Plant the right seeds with your clients, and your referral base will grow naturally.

When I deliver my Referral Advantage Program to financial professionals, I ask the following question: “Raise your hand if a client has ever said this to you. ‘I gave your name out to a friend the other day. Was that okay?” All the hands go up. Then I say “Shame on you for not making sure all your clients know you value their help in bringing your value to others.”

You can get referrals from clients and prospects without even asking.  All you need to do is plant seeds into their unconscious, and watch them go to work for you.

Here are six ways to plant these powerful referral seeds with prospects and clients.

1. Celebrate meeting a new prospect through a referral.

Every time you meet a new prospect through a referral, make a big deal about it. Talk about the person you know in common. Tell them “It’s great Tom introduced me to you. I’ve found that this is the best way for people like you to meet someone like me — everyone feels a little more comfortable from the start. Agree?” 

2. “Don’t keep me a secret.”

Mitch, a registered rep in Cleveland, never leaves a meeting with a client or prospect without saying “Remember, don’t keep me a secret.” I encouraged Mitch to use that personal slogan as a P.S. on letters and handwritten notes. He said after doing this for about three months, his phone started to ring with referrals. Why? Because his referral seeds took root and his clients weren’t keeping him a secret.  I’ve had a number of producers report great success with this tactic. 

3. Earn the right to personal introductions.

Let every prospect know you’d like them to introduce you to people they know, and that you know that won’t happen unless you provide great advice and great implementation. Tell them, “I hope to earn the right to have you introduce me to others, and I’ll do that by providing you with superior service.”

4. “I’m never too busy”

Tell all your clients that you’re never too busy to see if you can help their friends, colleagues or family members. If you have a very focused practice and they refer someone to you who doesn’t fit, refer them to one of your colleagues who needs the business. Tell your client, “After speaking with Mary, I realized that one of my colleagues is in a position to serve her even better I am. 

5. Ask them to carry your business card.

Ask your clients to carry your business card in their wallet — not as a favor to you — as a benefit to them. You can encourage this by saying something like, “Rick, I have an idea. Take one of my business cards and carry it in your wallet. First, you never know when you might have a financial question I can answer for you. Sometimes people say things at parties and other occasions that might make you wonder about the work we’ve done for you. This way, I’ll always be easy to reach. Second, if the work we’ve done does come up in conversation and you realize I might be able to help someone you know, you’ll be able to serve them by giving them my number on the spot.”

6. Model the best way to give referrals.

You can assure yourself of higher-quality referrals by how you give referrals. Let’s say you’re referring an attorney to your client to get a will done. Don’t just give out a name and phone number. Get permission for the attorney to call your client. “I’ll have Mack give you a call to get this started.” This serves Mack, it serves your client (because they finally get their will done) and it serves you.  Then call your client in a few days to make sure Mack has called and everything is going smoothly.

By giving a referral this way, you’ve done two things. First, you’ve demonstrated the power of referrals when handled with care.  Second, you’ve modeled the best way to give a referral. When it comes time for your client (or Mack) to give you referrals, you’ve shown them the best way.

Always make sure you give others a great connection and they’ll do the same for you!

One caveat: It’s important that you’re not obnoxious about asking for referrals. And it’s equally important that you find soft ways to keep the topic lively in people’s awareness.  Planting referral seeds will do that. Also, planting seeds in this way often helps you identify folks who are willing the play the referral game quickly in the relationship. Sometimes planting a seed can turn into a referral conversation right on the spot.

For more great referral advice, see also:

Why Every Client is Part of Your Sales Team

When’s the Best Time to Ask for a Referral? 

52 Prospecting Tips for 52 Weeks