News article

Revealed: The 12 reasons why financial advisers and planners don’t get more recommendations

We’re on a mission to help financial advisers and planners get more recommendations from existing clients.

Last week, we revealed the two assets you need before you start developing your recommendation strategy.

This week, we’re going to dive into the reasons that prevent advisers and planners from getting more recommendations. We’ve identified 12 and call them “the dirty dozen”.

Before we start, let’s pause to remember the two gaps we’re trying to close, which, if you’re successful, will increase the recommendations you receive.

Gap #1: The gap between the proportion of your clients who are happy to recommend you and those who actually do

Our research shows that 94.99% of clients are happy to recommend their adviser/planner to other people.

However, only 37.40% have done so in the past 12 months.

That’s a massive gap between theoretical and actual advocates. Closing it will lead to you receiving more recommendations.

Gap #2: The gap between the number of recommendations made and the prospects who get in touch

We know that 37.40% of clients have recommended their adviser/planner to someone else in the past 12 months. That means if the average adviser/planner has, say, 150 clients, 56 people have been recommended to them.

Do we think all 56 will have got in touch? Of course not. There will always be people who don’t make that call.

  • Life gets in the way and priorities change.
  • They solve their trigger (the reason why they needed to speak to you) in some other way.
  • They speak to a different adviser/planner (remember, competition generally happens online, before you meet a potential client).

So, increasing the proportion of people recommended to you who actually get in touch is the second gap we need to close.

Quantifying your gaps

As we explained last week, to identify the size of the gaps in your business you need to create two assets, which will tell you three key numbers:

  1. The proportion of your clients who would be prepared to recommend you to other people
  2. The number of clients who have recommended you in the past 12 months
  3. The number of recommendations you have actually received in the past 12 months.

Unfortunately, most advisers and planners don’t know these numbers. That means they can’t quantify the size of the two gaps in their business, making it harder to develop an effective recommendation strategy.

So, now we’ve identified what we’re trying to achieve, how do we do it? By addressing each of the dirty dozen. This week we’ll explain more about each of the 12 reasons and, next week, how you can get the solutions.

1. Not discussing recommendations with clients

Let’s be clear, no one is suggesting going back to 1995 and instructing your clients to bring two books (their chequebook and their address book) to the next meeting. And no one is saying that you should “ask” for referrals.

But there’s no getting away from it. Advisers and planners who deal with some of the dirty dozen in a grown-up conversation with clients get more recommendations.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll explain how you can have better conversations with your clients about recommendations.

2. Clients are concerned about you growing too big, too quickly

Our research shows that 94.99% of clients say they are happy to recommend their adviser/planner to other people. That’s great but, in reality, far fewer (37.40%) have recommended their adviser/planner in the past 12 months.

We know that one of the reasons for this gap is that some clients are concerned about their adviser/planner taking on too many clients and service levels dropping.

The concern is probably unfounded but, if a client is thinking it, you need to deal with it.

3. Clients don’t know who they should recommend you to

It’s reasonable to assume that clients know you work with people like them. However, unless you’ve clearly explained it to them, clients probably don’t know the other types of people you are happy to be recommended to.

That can lead to two problems. Firstly, they recommend you to no one. Secondly (and perhaps worse) they recommend you to the wrong type of person. This can lead to awkward conversations between you and the prospect, and you and the client.

4. Clients don’t know the value you add to people who aren’t like them

Our research shows that clients understand the value they get from working with their adviser/planner. However, they are less likely to understand (and therefore recommend you to) other people where it’s not immediately obvious how you can help.

Take a typical couple in their 60s. Your work showed them that they can afford to retire, and you’ve given them the confidence to give up work. That’s great. But they also have a high-earning daughter in her early 40s who is worried about her retirement. Do the clients understand the value you could add to their daughter? Perhaps. But then again, perhaps not.

5. Clients are worried about looking bad

As we said, most clients are theoretically happy to recommend you to others. The reality though is different. Another reason behind the gap is that some clients might be worried about looking bad in the unlikely event that things go wrong.

