The most effective referral technique is checking in with clients to see if they recognized the value of the work you’ve done for them. Here are two sample conversations:

Before the meeting: “George, I’m looking forward to our meeting in two weeks. I want 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 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.”

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 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 is resolved. But make sure you get to the positive side of this discussion: “Well, I’m glad 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: The value discussion creates the right atmosphere for a great referral conversation. Here are a few questions you might ask. You can even e-mail these questions before the meeting.

  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 you feel unclear about or think we need to address further?
  5. Please describe your experiences, favorable and unfavorable, with my staff? Home office?
  6. Where do you feel we have been of value to you, your family or your business?

Bottom line: Make it a habit of checking in with your clients. Create an agenda for every meeting. One of those items should be the value discussion.