When Clients Don’t Refer….

Recently I had a conversation with an advisor team that had decided they need to turn more of their clients into “advocates.” As you know, the word advocate means, “a person who speaks or writes in support or defense of a person, cause, etc.”

I’m sure that most, if not all, of their clients would speak up in their support or defense, should the occasion arise. What this team actually wants is for more of their clients to refer friends and family members to them.

Assuming that their clients appreciate what these advisors do for them, I suggested that the problem probably isn’t that they wouldn’t speak up for them or trust them to take good care of their friends and family members. So if that’s not the problem, what is?

One reason might be that they just don’t notice or recognize an appropriate situation. Maybe they hear someone express a concern about something, but it just doesn’t connect with them. Or as I like to say, it doesn’t cause that bell to go off in their head, that causes them to recognize this as a situation where their advisors’ help would be exactly what their friend needs.

For these people, you have to plant seeds, and that means telling them stories. People remember stories much better than your “services.” Tell them stories about people you’ve helped – families with special-needs kids, retirees who are worried that their retirement funds won’t last long enough, investors who are concerned about market volatility, women who are going through divorce or have been widowed. Keep in mind that all you are doing is planting seeds with the expectation that one will blossom at just the right time – because maybe all they need is a story to help them recognize an opportunity.

Another reason might be that, even when they recognize the situation, they don’t always know what to do about it. They feel awkward. They don’t know what to say. Some people are like that.

So after you’ve shared one of your stories, you can say, “If you run into (or hear about) a situation like this, will you give me a call?”

It’s important to say, “Will you give me a call?” not “Would you give me a call?” because if they say yes, “Will you…?” creates a commitment in their head, whereas “Would you…?” is simply hypothetical.

Then if they say yes, you can continue with, “You can tell me whatever you know about them and their situation, and if I think I can help, we can talk about the best way for us to get together.”

“If I think I can help” is important because it emphasizes that your focus is on the people you can help, and you can’t help everyone.

Finally, it could be that, while your clients love you and everything you’ve done for them, some of them just don’t know many people or they’re socially awkward about helping others. If that’s the case, there’s not much you can do. But it’s okay—some people are just like that.

So as I said, it’s not about twisting your clients’ arms to turn them into advocates. It’s about helping them recognize opportunities to help their friends and family members, and then know what to do next. And when that happens, everybody wins, right?

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