Over the last 6 months, we’ve explored how referrals from satisfied and engaged clients continue to be the main source of new business for advisors during the pandemic. While money is in motion, prospects will be researching your website, social media and any other content to understand what it is like to be your client—well before they pick up the phone or email you.   

A prospect contacting you is just the first step. What you do and how you communicate next is crucial.  Do you have a formal referral process in place that considers what the prospect is looking for instead what you want say?

An emotional decision

Let’s assume that a prospect likes what they see and hear about you. They discover you specialize in an area that appeals to their needs, and your firm seems like a good fit.  While all seems good, they are contacting you with trepidation, feeling things like:

  • Not wanting to be “sold” something
  • Trouble admitting to a stranger that they need help
  • Difficulty unwinding a relationship with another advisor that they may like personally but is not meeting their needs
  • Fear of the “new”  

This is a fundamental flaw in most advisors’ referral processes: They don’t put themselves in their prospect’s shoes. Many advisors normally react by sending out a brochure, an intake form and risk questionnaire. The prospect’s first conversation may be with a staff member or receptionist who may be properly trained. This approach is designed to “sell” the advisor firm—not to alleviate the prospect’s anxiety.

The first steps

tire roadmapBefore you begin, it first makes sense to understand how most referrals come to your firm. Understand who is making the referral and for which services. Understanding why you’re being referred provides insight into what is appealing and differentiated about you. By taking on a prospect’s mindset, the next steps are clear.  

Understanding a prospect’s mental roadblocks is always the first step to correcting a problematic process. The easiest way to diagnose and fix the issue is to create a workflow or journey map that creates a more unique and personalized process.

The next steps

There are a number of steps in the referral process that you should look at from a prospect’s point of view:

  1. In most cases, a prospect will call the advisor. It’s critical to train the staff, who will most likely be the prospect’s first impression of your firm, how to ask appropriate questions and discuss your value proposition. Understanding a prospect’s feelings and creating a script for prospect calls will go a long way.  
  2. If a prospect contacts you by email, make sure your first reply provides the prospect the ability to book a convenient time into your calendar to talk. A simple thing like scheduling a meeting should not be an obstacle—the technology is there, use it.
  3. Create your customizable referral packet. What a prospect says during the first conversation will inform what you’ll send as a follow-up. Personalize it based on your conversation—not a blanket brochure or generic list of services.
  4. Don’t send an intake or profile form. From the prospect’s perspective, it may seem too invasive or uncomfortable to share with someone they don’t know yet. You can get most of the information you need in your first scheduled conversation.
  5. Make reference to your initial conversation in the follow-up communications. Try to draw out their concerns while acknowledging what others have felt in the same situation.
  6. Understand the current environment. They may prefer to meet in person or by video—give them the option and assure them that either is fine.
  7. Understand the first conversation’s goal is to have a second conversation—not to have them commit to a financial or investment plan.  

Put a referral journey map or workflow discussion on your next staff meeting’s agenda, and think about what happens when you get a referral. Do you have a process in place? The script is as important as putting the workflow process into your CRM. But putting yourself in a prospect’s shoes is most important: Are you tuned into their emotions?


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