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Tips for Getting Referrals and Finding New Clients, From Top Advisors

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The crowd at Raymond James 2018 Women’s Symposium in Tampa, Florida, got plenty of advice and business-growth ideas from four top female financial advisors on Friday.

The panel discussion, led by Jamie Kosharek, vice president and director of strategy and operations for the Raymond James Financial Institutions Division, aimed to help advisors prosper in good times and bad. “The grass is greener where you water it,” Kosharek said.

The four members of the panel, who work as independent contractors or employee advisors, began by describing how they launched their careers and then described how they attract referred prospective clients and the impact community involvement has on their practices.

(Related: How to Get Client Referrals Without Asking)

Carolyn Hash of Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, became an advisor after her family urged her to spend less time on the road. Her daughter, who urged her at age 3 not to travel so much, is now part of her team.   

Kayla Koeber of St. George, Utah, worked in the Southern California film industry for 20 years, but then decided to make a change and become a financial consultant at Merrill Lynch.  

Kjersten Lazar of Somers, New York, said she moved out of work as a belt buyer for Macy’s when that firm got into financial trouble. “Bad things happen to good people,” she said, explaining that she decided to pursue a job at Prudential Securities in the mid-’90s.

Brigette White of Burlington, Vermont, studied finance in college and has been with Raymond James for some 25 years.

Referral Tactics

What’s the best way to ask for referrals?  

“Referrals are important,” Lazar said. “I help people in nontraditional ways and then find a way to ask for their contacts naturally, when it makes sense.”

“You must find a comfortable way to ask,” explained Koeber, who said that about 10 years ago she decided to work strictly “with those I enjoy as clients.”

She says advisors should, “Be sincere and say things like, ‘You are who we want to work with, … so if you find [someone very much like] yourself out there [in need of an advisor] please refer them to me. It’s the ask that counts.”

Don’t underestimate your ability to add clients when conditions get tough. “In a down market, like 2008, there is tremendous opportunity,” Koeber explained.

She also calls every client every month. “During bad times, especially, I make the hardest calls first.”

Community Connections

Another technique to find prospective clients is to send messages on high-quality, friendly note cards and write, “It’s wonderful to have a financial planning relationship with you. Do you know of anyone who may be scared in this tumultuous time? If they matter to you, they matter to me. Thanks.”

In terms of community involvement, Hash says that she learned from a business partner and mentor that “if you do good things and take care of people, you will reap the rewards.” This means doing things like serving on boards and supporting activities of service organizations.

“Work closely with people for the common good. Get to know them, and then you likely will get unexpected business opportunities,” she explained. For instance, Hash sponsored a client’s charitable golf tournament, and at the event she met a woman who later signed on as a client.

“You never know. The best rewards that you get do not have a dollar sign on them,” the advisor said. “It’s about doing the right thing. Take care of people, and then the money takes care of itself.”

White’s charitable focus is United Way. “Community work is the right thing to do, and it’s also a ton of fun,” she said, adding that this work has put her in contact with many local CEOs and other people she might not have otherwise connected with.

Four years ago, a prospect visited with the advisor and described her late husband’s work in education. “Why not set up a scholarship fund to your honor husband with your appreciated stocks?” White asked. The plan is moving forward.

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