Why You Shouldn't Ask for Referrals
Recently, I sat down with my financial advisor for our annual check-in. I’ve been with him for about 3 ½ years so we know the ritual. We talk about the family, catch up on current events, review my portfolio, and then just before we wrap, he makes the ask.
I dread the ask.
The ask is a common business courtesy – especially in financial services. At the end of each meeting with my financial advisor, he reminds me that his business is driven by referrals and asks me to refer a few people in my circle. However, his ask is not the typical, “If you know someone who might be interested, please let me know.” He literally pulls up my LinkedIn profile and will ask, “What about Kevin? You worked with him seven years ago, is he someone I should reach out to?” He does this until I agree to connect him with three people via email.
Did I mention that I dread the ask?
For context, I met my financial advisor through a long-time friend who sent me a text one day telling me that his guy was going to reach out in case we were interested in his services. At the time, my wife and I had been married for two years and were expecting our first child so things like a will, power of attorney, college savings plan and life insurance were on the mind. Maybe that’s why my friend shared our contact info with him or maybe it was simply because of the ask. Either way, I’m glad he did.
Because of that, I always try to jog my brain and see if there’s anyone else who may be in a similar situation as we were when he makes the ask. Except this time, he modified the request. Instead of asking for a referral, he asked for an introduction, explaining that he wasn’t making any assumptions on the need of his services.
Even though he still had my LinkedIn profile up, that slight shift removed the burden from me to refer people who might need his services. This ask was just about introducing my financial advisor to people I know. That was pretty easy. I didn't dread that at all.
Leveraging Powerful Networks
Whether seeking deals, selling deals, raising money or loaning money, most of us know that our networks can be extremely powerful tools for growth. And like any other tool, you have to use it the right way to get the best results. While well intended, we make a mistake when we ask people for referrals. This requires someone to vouch for both parties and limits the amount of people they’re comfortable connecting to you. It makes people determine their own criteria for “good fit” and then decide who qualifies. Furthermore, overly aggressive asks can create discomfort and doubts about working with you period, yet alone referring someone else.
Instead, help people better understand the types of people you want to meet and make it as easy as possible for them to connect you to these individuals. Tell them you make no assumption on their needs or interest, but would simply welcome an introduction. Be intentional and specific.
There’s a line between seeking intentional introductions and being an aggressive sales guy. Your intent should be on making others comfortable and the process easy. Here are six steps to make it look effortless and drive intentional introductions:
Six Steps to Intentional Introductions
Create the profile and traits of the client you want to attract
Establish a relevant time to talk with your network in person or via phone
Tell your network that you would like to meet members in their circle who fit the profile
Ask them to think about people in specific groups/categories (neighbors, expecting parents, busy professionals, etc.)
Identify specific people to meet and ask for an introduction – if needed, ask if you can pull up their social media page to help identify people
Get the new contact’s info in case the introduction is delayed
These steps will help you gain more introductions that can help build your business. Remember, the key is to get an introduction and have a conversation. The more conversations you have, the more likely you’ll find people who have interest in your offerings. If you’re not tapping into your network, you need to start. If you’re asking for referrals, stop asking for them and instead ask for introductions. This slight shift in thinking can produce wonderful results. Just don’t make people dread the ask.