The more you are liked by your centers of influence, the more referrals you get—you know that. The harder part is figuring out how to be better liked. You can start by asking yourself this question: How can I add value to a referral partner’s life? Sometimes it helps to look beyond your office or company for fresh answers. Here are some ways my advisor-clients strengthened their likeability, or L-factor, with their centers of influence.
Go to bat for your centers of influence first—they’ll become more receptive to helping you.
Suggestion No. 1: Find a unique way to help others. Darren Port, an advisor with Waddell & Reed Financial Inc., wanted to hold a financial-planning seminar for teachers and other employees who work for a state department of public instruction. The seminar was scheduled for February, but Port wanted to move up the date. The key to making that happen was the department’s human resources director. “So, I sent her Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, one of the hottest books in the HR field right now, and she loved it,” he says. How much? Suddenly, Port’s seminar became a priority and was moved up to December. “A $20 book ended up putting me in front of a group of prospects and landed me almost immediate clients,” says Port.
Suggestion No. 2: Go to bat for your centers of influence first—they’ll become more receptive to helping you. “Whenever I sit down with a prospective referral partner, I do everything possible to focus the first part of the meeting on them,” says Stacy Burgau, a New York Life agent and member of Big Rivers AIFA (Wis.). Burgau targets local women business owners. One of her ins to this group turned out to be a Mary Kay rep. “I know Mary Kay reps have a mixed reputation when it comes to business, but there are a few serious players out there who are well connected,” says Burgau. She recently took one of them to lunch. “I had a list of potential customers for her out of my book of business, and I invited her to be a part of a women’s professional group that I am organizing,” says Burgau. “When it came to what she could do for me, she went through her business card folder and referred me to 26 local business professionals.”
Suggestion No. 3: Show on the outside that you are happy and peaceful on the inside. You can reach that point by looking at the “big picture” and reexamining your life goals, says Shawn Fischer, a New York Life agent and former president of Madison AIFA (Wis.). “I’ve been in the business 17½ years, made MDRT a bunch of times; yet only [over the] past three months did I look at the things I still want to accomplish in my life,” says Fischer. He reassessed his strengths, as well as his weekly habits, to make sure he could get more face time with his prospects. “I know I’ve been getting more referrals this fall because more people enjoy coming to see me at my office … and the appointment is fun for them—a positive part of their day, not something to be endured,” says Fischer. “Just two weeks ago an attorney gave me eight referrals to clients of his, earning between $200,000 and $1 million each year.”
Suggestion No. 4: Create your own pond to fish in. Think of an interest you’re passionate about, not necessarily related to insurance or financial services, and start a networking group based on it. That’s what Nicole Ralph, a financial advisor with Merrill Lynch, did when she moved back from London with her English husband. She started a group for international professionals who were working in the Madison area for corporations or the University of Wisconsin. These days, her group holds events, such as happy hours and parties, based on events like the World Cup Final, twice a month. “It’s been a great way to bring together several hundred high-net-worth professionals—lawyers, scientists, corporate leaders, business owners, professors—earning at least six figures,” says Ralph. “It’s [also] helped my business grow and opened doors with centers of influence.”
Matt Anderson, president of the Referral Authority, coaches insurance and financial-services professionals on building referral-based businesses. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 608-843-3827.