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Asking for Referrals without Begging or Pushing

Asking for Referrals without Begging or Pushing

Why do the affluent want to meet a financial advisor like you? One recent study surveyed over 4,000 affluent individuals. It determined that the affluent would prefer to meet you either: 1) through a referral from a friend or colleague, or 2) through a referral from a CPA or other trusted advisor. This article will give you my proven strategy for asking for referrals from your affluent clients (all your clients for that matter). If you think that your affluent clients won’t give you referrals, think again. Not all will, but a significant percentage will–especially if you met them through a referral.

A Proven 4-Step Approach

Here’s a 4-step approach I’ve taught to thousands of financial professionals who’ve had tremendous results. First, I’ll give you the bases to cover. Then, I’ll give you a possible script that will show how you can touch on all the bases. Don’t worry too much about the words I use. If you like a particular turn of phrase, then by all means, use it. Make this approach genuine by using your own words.

STEP 1: Discuss the Value They’ve Received

Near the end of a client meeting (in person is better, but over the phone can work fine), ask your client what they find most valuable about your relationship (the work you’ve done, some of the more important things you’ve accomplished together, etc.) thus far. Discuss their value perceptions. Be genuinely interested in their response. Probe for clarity.

STEP 2: Treat the Request with Reverence

You treat the request with reverence in three ways:

a. Make sure you have enough time to have the conversation.
b. If you met them through a referral, remind them.
c. Put it out in a confident way, e.g., “I have an important question to ask you.”

STEP 3: Get Permission to Brainstorm about Introductions

It’s important that you get permission to talk referrals and that you set it up as a “brainstorming session.” This will help both you and your client to feel most comfortable. Plus, when you’re brainstorming, you can go down different paths to help them determine whom they would like to help by introducing you.

STEP 4: Suggest Names and Categories of Names

You don’t want to throw open the entire universe for them to pick from. They’ll likely draw a blank. Stimulate their thinking by suggesting names of people (or categories of people) they’ve mentioned previously. Share your ideal client profile. Share your “hit list.” Get introduced to their CPA or other trusted advisor. Have them invite people to your next seminar.

Here’s What It Might Sound Like

YOU: So, Bob. We’ve talked about quite a few things over the past couple of weeks. I’m curious. What stands out as being the most important or valuable thing we’ve done thus far?
BOB: Well … I’d have to say that the most important thing is helping me get clear on a few things. I feel more clear and confident about my financial future. I now realize, if I follow your strategies, I should be able to have enough money to send my three children to private universities and still retire quite comfortably. As you know, I was quite concerned about that. I also have a better handle on how I want to care for my family once I’m gone.
YOU: That’s great. I’m glad you’re finding value in the work we’re doing. You know, if it wasn’t for George, we wouldn’t have met, nor had a chance to do this important work. I guess we both owe George some thanks.
BOB: I’ve already thanked him.
YOU: Good. You know, with that in mind, I have an important question to ask you.
BOB: Shoot.
YOU: I’m wondering if we could brainstorm for a few minutes on whom you know should be aware of the work I do. Who would you like to help the way George helped you? Would you feel okay talking about that for a minute?
BOB: I suppose so.
YOU: Fine. Since we’re just brainstorming, I’ll throw out a few avenues of exploration. Last week, you mentioned your sister Barbara. Maybe we can start with her.
BOB: Actually, she might be a candidate for what you do.
YOU: Great. I’d like to learn more about her and we can discuss how you might introduce me to her–in a way that feels comfortable for everyone. If you don’t mind, I’d like to brainstorm just a little more first. There’s a concept we call “Money in Motion” that might help us determine others you know who might truly need my help. For instance, like yourself, who do you know who’s just recently sold or is thinking about selling their business?

It’s really as simple as that. You need to find the words that work best for you. Just make sure you touch all the bases.

Don’t Take My Word for It

To help motivate you to really try these strategies, I thought I’d share a few comments I’ve received from your peers who are using my system. They’re having marvelous results. They’ve tapped into the goldmine of their happy clients, and they’ve stopped leaving money on the table.

“As a veteran top producer in my company, I was getting my fair share of referrals. Then I started using your strategies (have read your book twice) and realized I have been leaving so much money on the table. I asked a client for referrals, using your ‘brainstorming’ approach, and not only did he give me two great referrals, he told me about $300,000 dollars with which he needed guidance (hadn’t told me about it before). Bottom line – your system is putting more money in my pocket.” Jeff Waranch, Financial Advisor, Baltimore, MD

“Your referral system has had a huge impact on my practice. I’m getting more referrals than I can handle–a good problem! The other day, using your 4-step strategy, I asked a prospect for referrals and she gave me a list of 22 great contacts. I’ve just started calling them and three have already become clients. Your stuff really works!” Harry Schiavone, Jr., CFS, Aetna Retirement Services, Fairfax, VA

Referral Objections

On occasion, a client won’t want to talk referrals. In a future column, I’ll give you a simple but powerful formula and language for dealing with these referral objections.

For now, just remember, if you ask in a way similar to what I’ve given you today, you won’t get many objections. Plus, even if they don’t want to play, you haven’t hurt your relationship with them–you’ve just planted a powerful seed.

And besides, you don’t need all your clients to give you referrals. You just need enough of them to.

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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