but my wife knows a lot less about investments and it is reassuring to know that she is comfortable relying on him after I'm gone."

How can you discover the real reasons people pass your name along to their friends and what they say when they do it? The most powerful strategy is by organizing and running a client advisory board. Whether you have a board or not, there is another easy way to gather intelligence. The next time you receive a referral, during your thank you call ask your client "when you spoke to your friend about me, what did you say exactly?"

If you want to be really thorough about it, you can also follow it up with "what did your friend say that made you think of me?" It is a great idea to teach your clients trigger phrases that should clue them in that the person who is speaking needs what you do. When a referral actually arrives, this question can confirm that you're sharing the right trigger phrases with clients or introduce you to new phrases they can listen for.

Once you learn which of the many things you do for clients they are most excited to tell other people about, and the language they use to do it, you can begin incorporating that into your conversations with clients and help prepare them for the opportunity to refer. "We have learned in speaking with clients lately that what they are most excited to tell other people about our service is _________________. Is that true for you as well? When do you think would be the most likely time that you would tell that to a friend?"

What kinds of things have you heard from your clients about how they describe you? Has getting that kind of feedback changed how you talk to clients about how or who to recommend you to? I would love to hear about some of your experiences.


Stephen Wershing, CFP® is President of The Client Driven Practice. He coaches financial advisors to be more effective and successful, and attract more clients and referrals, by developing more client-connected and client-driven practices. 


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