It's possible to get referrals from clients and prospects without even asking. Here are 5 different ways to plant powerful referral seeds with prospects and clients:
1. Celebrate meeting a new prospect through a referral.
Every time you meet a new prospect through a referral, celebrate it. Talk about the person you know in common. For example: "It's great that Tom introduced me to you. When people see value in the work I do and introduce me to others, everyone feels more comfortable and it frees me up with more time to spend with my clients."
2. Repeat after me: "Don't keep me a secret."
An advisor in Cleveland told me years ago that he never leaves a meeting with a prospect or client without saying, "Remember, don't keep me a secret." Use this phrase as a personal slogan on letters and handwritten notes. I've had a number of advisors report great success with this concept. It never hurts a relationship.
3. Assure clients that you're never too busy.
Tell all your clients that you're never too busy to see if you can help their friends, colleagues or family members.
4. Make people feel comfortable.
Two of the main reasons why people are unwilling to give referrals are:
1) They are concerned about confidentiality.
2) They don't know how you'll handle the referrals (it's a bit of a risk for them)
But you can plant a seed and ease their concerns at the same time with the following language:
"George, there's something I want to run by you. Many of my clients like to introduce me, and the work I do, to others whom they care about. I just wanted you to know that when that opportunity presents itself to you, it would be good for you to know how I handle introductions so you'll feel most comfortable. "I don't like to contact people without them knowing a little bit about who I am and why I'm calling. I don't like to surprise people and make them wonder, ‘Why did George give my number out to this person?' Make sense? ("Sure does.") I truly like to be introduced in some form before I make contact. It's important for you to know that I handle introductions very carefully and without any pressure. How does that sound?"
5. Model the best way to give referrals.
You can assure yourself of higher-quality referrals by how you give referrals. Let's say you're referring an attorney to your client to get a will done. Don't just give out a name and phone number. Get permission for the attorney to call your client. "I'll have Mack give you a call to get this started." This serves Mack, it serves your client (because they finally get their will done) and it serves you. Then call your client in a few days to make sure Mack has called and everything is going smoothly.
By giving a referral this way, you've done two things. First, you've demonstrated the power of referrals when handled with care. Second, you've modeled the best way to give a referral. When it comes time for your client (or Mack) to give you referrals, you've shown them the best way.
It's important that you're not obnoxious about asking for referrals. And it's equally important that you find soft ways to keep the topic lively in your clients' awareness. Planting referral seeds will do that. Also, planting seeds in this way often helps you identify folks who are willing the play the referral game quickly in the relationship.
Bill Cates is president of Referral Coach International and the author of "Get More Referrals Now!" and "Don't Keep Me a Secret!" To learn about his free newsletter, boot camps, coaching program, video training program and more, visit www.referralcoach.com. Cates can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.