Here are some referral-specific questions recently asked by agents (top producers, mind you!), and my responses. You'll notice a theme here: the best networkers in the business are direct yet sensitive, likeable yet sincere, and bold yet humble.
1. How can I leverage my clients to network?
You must simply ask. Say something direct, such as: “I pride myself on my business relationships. Would you be open to networking and seeing how we might help one another over time?” Always make your overtures mutual and you will build great relationships that last.
2. How can I get people to whom I refer business to return the favor?
Again, you must simply ask. But here’s the kicker; there may be a good reason why those you refer aren’t referring you right back. In fact, it could be one of six reasons and you need to find out which one it is. It’s not easy. Ready?
1. They don’t realize you are looking for referrals (entirely possible).
2. They don’t know how to refer business to you.
3. They’re not in a good position to refer business to you given their job.
4. They have a brother-in-law that’s an agent that gets your referral business.
5. They don’t have confidence in your competence — yet.
6. They don’t like and/or trust you.
Tough to hear some of this stuff, I know. The only way to resolve this issue is to be direct and ask. Otherwise you won’t sleep. This is an example of direct conflict, which is why most advisors won’t ask the question. But it must be asked. Look at this as a developmental opportunity.
Your inquiry may sound something like this, “Bill (hypothetical name), would you be open to exploring how we can refer each other more business? I’ve referred clients to you and I’d like to help you return the favor!” Say it with a smile and a wink, but say it. Be prepared for the answer as this should prompt the truth — one of the six reasons. Be open and appreciative of the feedback. This is where great relationships are often made, so make them.
3. How should I talk business at a golf tournament? I would keep the conversation short, light and within your group — foursome or whatever. Probably a onetime chat between holes. Simply ask what the others do for work. If their line of work is interesting and you like them, ask if they would be open to brainstorming with some shop talk over drinks at the 19th hole. Explore how you can help one another (networking) rather than setting up appointments with them to talk about the importance of your work (selling). See the difference?
4. How should a young advisor network comfortably with high net-worth individuals of an older age? Okay, a recurring theme. Young buck, you must realize that the old men and women at the country club, or wherever else, are not going to want to do business with you in most cases. They’re experienced and successful and therefore will already be working with (or interested in working with) their contemporaries that are already successful. But we were all young and new once. So look to build great relationships by asking successful elders for their advice and insight. Be clear about the type of business you’re looking for and they can best tell you where to go and what to say. Be likeable, inquisitive, specific in your language and humble. If you take this approach, it will go a long way.
5. What’s the best strategy for breaking out of my comfort zone to begin building networking relationships? Like the Nike ad says, “Just do it.” Put a networking event, chamber mixer, association meeting, golf outing, or alumni meeting into your calendar as a priority and show up. Review the blogs for some of the organizations or events that interest you. Purchase Knock-Out Networking! by yours truly and read it cover to cover. Then read again. Then buy a copy for all of your clients. Then see what happens! Every time you go to an event or speak with a client/COI, you will get more focused and confident. Then the magic will happen.
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