Join us on the top financial advisor podcast with Bill Cates, referral coach to top financial advisors, best-selling author, and Hall of Fame keynote speaker to discuss how to get more referrals without feeling uncomfortable. Bill will walk us through everything you need to know to acquire more clients you love working with, including:
1. Get more referrals without begging or pushing.
2. Turn your referrals into personal introductions.
3. Set more appointments that stick.
4. Convert prospects into clients at a higher rate.
5. Bill’s proven referral advantage system
Free Report: multiplyyourbestclients.com
Bill’s Coaching: referralcoach.com
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Thank you so much for joining me for this episode of the podcast. Today we’re going to talk about a really important subject. We are going to talk about how to get more referrals and personal introductions. I am really excited about the guest. We have Bill Cates, who is a referral coach to top financial advisors. He’s a bestselling author. He’s a hall of fame keynote speaker, and he is one of my personal mentors and heroes in our industry.
I’ve known Bill for a lot of years, and I really believe in what he teaches. He teaches advisors how to multiply their best clients, and the activities and the strategies that he teaches are really usable. They’re not quirky sales pushing tactics. They’re things that you actually feel comfortable saying to your clients, and they’re really effective. Advisors who work with Bill end up growing their businesses in the future. He provides online programs, keynote speaking, and also coaching and accountability calls. I just want to welcome Bill to the program.
Thank you, Claire. Great to be with you.
Bill, you and I met way back when years ago when I was with FNDC, and I remember you came to one of the conferences we were having, and you did the keynote speech, and I remember it was so good that the CEO of FMG Suites said, “We’ve got to hire this guy to teach our sales team. He’s so motivating. His speech was so good. We’ve got to hire him for our own in house sales team.”
So I can attest to that your keynote speeches are fantastic, and you also have a really cool background. I know you’ve climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. I know that you used to live on a houseboat. Tell us a little bit about your background and what you’re excited about personally today.
I’m a little bit of an adventurer, I guess. I mean, I haven’t climbed Everest or anything like that, but every year I try to have three types of vacations. I want to go somewhere in the world, or the country, that I haven’t seen before and be a little bit of a tourist. I want to go lay on a beach somewhere for a week and do nothing, or even longer if I can, and I want to go on an adventure. So I’ve climbed Kilimanjaro, I’ve trekked in the Himalayas, I’ve camped in the Arctic Circle.
The houseboat I lived on was in Kashmir, India, and it was a while ago. It was before there was a lot of violence in Kashmir that’s been happening off and on, and I lived in a houseboat on a lake called Lake [inaudible 00:02:44]. Just crystal clear. You can see yourself in the water. Just a beautiful part of the world.
My next, working on an adventure to go mushing, to go dog sledding in Finland with a friend of mine.
Oh wow. That’ll be fantastic.
Yeah, fantastic and cold.
Absolutely. Great. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about where you see the biggest opportunities for financial advisors today. I know you work with a lot of different advisors from different backgrounds, and what are you excited about when it comes to marketing for advisors?
Sure. I’ll tell you, I’ll start with the biggest challenge, and as you know inside a challenge can be an opportunity. The biggest challenge I see is just reaching people. It’s just the world is so noisy now. It’s been estimated that the average person gets 3,400 marketing messages a day. Just crazy, and of course the brain is just looking, “What do I pay attention to? What do I don’t pay attention to?” It can even be stressful.
With that, one of the other challenges we face is, one of the big objections we face, is prospects’ inertia. Right, they’re either moving in a certain direction, they just don’t want to change, or they’re doing nothing and they got their head in the sand and they don’t want to change. Sir Isaac Newton in his first law of motion says, “A body in motion tends to stay in motion. A body in rest tends to remain at rest unless acted upon by an outside force.” So guess what, we’ve got to become that outside force to give them a little metaphorical shakeup and say, “Hey, this is important. Pay attention to this.” That’s the challenge.
