Are you getting enough qualified referrals from people within your network? Or are you relationship rich but referral poor?
In my experience working with those in the financial services industry, I’ve seen those who stay in touch with clients, go to networking events, and even ask for referrals, but never get much to show for it.
Here are a few of the reasons why you don’t get more referrals.
1. You don't take the first step.
Before you ask for a referral, you must make sure that your client is happy with your services. If you ask too soon, you either won’t get referrals at all or the referrals will be poor quality. Take a minute to talk to your client and ask, “How are we doing?” That little question works wonders. If you get a positive answer, you can move ahead and ask for referrals. If you get a not-so-good answer, you now have the opportunity to make it better and you’ll live to fight another day.
2. They don’t care enough… yet.
This goes hand-in-hand with #1. A lot of professionals will attempt to ask for a referral when the relationship is too new. There is a time and a place for everything, but if you’re attempting to build a long-term relationship with a client, it’s okay to take it slow.
Think about that time you found yourself in a networking situation and somebody you just met wanted to ram a business card in your hand. When they talk, it’s “me, me, me” and what you can do for them. That’s how you come across when you ask for a referral too early in the game.
When someone gives you a referral, they are putting their reputation on the line. You want to be sure that your relationship with the person is developed enough to minimize the perceived risk they take on when referring you.
Another reason they don’t care enough is that prospects and clients are busy. I publish a lot of material ondealing with rejection because a lot of people get hurt when the first try doesn’t go well and they shut down. Don’t do this – your clients are probably too wrapped up in their own world. They’re not even thinking about you or what you can do for other people they know. Take it slow, consistently express your gratitude, and remind them of how you could help other people they know. Don’t get discouraged if they don’t hop up and give you twenty names the first time.
3. You’re asking the wrong way.
When most people ask for a referral they do it like this: “Who do you who needs XYZ?” Every time I hear that, I get one step closer to going crazy. Or how about “Do you know anybody who could benefit from my services?” That’s the absolute worst.
In 57 Marketing Tips for Financial Advisors, I explain that you should never force people to do your qualifying for you. The old “Do you know anyone who could benefit from my services?” forces your clients to make a judgment in an area they may or may not feel comfortable with. All you’re doing is making your client mentally organize EVERYBODY he/she knows, which is too overwhelming. Even if the client is deep in thought and genuinely wants to help you, all he or she will be able to muster is a bleak, “I can’t think of anybody.” You want to know why? It’s because you weren’t specific enough.
Clients aren’t giving you referrals because they genuinely don’t know what you’re looking for. Do some filtering when you ask for a referral. If you specialize in working with physicians, ask: “Who is your physician?” and take it from there. If you’re selling life insurance, go ahead and ask, “Do you know anyone who has recently had a child or might be starting a family soon?” By asking more specific questions, you’ve whittled down the five-hundred people that your client knows all the way down to three or four.
4. You aren’t giving referrals.
One of the best ways to get referrals from other people is to give them first. When you give a referral, you demonstrate your utmost trust and confidence in the person. You also show your willingness to assist or help your client resolve a problem he/she has – the mark of a true professional.
It’s likely that at least some of your clients are lawyers, doctors, business owners, managers, or some other type of professional. You are the person who interacts with all of these people. If you know someone who needs a particular service, make a referral! Call your client and check up on them. If they have a problem that can be solved by someone in your network, let them know. Not only will you have stayed in front of your client, but you will kick in a primal urge to reciprocate on the part of the professional. Nearly all service professionals get part of their business from referrals, so send a few their way.
5. You didn’t ask.
Unfortunately, this is the most common and most easily overlooked reason referrals aren’t coming your way. If you don’t ask, you don’t receive. “Oh, I didn’t know you needed more business!” will be heard so much you’ll think it’s your new ringtone.
Russ Alan Prince’s book, Cultivating The Middle Class Millionaire tells us that 70% of loyal millionaires were likely to refer people to their primary advisor, yet only 10.7% of advisors actually asked clients for referrals. Dan Allison, the founder and president of Feedback Marketing Group, says that when most advisors lay out their method of asking for referrals, they’re not really asking anything. Sometimes clients don’t even know they’re being asked, or they don’t know that you’re taking on new clients. Be clear and direct.