Want Referrals? Make the Fear Go Away

Referrals are all about fear!  Asking your best clients and centers of influence (COIs) to connect you with their friends and colleagues is like asking them to write naked call options on their relationships.
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The upside reward – making you happy and helping you grow your business – is tiny.  The downside risk – losing a friend or damaging a critical relationship – is gigantic! 

What’s worse is that the techniques we’ve all been taught to ask for referrals are ancient and actually increase the fear! They make us look weak, desperate, too pushy, salesy and aggressive. Using them actually increases the fear level in the client’s mind.

So if you want referrals…start by making the fear go away. 

Do Your Homework

Never go to a top client and say “Who else do you know that might be interested in my services?” Top financial professionals learn all they can about their client’s inner circle. Who are they connected to and what is the influence dynamic of that relationship?

The internet is a great start. Learn how to do advanced Google searches, using filetype, date and Boolean search parameters. Start using meta search engines like mamma.com or dogpile.com that scour the deep web. 

If your client runs a business, identify key industry contacts by researching trade publications and attending conferences as a guest or an associate member. You can become the go-to advisor for an entire industry or business niche. It starts by immersing yourself in the client’s professional world. Now you’re an “insider,” not just another adviser. 

Starting with a simple one-page Referral Intelligence File (RIF) will help you begin to identify and vet the people in the clients world to whom you would like to be connect.

Provide excellent service

Top clients expect extraordinary service, but this means more than simply not making mistakes and calling people back on time. Now it’s about delivering insight, value and solutions to challenges they didn’t even know they had.

It’s worth spending time each day thinking about your service model relative to your top clients. Ask yourself, “What issues might they be facing in the near future that we can start addressing today?” “What icebergs could hurt them that we can’t even see on the horizon yet?”

Anticipatory service like this takes time and you probably can’t do it for everyone. But for the clients you want referrals from, it’s definitely something to shoot for. One of the greatest things a client can tell their friend about you is that you uncovered and solved a problem they didn’t even know they had. That’s a major differentiator. 

Think Like a Lifeguard

Stop begging for names. When you say to a client, “Help me grow my business,” you are sending them the worst possible subliminal message. Top clients and COIs want to believe you are successful and strong. I recommend a shift in thinking we call The Lifeguard Model.

You are a financial lifeguard who swims out into a stormy sea of financial confusion and uncertainty and pulls people to safety. You have limited room in your lifeboat and the only people you’re letting in are the friends and colleagues of your best clients. This approach and philosophy makes a huge difference and enhances your stature as a truly valuable professional worthy of referrals.

Build Your Brand

It’s a crowded and confusing world out here. Clients have great difficulty telling advisers apart. We all offer the same products and services and we tend to say the same things. So what makes you special? What is different about your model, your process, your team, and the way you help people?

Part of branding may be your firm’s identity, but you need to augment that with your personal story. Chances are you have something very interesting and compelling to say. Don’t be afraid to blow your own horn…with humor and humility of course. But give them something they can connect with.

It’s About Emotions

Ultimately, referrals in our profession are highly emotional things. The client needs to trust that you will handle their referral with extreme professionalism and care. They need to know that they’re safe before they will connect you to their most important relationships.

Don’t argue with their fear. Don’t try to bulldoze them with ancient sales language or arm-twisting. Understand their world and prove that the upside of referring you overcomes the risk…and they will welcome you into their circle.

Frank Maselli is a professional speaker, best-selling author and 30-year veteran of the financial services industry. Maselli has presented to the largest and most successful organizations in the industry, training thousands of advisers and managers each year in advanced marketing, sales leadership and modern practice management techniques. His two books, Seminars: The Emotional Dynamic and Referrals: The Professional Way are changing the way top advisers market and grow their business. He is a member of the National Speakers Association, Mensa and IMCA and is the founder of The Financial Lifeguard Academy.  For more information about Frank Maselli and The Maselli Group, please visit www.MaselliGroup.com or call  (800) 231-5272.


NOTE: This feature is to provide general information only, does not constitute legal advice, and cannot be used or substituted for legal or tax advice.