Talking with clients about topics that aren’t strictly or exclusively financial can be a great way to get good referrals.

“Ask questions that clients have never been asked before by other financial professionals,” CFP Darcie Guerin says. “They are pleasantly surprised by that, and the outcome is they tell their friends – that’s it in a nutshell.”

Guerin, a Raymond James vice president of investments and branch manager on Marco Island, Fla., finds that when she discusses clients’ lives and families, those clients are far more likely to refer their friends and colleagues to her.

Money is still a bit of a taboo subject in many contexts, so if a financial advisor only speaks about financial issues with clients, those issues aren’t likely to come up in that client’s discussions with friends and colleagues. There won’t be many opportunities for clients to recommend or even mention their advisors.

On the other hand, by talking about things that clients are more comfortable discussing with their friends, advisors may find that their names and the services that they provide are a lot more likely to come up in casual, everyday conversations.

So it helps to focus on personal subjects that relate to financial matters, Guerin says.

“I’ll be asking things like: ‘Are you going to have a retirement party? How many vacations will you take; what will they look like; how much do you want to set aside to plan for those? How many more cars are you going to have over the next 20 years?’” Guerin says.

The point is to translate financial plans and concepts into real-life events that are meaningful to clients and that clients in turn will discuss with people who are important to them, she says.

“Instead of focusing on all the percentages and sectors, where their eyes glaze over, I’ll say, ‘Let’s talk about what the next 30 years are going to look like for you,’” Guerin says.

She says that approach has generated prospects who tell her that they have gotten in touch because they hear that she really cares about her clients.

Sometimes it helps to refresh clients’ memories so that they will refer an advisor to people they know, says Kay Lynn Mayhue, CFP and president of Botsford Financial Group, a registered investment advisor with offices in Atlanta and Dallas.

“We try to remind our clients what makes us different,” she says.

Those reminders might come during one-on-one meetings with clients or during client appreciation events, typically with anywhere from 25 to 50 people. The gatherings are usually just for clients but structured to emphasize the positive results of a referral with an eye toward encouraging more in the future.

“A lot of times, we’ll pair up the original client with a new client, who they referred to us,” Mayhue says. “So they’re sitting at a table with their friends, and it reinforces the relationship and reminds them that their friends are happy and doing well as clients of the firm.”

Paul Hechinger is a New York-based freelance writer.

This story is part of a 30-day series on how to generate the best referrals.

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