The single most important step in asking for referrals

When was the last time you did business with a person or company and they checked in with you later to see if you were a happy customer/client?  It doesn’t happen often. Why? Either they don’t have a system in place to make it happen or they are afraid that something negative might come up. (Or maybe both.)

Of all the referral methods I’ve taught over the years, hands down the most important and most effective technique is that of checking in with a client to see if they recognize the value of the work you’ve done for them. The value discussion can and should be held at all stages of your relationship with prospects and clients. First, if there’s a problem that the prospect or client hasn’t voiced — because you haven’t stopped long enough to give them permission — then they are a candidate to move their business and you’re probably not very referable. Second, if they are happy with your work (which I suspect most of your clients are), they are getting more in touch with the value you’ve provided, and are therefore more predisposed to give you referrals.

Earlier this year, I delivered a referral seminar to a group of 41 financial advisors in Louisiana. After the session, their manager offered them an incentive to start holding value discussions with their clients. He told them that if they scheduled value discussions with 12 clients in a six week period, he would reward them with $250 of travel and entertainment money. Sixteen of these advisors completed the assignment on time. And these 16 advisors generated 132 referrals from the value discussion alone. That’s how powerful this technique is.

Getting the most from value discussions

One best practice that’s used by many successful financial professionals is to let the client know before the meeting that you’ll be checking in with them regarding the value they see in your services. This way, the client won’t be surprised or thrown off by a request to discuss what’s working and what’s not working.

Here’s an example of a few different conversations you might hold to prepare a client for your meeting. Of course, these are generic examples. You must make this concept fit your personality and your client relationships.

Before the meeting:  “George, I’m looking forward to our meeting in two weeks. I wanted to give you a heads up on one of my agenda items. I want to check in with you to see how our relationship is going … to see if there are any areas of improvement you feel we can make and to make sure you’re getting the value you expect from our relationship. If you like, think a little bit about this before we meet.  Make sense?”

During the meeting: “George, you’ll see the next item on our agenda is ‘Value Discussion.’ Let’s put the market aside for a minute and talk about something we CAN control — that is, our relationship and the quality of our communication. Is there anything not working for you in our relationship?” (Let them respond. If it’s a significant problem, you may not want to ask for referrals until the problem has been resolved. But either way, make sure you get to the positive side of this discussion.)

“Well, I’m glad that you have no concerns about how we’ve been working together. Let’s move to the positive side. What value do you feel you are getting from our relationship?”

What to ask in your value discussion

Checking in with your client on the value you’re delivering is at the heart of asking for referrals. It creates the right atmosphere for a great referral conversation. If done properly, the client will feel validated in their relationship with you after this discussion. I’ve seen many folks walk away from value discussions with both referrals and more assets on the spot, simply because they initiated this conversation.

Here are a few questions you should consider asking. You probably won’t ask them all and you may think of a few that are even better suited for yourself and your clients. If you like, you can email these questions to your client before the meeting, so they won’t be caught off guard and will be ready for the conversation.

1) In what ways, if any, am I falling short of your expectations? Please be specific.

2) In what ways am I exceeding your expectations? Please be specific.

3) Are we meeting often enough? Are we talking often enough?

4) Is there any area of financial planning that you feel unclear about or that you think we need to address further?

5) Please describe your experiences (favorable and unfavorable) with my assistant and or my staff?

6) Please describe your experiences (favorable and unfavorable) with my home office (if any).

7) Looking over our entire working relationship, where do you feel we have been of value to you (and your family, and/or to your business)?

The bottom line

Make it a habit of checking in with your clients. Create an agenda for every meeting. One of those items should be “value discussion.” Let your new clients know that you’ll be checking in from time to time to make sure they remain satisfied — no, happy — with your work, and let your current clients know that you’ll be doing this more often.

 

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