Now, how do we get through that? What’s the opportunity? Well, I’m writing a new book, actually, which addresses that. So this is a way for me to get that plugged, but it’s called “Radical Relevance”, and it’s all about how we bring a more relevant and compelling message so people will pay attention to what we have to say, that it’s not generic in nature, but it’s targeted.
The fastest way to relevance, and the fastest way to be that outside force in someone’s life, is an introduction from someone else they already trust. Right? A referral, an introduction. Referrals and introductions, more important than ever before. They’ve been around forever. Everybody on this podcast listening knows how important they are, but more important now than ever before because that’s how we cut through the noise, right?
The other opportunities I find with folks, and I know you talk about this, is this idea of becoming a specialist. I look at it in terms of narrowing your target. Some of the most successful people that I work with have a very defined, well-defined, narrow target. The narrower the better. Now, are there people that are kind of generalists and they’ll deal with anybody who have money in motion, and they’re successful? Yeah, but it’s harder, and it’s harder to reach those people. Those folks usually hit … they’ve been at it for a long time so they have a lot of momentum on their side, but for folks maybe who aren’t as veteran in this business as that, how do we cut through the noise? We have a more relevant message. How do we get a more relevant message? We do that by targeting a very specific market and getting narrow.
One other thing, if I can throw in there which also is related to this, is I finally see a lot of advisors waking up to the power of social event marketing. I mean, it’s nothing new. Again, a lot of people have been doing it for a long time, but this idea of creating more engagement with our clients and creating a little bit of a business friendship, and then using those social events to meet new prospects, right fit prospects, for our business.
I just came off a coaching call before this call with you, and we spent an hour talking about how this firm can use social events to not just increase their engagement with their current clients but meet new ideal type prospects in a social setting.
I love that. One of the things that I really think you’re doing differently and that I love is when you go to your website, your whole call to action is multiply your best clients, and I think that’s a message that really resonates with all advisors, and something that you said that really struck a chord with me is if you try to be a generalist and you try to market without a specialty, you can do it, but it’s harder. I think so many advisors that are resistant to embracing a specialty, what they need to understand is that makes their life easier, and that makes it easier to reach their ideal clients.
In turn, we’re eventually multiplying their best clients, and their whole life is better. They’re working with people they like, or they have business friendships that they are doing their best work, they’re working in their best wheelhouse. I think that’s what’s really cool about what you help advisors do is multiply their best clients.
Yeah, I was talking with another firm that I was coaching. It was three advisors, and we actually started talking about … this kind of came from them, but it was a concept you don’t hear a lot in this business, and that is finding joy in the business. One of the ways you find joy in this business is working with the folks you really want to work with. In most of the strategies that I talk and most of the work I do with people, it’s not just quantity. It’s quality. It’s bringing in the right people, kind of coin the phrase, right fit client. We want a right fit.
What is a right fit client? You think of it in terms of your business soulmate. It was someone you were meant to serve and someone who is meant to be served by you. Whatever the logistics, whatever the demographics are, whatever the psychographics are, it’s a perfect match, and they know the value of professional advice. They have the type of assets and income where you can do the kind of work you want to do and all of that, and we all want to just get more of the right fit clients.
I think that a lot of people resist narrowing their focus is out of fear or perhaps making a mistake, an assumption, and is … If I just focus on these, if I just focus on physicians, or if I just focus on owners of construction firms or whatever, I’ll miss all of this other opportunity out there, and the answer is well yeah, you may miss some of that other opportunity, but you’ll be so successful in your target market, you won’t even notice. It doesn’t mean you have to give up serving who you’re already serving, and it doesn’t even mean you have to turn down business that may come to you that’s a good fit. Everything you do in a proactive way is towards this target market.
What happens is the more you narrow your focus, the more powerful your messaging becomes be it on a website, your LinkedIn profile, an email your sent to a prospect, what you say to clients when you stand up in front of a room, whatever it is, your messaging becomes more effective, more powerful. When you develop your messaging and you kind of say, “Well, let’s make it a little more inclusive. Let’s include these folks too,” all you’re doing is weakening the messaging.
