Retire the Referral

 In Professional Development

How do you stack your book with stellar clients? Michael Futterman, Assistant Vice President of Knowledge Labs™ Professional Development, explains how to achieve great results by asking your best clients for help.

How do you stack your book with stellar clients? No doubt you learned early that growth depends on referrals, so by now you’ve mastered the art of (gracefully) requesting one when the moment feels right. Because according to conventional wisdom, that’s how you build your practice, right?

For many of you, not really. No matter how good the timing or how tight the bond with your client, asking for a favor can still be fraught with a bit of tension. Even in the strongest of relationships, it may feel awkward to put someone on the spot. Rest assured, that discomfort you feel is normal — and it isn’t because you lack the sales chops to pull it off. It’s because you’re good at what you do, namely, client services. And when you give it your all to serve that client, it’s an odd feeling to suddenly feel like you’re compromising that positive dynamic to ask him or her to do something for you.

Trade in the One-Off for Ongoing Value

So how do you continue to build your practice without alienating your existing valued clients? Dr. Charles Dwyer, renowned University of Pennsylvania professor who taught the popular Wharton class, “Five Ways to Get Anyone to Do Anything You Want,” framed his philosophy with a Golden Rule of sorts. He advocated that the most effective way to get someone to do something is not to tell, but to ask for his or her help. By putting yourself on your clients’ level, as peer or team member, you become much more persuasive and invoke more loyalty in the long run.


At Knowledge Labs, we believe you can achieve the same great results by simply asking your best clients for help in the form of advice. After all, who is better poised to give you advice about building your business than a wealthy client? Not only will you clue him in to your desire to grow, which inevitably leads to referrals, but you also open yourself up to valuable feedback and ongoing mentoring that you can’t get anywhere else. Plus, rather than putting your clients on the spot in a way that can be off-putting, instead you build them up psychologically, demonstrating that you value their opinions about you and your practice.

When you ask for advice, you’re showing humility and giving your clients respect and a sense of stewardship over your business, with a chance for them to participate in building it. In essence, you are catalyzing their imaginations, which will become your greatest and most enduring tactic for quality client acquisition. The future of your business is in the imaginations of your best clients.

“Asking someone for advice is a powerful psychological stimulant for action,” says Matt Oechsli, author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients. “Because now you’re allowing your client to take ownership,” he explains, “they are emotionally committed to helping you.”

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*Oechsli Institute research study, 2013

C-0419-20148 12-15-19

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