3 Strategies for Approaching Referrals in Challenging Times

Kristine McManus, CRPS®
Kristine McManus, CRPS®

07.15.20 in Marketing & Practice Management

Estimated Reading Time: 4 Minutes (746 words)

Marketing and Project Management

For most advisors, referrals are more than just a part of doing business—they’re vital to growth. Even so, many advisors feel uncomfortable broaching the topic with clients in the best of times. The idea of approaching referrals in challenging times like these feels out of the question.

Believe it or not, you can have a successful strategy for referrals even in the current climate—with the right positioning. Without a doubt, it’s the wrong time to ask for referrals if the positioning is about you and how you want to grow your business. But, it’s a great time to lay the foundation for growth—perhaps even explosive growth—if you focus on how you can help others.

The fact is, in the current climate of a global pandemic, ongoing market volatility, and staggering unemployment numbers, people need your help more than ever. I work with many advisors who’ve told me similar stories: the way they approached referrals in 2008–2009 set in place a growth trajectory that’s continued ever since.

So, what’s the best way of approaching referrals in challenging times? Here are three key strategies to guide you

1) Listen—and Be Clear It’s Not About You

Right now, many people are concerned about holding onto their jobs and savings and keeping themselves and family members healthy. They may not have seen loved ones for months or they may be worried about elderly relatives living in nursing homes. Saying something like, “I’m looking to grow my business and get a few names of people you might know,” will come across as self-serving and insensitive, and in this atmosphere it just won’t work.

Don’t underestimate the power of listening—and being empathetic to what your clients are going through. Both are critical and will reinforce the trust and bond you share with them. I spoke to one advisor with clients who had a family member pass away during the height of the COVID-19 restrictions, and their grief was compounded because only four people could attend the funeral. Simply being a sounding board and expressing empathy with authenticity will deepen your relationships in meaningful ways. It might not happen right away, but your clients will share how you made them feel with people they know.

2) Focus on What You Give, Not What You Get

Make sure your clients know the problems you solve and the people you help. But do your homework first. You might start by setting up Google alerts so you’re aware of companies in distress. You may find you have clients working at these firms who are facing layoffs or voluntary retirement packages—and confronting all sorts of decisions about what to do about pensions, stock options, and health care.

Reach out to them to help them make sense of it. Tell them, “I understand what you’re going through—maybe we should talk through some of your options.” It’s a chance for you to demonstrate your expertise with retirement rollovers or offer advice about whether they should exercise those company stock options.

Your strategy for referrals should also include centers of influence. Call clients who might have portfolio losses and offer to speak with their CPA to explore tax strategies for saving them money. Chances are your clients will be thrilled you’re thinking of them, and they’ll be happy to make the introduction. Once you’re in conversation with their CPA, you’re in a position of strength to show your expertise and value by suggesting options they may not have considered yet, like converting their tax-deferred IRAs to Roth IRAs.

3) Be a Resource

Letting your clients know you’re happy to serve as a resource for people is a way that might help you get results down the road. Clients may have family and friends who are concerned about their portfolios, and you can offer to look over the details. It keeps you on solid footing with clients because you are not prospecting at a time when people may be struggling. And it helps your clients help others they care about—something that may increase their willingness and desire to recommend you to family and friends in the future.

Be Proactive and Patient

Approaching referrals in challenging times may lead to some unexpected silver linings. But remember, you shouldn’t expect to get immediate results. Now is the time to demonstrate the expertise you have, the value you can add, and the help you can give. The effort you put in with clients today can reap immeasurable benefits for your business in the future.

This material is for educational purposes only and is not intended to provide specific advice.

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