Now, you can have more than one target market, and if your firm has more than one advisor then certainly each advisor can go after a market, and one advisor could have more than one target market. I don’t recommend trying to start more than one at once. You may even be sitting on a target market that just naturally developed, and you just have to formalize that process a little bit.
Absolutely. I totally agree, and there’s a lot of data out there that shows that when you do specialize, not only is it easier to find the people you’re trying to reach, but they convert at a higher rate. I’m in an entrepreneurship group where we do some marketing studies, and we did two landing pages for a plant food company. One of the plant foods was just general house plant food, and the second was a specific house plant, the fiddle leaf fig, and it was a plant food for that plant.
The convergent rate for the general plant food was 1.7% which was pretty low, but that’s actually common for consumer products on Amazon. For the specific plant food for that plant, it was 53%. It’s incredible the difference when you actually specialize because people don’t have to be as wary in the buying process. They think, “Wow, this advisor will get me. They’ll understand my circumstances, they’ll understand the help I need, I don’t need to do any more vetting, this is the person for me.”
Not only is it easier to find people, it’s easier to create a marketing strategy, easier to create compelling content, but then your sales calls will actually convert better, and the clients will end up sticking around longer and referring more people to you. It’s the cycle that builds on itself and has this snowball effect over time.
I totally agree with you, Bill. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about the difference between referrals and introductions and why you say today that referrals are worthless?
Right. Well think of it this way, a little bit of a hierarchy. So there’s word of mouth, when our clients talk about us to others, and that’s good. It’s good to get word of mouth, and every now and then we get an email or the phone rings, and it’s great. The problem with word of mouth alone is it’s usually not enough in financial services, and it doesn’t always bring you the right type of clients. It may bring you the wrong type of clients in some cases, and then you feel funny. Do I take this on because So-and-So introduced them to me even though they’re not a right fit? So, that’s word of mouth.
Then the referred lead where, “Call George, use my name.” Well guess what, George doesn’t answer his phone anymore, and if you leave a message, George is wondering why their friend gave your name out.
It’s just hard to reach people. So to kind of refer leads just doesn’t work anymore, and what we need is we need to get introduced. We need to get connected. So we’ll use the word referrals here today. I still certainly use the word, but whenever you’re with a prospect or a client or a center of influence, use the word introductions.
Let’s talk about how you introduce me to Bob. My guess is that Jennifer would prefer to hear from you before she hears from me. Let’s talk about what that introduction looks like, and you’re always thinking in terms of introductions. This is where it falls off for a lot of people where a lot of folks will find someone willing to refer, if you will, but then the introduction doesn’t take place. So there’s no connection, and there’s no connection there’s really nothing to do.
How’s the introduction made? Well, there’s a lot of different ways, and you can have your favorite way, and then it’s good to see what the client wants to do too, of course. In person, in financial services, in person introduction it’s usually a great introduction because it’s usually over something fun. You’re breaking bread together, playing golf, whatever, and that’s wonderful. Logistically it’s not always easy. If these are the types of folks that normally get together from time to time, and they’re used to planning things together, then it’s a little easier.
The fallback for a lot of folks, or what I call the electronic handshake or the email introduction, I’m … Actually, someone’s introducing me now to a company, and I’m crafting the introduction for Todd so he can introduce me to somebody. It’s essentially, “George, meet Bill. This is what Bill does. Bill, meet George. This is who George is, I’ve known him for years, da, da, da. You guys should talk.” So getting that connection.
And now you have someone to reach out to, you know that good things have been said about you, and you just use that email introduction to schedule a short phone call as the next step, and it works. It works very well.
So an introduction is that connection. You’ve got to get connected.
