Here’s How to Ask for Referrals More Effectively

Question from a Referral Minute Subscriber – Can you relate?

“I have engaged clients, but I’m not getting many referrals. Although I’m asking for referrals, it seems like most clients say, ‘I tell people about you’ but they have some reason they don’t want to meet. 

I guess that I need to take more control of the situation and get names. Per your V.I.P.S. Method, I conduct the Value Discussion and Treat the Request with Importance.

What is the best way that people have found to get names?  I guess what I am asking is …  what is the best way to get to the ‘P’ (Permission to Explore or Brainstorm) and “S” (Suggest Names and Categories) parts of the system?”

My Response – Asking for Referrals More Effectively

Being Super Referable

If you are not getting many unsolicited referrals, then you are not as referable as you need to be.  Referability comes from Client Engagement – meaning the client is clearly in touch with both your value and with you as a person.

Referability does not usually come from a product (or even series of products) that you sell. Referability comes from the processes you use to help your clients make educated decisions AND how you stay connected with your clients over time – continuing to bring value (or you’re no longer necessary) and building business friendships.

It’s usually difficult to maintain super high-level relationships with more than 150-200 clients.  So your efforts to become and remain super referable will typically be directed toward your ‘B+’ and ‘A’ clients (eventually only ‘A’ clients).

You want to have a client-service promise in place and execute on that promise. It’s not untypical to make monthly contact with your ‘A’ relationships. Sometimes these are value-centered contacts and sometimes business-friendship contacts.

Asking for Referrals (That Turn into Introductions)

While conducting the Value Discussion is an important part of our V.I.P.S. Method™ and will occasionally result in unsolicited referrals, Suggesting Names and Categories (coming prepared for this conversation) is a critical step to a productive ask.

The 4 most prevalent mistakes I see in asking for referrals are: 

  1. Thinking you’re more referable than you really are.
  2. Merely promoting referrals – not really asking for specific introductions to specific people or brainstorming various categories.
  3. Not creating an environment of “brainstorming” or “exploration” – no pressure and no right or wrong suggestions.
  4. Not coming prepared to suggest specific people or categories.

Examples of promoting referrals are saying things like, “I’m never too busy to see if I can help other people you care about.”  While this and other ways to promote referrals has its place and can produce some results, it is clearly not the same as asking for referrals and introductions.

When you get permission to brainstorm or explore, you soften your request enough to take the sense of pressure away.  You can even say to your client, “We’re just brainstorming. No pressure. Let’s see if we might be able to identify a few people you think would at least appreciate the opportunity to make an educated decision that’s in their best interest.”

Suggesting names and categories means just that. You come to the conversation prepared to suggest one or more specific people you know are in your clients’ lives and/or categories of people who typically find great value in the work that you do.

Specific individuals can include family, colleagues, and friends. From the minute you meet someone you want to start paying attention to who they know and even ask questions that will help you get to know your prospects and clients better (so you can serve them better) and identify others you may serve as well.

Every business has its natural categories of people to suggest.  Since most of the readers of this publication are financial professionals, I’ll use that industry as my example. In financial services, the two main categories are people who might be most receptive to an introduction to you are people with money in motion (such as impending retirement, moving retirement accounts, inheritance, divorce or other legal settlement); and life events (such as marriage, new child, buying a new home, etc.).  Obviously, these two categories overlap.

If you merely promote the possibility of referrals or just throw open the entire universe for your client to consider, you will not usually produce specific referrals that can turn into strong introductions.

The only way to really get good at asking for referrals is to have a specific process (just about any process is better than no process) and then practice that process until it becomes second nature.

Related: Are the Riches Really in the Niches? Best Target Markets for Financial Advisors