“I found a new way to talk with clients about referring me,” Ryan, a financial advisor, once told me excitedly on the phone. “I use a diagram! I’ll show it to you.”
Ryan emailed me a little while later with this:
Of course, I was interested, and I called him back right away to have him explain how it worked.
“First, I draw a circle in the center of a yellow pad, where you see the Joe W, representing the client,” he started.
“Then,” he continued, “I draw circles surrounding the first circle for people they’ve already referred to me. I thank them for the ones that worked out and tell them that these referrals
are happy. I also point out the ones that didn’t work out, explaining how it just wasn’t right for whatever reason.”
“Finally,” Ryan exclaimed, “I ask them who’s missing from the chart! I say, ‘Who haven’t we talked about yet?’”
Ryan told me that the client at the center of this drawing, Joe, looked at the chart and said to him, “I wonder why we never talked about my niece, Barbara, and her husband.”
He gestured to the open circles on the page.
“Add Barbara in there.”
Ryan was very proud of his piece of “referral technology” — and so was I. I went on to suggest to him that any time a client or prospective client volunteers information, his next response should be a magical question — either “who else?” or “what else?”
Once Joe volunteered Barbara, for instance, a who else could identify another person for Joe and Ryan to discuss, and with whom Ryan could go on to arrange an appointment.
Asking, “Who else?” again might have brought to light a third — and then even a fourth potential client for Ryan.
Most professionals are terrified of the referral conversation and they either avoid it entirely or approach it so awkwardly that it doesn’t end up working for them at all. Tim, one of my current clients, told me earlier this week that he was uncomfortable switching from being a professional to asking for referrals. The goal, I told him, is to be a professional while asking for referrals.
There shouldn’t be a difference. If you’re helping someone by providing a service, why not offer the same service to someone else in his or her life who might also really need your help? If you have your own method of talking about introductions or referrals
that works for you, please share it with me and with the other professionals in your life.