We all have a referrals fantasy. Someone walks in, drops their statements on your desk and says: “You’re my new guy. Where do I sign?” When clients send along their friends, the sale isn’t done yet, but you have a lot of factors already in your favor.
A Referral Arrives: What Assumptions Can I Make?
If a client sends a friend in your direction, there are some things it’s pretty safe to assume.
1. They have a need. There’s a problem that needs solving. Few people ask their friends if they know any good agents or advisors just out of curiosity.
2. They want to make changes. Something isn’t going well. Maybe they tried managing their money on their own and it isn’t working out. Maybe their advisor left and they were reassigned. Maybe they received a windfall and need some advice.
3. Referrals are interested. You aren’t a name that came up during an Internet search – you are a person they invested some time to discover, either by asking a friend who they knew in the business or by their friend sensing a problem and suggesting you might be able to help with a solution. They want to talk with you.
Your First Meeting
Here are a few points that are good to know for first meetings, especially if the person across from you is a referral.
1. If it makes sense, they are on board. They left their previous job. They have money in their former firm’s 401(k) plan. They want to pull it out and put it somewhere. Your firm offers IRA rollovers. It’s a square peg, square hole. Maybe it doesn’t always work smoothly, but they came to you for specialized advice.
2. A string of yes answers is rarely followed by a no. It’s the logic of trial closes. If you talk, talk and talk, you might lose them along the way. They zoned out. But if you keep them engaged and talking, you have a pretty good idea they are following along. It doesn’t guarantee the close, but if your recommendation suits their needs, that’s a point in your favor.
3. Open-ended questions gather data. You want to get them talking. People like talking about themselves. Closed-end questions are useful for trial closes and asking for the order.
4. They are most open to answering questions at that first meeting. Somehow, they feel you need this information, so you can be pretty thorough. You can even probe into the relationship with their (soon to be) former agent or advisor, so you don’t make the same mistakes.
5. Calling them afterwards for more information can be an issue. If you asked lots of questions at the first meeting, then call and ask more questions, they wonder why you didn’t ask them at the first meeting. They wonder if you are disorganized or not focused.
6. They expect you to be prepared at every meeting. This referral became a client. They can access account information online. When you meet for a portfolio review, they expect you will be working with account information current to at least the previous business day. Working from their previous month’s statement implies you aren’t properly prepared.
When a referral walks through your door, it isn’t automatic business, but the odds are in your favor, especially if you are prepared.
Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. He provides HNW client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book, “Captivating the Wealthy Investor,” can be found on Amazon.