Stop asking for referrals; instead, ask for introductions

In my 23 years of working with financial and insurance professionals, I’ve seen advisors ask without hesitation for $300,000-plus commitments from clients for large, single-premium insurance policies or to invest. But when it came to talking with these clients about someone they know who could benefit from doing the same thing, they couldn’t bring themselves to have the conversation.

They were afraid — afraid of being rejected, afraid of appearing disloyal to the client they’re with or afraid of appearing needy or “salesy.”

Introductions from engaged, happy clients, however, are often the best way to grow your business. There’s no cost, it’s immediate and the introduction comes with a built-in testimonial from the client. They’re good for the prospect who gets access to your expertise. They’re good for you because the likelihood of doing business with the prospect is much higher than through other connection methods, and — believe it or not — they’re good for the client who is making the introduction.

You have virtually no risk. The idea that someone would take back his check and storm out of your office or throw you out of their home is nonsense. However, the client puts his relationship with someone at risk in making the introduction. If they take that risk and it works out (and it’s likely to since you’re involved), the client becomes a hero to friends and family members. You deprive your clients of the opportunity to be a hero when you don’t talk to them about introducing you.

But your fears likely come, in part, from the way you learned to ask for referrals:

“I get paid in two ways. Give me 10 names and phone numbers …”

“You’ll never get a bill from me. All I ask is that you refer me to friends and family.”

Or worse:

If you’d rather have me working on your account than out looking for business, give me names and numbers …”

“We’re having a contest at our office, and I just need two more clients …”

Early in their careers, most financial advisors learn one or more of these and are told to keep doing them. But they’re uncomfortable and ignore the fact that unless you’re asking someone who loves you so much that they want to help you (your mom), your need for business is not something they care that much about. The methods focused on you and how you build your business are not important to most clients.

If this is what your conversations look like, stop asking for referrals. (You probably have already.)

What you want instead are introductions. With referrals, clients give you names and phone numbers, usually of people they’re not that close to, to shield from you the ones who are closest. Then they leave it to you to call them.

Introductions are different. They exercise the client’s “influence muscle.” The best of them mention someone specific they know and request from the client a suggested way to connect with them.

When there isn’t anyone specific, the focus is on someone they might want to help:

“Is there someone we could talk about who might not be feeling the same way about their situation? You probably won’t know what their situation is because we rarely talk with one another about finances, but if you care about them, we might want to ask them. Who comes to mind who you’d want to help if they needed it?”

With the focus on helping someone in their lives, the resistance is reduced. Who will reject you for wanting to talk about helping their friends and family?

Of course, this approach depends on your having earned the right to have this conversation, but that’s the subject of another article.

Make the conversation about them and the people they care about, and then getting introductions becomes much easier.

Sandy Schussel is a performance acceleration coach who has been working with financial advisors for more than 20 years, helping them break through to higher production levels. Contact him to learn how he can help you make selling the least of your concerns.

For more ideas about asking for introductions:

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