Most advisors agree that they'd love to get more referrals. The key to achieving this is simple -- become more referable. In my 20-plus years of working with successful advisors, I've discovered seven valuable steps that will virtually guarantee a steady stream of qualified referrals.
1. Show you care
The saying, "clients don't care how much you know until they know how much you care" is the cornerstone of an effective referral-building strategy. When clients know you truly care about them, they feel compelled to tell others about you. It's all about building relationships and taking the time to make an extra phone call, send a birthday card, or set up a lunch or coffee date. Go the extra mile by finding out what your clients are passionate about. If one of your clients loves roses, take her to the annual rose exhibit. If another loves golf, take him to the annual tournament that comes to town. People are starved for affection and attention, and even small gestures can have a dramatic effect on the number of referrals you receive.
2. Be predictable
A friend of mine who serves on the board of a homeowners' association is a very qualified service provider. I mentioned his name one day to a friend of mine, and another woman with us said, "I would never use him." She proceeded to tell us how unprofessional, disrespectful and mean he had been to people in his subdivision. My friend looked at me and said she wanted someone who was predictable. In less than five minutes, this service provider lost $10,000 worth of potential business because he wasn't consistent.
Recently, I had a tentative meeting scheduled with a Realtor to discuss her marketing strategy. When I called her, she was on another line and said she'd call me back. She didn't. Coincidentally, a friend of mine who was actually looking for a Realtor was at our house at the time. When she didn't call me back, my friend said, "I know one Realtor I won't use!"
The moral of these stories is to always do the right thing, even when you don't think anyone is looking... because chances are, they are.
3. Get your clients and prospects into the "referability zone"
Anyone who's ever been a serious runner understands what it feels like to be "in the zone." Similarly, you've got to get your clients and colleagues into the referability zone. To do this, you need to make sure they immediately associate you with the key words of your message. If you specialize in advising widowed or divorced affluent women, for example, you want people to think of you -- and refer you -- whenever they hear someone say "divorce," "death," "cancer" or any other word or phrase that describes a person who could use your services. To make this happen, you need to send consistent messages -- with pictures and words -- to your clients, prospects and colleagues on a regular basis. You'll know this strategy is working when a client calls and tells you something like, "You need to call Sally's sister because she just lost her husband."
4. Ask for referrals upfront
Before a colleague accepts new clients, he asks them if they'll refer others to him after working with him for a year if he's done a job of 8 or better on a scale from one to 10. He then takes the time to learn exactly what his clients want and need to ensure he's meeting their expectations. At the end of the year, when his clients meet for their annual review and say he's done a good job, he reminds them of their agreement. Guess what? He always gets referrals!
5. Under-promise and over-deliver
A very well-connected colleague recently shared that he was using some new software that I was interested in. When I began asking him questions, he said that he felt they'd oversold him on the front end and were not delivering on the back end. I can only imagine how many referrals this software company lost because of this flip-flopped strategy. It's always better to exceed expectations than to disappoint a customer.
6. What can I do for you?
When you genuinely want to help others and do everything you can do for them, you'll be amazed at the referrals you get in return. Look at all your relationships from the perspective of, "What can I do for you?"
7. Create reciprocal referral relationships
This has been my most profitable referral strategy. Simply identify five industries and three professionals in each one. Tell these professionals that you want to set up a mutually beneficial partnership by agreeing to refer clients to each other. The reason you choose three professionals is because in each industry group, one of your targeted professionals is typically a dud, but one will likely be a superstar and the other a consistent source of qualified referrals.
Becoming referable doesn't usually happen overnight, but you can make it happen. Start with two of the strategies listed above and monitor the results. Keep the ones that work best for you and continue to add strategies until you have more referrals than you can handle!
If you'd like an invitation to our upcoming Referral Marketing Webinar, please contact me using the forum below.
To your continued success,
Annette M Bau, CFP®