Is It Worth The Effort To Improve Your Referral Skills?

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Is It Worth The Effort To Improve Your Referral Skills?

October 19, 2015

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 yet another coach working with our advisory firm to help us with referrals. I know there is value to referrals, but I don’t feel comfortable asking my clients for their help to grow my business. I have excellent relationships with them, but what do they get for helping me? One of my best clients told me he is concerned about dilution and doesn’t want me working with new clients. Quite frankly, I already am pulled in too many directions. As is, I get more referrals than anyone on our seven-person team, but I am forced to participate in all of these activities. If I complain about it, our firm’s owner criticizes me for being “ungrateful.” I do understand there is a cost, but I am also clear the investment he is making is for additional assets that increase his equity in the firm. None of the rest of us are owners or have any meaningful stake. Is there a way for me to gracefully back out of this coaching or explain to him why I don’t think I need to participate? In addition to it not working, it takes time away from the things I should be doing like working with existing clients.


Dear T.P.,

Thank you for writing. Your note is filled with a number of things to discuss, not just the question you pose at the end! Let’s look at a few aspects of your current situation. Consider a few questions:

  1. Is the coaching valuable in other ways? In my experience, if you are getting “referral training,” there are often other tidbits or golden gems that a good coach can share. Is he or she able to provide other support to you so that you would find the experience valuable and could be more positive about it?
  2. Have you explained to your firm leader – using facts and data and a non-emotional, not overly resistant style and tone – why you are uncomfortable participating? Sometimes when we become frustrated with a situation, we lose the ability to stay cool and fact-oriented in our approach. Perhaps if you showed him your referral success rate versus others in the firm, you could ask to spend less time or ask him for specific feedback on what he thinks you need to do differently.
  3. Are you managing your time to the highest and best way? If not could the coach help you with this? Your firm owner does need to focus on new revenue generation and if your job entails adding to that, having too many clients to manage could mean you are pulled in too many directions. First make sure you are making the best use of your time.
  4. I completely and totally agree with your experience that asking clients to help you grow your business can feel uncomfortable. I think that clients refer because they want to help others, not just their advisor. It sounds like you might be doing a lot right with respect to referrals already. Perhaps examine what is working well for you and then build on it and do more of it!

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