A classic mistake too many advisors make is that they don’t come prepared to brainstorm; they make this a one-sided conversation. They say, “Who do you know who we can help?” The client usually draws a blank and the conversation fizzles. This is unlikely to happen if you truly come prepared for this conversation. From the minute you meet every new client, pay attention to who they know – family, friends, colleagues, etc. Be genuinely interested and curious. This helps you build rapport and trust, and can help you be ready for your request for introductions. “I was thinking about your former business partner Mary. I went on the website for her new business. It seems like she’s doing pretty darn well. I suspect I might be a great resource for her. How do you feel about putting in a good word about me to her?”
Coming prepared with individuals to suggest or categories of people for whom you do excellent work, usually means the difference to being effective in your request.
3. Create Your Own Personal Sales Force
How many centers of influence do you currently have looking out for people you can help? One? Two? Unfortunately, most advisors have between 0 and 1 centers of influence. This is such a shame! Here are two keys to meeting COIs and getting referrals from them:
Getting referrals from COIs is all about them liking you, trusting you, and knowing the full extent of your value. This usually doesn’t happen in just one meeting or over one meal. This is a relationship-building, educational process. The ultimate question you may need to ask of a potential COI is, “What do you need to know about me and the work I do to feel comfortable introducing me to others?”
How much time are you devoting to meeting and nurturing productive relationships with centers of influence? To maximize your COI potential, I recommend that you spend about 2.5 hours per week. That’s it, just 2.5 hours per week. Every week! This is the time it takes to make a few phone calls to current or potential COIs and have one breakfast or lunch per week with one of them. The best centers of influence will come from your clients and other COIs. Use the referral process to meet these folks and then spend a little time each week growing and/or nurturing the relationships. Do this for one solid year and you’ll have your own personal sales forces of advocates.
4. Get Hyper Focused
I have met a number of million-dollar producers over the years. Many of the “old-school” advisors seem to have made it to the top without trying to focus on any particular market niche. However, it’s my observation that an advisor’s chances of reaching million-dollar status (and above) by being a generalist is fast coming to an end. We live in an era of specialists. Affluent and wealthy folks – especially – want to work with someone who is a specialist in working with people like themselves. And this doesn’t merely mean that you focus on a particular asset amount. It’s more than that. If they own a small business, they want someone who specializes in small business owners. If they are a highly-paid corporate executive, they want a specialist. If they are a physician, they want you to be working with other physicians; attorneys want the same. So do educators, widows, restaurant owners, etc.
The main reason why most advisors don’t focus is due to fear – or ignorance about how this dynamic works. The fear is, “If I only focus on this niche, I’ll give up all the other opportunity that can come my way.” First of all, you don’t always have to limit yourself to just one niche or refuse appropriate clients outside of your niche. But here’s the deal. You’ll be so successful in you niche, you won’t even notice that “lost opportunity.” You already know you need to be more focused. What are you waiting for?
So, which of these Final Four strategies is going to win out? Which one will you start to apply more diligently to your business? You only need one of them working really well to become a Referral Champion.