I remember as a shy fifth grader asking my friend Mark to tell the pretty girl that I wanted to take her to the grade school dance. Trying to close a deal like that was scary. As I grew up and gained a little confidence, I stopped asking my friends to do the dirty work. It is time for you to stop asking your clients to do the dirty work for you.
Referrals are an essential part of growth for almost every financial practice. The best referrals are unsolicited. They come to you as a result of the exemplary service you provide and the relationships you’ve built, not because you ask your clients to do the dirty work for you.
Asking your clients for referrals can be a painful and awkward conversation. I’ll let you in on a little secret. The conversation is just as painful and awkward for the client being asked.
Stop Asking for Referrals
The most successful advisors I know commit to ongoing training for business development and practice management. All too often, the foundation of the sales training is asking for referrals. And why not? If you ask for enough referrals, you’re bound to get one. You’ll probably celebrate with your coach and talk about how well it worked.
There is only one problem, asking for the referral didn’t work! Sure, you got your referral, but what you weren’t aware of was the damage you were doing to many of your established relationships.
The Oechsli Institute regularly surveys affluent investors. 83% of the survey respondents say that they feel awkward or uncomfortable when their advisor asks them for a referral. If you ask for 10 referrals, you’re likely to get one…it’s the law of averages. Don’t celebrate too soon. More than 8 of the 10 people you asked were turned off by the question.
On the other hand, the same 83% of affluent investors will give you an introduction if you ask for one directly. Do your homework and learn to whom your best advocates are connected. Instead of asking for a referral, ask them for a personal introduction.
LinkedIn for Sourcing Names
LinkedIn.com has an amazing amount of data on the connectivity and networks of your best advocates and clients. With some simple searches into the networks of your closest connections, you can quickly find the people that they know…that you want to know.
Pay attention to a portion of your advocate’s profile called Skills and Endorsements. Expand the list of endorsers to find the perfect candidate for an introduction. If someone has endorsed your advocate for a skill, they probably know that person pretty well, increasing the likelihood of getting the introduction you seek.
For those of you who have upgraded to LinkedIn Sales Navigator (and I highly recommend that you do), you have a direct line to your connection’s networks. A visit to your best client’s profile is likely to give you access to all of their connections. First, click on the number of connections they have:
Next, sort the list of connections by keywords to find the types of people that you want to meet. Pay close attention to the list of contacts that is returned as you are likely to find some very valuable information, making the introduction even more meaningful.
Making the Ask
When I ask for an introduction, I always want to get a feel for how well my client knows the target. Ask a couple of feeler questions to make sure that your request won’t be met with resistance. Hey friend, I see you’re connected to John Doe on LinkedIn. Tell me about him. How do you know him? Looks like an interesting guy, I’d love to meet him. What is a good way to meet John? If your client doesn’t offer the introduction, ask for it; what do you say I buy the three of us lunch one day next week.
You’re likely to get about 50% of the introductions that you ask for. Make it a point to ask for two introductions a week. Doing the research and making the calls can be accomplished in about 30 minutes a week. A 50% success rate will gain you 52 new introductions a year to the people that you want to meet. I promise, it will be well worth your time.
But don’t stop there…
Once you source the introduction, get permission to ask for more introductions. If your client is willing to give one introduction, surely they’ll help you with others. Just ask them. I just started using LinkedIn and WOW, what a valuable resource. Do you mind, if I find more people of interest in your network, can I ask you a couple questions about them? Your best clients and advocates are going to help you. If they agree, you’ll have no shortage of new opportunities.
LinkedIn.com, specifically LinkedIn Sales Navigator, is one of the best sales tools I have ever used. Using the platform for the network knowledge outlined in this article is only one of the many beneficial uses of LinkedIn.
Stop asking your clients to do the dirty work for you. Stop asking for referrals. Start using LinkedIn to learn with whom your best clients are connected and start asking for introductions.
This article was written by Charlie Van Derven, the President of Social Advisors. Charlie has 20-years of experience under his belt, and he has witnessed the social revolution of the Internet evolve into the rise of social media and email marketing. Through education or assistance, Social Advisors helps financial advisors understand who they want to attract to their business and to develop the custom content and marketing strategy to make that happen.