Three Ways to Get More Client Referrals

Most advisory firms will strive to be more successful, whether it is this year or by the year 2030. To do this, most will have to significantly grow the number of total assets managed. For others the total number of clients will need to increase, which is especially true for the minority of financial planners that only charge a financial planning fee.

The SEI and FPA research titled, “Advisory Firms in 2030: The Innovation Imperative,” showed that 77 percent of those surveyed believe client referrals are the most important growth driver. Yet, when we first start consulting our clients, few of them already have a well-thought-out plan to gain more client referrals year after year.

To help, here are three strategic actions each financial planner should do this year. These best practices can have a compounding benefit of increased number of clients and assets under management.

1.) Know Your Clients

At first each firm should have identified target markets that it wants to focus on for future growth. Hopefully the current client base is in line with the ideal client profile, as it is easier to replicate existing clients than to start from scratch.

By knowing the clients better than anyone, customized services can be offered, unique marketing messages can be created and targeted prospecting can take place.

How should planners get to know their clients? Of course, some of that work starts in one-on-one meetings. However, advanced client research requires an independent third-party facilitator to get deep into the clients’ feedback and opinions.

Every planner should use an independent third-party facilitator to conduct an annual survey that can be as short as 10 questions. More advanced research can take place in the form of focus groups and advisory boards to get to know the client base even better. Interestingly enough, when focus groups are conducted, clients involved typically give more referrals after the research than they did before. By asking them to share their thoughts and advice, they start to have an even greater vested interest in the success of the advisory practice.

2.) Have Conversations About Referrals

All the high-pressure tactics of asking for referrals have damaged the financial services industry in many ways. The effects are that often planners do not feel comfortable asking and—not by coincidence—clients do not want to be asked either.

Traditional approaches put the need on the client to help the planner. However, this is not the right approach. Instead the conversations should be around the planner wanting to help their client by helping their family member, friend, colleague, etc.

If the planner can, offer help, instead of asking for it. That approach will lead to many introductions. First of all, the planner will be comfortable having the conversations. Plus, the clients will feel like the planner is doing them a value-added service my helping others they know. This simple change can make a huge difference. Byrnes Consulting has seen that the more “helpful” conversations that occur, the more likely referrals will start coming from the existing client base.

3.) Facilitate Real Introductions

In every survey Byrnes Consulting conducted for our clients that included referrals as part of the learning agenda, we found that clients said they gave significantly more referrals than planners were actually seeing. We find that often planners only have 5 to 20 percent of their clients give referrals. However, approximately three out of four clients say they give referrals.

That is a big difference with huge potential. There might be many reasons the referrals are not reaching out, ranging from them experiencing terrible online first impressions to them just not being ready to take the first step all on their own.

Planners really have to step up their digital presence. Referrals will be the main way planners continue to grow, but any more websites and social networks now get an assist on making the referral a real lead. Today, the majority of prospects will have done some online research before taking the first step to call, email or visit a planner. Expect this preliminary step to be close to 100 percent in the coming years.

For those prospects not quite ready to take the first step on their own, planners need to create opportunities for them to get introduced. Ideally the existing client can bring them to an event or something more intimate. Every year, each firm should have a very diverse event strategy to get most of the client base to participate in at least one activity.

The financial planners that want to grow at a faster pace over the next decade need to continue to have a well-thought-out plan. Hopefully these strategic actions can help them take the initial steps needed to bring in more clients in the coming years.

Mike Byrnes Headshot

Mike Byrnes is a national speaker and owner of Byrnes Consulting, LLC. His firm provides consulting services to help advisers become even more successful. He helps financial professionals with business planning, marketing strategy, business development, client service and management effectiveness. He is a coach in the FPA Coaches Corner. 

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Editor’s note: This piece originally appeared in the FPA Coaches Corner whitepaper, “Action 2020: Create Business Success for Today and Tomorrow.” Download your copy of the whitepaper here.  


