How to Ask for a Referral from a Client
Who should listen: This episode is for service professionals such as financial advisors who want to ask clients for referrals in a way that puts everyone at ease.
Key idea: Clients won’t offer referrals unless they are asked.
Unlike wondering how to ask a stranger on LinkedIn for a referral, you would think that knowing how to ask for referrals from existing clients would be a piece of cake.
You would think . . .
There are some people who, no matter how well they served their clients, can’t bring themselves to ask for referrals. There are also some professions—like financial and wealth management services—that promote a culture where asking a client for a referral is about as crude as asking for a beer at a wine tasting.
But what makes anyone think that a client will give them a referral if they don’t ask?
Is it blind faith?
Is it a preference for a “wait and see” approach?
Is it possible they think their service will speak for itself?
It’s befuddling because we’re willing to bet that there isn’t any other aspect of their businesses that such people would leave up to this degree of chance.
More likely, they don’t ask for referrals because it feels awkward. They feel pushy or too “salesy,” and they don’t want to make their clients feel uncomfortable by putting them on the spot.
(Is this beginning to sound familiar?)
Today’s guest is Brandon Hegg, a coach and consultant to financial advisors with Dynamic Directions. He’s been helping advisors and wealth managers grow and improve their practices quickly, and among his tools is a pain-free conversational technique that elicits referrals without the typical awkwardness.
Improve. Praise. Ask.
Brandon believes in financial advisors doing more with the clients they have and getting more good clients. It’s this belief that makes him a staunch proponent of asking for referrals.
For Brandon, the key to asking for referrals is to make the request a seamless part of a larger conversation. The pattern of these conversations is to improve, praise, and ask.
Improve: You begin the conversation by asking clients to consider what you can do to improve their experience.
If they say everything is great, then you’ve gotten them to verbally confirm that you are providing value. That’s an important moment because it reaffirms their decision to remain a client.
If they offer a suggestion, then you commit to making the improvement.
Brandon explains why the success of the overall referral strategy hinges on telling your clients that you will ask this question every time you have a conversation with them.
Praise: The conversation should continue with finding an opportunity to praise your client. The key is to identify something that makes them an ideal client—it could be because they work for a specific company, they are at a certain stage in their lives, they respect your advice, or something else—and praise them for it.
An easy way to incorporate praise into your conversation might be to say, “I like working with you because [insert characteristic].” Once you’ve praised your client, you’ve put them in a positive frame of mind where they feel good. (Never underestimate the power of a compliment.)
Ask: Once you’ve praised your client, requesting a referral is a simple matter of asking who else they know that has that same characteristic(s). It may take weeks or perhaps months for a client to provide a referral, but it’s important that they know you are open for business and accepting new clients. (Listen for the Golden Nugget about what not to say to clients in this regard.)
Brandon’s strategy has worked well for every advisor he’s coached. He suggests when advisors should first use this strategy, how often after that, and under what circumstances. He also talks about an innovative way to reward clients who offer referrals, the value of highly targeted client events to build relationships and create opportunities for new business, and explains with examples how to ask clients questions that touch key emotions and drive decisions.
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Connect | Resources
LinkedIn: Brandon Hegg
Cell phone: 612-271-5536