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Promote 'Referral Awareness'

Getting quality referrals from your clients may be as simple as asking them not to keep you and your practice a secret.

By Gary F. Thomas, CLU, ChFC

How many of us really ask for referrals on a consistent basis? How many of us get referrals on a consistent basis? How many of us are not telling the truth?

We are taught to ask for referrals but most of us don?t. Why not? Do we forget? Do we run out of time and need to run to the next appointment? Are we too embarrassed to ask? Are we afraid of rejection? Let?s face facts. If we received just one good referral from every client who purchased a policy, our life would be so easy that we would almost feel guilty being paid so well! Yet, why do some advisors get so many qualified referrals while others never receive a referral, no matter what referral-gathering technique they use?

Well I don?t know about you, but in the past I have had my challenges asking for and getting referrals. Today, referrals are a very big part of our business? growth. Whenever I review my business, it is apparent that most of my largest and easiest sales come from these referrals. You have probably found that to be so in your practice. Still, I?m not any better at asking directly for referrals today than I was 10 years ago. So how do I get so many good ones?

A magic phrase?
Well, when do we ask for referrals and how often do we ask? Is there a magic phrase? A formula that will motivate your clients to send their friends and business associates to you? I have used many of the standard phrases and techniques to ask for referrals and from my point of view have found them lacking. They just did not produce referrals in the quantity and quality we had hoped for.

So what has made the difference in our practice? You may feel as I do that it is difficult to ask for referrals unless you have performed a service for the client. An old master taught me that you must promote ?referral awareness.? How do you promote referral awareness? How do you condition your client so that he easily gives you the names of friends, associates and family members?

After every successful conversation with clients, I remind them that we accept referrals. I simply say to them, ?Don?t keep us a secret. It?s always a pleasure to help people like you who care about their families and their financial future.? I then hand them a couple of business cards. In addition, when our staff performs a service for a client, they also remind the client that it is our pleasure to help them and to be sure not to ?keep us a secret.?

When to ask
Of course the first time to ask for a referral is immediately after the sale is made. I will prepare the stage for getting referrals by using the following guidelines for phrasing. I?m sure you can say this in your unique way, and make it your own:

I congratulate the client on making the appropriate decisions and then ask if he is pleased with the choices he has made. I will also ask him if he has felt that our time together was beneficial and if he felt that we had completely and thoroughly met their needs. Assuming that all of the answers to the above questions were in the affirmative, I will then ask for referrals. I express that I have enjoyed working with the client and that we are looking for people just like him—people who care about their family?s financial future.

More often than not, they will not have anyone immediately in mind, but I am prepared with a referral letter and I hand it to them, along with a postage-paid envelope that is addressed to me. It?s very low pressure. We are usually meeting with well-established individuals, and when we plant a seed, more often than not it will grow.

For more tips from Gary Thomas, read ?High Touch Means Clients for Life.?

This is an excerpt from a speech given at the 2007 MDRT Annual Meeting. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Gary F. Thomas, CLU, ChFC, an 11-year MDRT member with eight Top of the Table qualifications, is president of the Wealthy Technology Group in Springfield, Mass. Contact him at 413-739-3511 or

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