* Client referrals. More than 90% of advisors in all of the four income groups told us that client referrals are extremely important sources of new clients. Indeed, such referrals are the most popular avenue for finding new prospects - more so than referrals from other professionals, seminars and public relations efforts.
Despite this, many non-elite advisors aren't fully leveraging this source. Among advisors earning less than $1 million, fewer than six out of 10 ask their clients for referrals on a regular basis. By contrast, the figure among the top income earners is 90%. These top earners received nearly six referrals from each of their top clients during the past year, while lower-earning advisors received just two referrals on average. Clearly, top earners are leveraging their many interactions with clients to ask for referrals - and having great success getting business.
STEPS FOR SUCCESS
From our study and our experience coaching elite advisors, a few clear best practices can substantially enhance business results. If you are a advisor looking to move to a higher level of success, we recommend starting with these steps:
1. Specialize in one or two types of profitable clients whom you can serve very well. Client specialization allows you to tightly focus your marketing message to effectively reach a defined narrow group. Once you are established within a distinct community, acquiring new, qualified clients through referrals becomes relatively easy. And your clients benefit from the expertise you will develop in addressing the concerns of individuals like them.
2. Make client communication a priority. Frequent contact about what matters most to your clients will build lasting loyalty and, along with it, referrals and additional assets to manage.
3. Request referrals from clients on a systematic basis. Do not assume that satisfied clients will automatically provide referrals. To get introductions to qualified prospects, you must tell your clients exactly whom you want to serve and ask for introductions to people who fit this description.
It takes commitment - of time and effort - to reach elite advisor status. It's not an easy road for any advisor. But the benefits of being among the elite are huge. Your clients, your alliance partners and your team all count on you to make it happen.
John J. Bowen Jr., a Financial Planning columnist, is founder and CEO of CEG Worldwide of San Martin, Calif., a global training, research and consulting firm for advisors.