Yeah, I love that, and I tell the story about my dad because I actually had my dad read some of your stuff, and he took kind of one of the things you teach, and after every successful client annual review he says, “If there’s anybody that you know that needs my help, let’s get together for breakfast, coffee, or lunch,” and through that he just landed a huge client, a $2.5 million retiree client. They went to his existing clients, scheduled it to go to coffee, and they went to Panera. He bought six cups of coffee and no snacks or anything. It cost him something like less than $30, and they were able to sit down and talk and get that in-person introduction, that transfer of trust, and then the prospects ended up transferring all of their money and using him as their advisor, and it wasn’t about being pushy. It wasn’t about being salesy. It’s that it was a way of saying, “If someone you care about needs my help, I would make the time to meet them in person,” and that is really the best way to meet prospects and referrals.
You know what else I love about what he did is he didn’t feel like he had to take them to Chris, who’s Chris, or have to spend a lot of money on this introduction. Panera, a cup of coffee, maybe a danish. You know, whatever. It’s just, it’s not about trying to impress people. It’s being convenient, it’s connecting in a human way, and I see so many people waste a lot of energy and money on trying to impress people when they really don’t have to. I mean, I’m not saying those things can’t happen, but it doesn’t have to happen. You don’t have to make the mistake.
One guy I’ve been coaching, a guy named Al. Al’s got almost a billion dollars under management. He’s over $900 million. He had a wine box at Capital Grille, and you can always take people to lunch at Capital Grille or sometimes dinner. It was nice, but not everyone wanted to go because a lunch at Capital Grille is different timeframe than a lunch at Panera or wherever else you might go, and I said, “Al, you don’t have to make this fancy thing and impress people and take up all this time. Just do what’s convenient. Do where there’s good food and it’s quiet enough to have good conversation.”
It’s funny, he started doing that, and he’s finding it easier to get people together when it’s not this fancy thing.
I love that advice. Make it easy for them. Go somewhere convenient, close to them, and just have it in that time in a place that’s easy. That’s great insight.
Walk us through some of your advice on how advisors can get more introductions. What can they do today to get more introductions?
Ask. But I’ll be a little more elaborate … elaborate on that a little bit more. We have a thing we call the VIPS. Think of the referrals, the introductions you get, as the VIPs of your business, and that way you can remember this pretty easily. The “V” is the value [inaudible 00:18:05]. This is something I’ve been teaching forever over 22 years, and this is a check-in. We check in with our prospects, we check in with our clients, we make sure that things are where they need to be, we’re meeting expectations. We sometimes, every now and then, maybe ferret out a little dissatisfaction that they had that they weren’t telling us, but then we also find out how they see the value in the work we’ve done together, and it helps us feel better, they feel good about it, and that’s the starting point to this conversation. It’s not a setup, it’s not, “Hey, have you found value in the work we’re doing?”
“Great, who do you know?” No, not a setup. It’s a discussion back and forth.
Then the “I” is to treat the request with importance meaning just be confident, practice it, just come confident and make it about helping other people and the important work you do.
Then the “P” is permission to brainstorm. We know that not everyone likes to give referrals or make introductions so we just can’t plow ahead and assume, and that’s where it starts to irritate people when say, “Well, I’m glad you see the value in what we’re doing. Yeah, who else we can bring this to? Let’s talk about who else.”
I soften it up a little bit by saying, “You know, I’ve got a couple ideas I’d love to run by your. Can we brainstorm for a minute just to see if we might be able to help some folks you care about, and are you okay with that?” I want buy-in for the conversation because I know that since not everyone wants to do this, I give them a chance to say no. Because the last thing I want to do is start going into a conversation where they don’t feel comfortable for whatever reason.
Then the “S” is suggest names and categories, and here’s what I’ve found over the years is the most productive place to be, and usually the easier for the advisor and the client, is when you come to the meeting with a specific person or maybe a few individuals that you know your client knows, and say, “You know, I know your sister and brother-in-law, [inaudible 00:20:00], how do you feel about introducing me to them? Can we craft an approach that would feel comfortable for everybody?”
That’s requesting a specific introduction to a specific person or a specific couple. That’s the bullseye, if you will. So if you picture an archery target, the yellow bullseye is the specific people you know they know, maybe they mentioned in past meetings. The next ring out is categories. It could be money in motion, it could be life events, it could be some groups you know they’re a part of. So you slowly move out.
