I think it’s no longer enough to settle for referred leads. We want introductions or connections to our new prospects. With referred leads, you may emerge from an appointment with 10 names and phone numbers, and not set a single appointment. But, if you emerge with three to four quality connections, you may set and sell all four.

In this article I’d like to give you examples of how your colleagues are using referral events to produce great quality introductions that result in new clients. I’m not talking about client appreciation events. I’m talking about referral events. There is a BIG difference. You host a client appreciation event to show your appreciation to your clients. That’s it. Nothing else. You don’t ask them to bring friends, etc. Doing that can diminish the appreciation value.

A referral event, on the other hand, is a very overt way of getting your clients to introduce you to others who might be interested in the work you do. While there is a client-appreciation component to this event, everything is above board. Your client knows you are hosting a fun event (ideas to follow) for the purpose of meeting potential prospects.

If you’ve been following my system for any time at all, you know I teach a client-centered approach to referrals. We don’t ask for referrals based on “how I get paid” or in an effort to help us build our business. We ask for referrals as a way to bring our important work to others. The same holds true for referral events. When you invite your clients to bring guests to your events, do it from the perspective of bringing your important work to others.

Here’s a sample conversation that should make this clear:

YOU: Bob, I’m calling today because I wanted to let you know about a fun event I’m planning for my clients and their guests. We’ve reserved a special room at Chez Fancy and we’re calling it a “Chef’s Table.” The chef of Chez Fancy has agreed to come out of the kitchen and talk to us about the meals he and his staff will be preparing for us and then talk with us several other times during the meal. Those who wish to take a brief tour of the kitchen will be welcome to do so. It should be a pretty special event, don’t you think?

BOB: My wife would love this… and so would I for that matter. How do I sign up?

YOU: Well, here’s the deal. What I’m trying to accomplish with this event is two-fold. First, I want to treat some of my select clients to a very special evening. And second, I want to get introduced to people who are not yet clients, but should probably know about the work I do. It’s going to be a low-key event. No sales pitch. It’s just a way for meet some new people – and them to meet me – in a social setting. Does that make sense?

BOB: So you want me to bring a guest – a couple I assume – who might enjoy the event and also want to meet you?

YOU: That’s it. Is this something you and Helen Ann would like to do? If so, who do you think you should invite?

It’s as simple as that. While you can print up nice invitations to this event, you’ll have more success if you also speak to your clients over the phone. If you’re inviting your “A” clients, don’t delegate this phone call to an assistant!

Referral event ideas

The example I used above is called “The Chef’s Table.” It’s the kind of event that clients like to attend and feel comfortable inviting a guest to.

I know one advisor who hosts two or three “Golf Lessons” every summer. He hires a golf pro to teach a lesson and hang out with his guests – clients and prospects. He usually serves food and drink.

David Vanderzee hosts a one-day “Ski Junket” at his local ski resort in New England. Clients pay for the trip by inviting guests.

Don Zajac arranges for a two-day theater trip via motor coach. Don arranges the bus, theater tickets, hotel, and dinner. His client and their guest pay their own way. He gets several affluent clients this way every year.

Andre Duffie hosts a dinner twice a year. Sometimes he hires a comedian or a magician. Clients do not have to bring guests, but they are encouraged to do so. He also holds a “referral raffle” at his dinners.

Jeff Chaddock hosts the “Event of the Year” at his home every year. He gets a big tent, hires a band, a comedian, etc. His clients bring guests. Many of these guests turn into clients.

I know a producer who uses his boat all summer long as a way to entertain clients and their guest. Bring a guest and you get to spend the day on his boat. Many advisors accomplish this goal through golf, tennis or baseball outings.

What kind of event can you host – attractive enough to have clients want to attend and bring guests? Start small if you have to. Keep it simple, but classy. Now you’re getting personal, face-to-face, introductions to great prospects.

Referral Coach International President Bill Cates, CSP, recently released The Referral Advantage(TM) Video Training Program. He is the author of the books, “Get More Referrals Now!” and “Don’t Keep Me a Secret!” He also writes a free referral newsletter with 30,000+ subscribers. For more information, contact Bill at info@referralcoach.com or visit www.referralminute.com.