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7 proven ways to get referrals without asking

I'm a big believer in asking your clients for referrals. But you can't ask every client for referrals every time you meet with them. Here are seven proven ways to promote referrals to your clients. About 70% of the time, these techniques will result in your clients giving you referrals at some time in the future. However, you can expect that about 30% of the time, these techniques will generate referrals right on the spot. These little adjustments you make now act just like compound interest, turning small deposits into large savings. You'll reap the rewards for years to come.

To show you how practical these techniques are, I'll bring most of them to life with a sample script.

1. Reminder of confidentiality: "George, there's one thing I want to run by you. Many of my clients like to introduce me to others whom they think should know about the important work I do. I just wanted you to know, should that opportunity presents itself to you, the work we do is always kept completely confidential. They will never learn about your financial situation from me and vice versa. Does that make sense?"

2. Who you serve the best: "George and Martha, there's something I want to mention to you. Many of my clients like to introduce me to others whom they think should know about the important work I do. Should that ever come up for you, I thought it would be good for you to know for whom our processes are best suited. These days, our practice is geared toward successful couples like yourself. They usually have children, but not always. Generally they have a combined income of over $100,000 -- some of my clients are even in the $400,000 range and more. While I don't expect you to know someone's exact financial situation, you probably have a sense. Is that clear?" [Note: Every financial professional's ideal client profile is different. Insert yours into this template.]

3. How I'll contact them: "Randy, quite often my clients like to recommend the work I do to others whom they care about. Should that ever come up for you, I thought you should know how I usually like to handle those situations. First of all, I don't like to surprise people with a phone call from out of the blue. I've found that everyone seems to feel most comfortable when they know I'll be contacting them and have a sense of why. Does that make sense?

"So, if you identify someone you think I should contact, please come to me first. Together, we'll figure out the best way for us to approach them. We'll do it in a way that suits your relationship and feels comfortable and natural to everyone. If they are interested, great. We'll meet for a no-obligation review -- such as we did initially. If they decide they don't care to move forward, I assure you I won't pressure them or become a pest. That's just not my style.

"If someone brings it up from their side, see if they'd like me to call them. I've found that sometimes I need to be professionally proactive to get people to take a look at the important work I do. How does all this sound?"

4. "Don't keep me a secret": I've been teaching this simple phrase for over a dozen years, and I've been impressed with two things: how many financial professionals are using this phrase with great success; and how often it results in a referral conversation right on the spot. It never hurts a relationship. When you say to a client, "Please don't keep me a secret," they likely won't respond with, "I can't believe you said that. Give me my check back." Try saying this to your clients at the end of value-oriented meetings. Add it as a P.S. to your handwritten notes. You can even add it to your email signature file and your voice mail. [Editor's Note: "Don't Keep Me a Secret" is the title of Bill Cates' most recent book from McGraw-Hill.]

5. Willingness to give referrals: This is a great technique to get a referral conversation started with anyone who needs referrals for their business. You can use it with your prospects, clients, friends, people you meet at social functions, even neighbors you meet at your kids' soccer games. "Frank, you sound like you do pretty good work for your clients. Tell me, if I ran into a good prospect for your business, how would I know it? And how would you like me to introduce them to you?" When you demonstrate a genuine willingness to give referrals, many people will reciprocate with you. This can be a great start to a productive center of influence relationship.

6. Celebrate referrals: Every time you meet a new prospect through a referral, make a big deal about it. Talk about the person you know in common. Tell them, "It's great Tom introduced me to you. When I meet folks through referrals like this, it leaves me with more time to serve my clients, instead of spending time looking for clients. Make sense?" And, quite frankly, it's how most people prefer to meet their financial advisor."

7. Who should I thank? I got this simple technique from my business manager, Karen Hood. One day, she was talking on the phone to a prospective client who had called our office to see how we might be a resource for them. At some point in the conversation, Karen said, "By the way, who referred you to us so we know who to thank?" When I heard this, it was like that beer commercial, where one of the cartoon characters says, "Brilliant."

Here's what I suggest you do. Put the following message on your voice mail: "This is Mike Smith. Sorry I missed your call. Please leave a message at the tone. And if you were referred to us, please let us know who we should thank." This sends the message to all who call that you get referrals on a regular basis -- you are referable. And that you have an attitude of gratitude.

It's important that you're not obnoxious about asking for referrals. And it's equally important that you find soft ways to keep the topic lively in people's awareness. Promoting referrals in the above ways will do just that. You'll never hurt a relationship, you'll plant a very powerful seed that can bear fruit later, and you will often walk away with referrals on the spot.

Bill Cates has just released The Referral Advantage Video Training Program. He is the author of "Get More Referrals Now!" and "Don't Keep Me a Secret!" and is offering you a free copy of his report "7 Deadly Referral Mistakes" as well as a subscription to his free referral newsletter with more than 30,000 subscribers. Go to www.referralminute.com. To contact Bill, send him an email: info@referralcoach.com.

More articles by Bill Cates:

The single most important step in asking for referrals

Turn lunch into great referrals

A referral success story everyone can learn from

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