Don’t Ask for Referrals, Just Get Them

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The headline above sounds appealing, doesn’t it? Stephen Wershing, CFP®, author of the book Stop Asking for Referrals, begs to differ on the traditional approach of asking for referrals. Speaking at the recent Business and Wealth Management Forum in Denver, he shared his belief that referrals aren’t about asking, they are about the client remembering you at the right time—namely, when friends ask them whether they know a person who can help them with … (fill in the name of your financial specialization here).

People like to be “in the know” and have a suggestion ready when friends ask whether they’ve had a good experience with an airline, a restaurant, their doctor, etc. And Wershing points to research by Julie Littlechild that shows 77 percent of clients give their adviser a ranking of 8 out of 10 or higher, and 91 percent of clients are comfortable referring. So why is it that the research also finds that only 29 percent of clients actually do refer?

Stop Talking About Yourself!
Wershing believes one problem is planner marketing strategies going astray—spending too much time talking about the planner and not enough time emphasizing the types of clients the planner serves. If you want your name to be the first thing your clients think about when someone asks them for (blank), you need to be sure they know your specialty like the back of their hand. Wershing suggests the best opportunity planners have to gain referrals is to prepare clients for the opportunity to refer. You want to “own a spot on the client’s brain.”

Women Are Not a Niche
Before your client can know with crystal-clear confidence who you serve and what you do, you need to know. What is a niche, after all? Wershing says a niche, in marketing terms, is not a demographic but a need. For example, he says “women,” who make up 52 percent of the population, are not a niche—they are the Grand Canyon! He suggests filling in this sentence: “People like _____ come to me for _____.” Who do you specialize in and what special thing do you do for them?

When you’ve figured out where your passions and talents lie and decide to specialize in that area, you’ll get better at that craft—a benefit to you and the client. And don’t forget to remind your clients about it!

Christina Nelson
Managing Editor
Journal of Financial Planning
Financial Planning Association

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