The Delicate Art of Approaching Friends and Family for Referrals
April 3rd, 2014, in Grow Your Business
 

Demonstrate your value by telling stories of client success.

Work is frequent fodder for conversation between friends and family alike. When the topic comes up in your social circle, how do you describe the work you do? When you describe your practice to friends and family, be mindful of the fact that the words you choose may actually align with the art of gaining referrals. Friends and family are great prospects, and even if they are not likely to become customers in the near future, you can still gain referrals from them.

Your ultimate goal is to demonstrate the importance of the work you do and the valueyou bring to others. The best way to do this is by telling stories, sharing anecdotes and providing case studies. Most salespeople—financial professionals included—overlook the effectiveness of stories, anecdotes and case studies to demonstrate the importance of their work and the value they bring to their clients.

For a non-client to refer you to someone he knows, a very clear picture of the value you bring to others has to be realized. Be sure to describe the process you put your prospects and clients through. Provide specific examples of how you’ve helped clients prevent problems, solve problems and take advantage of opportunities:

  1. Discuss value: “George, are you beginning to see the tangible value we bring to our clients?”
  2. Treat your requests with importance: “Great. With that in mind, I have an important question to ask you.”
  3. Get permission to brainstorm: “I’m hoping we can take a few minutes to brainstorm about people you think should know about the work I do. Can we try that for a minute?”
  4. Suggest names and categories: “For instance, I think your business partner, Barbara, might be a great candidate for the work we do. Could you introduce me to her?”

It’s really as simple as that. The key is basing your conversation on the value you bring to the table. To accomplish that, tell the story of your value. If  you do a good job of describing the value you bring to clients in your practice, there’s a good chance that friends, colleagues and family members will want to become your clients, too.

Schedule a meeting
One of my coaching clients asked me the following question: “I’ve been meeting some people for golf over the last few months. They’re not close friends yet, but we get along very well. Some of them would probably make great clients. I’m not sure how to approach them for business. Any ideas?”

If you’re not comfortable approaching friends and family for referrals in a social situation, ask them to sit down with you, at a convenient  time and place, to discuss your practice in depth. Explain that you want to talk about expanding your business and acknowledge that you would appreciate some help. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to buy a meal, or cover a round of golf, for this meeting.

When you approach friends and family about a separate meeting, honesty is the best policy. The key is how you bring it up. In most cases, you want your approach to be soft. Let me give you a short script to illustrate my thinking:

YOU: “George, there’s something I’ve been wanting to talk to you about, but I’ve felt uncomfortable bringing it up here on the golf course.”

GEORGE: “What’s that?”

YOU: “I do very important work for successful people like yourself. I was hoping I might be able to approach you in ‘business mode’ to see if I might be a valuable resource for you or someone you know. May I give you a call at your office to begin a business conversation with you?”

GEORGE: “Sure. Here’s my card. Tell my assistant that I asked you to call me. She’ll make it easier on you that way.”

Of course, put these sentences in your own words, and be genuine. But you get the idea. The key is not to pressure your friends and family to help you. Express your desire not to hurt the relationship by putting any pressure on anyone. And always be yourself. Sincerity opens doors more easily than tricky techniques.

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By Bill Cates

Bill Cates works with financial professionals and their companies to increase sales by attracting high-quality clients through a steady and predictable flow of referrals. To learn more, visit www.referralcoach.com or email him directly atbillcates@referralcoach.com.

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