“Of course, things aren’t going to go wrong” I hear you say. But stop for a second and put yourself in the shoes of your client for a second. If they recommend a film, TV show, pub or restaurant the consequences of things going wrong are relatively benign. That’s not the case with a recommendation to a financial adviser or planner.

So, if it’s something your more cautious clients are worried about, you need to deal with it.

6. “We don’t talk to our friends about money”

We’ve only included this reason in the list relatively recently following feedback from clients.

There’s clearly a feeling among some clients that not talking about money means they can’t recommend their adviser/planner to other people.

That’s not true.


Because talking about money isn’t the best trigger for recommending an adviser/planner.

It’s correct that most people don’t discuss money with their friends, but they do talk about what’s happening in their lives. That includes big events such as retirement, bereavement, an inheritance, a job change, a business sale and so on.

It’s at these times when you can add huge value to people’s lives and it’s a natural point for an existing client to recommend you.

7. Your service isn’t wowing clients or turning them into advocates

To increase the number of recommendations you receive, and close the first of the two gaps, you must turn clients into advocates for your business.

Advocates will write online reviews, appear on video and, of course, recommend you to others. However, if you’re not wowing clients, delivering a great service, or adding value, that isn’t going to happen.

A survey is your friend here. It’ll help you understand the existing level of advocacy, whether clients are happy to recommend you to others and, crucially, what else you could do to turn a client into an advocate.

8. Being invisible online

When someone is recommended to you, they will almost certainly check you out online.

They might want basic information, such as your contact details, directions to your office and so on. Alternatively, they could have been recommended to more than one adviser/planner and are now comparing options. What they see dictates whether they get in touch with you, the other adviser/planner, both of you, or neither of you.

That means you need to be visible online and impressive (we’ll get to that in a minute).

Being visible means dominating the results page for a brand search. Your website should appear first, ideally with site extensions, next to a fully completed Google My Business listing. The rest of the page should be filled with links relevant to your business. These might point to:

  • Social media profiles
  • Companies House
  • The FCA Register
  • Press coverage
  • Unbiased and VouchedFor.

Go on, when you’ve finished reading the rest of this blog, head over to Google and search for your business. What do you find?

9. Failing to impress online

A prospective client needs to be convinced that you are the adviser/planner who can solve their trigger (the reason they asked to be recommended to you).

Therefore, impressing online helps to close the second of the gaps because it increases the number of people recommended to you who actually get in touch.

10. Out of sight, out of mind

Aside from review meetings, unfortunately, many clients don’t hear from their financial adviser/planner from one year to the next. We know that leads to fewer recommendations being made.

11. Not saying thank you or incentivising

We all like to feel appreciated. Unfortunately, most advice/planning firms don’t have an agreed way of thanking clients when they receive a recommendation. That means recognising their efforts in making the recommendation is left to chance and could fall through the cracks. At best, that means an opportunity has been lost, at worst it will leave your client feeling unappreciated.

Incentivising clients to recommend you to others is more controversial than finding an elegant way of thanking them. However, we’ve seen some firms make it work well. We’ll explain more about how they do that when we reveal the solutions to the dirty dozen next week.

12. You: your mindset and habits

Despite knowing that recommendations are the best type of new enquiry, the mindset and habits of many advisers/planners prevent them from getting more.

We hear all sorts of excuses:

  • “My clients won’t recommend me on to other people” – how do you know unless you try?
  • “I don’t want to bother my clients” – you’re not bothering them. If you can give their friends, family, and work colleagues the same peace of mind and confidence you give them why wouldn’t they want to recommend you?
  • “I hate asking for referrals” – no one is suggesting you “ask”.

There are plenty more we could add to the list. However long the list though, it’s fair to say that none of the previous 11 issues will be solved unless an adviser/planner’s mindset is right.

Next week, how to solve these issues

You’ve now got seven days to review the dirty dozen and understand how many of them are a problem for you and your business.  

Then next week, we’ll explain how you can get your hands on the solutions to each of the dirty dozen.

In the meantime, if you would like our help to generate more recommendations from existing clients, email or call 0115 8965 300.

Stay in touch


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