In the first part of this series, John Prendergast, CEO of Blueleaf, a firm that develops organizational software tools for advisors, offered insights into new and better ways to gain referrals. In this installment, he discusses how to “turbocharge” your referral and marketing systems to add speed and precision to the process.
“It’s not rocket science to find referral sources,” says Prendergast, who is based in Cambridge, Mass. “[Advisors need to ask themselves], ‘How do I create a machine that can work in the real world so that clients will find an advisor who can help them?'”
The answer, Prendergast says, comes down to elbow grease. Ultimately, you have all the skills necessary to engineer your own high-powered system for generating referrals. To do so, Prendergast suggests you follow these four steps:
1. Build a network catalogue
If you are an expert in financial planning but don’t yet have the credentials to help your clients with their wills or tax planning, you need to build a network of these complementary professionals in your community. Having a comprehensive address book that includes lawyers, accountants and other professional who can assist your clients with financial matters will allow you to offer more comprehensive wealth planning.
Be sure to canvas any of your existing clients for positive experiences with these types of professionals. You can also mine local directories, social media or chapters of national organizations that can help you build a catalogue of names.
2. Prepare for and set up meetings
After you have developed a list of professionals you would like to work with, it’s essential to meet with them before choosing to refer an existing client. Do some background research to ensure that there is potential in establishing a relationship, and then arrange to have a conversation.
Once you know you are on the same wavelength and that the person you have approached can offer added value to your clients, you can discuss the reciprocal nature of the relationship, with referrals going in both directions. “There’s a much higher probability of the other party showing interest and suggesting that you arrange some referral business back and forth,” says Prendergast.
“It’s the notion of quid pro quo.”
3. Don’t be shy
One of the most crucial parts of building an effective referral network is to be visible and engaging. Do whatever you feel is necessary to continually build new relationships. That could involve being more active on social media, sponsoring events or hosting a community roadshow where you can get to know others in the community. And above all: be consistent.
“If you are limiting yourself to only those with whom you have a pre-existing relationship, you’ve cut yourself off from a lot of the world,” says Prendergast.
“Creating referral relationships does not work if you’re only reaching out sporadically.”
Once you have completed a meeting to discuss referrals, be sure to follow-up with that person immediately in order to set out the next steps, says Prendergast.
This can be done in a concise, but informative, email. For example, you should review what commitments each party has agreed upon, what “homework” needs to be done and when you would like to meet next.
As you will be sending many emails to your referrals partners, you might consider new email-based follow up tools. These tools may help organize follow-up meetings more easily than regular email calendars; that’s because such calendars sometimes don’t do a good job of supporting a large volume of reminders.
For example, you can use a specialized email program to set-up a system that will allow you to send email alerts to yourself at particular times. That can help, for instance, in ensuring that you don’t forget the next time you want to interact with your client.
This is the second installment in a two-part series on marketing and referrals. Part one: Updating your referral techniques