Ten vital steps to referral success

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International expert in referrals Bill Cates, explains how he created an empire off personal introductions, and how planners can do the same.

Before Cates found his calling in helping financial services professionals boost their referrals, he was in the book publishing business. He was forced to drive from store-to-store, trying to sell his books.

“Cold calls are God’s punishment for not getting enough referrals,” Cates now says.

He received countless rejections, but one day Cates turned a ‘no’ into a referral, just by asking. Through that referral, Cates sold five copies of a seafood recipe book. And from that sale, he sold a further 10,000 copies.

After learning the power of referrals, Cates was able to harness it, and has come up with 10 points that will help any financial planner do the same.

By unlocking the true power of referrals, he says that planners will be able to reduce marketing costs while increasing revenue. The average client case size per client will be larger, and they will also be more willing to give referrals, says Cates.

Here’s a breakdown of his 10 points, and how planners can use them to help boost their business:

  1. Think of referrals as perpetual revenue.

One of the biggest problems is that planners haven’t made referrals part of their practise, says Cates. “Stop dabbling in referrals, and start to work the referral process.”

  1. Articulate your value.

“How you talk about your value will determine how your clients talk about your value,” he says. “Talk about ‘why’ you’re in the business you’re in – why you do what you do.”

This triggers the emotional side of the brain and clients will become more engaged.

  1. Become more referable.

Advisers should be getting referrals without asking for them, says Cates. Make sure your clients are happy with you, by checking in with them and having ‘value discussions’.

He says that advisers often don’t ‘check in’ because they don’t want a negative response. But the value discussion will not hurt the relationship if advisers are proactive and ask if anything is not working. Also asking what is working will bring value to the forefront.

  1. Promote introductions.

Always remind clients that you want to be shared, says Cates. Use lines like “don’t keep me a secret”, or “I’m never too busy to be an additional resource to your friends and family”. Cates says that using these underneath your email sign off or on your voice mail will have a tremendous impact.

  1. Ask without pushing.

Clients may be hesitant to refer their friends if they don’t know how you’re going to act.

“If they don’t know who you handle it it’s risky, so teach them,” Cates says.

Reassure them that you will take a gentle approach, and always “handle with care”.

  1. Turn referrals into introductions.

Work collaboratively with your client. Ask them how they think the prospect would like to meet. They may prefer it if your client contacts them first to let them know that you will give them a call.

One of the only ways to get the attention of HNW individuals, is through an introduction, says Cates.

  1. Set appointments that stick.

Give your client a time frame that they can stick to, and follow up, says Cates.

“If I know my client’s talking to their friend on Saturday, on Friday they get an email from me...A reminder in the form of a thank you.”

Use information from your referral in the first conversation, and make it as easy as possible for the prospect to say yes to a meeting.

  1. Use strategic advocates.

Not everyone you meet will be a client , but Cates says you should always be on the look-out for who they may introduce you to.

“They have to really know the value provided, and one great thing you can do, for accountants, lawyers etc. is put them through your process, just a little bit; let them see what your process looks like.”

  1. Target a niche.

You will bring more value to a niche because you know their world better, therefore you become more referable more quickly in a niche, says Cates.

  1. Maximise event marketing.

A lot of wealthy people might not want the first meeting to be all about their personal financial situation. Use social functions to build friendships. This will make clients more loyal and shields them from the competition because they feel guilty talking to another adviser if you have a friendship with them.

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