Don’t you dare ask for a referral

 (reading time less than 3 minutes)

Don’t you dare ask for a referral. Are you crazy or something?

You worked so hard to build a strong trusting relationship with your client. 

You wowed them by serving their favorite fresh-baked cookies at your office. You even reserved a parking spot right by your office door. “This space reserved for Mr. and Mrs. Client.”

You enjoy this client. They enjoy you.

You know there are others in their affluent family you would love to meet.

So you want to ask for a favor and have this client refer other members of their family to you.

The Problem

But your gut tightens up. You feel like you’re begging. Your client might resent your request. You would destroy that beautiful relationship you have.

There’s more, when you think about it. You’re not just asking for names, you’re asking them for permission to call on these referred friends.

One of these friends may well resent it. They may not want a salesman (that’s you) calling on them. That’ll hurt the relationship with the friend and your client. And that will hurt you.

Here’s the way they want it to go. They want the friend to express a need and your client to recommend you.

When the friend talks to your client about his question or problem, your client says, “I got a great advisor. He’s taken good care of my portfolio and treats me like a king. Want to talk to him?”

The friend says, “Yes.” The client gives his friend your contact information and, if you trained him well, your client tells you all about it. That way, you can be sure to follow up the referral as a welcomed advisor.

When you understand this, you probably think, “Yes, I was right all along. All I have to do is give terrific service. Then word-of-mouth will get me plenty of referrals.” You sigh with relief.

But you’re the victim of a myth.

Surveys show word-of-mouth by unhappy customers goes like this …

  • They share their bad experiences with about 12 others.
  • Each of the 12 will mention it to six others.

Those are good numbers, but word-of-mouth by happy customers results in …

  • Telling the good experiences with just a few friends.
  • Those friends do not share that with anyone.

Basically, positive word-of-mouth stops with the satisfied customer and his few friends

No wonder just providing superior results and service for your clients generates so few referrals.

The Solution

So what can an ambitious advisor do?

Good news, there’s plenty you can do to get referrals.

Turn the whole system on his head. Don’t ask for referrals. Don’t ask for a favor. It’ll hurt you. Give a favor instead.

Instead of saying something like;

“I need your help. If you can help me build my business, I can spend more time helping you. Who do you know? “Get out your roledex.”

This used to work in the past. There are books out there recommending it. But clients and prospects are much more sophisticated now. They don’t like that approach.

Here’s what you can say instead;

“I very much value you as a client and as a service to you, I’m willing to help your family, friends, and colleagues with their financial questions. Does anyone come to mind that might benefit from my help?”

Hear the difference? You’re offering a favor. You are a giver not a taker.

Don’t expect any names then. Only two out of 100 will give a name when asked. It has to happen on their time, when a friend has a need. What you’re doing is conditioning them to think of you when the time is right.

You still have to wow your clients. You need to wow them with things like …

  • fresh-baked cookies,
  • reserved parking spots,
  • birthday cards,
  • anniversary flowers and
  • maybe even birthday parties and client appreciation events.

This is the foundation. It’s the price of admission. It only gets you in the ballpark and the chance to hit home runs with offers to do their friends a favor.


So don’t you dare ask for a referral.
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