To Give is To Get: 3 Ways to Offer Value to Clients and Prospects

The saying “to give is to get” should be attributable to many aspects of one’s life and it rings true no matter what industry you work in. Giving of your time, energy, integrity, empathy, expertise and advice are just a handful of ways in which we also receive.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best when he said, “Life’s most urgent question is, what are you doing for others?” So ask yourself, am I giving enough? Am I giving my all to prospects and clients and truly ensuring I’m making a difference in their lives? Or, am I coasting through my days, weeks, months and even years doing just enough to get by?

One way to determine your answer is to consider what you are getting from your business. Are you satisfied with the type of business you have? At the end of a day do you feel like you have gone above and beyond to assist your prospects and clients? If you are not getting enough from your business and you cannot answer yes to any of those questions, then it’s time to evaluate and find a way to give more to your business and to those you can affect each day.

Let’s take a look at ways financial planners can offer value to client and prospects, in a manner you might not have previously thought about.

1.) Give of Your Time

Time is a precious commodity and the best way to give of your time is be in control of it by creating structure to your activities and ensuring you have tools to manage interruptions. If you don’t incorporate these items, you’ll end up being reactive every day rather than productive.

Chuck R. is a financial planner client of mine who after only five years felt burned out because he was constantly putting out fires. After learning about two of my time management coaching tools, including a framework for building structure and another that helps planners prioritize tasks and handle interruptions, he was able to double the business he did in only one year and then doubled it again the following year. By being responsible with his time, he was able to devote more of it each day for communication and outreach with his clients. A win, win.

2.) Give of Your Energy

Energy can be a hard thing to offer up sometimes. There is much research that has found that if you can keep the energy flowing, you will experience greater satisfaction in your endeavors. Sandra P., a veteran financial planner client of mine, decided years ago to open her own charity to help underprivileged girls in Africa.

Each year she puts on an auction called “The Power of the Purse” which auctions off purses that are owned by celebrities. Last year’s event raised $40,000! By finding energy to volunteer, assist in your community, mentor a student or a new colleague or by donating your energy for a worthwhile cause, you will feel fulfilled.

3.) Give of Your Integrity

Integrity is a must as a character trait—even more so when you are entrusted with someone else’s finances. Telling the truth even when it lends itself to a challenging conversation, explaining every detail, benefit and risk of a product or recommendation and educating prospects/clients are all key foundational facets for our industry.

Tom C. a coaching client of mine, never wanted to mix friendship with business so he had never offered his friends or even his acquaintances an opinion on their investments.

That is until we discussed why this was a mistake. As a result, Tom has now done countless reviews for those he knows for free and has shared his insight on their portfolios. He made the realization that several of his friends’ plans were taking way too much risk. His expertise has value. Giving of that expertise to those he cares about is a give that has a return that cannot be measured.

Why Giving Works

Giving gives our lives purpose and it feels good. If you are sensing that something is missing in your life, look for ways to give to others, you may be surprised at what you get in return.

If you are ready to take your business to the next level, schedule a complimentary 30-minute coaching session with me by emailing Melissa Denham director of client servicing.

Dan Finley

Daniel C. Finley is the president and co-founder of Advisor Solutions, a business consulting and coaching service dedicated to helping advisers build a better business.

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Exploring Your Business Model: Are You Amazon or Sears?

It’s early February, and the holidays are just behind us. If you’re like most people, you probably shopped online and had multiple packages delivered straight to your door—from Amazon, the United States Postal Service, UPS and a variety of other carriers. Maybe you even had your groceries delivered, or flowers or wine. It was convenient, wasn’t it? You got exactly what you wanted without ever having to leave your house or waste time looking for a parking spot at a crowded mall or store.

Your clients did the same thing, of course.

Which is why you need to think carefully about what’s really important to them. We live in a world where customers are increasingly dictating what they want, expect and will pay for, and the companies that prosper are the ones delivering on those needs.

