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Use Referrals to Strengthen Your Seminars

The top three methods for bringing in new clients are:  1) Referrals from other clients; 2) Referrals from Centers of Influence—particularly CPAs; and 3) Seminars. The seminar environment can be a powerful way to add value to your existing client relationships and position yourself as a valuable resource to prospective clients. Many financial professionals like to combine these strategies to achieve maximum prospecting effectiveness—to meet new clients in the way they prefer to be met.

Leverage Every Seminar with Referrals

If you use seminars as a prospecting tool (or a client service tool), make sure you leverage the time, money and energy you’re investing by employing the referral process at every opportunity.

When You Ask for Referrals

Many of your clients who may be reluctant to give you referrals for you to turn into prospects may be perfectly willing to give you names and addresses of their friends and colleagues to invite to your seminars. If they like you and your work, this is usually a very easy referral for them to give. I’ve seen many producers get lists of names and addresses from their clients.

Produce an Endorsed Mailing

To take the above idea a step further, you can ask some of your satisfied clients to send letters to their friends and colleagues endorsing your seminars. You offer to pay for everything (letterhead, envelopes and postage), and they write a letter urging their friends and colleagues to attend your seminars. In with their letter can be your invitation. Or, the letter can foreshadow the invitation that will be “coming in the mail soon.” Either way, you leverage the trust your clients have with their friends and colleagues (often hundreds per client). If your clients are likely to be attending your seminar, they should state in their letter, “Hope to see you there.”

Collect Referrals at Your Seminars

There are two basic types of referrals you can gather at your seminars. First, you can get referrals to invite to your next seminar. Second, you can get referrals to turn into prospects and attempt to set up appointments with. Here’s a real-world example of how I coached a top producer who wanted to leverage his seminar programs.

The top producer, whom we will call Michael, hosts about eight seminars per year. Before we worked together on a referral program, he was getting people to attend in two primary ways:  1) through direct mail, and 2) through his weekly radio show on personal finance. Since he had to pay for the radio airtime, and since direct mail can be rather expensive (though worth it if it produces the desired results), his cost per lead was very high. I suggested that if he added the element of referrals to this process, his cost per lead would drop significantly. And his seminar program would become more profitable immediately.

Michael didn’t want to ask for direct referrals, but he did want to get referrals to come to his upcoming seminars. The solution was simple. Michael charged $20 for his seminars. He found this nominal charge increased the quality of the attendees. So, we printed special invitations that were made available to all his seminar attendees. These special invitations were to be given free to anyone they thought should experience Michael’s powerful ideas.

The success was overwhelming. People asked for two or three. They called in later to have others sent to their friends, colleagues and family members. The percentage of his attendance went from 10% referral-based to over 40% referral-based. He was soon able to cut down on his direct mail, resulting in a highly profitable program.

When Do You Bring Up Referrals at a Seminar?

This is a question I’m often asked at my workshops and private coaching. I apply the same formula here as I apply toward asking for referrals from clients. Ask for referrals when value has been delivered and value has been recognized.

With about 5-10 minutes left in the seminar—after you’ve given them some important things to think about—ask them what about the program they found valuable.  If you have them discuss it briefly with a partner first, they’ll be more inclined to share it with the group. Then say something like, “I’m glad so many of you found value in this program. That was my goal. As we went through the material this evening, you probably thought of friends, family members and colleagues who should have been here. True? (Heads will nod.) Well, you can give them a gift. You can let them know about this valuable program.

We have special invitations for our next seminar—next month—that you can hand-deliver or mail to people you think should hear what we have to say. If you have their addresses with you, we’d be happy to take care of the postage. Just be sure to write a personal note somewhere on the invitation so they know it’s from you. Kathy (wave to Kathy) has as many invitations as you’d like. Just see her as you leave.”

There are infinite variations on this approach. Be creative. Make it fit your situation. Whatever you do, if you’re hosting seminars and not leveraging them for referrals, you’re clearly leaving money on the table!

Eight Additional Seminar Tips:

1.            Seminars should be educationally-oriented, not product-oriented.

2.            Rule of thumb:

  • Educate:  Provide significant value.
  • Entertain:  Keep it lively and have some fun.
  • Entice:  Leave them wanting more (in a subtle way).

3.            New to seminars? Start small, grow slowly and go first class with everything.

4.            Not a great speaker? Get good! No excuses!

5.            Team up with other speakers and/or other hosts—including CPAs and attorneys.

6.            Seminars can be for:  clients only, prospects only, or both.

7.            Ask joint hosts or speakers to invite their clients to participate as well.

8.            For maximum results, host seminars on a regular basis—monthly, quarterly or some variation. Always have an event on the horizon.


About Bill Cates

Bill Cates
Bill Cates is the President of Referral Coach International.  His trademarked Referral Advantage™ Program has been featured in such publications as Success Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, Selling Power and Research Magazine, and his own business success has been featured in Money Magazine. Bill is a regular contributing editor for many financial services publications. Visit his Web site at Bill Cates, author of “Get More Referrals Now!” and “Don’t Keep Me a Secret!” is offering you a free copy of his report “7 Deadly Referral Mistakes” as well as a subscription to his free referral newsletter with 30,000+ subscribers. (What do they know that you don’t?)  Go to  To contact Bill, send him an email at or call (301) 497-2200.

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