Teach Your Clients How to Give Referrals

by Certified Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA

When is the last time a person prospected you for new business (outside of Northwestern Mutual)?


I'm guessing if you're like most people your answer is “never or maybe once.” Before you were a Financial Representative (FR) and became trained in prospecting, would you have been comfortable with it? Would you have understood what was being asked of you? Is it possible that you have become SO used to prospecting that you forget that it’s new territory for many people to provide you with multiple names, contact information and to expect people to then tee them up for you?

Many of my clients assume the absolute worst when people give them objections. They feel hurt, rejected and judged. They fear that their client or prospective client is not supportive. Is it possible that some people really don’t have experience giving referrals? What would become possible for your practice if you gave people the benefit of the doubt, were very genuine, and patiently taught them this skill?

What if every client heard this language from you (with your own spin, of course!):

"Northwestern Mutual is the largest financial institution that no one has ever heard of! In fact, we used to be called the Quiet Company because we believe in growing through word of mouth. Since we were founded in the year 1857 this has been a strong part of our history and culture. You should expect me to ask you every time we talk, “who do you know who I can I connect with?” This is a totally normal part of our relationship and it goes both ways. I would be happy to introduce you to anyone who may be useful for you to know, as well. Sometimes when I ask you for referrals you may think of someone and other times you may not. I understand and certainly expect that sometimes you won't have anyone for me. I deeply appreciate my clients’ connections and I'm always respectful of those relationships. I was lucky to meet you when [nominator] was kind enough to introduce us. Is this something that you’d be willing to help me with?

Your efforts are worth it! Word of mouth is the most laborious and work-intensive type of marketing that exists. It is also one of the most impactful and personal ways to reach people. Many companies spend millions of dollars trying to reach their customers through expensive mass advertising. Northwestern Mutual has relied upon referrals for decades. While obviously there is a lot of marketing support, the ability to grow your individual practice at the rate you need to is really resting on your shoulders. Are you committed and prepared to prospect? If so, you are ready to set your client up for success.

How are you teaching your clients? Do they understand what you're asking of them and why? Do they understand how to help you and help as nominator? Or do you leave them in the dark and expect them to read your mind?

What if you just assume the best? Most people genuinely don't understand how to give a referral and be a good nominator. Instead of prospecting, try teaching and watch what happens!

Coaching Tip Another important part of teaching how to refer, is to explain to the nominator specifically how to do his or her job. Instead of giving the person orders (send this email template...), ASK them how they would like to contact the person. When will they have time to get in touch? Assure them that you won’t take action if they let you know not to. Give the nominator control and set expectations to put them at ease. “Thanks for the cell phone number. I will put in my calendar to call [name] on Monday at 9:00. If anything changes, just let me know by then. You have my word that I will not call if you tell me not to. I can’t wait to meet [name.]