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Practice Management > Building Your Business

5 Reasons You Don't Have More Referrals

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Are you getting the number of referrals you want?

Do the referrals reflect the types of clients you like to work with, or those you best serve?

Are you getting referrals from the sources you have – or think you have?

How many of your clients refer you to prospects? (OK – do any of your clients refer you to prospects?)

Are you referable? How do you know?

Do you have a strategy in place to ensure that any of this happens on a somewhat regular basis? If not – why?

Before I go any further about referrals and prospects, let’s define them, for the record.

  • A referral is a prospect who was introduced to you. They are expecting your call or email with the prospect of doing business.
  • A prospect is someone who knows you, or knows of you, and is interested in hiring you either now or in the future to help them with their planning, investments, or insurance needs. You know this is the case because they told you.

(Remember: Despite what you may have learned in sales school, everyone is not a prospect and everyone doesn’t need what you sell.)

Most advisors have different definitions of referrals and prospects and, therefore, different expectations of what a referral or prospect truly are. It’s no wonder you’re not getting more of them!

That said, here are five reasons you may not be seeing the referrals you expect – and advice for setting the record straight.

1. No one knows who your best prospects are

How can anyone refer business to you if it’s unclear who you serve best and wish to serve most? Stop reading right now and craft a 30-second (or shorter) summary of who you are, what you do, what you know, and who you help. Be specific. Live and breathe your 30-second summary. Know it cold, and share it often.

2. You haven’t built enough trust with your prospects, clients, and others you know

Not too long ago, I met someone at a cocktail party – one of these high-end deals where foo-foo drinks are served with umbrellas. We shook hands, chatted, exchanged niceties – the nine yards. Once he realized that we both serve the insurance industry, he asked if I would refer him to my clients. How’s that for forward? I told him that perhaps I would, in time, once we got to know each other a bit better. He was outraged; he even asked me outright why I couldn’t refer him at that time. I thought the answer was obvious, and told him so.

Business happens at the speed of trust, so spend more time earning it.

3. You talk about features instead of benefits

Repeat after me: Nobody cares about the features of your products and services, unless you are at a showcase of some sort or somebody asks you. Talk about the benefits and the results for how you help people. Use such phrases as, “I help people with…” “People benefit most by…” and “What this means to you is…”

4. You try really hard to sell your stuff

First of all, don’t do that.

Second, old-school sales tactics, gimmicks, and schemes are very quickly becoming a thing of the past. Prospects are wise to your jive, as they should be. Besides, if they were truly prospects (remember, using my definition of “prospect”) you shouldn’t have to sell them so hard in the first place.

Finally, focus on making friends, showing interest in others, helping the cause, asking questions, and listening up. You just may sell something.

5. Others don’t understand what the heck you do

Know anyone like this? There are probably folks out there who you see all the time at events and meetings, yet you haven’t got a clue what they do. If you don’t know anyone like this, that person just might be you. Have no fear – if it’s more trouble than it’s worth, others won’t want to know anyway.

Michael Goldberg is a speaker, author, consultant and the founder of Building Blocks Consulting.For more information or to subscribe to Michael’s free online newsletter and blog The Building Blocks to Success please visit or


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