What Gets Referrals? It’s Not Always Obvious.

I love this article by Katherine Vessenes of Vestment Advisors titled “What Gets Referrals? Exceptional Service” recently published at ThinkAdvisor. The article is full of excellent ideas that her firm has implemented to gain more referrals. But, what I really liked is that right up front she says “Our system of getting referrals from our existing clients is counter-intuitive. We don’t ask for referrals at all. We just provide awesome service—it has worked great for us.” Katherine mentions that her firm does things for her clients that “are obvious to the client and things that are not so obvious”.

Although she divided them up a bit differently (‘obvious vs. ‘not so obvious’) than I did in my recent post (You Can Get Referrals. Just Don’t Ask for Them.), I think you’ll agree that it’s important to help clients understand what it is that you do for them (exactly), how and why you do it better than anyone else, and how it is helping them to reach their goals.  This should be obvious.  Although sometimes it’s obvious to us, but not as obvious to our clients – which is why it may take some extra effort.

I believe that the ‘not so obvious’ tasks (she calls them ‘covert’) need to be made more obvious to the client if we are to get credit for them.  In fact, making those task more obvious might even make them ‘remarkable’ for the client. Here’s an example —

Katherine’s first suggestion is ‘Make things easy’ for your client. It’s a great idea. The father-in-law in her example had already made the suggestion to move a 403(b) plan to an IRA. She agreed and offered to help. It’s interesting that what she did was actually ‘remarkable’ to the client, although it seemed ‘obvious’ to her. The reason it was actually remarkable to the client was because it was previously hard (i.e., Dad told son-in-law what to do, but never followed through to help). When she got everyone together on the phone and made the transfer happen for the client, it created a remarkable experience for the client (she made it very easy with a simple phone call).  I can just hear this client at a dinner party say to someone “Well, yes, my father-in-law is a financial adviser, but (although my wife won’t like me to say this) I would recommend Katherine. She’s made everything so easy for us and provides outstanding personal service.  She just picks up the phone and makes magic happen.”

I’d suggest looking at each of her ideas and consider what she did that helped the client understand the benefits of working with her and her firm, and consider when she also did something that the client felt was remarkable.  Then, decide which of her suggestions you can put into place in your own practice. As always, share your thoughts in the comments.

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