When the Prospecting Trainer Gets Prospected

When the Prospecting Trainer Gets Prospected

Here’s why we never recommend asking for referrals.

A few weeks ago, I received a mysterious voicemail from an unknown person. 

“Hi Kevin, John Doe here.  Your friend Sarah Jones thought it would be a good idea for us to talk.  Give me a call back when you have a second. My number is XXX-XXXX.”

Huh?  Who was this person?  Who did he work for?  What did he do? Why did Sarah think it was a good idea for us to speak? I decided to shoot a text to my friend Sarah to connect the dots.

Me: Hi Sarah. I got a message from John Doe.  Who is he? 
Sarah: I’m sorry… just tell him you have plenty of life insurance and a financial planner.

Wow!  What a ringing endorsement!  (Insert sarcasm here). Let’s rewind…


Apparently, John Doe, a hard-charging new financial advisor at his firm, asked his client Sarah for a referral. You know, some generic version of “who do you know, like yourself, who might benefit from my services?”  Sarah, feeling pressured, rattled off a few of her friends. Cue random phone call from John.

While I admire John’s hustle, this is the Kobe Bryant of relationship marketing - way past its prime.  It’s a glorified cold call.  Here’s why we never recommend asking for referrals:


1. Our Affluent Investor research shows that 8 out of 10 investors have a negative reaction to this type of generic referral request. 

2. The advisor loses control of his or her positioning.  When the referral goes back to the client (and they usually will) the advisor doesn’t know what they are going to say.  In our example, Sarah actually apologized and suggested blowing him off! 


Let’s give old-school referrals the must needed update they deserve – personal introductions.  Here's how John should have approached his client Sarah.


1. Earn Social Equity. Our research shows 83% of the affluent are willing to introduce their financial advisor to a specific friend or family member if the client perceives their relationship to be both business and social. If John hadn’t done so already, he should have taken the time to get to know Sarah on a personal level.  She should have a vested interest in him personally and professionally.

2. Source Names. Instead of putting the onus on Sarah with a broad “who do you know?” request, John should have identified specifically who he wanted to meet.  This is a skill that requires asking the right questions or running Advanced Searches via LinkedIn.

3. Come up with a Compelling Reason.  The introduction needs to make sense to the introducer.   If John had looked me up through a simple Google search he would have noticed what I do (Ahem, train financial advisors on selling!).  He would have mentioned this in his introduction request. 

4. Request a Personal Introduction.  John should have asked for a personal face-to-face introduction.  The credibility transfer that occurs when your client is willing to personally introduce you over coffee or lunch is invaluable.

a.     If a face-to-face introduction wasn’t possible, he should have asked for an introduction via email or LinkedIn. 

b. If Sarah was not willing to send an email, he should have asked Sarah to call me first to pre-empt his phone call and put in a good word.


Does this require more work?  Sure. But it’s immeasurably more effective.  You’re now using the LeBron James of relationship marketing tactics. 

We train financial professionals on growing their practice all day – every day.  We teach them multiple ways to approach prospects. Being on the other side of things, as the person being prospected, reinforced our research on old-fashioned prospecting methods – they simply do not work.


Stephen Boswell and Kevin Nichols are coaches with The Oechsli Institute, a firm that specializes in research and training for the financial services industry. @StephenBoswell @KevinANichols www.oechsli.com

TAGS: Marketing
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