Four Ways to Influence Referrals for Those Who Hate to Ask

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If you hate to ask for referrals, you’re not alone. I’ve been coaching financial advisors on how to get referrals for more than 19 years and I’ve seen this hatred expressed by nearly all of my clients.

Fear of rejection ranks high, but there’s more than one way to get referrals. These strategies have been implemented by my clients to influence referrals in a creative way that feels more comfortable.

1. Follow your money

Take a few minutes to identify three business owners who you support by being their client. Easy ones that come to mind might be your hairstylist or barber, fitness trainer, or guitar teacher. You’ve been supporting their business for years in some cases and may have referred them to others as well. Wouldn’t it be nice to influence referrals in return? Perhaps the conversation could go something like this:

(YOU) Hi Joan. I wanted to schedule my next haircut. While I’m at it, I also wondered if you might consider something. I’ve been a client of yours for more than five years and I’ve also sent you numerous other friends as well. I wondered if you would also be willing to help my business in some way as well.

(JOAN) Sure. What did you have in mind?

(YOU) I’m offering a webinar at the end of the month for Gen-X parents on the topic of college planning. Would you give all your clients a flyer about the webinar when they check out for the next three weeks?

(JOAN) That should be easy enough to do. Bring me the flyers and I’ll share that with my staff.

This strategy requires that you know exactly what you plan to ask for before you approach the business owner. Some of my clients have had their information placed in waiting rooms, brochures included in packets, and articles included in newsletters (more on that one next).

2. Leverage your content

Who do you know who communicates with their clients using a newsletter or something similar? Most everyone I know who does is often searching for valuable content to add to their newsletter. If you approach them with some of your content and offer up an article or two that would be valuable information for their clients, chances are they will jump at the opportunity. Be sure to include how people can reach out to you as now you will be seen by an entire mailing list of people you don’t know. In return, they may be able to offer you a similar article or blog that you can share with your clients as well. Consider doing this with multiple people to exponentially increase your exposure.

3. Plant your messages

Chances are that you have many clients who think you’re wonderful but still haven’t referred you. If you’ve read other articles of mine, you know that there are many things that cause this, however sometimes people just need a little nudge in the form of a subliminal message. The phrase “who do you know who…” has been proven to have the greatest influence on referrals. Take a minute to complete that question with endings that help people know who you’re looking for as prospects. For example, “Who do you know who just got a divorce?” Or “Who do you know who is worried about having enough money to caring for an aging parent?” Once you have these questions written, make them visible. Include them in your email signature, social media headlines, social media posts, or even put them in frames and place them around your office when you return after COVID. These messages plant referral triggers in the minds of people who see them and gently influence referrals.

4. Capitalize on social media

You’ve heard enough people tell you that you need to be using social media, especially LinkedIn. It’s true. I guarantee that your competition is on LinkedIn. More advisors than ever are on LinkedIn, but most don’t leverage it as much as they could for new prospects. This strategy capitalizes on the networks of your COIs for new prospective clients.

Networking doesn’t work unless you spend time doing it. The same is true for LinkedIn. Browse through the connections of your best COI and search for people they are connected to that you would like to meet. You can use the filters of LinkedIn to help narrow your search. For example, you could filter by companies, industries, positions held, associations, etc. Make a list of 6-8 people who could be prospects or additional COIs for you. Call your COI and say, “I’ve been searching through your contacts on LinkedIn and I found a few people I’d like to discuss with you. Are you free next week for a Zoom call or lunch?” During your call or meeting, talk about each person on the list and determine which ones your COI could introduce you to and strategize how best to make that happen. In return, encourage your COI to browse your LinkedIn connections for people they may like to meet as well.

Now that this is fresh in your mind and I’ve got your wheels turning, decide which strategy you will begin to implement. A well-rounded referral process includes multiple approaches, some direct (active) and some indirect (passive). Knowing how to have a comfortable referral conversation with people who want to help you and getting rid of limiting beliefs about referrals will significantly enhance your referral results as well. If you need help in that area, let’s talk.

Michelle R. Donovan is a referral/business coach, speaker and partner of Productivity Uncorked LLC, helping financial advisors fix their referral issues and get more done in their day with coaching, consulting and DIY Courses. Michelle’s books have become Wall Street Journal best-sellers, Amazon best-sellers and published in seven languages. Email Michelle at [email protected] or connect with her on LinkedIn.

Read more articles by Michelle R. Donovan