Today we dive into a practical example of how to not only loan your 'car' (client) out safely, but to also deepen relationships along the way.
Last month, I took a chance with one of my nicer cars by booking a day long fly fishing trip with my client Luke. My latest book, “Can I Borrow Your Car?”, comes out 11/1 and the theme of the book is that most financial advisors know how to manage risk appropriately in portfolios and not so much in referral relationships. Financial planning is tailor made for a referral system that, literally, can deliver 100% of your business while having a tremendous amount of fun.
Risk, recognizing it and mitigating it, is the key to moving from ‘accidental’ referrals (99% of you) to predictable referrals that deliver to you and your firm exactly what you need in new business year after year.
Back to the story with Luke. He is a beginner fly fisher and wanted to improve, but asking him to drive 4 hours to fish with just me was going to be too much of a risk. I hedged my bets by hiring a guide. Tom Sadler from Mossy Creek Fly Fishing out of Harrisonburg, VA is one of the worlds best fly fishing guides for what is called Tenkara (basically fixed line fly fishing).
By hiring Tom I was adding another person to the mix (just like the referral process) and potentially adding or lowering risk accordingly. This is where the context of viewing the referral process as loaning/borrowing a car becomes extremely helpful.
Tom and I had a preliminary phone call to go over my expectations for the day and I used the ‘can I borrow your car’ story immediately by referencing that I was in effect bringing a Ferrari down to let him use it for the day. He got the reference right away and we proceeded to design a raving fan experience (thanks to Ken Blanchard for that amazing book!) for Luke. We went in detail over what I wanted to happen for Luke and how I expected Tom to guide us. Basically, Tom was to completely focus on working with Luke.
Thanks to the preparation from Tom and I plus the fact that Luke is very coachable, the day was amazing and Luke progressed from beginner to competent angler over the course of the day, culminating in his landing a really fat rainbow trout (19 inches) on the famed spring creek Mossy Creek. Luke had an amazing time, I was completely satisfied and Tom seemed to have enjoyed himself as well. I also happened to catch the largest trout of my life, a true 'whiskey' of 20+ inches.
Fast forward to last week as Tom and I reconnected while he was a guest on my upcoming podcast “Guide Waters: Exploring Fly Fishing & Financial Planning”. We had a great time and talked about the guiding experience from his perspective and he said something that really pleased me. Tom said that he had never had someone like me pay for a guided trip for one of his clients and then come along. In fact, he mentioned that too many of his subsequent clients he shared stories of our trip together.
Referring your clients to other professionals is always a risk. You never completely control the experience (even if you are there like I was), but your preparation and communication process is 99% of the risk mitigation strategy. The great news is that if you prepare well and design the experience for your client in advance you are likely to have an above average result and even if something goes wrong the chances of you losing a client are almost nonexistent.
The flip side, which is so often what is practiced currently, is to hope that things will go well. At the end of the day don’t you want that Ferrari back in your garage in immaculate condition and ready for you to drive?!?
Here are the basics of the process:
- Create/imagine unique experiences for your clients.
- Identify/recruit other guides to not only refer your clients to, but also to do preliminary communication with to make sure they are a ‘safe driver’.
- Design with the guide an optimal experience that both you and the guide want to do.
- Communicate with your client about the experience and explain the process.
- If possible/appropriate, participate yourself (ride along)
- Follow up with everyone involved to not only problem solve, but more importantly to deepen and enhance relationships for more referral opportunities in the near future.
You can have success and a life that is full of joy. You do need to do some work to make that happen and to keep your life aligned (throw out that trash talk of work life balance…complete and utter nonsense).
What makes you most alive?
What really matters to you?
Why aren’t you doing that as much as possible?
Those three questions are 100% relevant to getting predictable referrals. This is because when you are the most alive…you are the most referrable. People want to introduce people that are enjoying their lives, especially financial advisors, to other people. Your BMW or Porsche isn’t going to make them want to refer you, but your passion for life will do nicely.