Friday, December 17, 2010

Referral Study Groups That Produce Results

By Bill Cates

I just delivered a full-day referral program to a financial company in Atlanta. Right after lunch, before I was to resume the program, the leader of the firm challenged the 60 people in the room to take referral generation to the next level. She announced the formation of a 15 member Referral Study Group. She told the group that only people who attended my session were eligible to be a part of the group. She told them that while the group was limited to 15 people, she wouldn not necessarily pick 15 people. She stated that she intended to interview each applicant for group - to make sure they belonged.
I think creating this "exclusive group" is a brilliant move on her part. It brings out the competitive nature in her advisors, so they want to prove they belong.
She and I discussed what criteria she would use to decide who could join this elite Referral Study Group. Here are a few of the things we decided:
  1. Hungry for new clients - everyone in this group needs to be in a growth mode.
  2. Evidence they will implement - if an advisor has signed up for other initiatives in the past, but did not take the action necessary to produce results, she probably wouldn' t let them in this group.
  3. Evidence of referability - to take full advantage of this Referral Study Group, the advisors needed to be referable. What's the point of getting them to be more proactive for referrals if they aren't highly referable? One barometer of their referability is that they are getting some referrals without asking for them.
  4. Equal level of commitment - she wants to make sure everyone in the group starts with a high level of sustainable energy and commitment to acquiring more clients through referrals.

After my presentation, she told me that she already had enough people to form the group, but still intended on being picky. She only has so much time to devote to such a group and needed to make sure this initiative would be well worth everyone's time.
With this as the backdrop, here are a few thoughts about how to make your Referral Study Groups a success (or study group for any initiative).

Shared Commitment to Results

It is critical that every member of the group have a high- level commitment to producing results. With this, comes a high-level of commitment to stepping out of one's comfort zone. While it's not always easy to measure this, you must do your best. One thing that might help is to tell them that "quitting the group is not an option." Set the group to run about 6 months; meeting attendance is mandatory; and quitting is not an option. These three simple rules may help you separate the wheat from the chaff.

Practice and Coaching

One of the prime activities of a Referral Study Group is practice; role play; drill for skill - whatever you want to call it. I've been teaching my referral system for over 14 years and one of the critical post-training activities necessary to produce results is practice. Advisors need to write out their scripts and practice, practice, practice. Asking for referrals is not rocket science, it's all about confidence. The road to confidence is paved with practice.

Keep Finding Ways to Bring Value

You've heard me harp on the necessity to always find ways to bring more value to your clients - to become an indispensable resource. A resource that came out of the Boot Camp was the website (this site is f-r- e-e). I'm not endorsing this site, per se. You should check it out before you recommend it. The point is, you can help your clients in all aspects of their financial lives through the work of others. Look for other types of advisors, books, and websites that you can refer to your clients to help them with financial matters you don't handle directly.

Business Friendships Create Loyalty and Referrals

Here are a few websites that will help you work on your business friendships with your clients. allows you to enter all your clients birthdays and then will remind you when it's time to send a card. will do this too, but allows you to send out a real paper card for all sorts of occasions. At you can put in the date of a client's birthday (or their child's birthday) and come up with all sorts of fun and interesting information. For instance, the year I was born bread cost $0.16 a loaf and gas was only $0.27 per gallon. You will have to figure out what year that was.

How do you want your clients to feel about doing business with you?

As you continually work on your client-service model to provide your clients with the best possible service and build the best possible relationships, keep this thought in mind, "How do I want my clients to feel about doing business with me/us?" By you and your team asking this question every step along the way, you will be more creative and more client focused. Then, translate the answers to this question into specific action steps, items on your check lists, etc.






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