Asking for referrals: pick up the phone

Referrals are an effective way to get new business. An endorsement from an existing client helps break the ice between you and a prospect and helps establish trust.

When asking clients for a referral, picking up the phone is still your best bet, says Mary Jane Copps, owner of the Phone Lady in Halifax. Sending an email to ask for a referral makes it too easy for your client to delay responding or, worse, forget that you sent an email altogether.

“It’s not that people are ignoring your email,” Copps says, “but they are making priorities every day and your email keeps falling farther and father down into their inbox.”

When you do start contacting clients for a referral, consider these phone call strategies to help improve your results:

> Use the call as a touch point
Cutting straight to the chase is one of the bigger mistakes an advisor can make during these phone calls, Copps says. For example, if you start a conversation by saying, “I’m growing my business, and I’m hoping you can connect me with a few referrals,” the call may appear too self-interested.

Clients will be more receptive, Copps says, if your call is focussed on them, rather than on your needs. The better approach is to use these phone conversations as a touch point with your clients — an opportunity to discuss how your client is doing, new products on the market or changes in the industry, Copps says.

> Remind clients of your value
Only ask for referrals from clients who have benefitted significantly by working with you.

“This way,” Copps says, “you are in the position to say something like, ‘All the work that I’ve done with you as an active growing family, I would really like to do for other active growing families.’ [The client] will end up with a really strong picture of what you have done for them.”

And the client will be more willing to provide a referral so they can help those within their circle of friends and acquaintances.

> Ask for an email introduction
Thanks to the telemarketing industry, everyone is defensive when receiving an unexpected phone call from an unfamiliar number. And the National Do Not Call List

(DNCL) legislation further restricts your ability to cold-call prospects.

Ask your clients if they would make a “soft connection” between you and the person being referred, via email. Ask the client to send their acquaintance an email introducing you to the prospect. They can copy you on the email. If the prospect is registered with the DNCL, he or she must give explicit permission for you to phone them.

> Don’t take rejection personally
Not everyone is going to provide a referral. If a client says no, don’t let that rejection become a deterrent.

Many people are shy about sharing their friends’ contact information, Copps says. So, if your request for an introduction doesn’t pan out, Copps adds, gauge your client’s tone to determine whether you should follow up again the following year.

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