Friday, February 11, 2011

3 Strategies for a Stronger Referral Culture

As you implement any training - use these three strategies as your framework. Stay true to them and maximize them, and you will be pleased with your results. It just so happens that the three strategies begin with the letter 'C.' Perhaps this will make these easier to remember. Of course, I'd love to visit your firm - live or via my video program - when you're ready.

Any success we have implementing a new strategy or tactic boils down to confidence. In the absence of confidence is fear, doubt, uncertainty - lack of action. The more confident we feel about a certain action, the more likely we will take that action and have success. So, success with referrals, all aspects of the referral process, is about confidence.
Therefore, it is your job to continually improve the confidence of your advisors related to referrals. Here are a few actions you must sustain over time to build the confidence of your advisors, and the outcome will be a strong referral culture:
  1. Script Writing - Require your advisors to write their scripts related to planting referral seeds and asking for referrals. Have them write them "conversationally" by imagining a real client in front of them. Have them read their scripts out loud and tighten them up.
  2. Practice / Role Play - Practicing will refine their scripts; allowing the advisor to feel and sound natural when talking about referrals. When should they stop practicing? Not until they have mastered their scripts. Amateurs practice until they get it right. Masters practice until they can't get it wrong.
  3. Role Modeling - To build the confidence of your advisors, make sure you and/or all of your managers master the art and skill of referrals. Demonstrate it to your advisors. Ask for referrals when you cover appointments with your advisors (unless you've agreed the advisor will ask).
To build a thriving referral culture in your firm, promote consistency of action. You must resist distractions that keep you from the plan. You must help your advisors sustain consistent action.
Here are a few ways to help with consistency:
  1. Set Achievement Goals - Ask your advisors to set an achievement goal of how many new clients they'd like to gain between now and the end of the year. This goal must be a stretch (not a goal that they'd reach anyway) and it must be realistic enough that it serves to motivate them. (By the way, I recommend your advisors have this sort of goal year after year, in their business plans.)
  2. Set Behavioral Goals - Now that they know how many new clients they'd like through referrals, they have to determine the behaviors necessary to reach this goal. These become their daily/weekly/monthly behaviors designed to produce results.
  3. Track Behavior and Results - Don't wait until the end of the goal period to see how they are doing. By then it's too late. Monitor their behavior on a weekly basis. See where their restrictions are. Coach them on how to remove those restrictions.
Accountability - Actually everything mentioned above contributes to holding your advisors accountable for the behavior necessary to generate a steady flow of referrals. Quite often, managers are uncomfortable holding advisors accountable. They take what advisors say at face value and don't probe more deeply to learn "what really happened" on a particular appointment. Give your advisors the GIFT of an excellent expectation. The more you expect from them - in a supportive manner - the more they will expect from themselves - and deliver!

Courage & Celebration
If you're going to create a "culture of accountability" I suggest you balance that with a "culture of celebration." At formal meetings and/or informal gatherings, celebrate the referrals that people are generating. And you don't have to wait for advisors to get referrals to celebrate. Celebrate the asking for referrals (and promoting referrals). Hold contests and other promotions - on going - to elevate the status of referrals and create an atmosphere of fun around referrals.
Help your advisors tap into their own personal reservoir of courage. Take success stories and turn them into teaching opportunities.
Building a thriving referral culture is not an easy thing. It requires a strong focus - sustained over a long period of time.

If you do not yet have a thriving referral culture, don't blame your advisors. It is the leadership team that creates the culture that will allow your advisors to thrive with referrals.






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