A client has just referred a friend, family member or colleague to you, telling you that this person could really use your financial planning expertise. The question becomes: what do you do next?

Your first few steps have nothing to do with getting in touch with this referred person, according to Sara Gilbert, founder of Strategist in Montreal. Instead, you will be gathering some important information regarding this individual from your client,.

Note that when you are asking your client for certain details, you should stress that you respect both individuals’ privacy. Ask the client if he or she would be comfortable sharing this information with you, Gilbert says.

Here are the first two steps you should take before contacting the referral:

1. Ask “insight” questions
Begin by looking for information that could help you develop a rapport with this person. Ask questions that shed a little light on the referral’s personality. This step comes even before you try to learn about the individual’s need for your services.

“If you’re not able to create that rapport with them,” Gilbert says, “it’s not going to go any further.”

You can ask your client how he or she met the referred individual. What does the referral do for a living? What are some of the challenges this person faces?

The responses to these questions can be used as conversation starters when you do get in touch, Gilbert says, and will also help you see if you and the referred person have anything in common.

For example, your client might tell you that he and his friend met at their kids’ soccer game and bonded over a love of sports. Perhaps you can relate to this kind of situation, if you are the parent of a young child who also participates in extracurricular athletic activities.

2. Gage the referral’s financial situation
Your next step is to try to learn why this referral might need your help. One subtle way of seeking this intelligence is by asking your client if there is a specific situation that you should address when you do get in touch. You are not asking for specifics here: just an overview of the types of financial concerns this person may have.

For example, your client may mention that her friend recently bought a condo in the city. She’s proud of her purchase but has been talking about having to improve her budgeting skills in order to afford her new lifestyle. Now you know you can broach the topic of cash-flow management within the context of a larger financial plan.

“It helps you get prepared and better serve the person being referred,” Gilbert says.

This is the first part in a three-part series on referrals.

Next: Getting in touch.