News article

Revealed: The question advisers and planners never ask us (but should)

People have a trigger for seeking professional advice. For example, when prospective clients contact you, they might want help with planning their retirement, dealing with the financial implications of a significant life event, or reducing their IHT liability.

When financial advisers and planners call us, they also have a trigger. Conversations usually start with: “Can you help us with…”

  • our website
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Unbiased
  • VouchedFor

and so on.

There’s one thing we never get asked though: “Can you help us to develop more referrals?”

That’s genuinely astonishing, especially when we consider three things.

Firstly, we all know that referrals from existing clients or professional connections are the best type of new enquiry:

  • They have an immediate need (otherwise why would they be seeking financial advice?)
  • They are ‘pre-sold’, having heard good things from your client
  • They’ve (probably) got the lowest cost of acquisition of all types of new enquiry, and a high conversion rate

Secondly, clients are very happy and ready to refer, our research shows:

  • 96% would recommend their financial adviser or planner to others
  • 99% believe that financial advice/planning has already helped them to achieve their objectives, or will in the future
  • Nearly 40% of clients have referred others to their adviser or planner in the past 12 months

(Source: The Yardstick Agency)

Finally, we are yet to see an adviser or planner maximising the referral opportunity. Take the average client bank of, say, 150 households. That’s 60 new referrals which should theoretically have been received in the past 12 months. Even allowing for some leakage, most firms I know are getting nowhere near that many.

So, how can we maximise the referral opportunity?

We’ve looked at this topic before and produced the ‘dirty dozen’; a list of 12 reasons why advisers and planners don’t get more referrals.

You can read that article by clicking here.

We believe there are two key things which advisers and planners need to do to generate more referrals:

1. Turn clients into advocates

A happy and loyal client is very different from an advocate who proactively looks for opportunities to refer you to others.

Turning clients into advocates is crucial to developing a successful referral strategy. It’s far too important and broad a subject to cover today so we’ll look at it in future blogs. In the meantime, signs that clients have become advocates include:

  • They regularly introduce or refer you on to the right type of potential new client, not just anyone
  • They are happy to help you build your social proof by taking part in videos or allowing their image and story to be used on your website and in your marketing
  • They act as a critical friend, telling you when something isn’t quite right
  • They happily share your social media posts and content
  • They attend your client events and are open about sharing their experiences with others

2. Ask

Most advisers and planners we chat to don’t ask to be referred to others or explain to their clients that they welcome new clients.

We’re not suggesting that we need to go back to the bad old days of the 80s and 90s (when a client needed two books with them for the second meeting; their chequebook and their address book) but, we do believe that some advisers and planners need to be more direct.

There are several ways of bringing up the subject. There’s the very direct approach: “Who do you know that we should be talking to and will you introduce me to them?”

Then there are also more subtle approaches, such as explaining to clients (perhaps as part of a wider update on your business):

  • that you want to build your business and you welcome being referred on
  • that you want to take on a maximum number of new clients (this creates scarcity while reassuring them that the high level of service they currently enjoy won’t be diluted)
  • who you work with and the value you add.

If these conversations don’t habitually occur, is it any wonder that clients aren’t referring their adviser or planner more frequently?

Some won’t know that you want to build your business. Others won’t know who to refer you to. Some might be nervous about your expansion and need reassurance. Whatever their reason, it’s naïve to expect clients to refer you on if you don’t have the referral conversation.

The key though (as with any marketing) is to develop a strategy, which is why we are astonished that no advisers and planners have ever led with that question when they first get in touch.

So, what now?

First things first (and with apologies to firms who already do) start by resolving to take referral generation seriously by moving it to the top of your marketing to do list. If that means changing your focus from other tactics, so be it.

Next, you need to understand whether:

  1. you have a referral problem
  2. clients are happy to refer you on
  3. you are turning clients into advocates.

You can answer these questions by analysing your enquiry data and asking your clients via a survey.

Using this information, you will be able to understand the current level of referrals and your client’s propensity to refer you to others. You can then start to build a referral strategy. This won’t always be easy; the referral conversation will make some of you nervous and doesn’t come naturally to others.

However, we’ve no doubt that your efforts will be rewarded.

How can we help?

Quite simply at every stage.

We can:

  1. Help you analyse your enquiry data (or set up systems and processes if these aren’t already in place)
  2. Develop and run client surveys
  3. Build referral strategies to increase the number your firm receives

If you’d like our help, email or call us on 0115 8965 300.

Stay in touch


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