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6 steps to getting more comfortable when asking for referrals – Matt Anderson of The Referrals Academy with part 1 of his 3 part series

One of the most effective ways in which financial planners grow their businesses is by getting referrals from satisfied clients. Yet why is it that so many professionals still feel uncomfortable asking for them? Matt Anderson, of The Referrals Academy, starts a three-part series in which he gives practical help and tips so you can improve your success in this key area

If you are like most advisers or planners, you don’t relish the idea of asking people to recommend you. But how does that approach serve you? And, assuming you believe that your work helps people, how does your silence serve others? Sometimes it’s as if we are perversely proud of being bashful and, oh, underachieving.

Most people feel rather uncomfortable asking for what they want. This is not for you.

The solution to being more comfortable asking for referrals is this:

Stop associating PAIN with asking and start associating pain with NOT asking AND increasingly associate more and more PLEASURE with asking.

To do this, it’s time to consider these six steps:

  1. What are your concerns about asking?

Stop and think through your answer to this question. You must know your answer to this first.

For some people the discomfort they have about asking for referrals comes from not knowing what to say or when to ask. Maybe you’ve tried asking clients in the past by saying “if you can think of anyone else that might benefit from my services, please ask them to give me a call’. Since saying this almost never works, you probably gave up.

These are competence issues and these will be addressed in articles two and three of this series in subsequent issues of IFA Magazine. Whilst they are not the focus of this article, please read on because points 3, 5 and 6 relate to everyone and sometimes all of this topic does apply to you; you just weren’t aware of it until now.

The majority of people have deeper concerns about asking for referrals that are rooted in fear. The most common ones are a fear of being pushy, looking needy, sounding salesy, spoiling the relationship, and being rejected. Other people set the bar too high before thinking they have earned the right to ask, or they convince themselves of things that are beyond their control (‘no time’, ‘clients too busy’) or feel they’re not good enough yet at what they do.

You must know your answer to this answer. You must know what the enemy looks like so you can start shooting at it.

If you are not asking for referrals, you are letting fear and/or ignorance control you.

  1. Pinpoint any really painful experiences around referrals

This is relevant for about one person in ten. Maybe you started your sales career at a company that was very aggressive about demanding referrals and it left such a bad taste in your mouth that, from then on, in your mind you associated asking for referrals as something painful. Or you emotionally overreacted and unwittingly said to yourself: “I never want to be seen to be like those obnoxious salespeople ever again (which means I am never going to solicit for business that way again).”

Last week, I spoke to someone who joined a networking group when he was new to being an adviser, new to the community (i.e. knew nobody), was new to networking, and was expected to have referrals every week for other people! That weekly public humiliation from a room full of people – on top of all the other pressures he was experiencing – proved extremely distressing for him. Since then, the idea of asking for referrals has always made him uncomfortable.

It is crucial to identify where any negative association comes from. It’s rather like having had an emotionally painful dating experience and then overreacted by saying “I’m never going to do that ever again!” Not exactly our finest moment in creating life’s success recipe, eh?

  1. Really soak up the pain that NOT asking is causing you

Answer these questions; think about them and take time to write down all your answers.

  1. What will it cost me if I don’t get far better at generating high quality referrals?

Don’t skimp on this. Write as much as you can. The goal is to use pain as your friend so you get leverage on yourself to take a lot of action. You actually want to feel so much pain that you can no longer tolerate your situation. Getting powerful leverage matters so much because, as Tony Robbins argues, “we will all do more to avoid pain than to gain pleasure.” In other words, we are more likely to stay put with our current, mediocre present than to take the necessary risks to live the life we really want – unless we get more leverage on ourselves.

  1. How do my responses in 3a) make me feel?

This one is arguably even more important. Your emotions are what DRIVE you.

  1. Be clear about why people should refer you

List out 20 reasons why people should recommend you. You want to focus your thinking on reasons to ask for referrals rather than on old thinking of avoiding it.

Afterwards, ask yourself what you have learned. This has been a turning point for some of my past clients who have gone on to achieve fabulous increases in the number of referrals they get.  One concluded: “if not me, then who?” and gradually started to ask more and more. That was six years ago and his business has grown every year since. Another adviser compiled his list and realised that “some of my clients get thanked for introducing me.” He went on to have his best year ever and he’s surpassing that again this year.

Pick out the most compelling reason and then keep this highly visible. Odd as it sounds, you need to rewire your thinking to focus on this empowering reason to ask.

  1. List out WHY getting far more quality referrals is a ‘must have’ for you

Make a list of all the pleasure you will obtain from getting more referrals, more clients and therefore bringing in more business. Caution: It’s human nature to avoid even a little ‘pain’ for its short-term gain even if it means a lot of long-term pain. So you will need to amass an inspiring list of reasons to ask which emotionally far outweigh the pain that so far has held you back. Otherwise you probably won’t push through the early discomfort.

Start to think about asking for referrals as an enormously rewarding activity and ultimately as fun.

  1. Practise, detach from expecting immediate results, and take INSPIRED action

Practise: for those of you who don’t fear asking but just need better wording and a referral system, you too will only see good results if are willing to practise your referral conversation, stumble through it at first, and do it enough times until it sounds like you’re having a real conversation.

It is possible to get great results quickly but expecting this can set you up for disappointment. There are too many variables: it can depend on your competence, how confidently you ask, how specific you are with what you ask for, whether you help your referral source with how to refer you, how enthusiastic your referral source is about you, how strong your relationship is with your referral source and how close and respected the referral source is to the prospect.

Focus on what you can control and keep getting better in all areas.

By taking inspired action, I mean focus first on asking your best relationships for introductions.

Remember: associate asking with GREAT PLEASURE and associate not asking with REAL PAIN

The more you commit to believing this, the better will be your results.

Go forth and ask, my friend! 

Part two of Matt’s series on referrals will appear in the July/August edition of IFA Magazine. 

About Matt Anderson

Matt Anderson, founder of the Referrals Academy, has grown his business almost exclusively by referrals. He has trained and coached people from over 30 countries and specialises in helping financial advisers to get more and better prospects. He is based in Chicago but was born and raised in Coventry.

He is the author of the international bestseller Fearless Referrals, which Brian Tracy, author of The Psychology of Sales, says “teaches you the “Golden Rules” for developing a continuous chain of high quality referrals for any product in any business.” which you can get from Amazon here –

Follow Matt on Twitter @mattandersontv