Sunday, March 6, 2011

Getting Referrals Requires the Right Perspective

In a practice genuinely focused on clients rather than on production, referrals make all the difference. In the best interests of both, you'd better let your clients know it.
Of course, that word "genuinely" can be a stumbling block. Ostensibly, we all have our clients' needs foremost in our minds, right? But it's so much more than that. It means setting your mind on considering only what's best for the client, not because it's expeditious for the business, but because of the benefits to the people you serve.
Many advisors wrestle with this concept. They struggle to make decisions that would be best for clients because they just seem to think of themselves. That's endemic in a sales culture where it feels as if the prime directive is to get something from someone else. Even today, when "consultants" and "full service" and "financial planning" are the rage and, therefore, you'd think the emphasis would be on giving something of real value to clients, the thrust of most training for financial professionals is how to influence people or, more plainly, how to get something from everyone you meet.
In the midst of a persistent production mentality, the Trusted Advisor stands out as being honestly able to put other people first, even if it means asking them to do something that may appear to be more "work," such as meeting in the advisor's office instead of their home. It doesn't matter that prospective clients have to do more than they would if the advisor just accommodated them. Instead, what matters is that the best possible experience for the client comes from just a tiny bit more effort on the client's part. What's a thirty-minute drive in the context of someone's entire financial future?
I'm not writing this article to instruct you in what to say to people to get them to put in more effort. My point is that the way you do business should, in every instance, reflect your sincere desire to put the client first. One of the most important areas where this must hold true is in gathering referrals. Don't wimp out on this critical business practice, which is instrumental not only to your own professional success, but more importantly to the quality of service you can provide to your clients.
With the "get something" mindset, asking for referrals can take some serious chutzpah. After all, you just earned thousands or tens of thousands of dollars from insurance and investments and planning, and there you are, with your hand out, asking for more! "Now that you've given me all your money, can you introduce me to a bunch of people so I can take their money, too?" Only the most hardened salespeople can pull that off without sounding embarrassed to be asking.
Worse, some salespeople tie referrals to compensation. You know the script: "I get paid two ways-by commission (or fee) for taking care of you and your money and by referrals." Referrals are not about the number of ways you get paid. It is not about you, period.
A business that finds future clients by referrals instead of prospecting and marketing simply does a better job for its clients. The act of asking for referrals should be the reason why people should give them to you in the first place. It's better for them if they do. For example, it's as if you were running a country club, and you asked members to invite friends to become members. This way, instead of coming up with clever ads and spending money on billboards, you could focus on finding and training the best chef so members can have great meals, the best golf pros, so members can improve their game, or the best masseuse so members can relax, Then they will spend money on things that will benefit them, such as grounds maintenance, beautiful furnishings, and so on.
In a country club, it's a given that there are an optimal number of members: enough to secure adequate revenues, but not enough to make tee times impossible to get. The management knows it, and the members know it, and they both work to get to that number as quickly as possible so that the management can focus on nothing but members' comfort and enjoyment of the club. You get the point.
You can use this analogy in talking to your clients about referring their friends, colleagues, and family to you. But beware, if you're starting to see this as a way to "position" referrals, you're shanking the ball. Salespeople will see this as a "great line," but for Trusted Advisors, it's not a line at all. It's what they know to be true. If you tell your clients that you need their referrals for their benefit and you don't really believe that, they will know it. As a result, you will either get crummy referrals or none at all.
Follow the referral process that Bill Cates teaches you (The Referral Advantage Program®). Don't deprive your clients and strategic alliances of one of the finest feelings they can have - referring people to you that need your services. Expect that they will give you the names of everyone they know who fits your ideal client profile. If you expect two referrals, you will probably only get two referrals. What would happen if you expected to get 24, 33, 47, or whatever number you pick? You will get more when you expect more. Remember, it's not about you, it's about them. Don't be a salesperson; be a Trusted Advisor.






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