Welcome to Day 19 of our Referral Clinic and Blog-a-thon. We asked advisors to send us their toughest referral challenges. Now we're featuring the 20 best, along with solutions from top referral experts and veteran financial advisors.
Today's winning question comes from Matt P., a regional rep from Waco, Texas. Nicely done, Matt!
Question: "I've hosted a CPA continuing education credits for my network of 8-10 CPAs once a month for the past year. I feed them and give them 3 hours of credit each time. I've received just one referral and a few lunches because of it. How do I push for more referrals?"
Katherine Vessenes' answer: We have done a lot of consulting assignments with CPAs and financial planners and I think there are a number of ways you can get your CPAs to do the right thing.
Here is an idea on how to tactfully teach your CPAs good manners--to repay you with referrals. I would invite each one out to breakfast or lunch separately. Call them and tell them you could use some advice about your business and the CE programs you have been running. Eventually, over lunch, the conversation will go like this:
"Don, you know I have provided you and some of my top CPA affiliates with 12 free CE classes over the last year. Can you give me some feedback? How did you like them?" (Pause for answer. This is important because if they didn't really like your programs, it is unlikely they will send you business. On the other hand, if they are very happy with them, you have set the stage for getting referrals.)
"Is there anything I can do to make them better?" (Pause for answer. This shows how serious you are about meeting their needs.)
There is a really good chance they are only going to say positive things about your program or even thank you for doing them. You want a warm, fuzzy response here.
Then go in for the kill: "Don--I am really confused. Why do you think I have been providing these programs?"
You want them to connect the dots themselves, if possible, and figure out what your motivation is. If they don't do a good job of articulating it, say:
"That's right. I carefully selected a group of top CPAs and then went to a great deal of expense and time to create outstanding CE for them. Now, my motivation has been no secret--I was hoping they would like what I was doing so much and have so much confidence in me, they would refer me some clients. Does that make sense?"
Again you are looking for feedback.
Then say: "Well, the thing that is confusing to me is this: if I am providing you great service and you like my work, over the last year, why haven't I gotten more referrals? I have only received one referral from the entire group. Why do you think that is?" (I know this looks clumsy on paper--but it will sound OK when spoken. It is important to start with the reminder that they like what you are doing and then end with the question: why aren't I getting more referrals?)
If they give you some positive feedback--like they would like to send you business, but they don't have any clients that you would be a good fit for--then dive in a little deeper and say: "Would it help you if I explained in greater detail the kind of client I like to help?" Then explain very specifically the kind of client you like to work with and your differentiation. Draw them a picture they can relate to.
From here you should go into some specific ideas on how to do the referrals. This group likes specificity--so don't skip over the details.
By the time you have this conversation with all 10 attendees, they will clearly understand that you are looking for referrals and you will have given them some scripts or other tools to help them with that process.
Another idea, if you don't want to have 10 separate luncheons: Call all 10 members and ask them if they would do you the favor by coming to a lunch and being your one-time advisory board. You could use their advice about your business and you would appreciate their feedback. I think most would be happy to help you out.
At the luncheon, in front of the entire group, you would have a similar presentation, only to all of them. I wouldn't try to make them feel guilty--just to have them give you some good ideas on how to increase referrals.
So your script might go like this:
"We have really gotten to know each other over the last year during my CE classes. How did you like them? Is there anything I could do better?" (Get feedback)
"Great--thanks for coming today. I have a problem and I could really use your advice. I build my business almost entirely from referrals. It is not going so well now as I had hoped. Do you have any ideas on how I could increase my referrals?"
Then shut up.
What you want them to do is brainstorm your marketing plan for you. Be sure to ask for specific suggestions.
If things start to lag, here are some other questions you can put to the group:
- "If you were me, how would you market for referrals?"
- "What can I do to be more attractive to my referrers/centers of influence?"
- "What kind of financial services are your clients looking for?"
- "Do you have someone else that you refer this business?"
- "How can I better position myself to appeal to your clients?"
If you do this properly, they will give you everything you need to create a great referral program--and they will have gotten the message that you are expecting referrals from them.
To reinforce this message, there are a few other things you can do:
After the breakfast or group lunch, send each CPA a personal, handwritten note on your best paper. The message will go something like this:
Thanks for your feedback at my advisory board luncheon. It was very helpful. In thinking about it afterwards, it occurred to me that you might have more confidence in me if you could personally see how I would treat your clients.
How about if I give you a free (no-obligation) financial plan or maybe a tour of our offices? That way you can see for yourself how we work and our level of service. I will be calling you soon to set something up, if this would be of interest to you. In the meantime, thank you for your referrals and your support.
Hopefully by your next CE class you will have gotten at least one referral. Before you start your class or over lunch, make a big deal out of it. Honor that referrer in front of the group. It would go like this:
"Attention everyone! Today I want to honor Frank--he sent me two clients last month! (Round of applause, yeah, rah rah,etc.) Please accept my thank you," and then, in front of the group, give him a present. This could be a bottle of wine, a nice book, tickets to the theater--something special. You will find if you do this at every meeting, everyone will want the prize and they will all get the message--you are the person to refer business to.
If you don't get some referrals after this, you are clearly going after the wrong group!
Got questions or thoughts about today's challenge or Katherine's response? Post a comment.