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Systematize Your Way to Success

Here is a checklist to get your practice up to speed for optimum “referability.”

By Dennis Moseley-Williams

Doesn’t it alarm you that the art of getting quality referrals, arguably the easiest and most efficient way to grow your practice, has been so neglected and poorly developed? Most advisors leave it up to their clients to decide when they are going to recommend their services. When clients make this decision, it is directly related to the degree of trust their advisors have created.

Each advisor has his own trust-building timeline, and some advisors do it more quickly than others. I have found that advisors typically take from three to eight years to build the trust required to start eliciting referrals from their existing clients. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could shrink this timeline to one year, six months or, perhaps, even one appointment? How would this accelerate the exponential growth of quality clients in your practice? How would this impact every aspect of your business and your life?

That said, would your current business infrastructure be able to handle the surge in new business? How is this best accomplished?


Top advisors have not only created integrity in their financial planning practices, they have also systematized and documented their practices from the ground up to ensure they can maintain the proactive stance they’ve created. Most advisors immediately realize the advantages of systematizing their practices and the impact it will have on their lives. Only a few, however, grasp the full impact it has on their referral program.

Why does implementing a structured plan typically generate a flood of quality, qualified referrals? The answer is really quite simple: A methodically laid out practice, with ironclad systems and procedures, creates educated, enthusiastic and dedicated fans. These fans come to and stick with your business because you have successfully satisfied certain basic human criteria for long-term relationships that are built on trust and integrity.

How do you create this type of business? Here is a checklist of critical steps:

  • Create a complete inventory of your current operations, procedures and processes.
  • Segment and classify your client base and identify the core or nucleus of that clientele. (The nucleus = clients generating 80 percent of your income and assets, usually not more than 25 percent of the total clients.)
  • Commit to spending 80 percent of your time with the clients who generate 80 percent of your income.
  • Adhere to strict criteria and superior customer service for new clients.
  • Institute appropriate client-service schedules for each class of client.
  • Structure every action involving a client with complete standardized processes and procedures, which are strictly followed and documented.
  • Establish procedures for introductions to new clients, existing clients, as well as for workshops, service calls, referral calls, confirming and booking appointments and follow-up calls. Document and enter these into a procedures manual.
  • Create templates for materials that are regularly required such as introductory kits, letters and forms, invitations and emails.
  • Document the steps for an existing client to follow as it relates to recommending a new client. This crucial step is integrated into all aspects of regular communications with existing clients. The referral process is not treated as an isolated event.
  • Give “responsibility” to clients to recommend new clients, introduce them and book introductory sessions with you. If you regularly hold workshops, the clients are responsible for inviting guests.
  • Review all materials, including the office, client and public contacts, for consistency and congruency to ensure a cohesive brand.
  • Establish a web presence that is consistent with the branding you created and appeals to existing clients and potential referrals.
  • Collect and use client emails wherever it is appropriate for increased efficiency.
  • Record all systems and processes in a procedures manual. The finished manual becomes a reference for all staff and is regularly updated and refined. Every person within the practice is responsible for knowing exactly what has to be done, how it is to be done, and when it is to be done.
  • Automate as many of the processes as possible.
  • Commit to an ongoing reevaluation of all aspects of the systems and the procedures manual so they can be consistently and regularly refined.

Clients love to brag when they are treated well. When you provide successful systems such as these, people can’t help but share their pleasure and relief with others. If you have provided clients with an appropriate set of “rules,” they will do exactly as you have requested when they recount their experiences to friends and family. You can determine exactly what you want your clients to do and when; you have created a totally integrated system of service and management based upon trust.

If you don’t consciously create systems, individuals will create a system for you. Not surprisingly, it may not be the system you want or they want. Successful systems build trust and attract clients.

This is an edited excerpt of a much longer speech given at the 2004 Million Dollar Round Table annual meeting. Printed with permission from MDRT. All rights reserved.

Dennis Moseley-Williams is a spokesperson for Pareto Systems Inc. He works with advisors, helping them create “franchise-ready” businesses. Contact him at 800-732-2857 or through Pareto’s website at


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