The following is based on one of Norm Trainor’s clients. All of the names and telling details have been changed.
Simon’s background and cultural experience gave him a great advantage in his chosen career as a financial advisor. Born and raised in Lebanon, Simon spoke English, French and Arabic. His clientele consisted primarily of people from his native country, a market he felt he had virtually tapped out.
When we first started working together, it was clear that, although he didn’t realize it, one of Simon’s strengths was his network. In fact, the characteristics of the people in his natural market created the greatest opportunity to grow his business.
The key to Simon’s success in growing his business was to leverage the attitudes, attributes and values of the people in his natural market.
The people of Lebanon and the Middle East, in general, place a high value on relationships and trust. In building his business, Simon spent countless hours drinking coffee and playing backgammon and chess with prospects and clients – coffee is a staple of relationship-building in the Middle East. His investment in establishing credibility paid off in spades as a significant number of friends and relatives became clients.
His large network enabled him to increase his revenue to $250,000 in his fourth year as a financial advisor. Then his income stopped growing.
The most important measure of the degree of trust or credibility in a client relationship is the extent to which people willingly introduce, recommend or refer their advisor to the people that are most important to them. When Simon learned to ask his clients and centers of influence for introductions, recommendations and referrals, his revenue doubled in the next year.
We know that introductions are far more effective than referrals. When you obtain an introduction, the client provides the leverage by arranging the meeting with the prospect. In the case of a referral, you have to provide the leverage. We teach a five-step process for obtaining introductions, recommendations and referrals.
The first step is to confirm your relationship with the nominator. You may begin with something like this: “Sam, now that you have had a chance to see the type of work we do, how do you feel about it?” When the client responds positively, you affirm their confidence in you by repeating what you have heard and encouraging them to expand upon how you have made a difference in their lives.
The second step is to describe your ideal client. You might say the following: “That is good to hear, because you are the type of client that I want to work with. Let me be more specific…” Then, you summarize the characteristics of your ideal client.
The third step is to obtain from your client the names of people who fit these characteristics. If the person has difficulty coming up with a number of names, you can suggest categories such as, “Who is the most successful person you know?” or “Which of your colleagues fit the client profile I just described?”
Once you have been given a number of names, the fourth step is to qualify the prospects and enlist the nominator’s help in meeting them. It is important to get six to 10 names from your client before you ask questions about each person in order to determine who to pursue. Ideally, your nominator will arrange an introduction to two or three of the best prospects and provide recommendations and referrals to the rest.
The fifth step is to keep your nominator informed with regard to your experience in following up with these people. Keep in mind that you always respect the confidential nature of each relationship. However, your existing clients will want to know about people whom they introduce, recommend and refer who become clients. Your success with their network expands the equity in the relationship for them and for you.