The Secret Words Clients Love to Hear

October 28, 2014

by Beverly Flaxington

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Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.

Dear Bev,

We have many clients who are really wired. They know a lot of wealthy people and many sit on boards and are trustees. Given the level of service we offer, I would expect our clients to proactively introduce us to these folks. Instead, every meeting we ask them for a referral and nothing comes of it. Does this mean we don’t have the great relationships we think we have?

Mark T.

Dear Mark,

Don’t panic about the strength of your relationships just yet! All is probably well. You might just be missing a key point when talking to your clients about who they you know. This is a topic we work with many advisors on. The lack of referrals is especially frustrating here; you know that they know people you should know!

Put yourself in your clients’ shoes. They might enjoy working with you without fully understanding the value you bring.  You realize the difference between you and the average advisor, but your clients might only have the experience of working with you. Having nothing to compare it to, they can’t see the “wow!” factor you provide.

In addition, people don’t often think about the situations with which they are most satisfied. Relationships that are imperfect or need fixing demand the most time and attention.  When all is well with your clients, they might come in and meet with you and walk out the door without a second thought. This is actually a compliment to you; you aren’t top of mind because you don’t need to be. You are serving them well and taking care of them.

So what are the secret words that will make a difference in getting referrals? It starts with changing your approach. Instead of asking them for general referrals, ask them for specific help. People like to be needed. They respond well to requests for assistance that they can readily give. Start by saying, “I have a problem and would appreciate your thoughts and help. We want to grow our practice. We know we are doing an excellent job serving our clients, but we don’t get the level of referrals and introductions we believe we should. I notice you are connected to (insert the board they are on, the company they work for, the people they know). Would you be able to facilitate an introduction for me?” Stop there. Don’t keep talking. Don’t keep explaining. Most often the response will be positive. Either they will agree to do so or they will offer another option to be helpful to you.

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