Many times the most valuable way to gain new clients is through referrals by existing clients. However, this is often an uncomfortable process – you feel you are putting your clients on the spot by asking for referrals. But it doesn’t have to be a traumatic experience for you or your clients. In fact, often your clients would like to refer people to you, they just need some guidance. Here are some ideas on how to ease the awkwardness of the referral-gathering process:
Make a list of clients from whom to ask referrals. Be sure to choose clients who do not have objections to your firm’s performance and have worked with you long enough to have an educated opinion about your services. Also, find out what organizations, industry, or social circles they are involved in – anything that will help you pinpoint possible sources for asking for referrals.
Set up “research interviews” with your existing clients. Start with clients with whom you feel the most comfortable. Ask them specific questions about what they have liked about your service, what they have disliked, ways you could improve, and ways they have benefited. After they have told you specifically how they have benefited, ask them who they know that could stand to benefit in the same way. When you phrase it that way, they will feel obligated to refer a friend or relative to you because they want you to help them, too.
Develop a written profile of your ideal client, making it as specific as possible. Use that profile to explain to new clients and established clients the kind of person who could most benefit from your services. Even if they can’t think of anyone who fits the description right away, knowing who your ideal client is will enable them to give you valuable referrals in the future.
Try to meet your clients’ CPAs and other professional advisors. Call a CPA for a tax opinion on a specific stock transaction, or try to set up team meetings with your clients’ other advisors. Often it is difficult to get referrals from other professionals because they don’t want to jeopardize their own relationships with their clients. However, by establishing trust and showing them that you have the client’s best interest at heart, you can create a potentially valuable network.
Work on creating and maintaining trust in your current clients and meeting their needs to the best of your ability. This is an especially good way to target affluent individuals. According to a recent survey by Phoenix Duff & Phelps of Hartford, CT, most affluent investors choose a financial advisor based on the referral of a friend or colleague. Wealthy investors usually require a lot of attention to their accounts and your other clients need to know that if they refer someone to you, they will receive the special attention they need. Affluent individuals also value trust and ethics very highly so all of your clients need to know that you are a trustworthy and honest professional.
The main thing to remember in the search for referrals is that you need to do everything you can to ensure that your current clients are pleased with your service. Once you accomplish that and implement some of the suggestions above, asking for referrals will no longer be a frightening endeavor, but an effortless way to gain valuable new clients.