You Know What Your Clients Want … Don’t You?

Ah, you’re thinking, but those are retail companies that deliver a product. It’s easy for them. What I deliver is an intangible service that can’t be measured the same way.

That would be true—if your clients agreed with you. Unfortunately, many of them probably expect the same things from you and your practice that they’ve come to expect from other businesses. How would you stack up in terms of convenience, choice, price and accessibility? Does your practice seem friendly, enjoyable, and easy to work with?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as I consult with advisers on their business plans. One elite adviser is working far more hours than he’d like to, and his goal for 2020 is to take more time off to deal with some lingering health issues and to start accomplishing a few items on his bucket list. So, Bill (not his real name) went through the work of segmenting his client base and creating a carefully thought-out service matrix. All of this was good, until Bill discussed his planned deliverables with me.

Making Assumptions

As part of his offering for his top 50 clients, Bill planned to continue his customary quarterly meetings and reviews. Everyone else would be cut back to three meetings per year. And did I mention that these are all face-to-face meetings?

Bill thought he was delivering extraordinary value to his clients. To keep that schedule, he was holding 20–25 meetings a week. He and his staff were tired, overworked and frequently scrambling to get things done. It was a drain on everyone, with no end in sight.

It’s always easier to spot issues when you’re not directly involved. Clearly, this wasn’t working well for the practice, so I asked Bill a simple question: “What makes you think your clients want to meet with you that often?”

There was total silence for about a minute. And then Bill admitted he was gobsmacked—it had never occurred to him that clients wouldn’t value the experience he’s been at great pains to deliver. But think about it from your clients’ perspective. If they like and trust you, and they have a financial plan in place they’re working toward, why do they need to meet with you so often? Many of them might be stealing time in the middle of a busy workday or cutting short family time to sit down with you. Add in traffic and parking and coordinating with spouses, and it might be that your clients view keeping several appointments with you as a hassle. And all the while, you’ve thought they were thrilled by your platinum service level.

A New Discovery Process

When Bill actually asked his clients how often they would prefer to sit down and meet, most said annually, with a minority saying semiannually (only a few older clients wanted to keep their same schedule). As long as they could reach Bill when they had questions or when they had a life change, they were happy—eager—to meet less frequently. Between emails, market updates, events and social media posts, clients felt they were kept well informed with what was happening throughout the year.

As part of this discovery process, Bill also learned his clients were highly interested in using technology, such as videoconferencing, screensharing and texting, to stay in touch. He’d had that capability for years but never used it, assuming his clients didn’t want it. Now Bill is working on a new service model that begins with what his clients want and genuinely value from him, to the greater satisfaction of all.

Let’s go back to my earlier comments about retail shopping. Bill’s practice is now positioned as more responsive, convenient, technologically advanced and accessible simply because he is thinking about what clients really want and need—and then delivering it. As a result, Bill and his team will save hundreds of hours spent in meetings and meeting preparation—time they can now devote to being even more thoughtful and detailed when they do sit with a client. Bill is now planning to take his first two-week vacation in 20 years.

Amazon Vs. Sears

I’m not suggesting advisers unilaterally change their service models or cut back on client meetings. But if you don’t really know what clients want or expect from you, it’s high time you asked. Sears failed to recognize that its customers wanted something different from their shopping experience and kept offering the same things it always had. It’s currently in bankruptcy proceedings, while Amazon posted record revenues last year.

Which one are you?


Kristine McManus is chief business development officer, practice management, at Commonwealth Financial Network®, member FINRA/SIPC, the nation’s largest privately held Registered Investment Adviser—independent broker/dealer. Since joining the firm in April 2014, she has been working with affiliated advisers to grow their top line through the introduction of various programs, tools and coaching. Kristine holds the Chartered Retirement Planning CounselorSM designation, a master’s degree from Pennsylvania State University, and a BFA from Adelphi University.