Referrals: Say This, Not That

AdvisorBlast – Quick Tips to Accelerate Your Practice

In this issue: A better way to ask for referrals.


Even seasoned advisors struggle with asking for referrals. You know you’re good at what you do and offer value, you know your clients like you, you know more people need your help. So why is asking for actionable lead information from your clients so threatening? The problem isn’t in getting the information, it’s in how we have been trained to ask. There’s a right way and a wrong way to do this, and a lot of people are telling advisors to do it the wrong way.
No one likes being put on the spot or asked to give out private information about their friends or family without their permission. If it’s a question I would not like to be asked, it’s not a question I want to ask of someone else. I don’t appreciate it when a sales person asks me to specifically tell him how I would describe how he helped me to a friend and then wants to know who I will tell about him, or asks me to write down the names and phone numbers of three of my friends who could use her services – especially when these questions come out of the blue, like a hurdle I have to get over before I can get out the door. But these are both questions I’ve recently seen recommended to advisors to ask at the end of client meetings.
My advice to you is that unless you’re holding a focus-group session with several clients to learn how to improve your practice, don’t ask questions like that!
There is another, easy way to ask for referrals that’s non-threatening, and from my personal experience and the feedback I get from the advisors I coach, it works!
Your clients may think you’re great and may be happy to recommend you, if they ever think about it. But when they are finished talking to you, typically they get back to all the demands of their everyday lives, and they aren’t thinking about you – not because they don’t like you, just because they have other things on their mind. Help them make the connection between how you help and conversations they have with their friends and family.
A better way
Assuming that your client is happy and you have had a good meeting with them, as you approach the close of your meeting and the time to cross into the “referral-ask zone” comes, try a more informal approach:
You: “Right now I’m meeting a lot of people with financial questions. They’re wondering what’s going on in the markets and which way to head, what it’ll take to retire (and stay retired!)  or how to plan for college costs…stuff like that.”
Why say this: You’re presenting actual words from real conversations that they may have heard their friends or family say in their discussions over dinner, at family gatherings, in the gym, etc.
You: “If you have friends or family who need to have some stuff explained or questions answered, or just want to know what’s going on, have them give me a call.”
Why say this: It’s casual, and you’ve set the picture with words that your client is likely to actually hear from friends and family.
You: “I’d be happy to answer their questions over the phone and help, if I can.”
Why say this: You’re clarifying expectations: you’re not going to have an hour of face-to-face time chewed up by potentially irrelevant banter about where the markets are heading, etc., but you’re happy to connect with new prospects.
You: “I’ll just put out one caveat: I don’t guarantee I’ll take them on as a client; they’ve got to be a perfect fit for what we’ve got happening here.”
Why say this: You just provided yourself with a backdoor should your client’s auntie want to write naked calls on-line all day and just want your time for a second opinion on where Google’s heading.
Most importantly, however, subconsciously you just reiterated to your client that you are a perfect fit for them and they for you. It clarifies to them that you have a good thing going with each other and you value that. It makes them feel they are a part of something top-notch and exclusive. (Even if you are at a stage in your business where you’ll pretty much take anyone who fogs a mirror, you don’t have to tell your existing clients that!)
You: “But if you think I can help them, please give them my details.”
There – not too difficult and nothing awkward about it. You don’t put your client on the spot, you give them a connection to bring you top-of-mind once they leave your office, and you allow them to be in control of the referral process.
You can use this verbiage or some slight variations of it over and over again.
Prepare yourself to ask for referrals in a better way:
  1. Determine some set wording you feel comfortable with.
  2. Practice saying it (in the shower, to your spouse, to your dog – it doesn’t matter, but do it out loud) before you say it to a client.
  3. Use it at the next appropriate and opportune time.
So, I’ve been meeting a lot of advisors lately who are wondering about different ways to grow their business, needing fresh ideas, and want help staying focused. If you have any questions like this or know of other advisors who might be looking for some help, give me a call. I don’t promise I’ll take you on as a client – it’s got to be a good fit for both me and you – but I’d be happy to talk.
– Paul


Copyright Paul Kingsman 2012

As a motivational speaker and executive coach, Paul Kingsman helps financial services professionals successfully grow their businesses by taking practical daily steps to achieve outstanding long-term results. Combining his experiences as an Olympic medalist and his background as an advisor, Paul understands how to stay focused over the long haul, as well as the unique business challenges faced by advisors. Through his professional speaking and executive coaching he equips them to overcome distractions so they can get the money they need, the clients they want, and the time to do what they love.

To find out more about how Paul can equip you or your team to achieve outstanding results, visit or email him at

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