Some of the techniques I used to get referrals and recommendations back then landed me second place for two years in a row in the Lloyd’s productivity league tables are still just as useful today. With the exception of social media, not much has changed where sales is concerned, so it’s worth reviewing how lone IFAs and business development teams can implement some tried-and-tested techniques at a low cost.
The ‘s’ (sales) word may seem irrelevant to advisers, most of whom, whether due to the Retail Distribution Review or not, self-identify as impartial oracles of personal finance knowledge and best practice; all the while having to meet targets and work extra hard to keep smaller firms afloat. That said, even if you (think) you hate sales, it’s largely unavoidable, so focusing energy on increasing referrals could be as straightforward as asking clients if they know anyone that might benefit from a quick coffee or free mini-consultation with you.
Here are three ways to start securing recommendations and referrals quickly and at no/low cost:
1. Share success stories
Shouting about our achievements isn’t something that comes naturally to many Brits, lest our peers think of us as arrogant or flashy. Talking about how you’ve helped a client to realise their retirement dreams or to downsize after a divorce is anything but; as you’re offering genuinely useful information which may help convince ‘the non-advised’ that professional advice is really for them too - not just for an elite group with trust funds.
Displaying a paragraph or two of client quotes online and on all printed literature - even on an interactive screen in your waiting area - could trigger existing or new clients to think of someone in the same situation and point them your way. Testimonials could be categorised and displayed in terms of life stages or events - ‘First-time buyers’, ‘Retirees’ and ‘Planning for your first child’ for instance.
2. Brave the social media landscape
LinkedIn and Twitter are both awash with consumers looking for advice, recommendations, news or commentary on a range of serious subjects; whereas a few scrolls of the average timeline will reveal far ‘fluffier’ and self-indulgent posts on Facebook or Instagram. With that in mind, there are only two platforms you really need concern yourself or your staff with, aside from ensuring your firm has an account with your contact details and logo on the latter two platforms, plus a post letting people know you’re active on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Case in point:
Twitter is also notorious for happy and unhappy customers talking about the service they’ve received from various vendors, so remember to download the apps onto your phone and allow notifications, allowing you to act quickly should you be publicly mentioned.
Online privacy is high on most agendas at present, however, making our posts and information too hard-to-find can stymie the flow of online enquiries and company blog readers. A review of your security settings and ensuring your posts are shareable can quickly get your material included in general searches for advice.
Adding relevant and where possible, trending, hashtags, will widen the reach of content significantly. For an example of how valuable this tagging can be, type ‘#financialadvice’ into Twitter’s search bar and a new article or musing on the subject will appear almost each time you refresh results.
3. Be generous
All of your clients are in touch with you because they care about being good stewards of their finances, so why not offer them something free? This could be by way of a loyalty scheme, which gives them a free session after clocking-up a certain amount of visits or months with you, a Christmas carvery voucher, or even 25% off at the cafe next door.
Referral schemes can also offer an incentive that puts more cash into the pockets of clients, FCA rules considered, of course. 25% off fees for each client they introduce could work very well and using your firm is a relatively easy thing for clients to work into conversations with family, friends and colleagues.
If you only take one thing away from reading this, I hope it would be the confidence to come out and ask for a referral. Don’t be afraid to tell clients that you’re looking to extend your reach and say, if they found your advice useful, they may know someone who would also benefit. This is not a very British thing to do, however, if you relax and ask in a conversational way, you won’t appear pushy. I have observed and coached about one hundred advisers over the years and I am amazed by how many simply don’t ask!
For more adviser tips and commentary, explore the rest of our blog.