What you don’t want to do is make the mistake that so many people make and say, “Who do you know we can help? Who else out there should know about what I do?” You throw up in the whole universe, their mind doesn’t land anywhere. What we’re trying to do here is help them picture people in their mind’s eye so it will land somewhere and they’ll think of someone.
You go, “Well you know, my brother-in-law probably should have this conversation.”
“Sounds good. Let’s talk about your brother-in-law. Why do you think that?” And then you learn as much as you can. You have the good introduction. So start narrow. You can expand out, but start narrow, and always, again, use the word introductions because we’re going to be going for an introduction. You don’t just want a name and a phone number. You want [inaudible 00:21:22].
Absolutely. I think I may know the answer to this question, but tell me, what are some of the biggest mistakes that you see advisors making when it comes to asking for introductions?
Well you know, one of the first mistakes I’ve found early on when I started teaching my methodologies a long time ago, most companies hired me to talk to their advisors about how to ask, how to ask without being pushy or begging, and all of that. Then I learned a lot of folks weren’t referable in the first place. Then we started getting into the area of client engagement and becoming more referable, but you know I’m going to assume the people listening to this are pretty referable, we have good strong relationships with your clients, you have an ongoing client service model that you’re following, etc, etc.
What are the biggest mistakes, if you will? A couple of things that maybe your folks haven’t thought about, and one is being mission driven, having a mission driven practice, and what I mean by that is really, really getting in touch with the value that you provide, the important work that you do, make that your cause, make that your mission to make sure that everybody that you meet practically are making the right financial decisions for themselves. Right, the decisions that are in their best interest.
Be on a mission to bring this important work to the right people. Make that about … That’s the referral process, if you will, is trying to reach more people. Being on a mission is a very attractive quality, and people can buy into that mission.
What happens is not only do they want to bring your value to other people, but they also want to help you and like you, and they like your mission, they appreciate it. So that’s one thing I found people can strengthen.
Another thing is, the mistake and the antidote to the mistake, the mistake is winging it around this and just not really thinking through this much, and you’re on an appointment and you go, “Eh, maybe I’ll ask this guy for referrals,” and it just doesn’t come out quite as confidently and as organized as you would like, and maybe you bumble through it and you wonder, “Did he even understand what I just said?”
I teach having a pre-appointment routine. If you think about athletes, they all have a pregame routine before they go down on the floor to the court. Musicians and other types of performers have a pre-performance routine so why not have a pre-appointment routine related to referrals and introductions?
The first thing is to prepare your agenda, always run a meeting from an agenda. Prepare the agenda for that client, whatever’s specific to them, and then put value discussion, that’s the V in the VIPS, near the end, not the very end but near the end. That’s your check-in. You’re going to see how the communication is going, how the value is being recognized.
Then you think, “All right, who do I know who they know?” Right? Who do I know is in your world? Or what categories might I suggest? But you’re going to think about this a little bit, you know for a minute, and just be a little bit more prepared. Then, so individuals, could be categories, and then what I really recommend you do is practice, practice it with someone, or if you’re driving to the appointment, talk it out like you’re on your Bluetooth in your car or something. Just don’t let the words that come out be the first time you ever say those words. Most people don’t practice enough in this business, and they lack a certain amount of confidence because of that, and so it never really comes out the way they’d like it to.
I think that’s so powerful that you teach that, and it reminds me of back in business school. I went to business school at UC San Diego. One of the things business schools get judged on is how many of their graduates get jobs after graduating and high paying jobs. They really want you to be good at interviewing for jobs when you exit business school.
One of the things that they forced us to do is mock interviews, and the reason is the highest correlated factor with getting a high paying job is hours of practice spent doing mock interviews. So particularly, hours spent practicing when you’re actually on video. They would make us do these mock interviews, they would videotape them, we would watch them, we would refine what we said, and it’s just repetition of saying these answers, using this language, out loud, and then when you go to a job interview it’s not the first time you’ve ever said it. You’ve practiced your answers, you’ve thoughtfully reviewed what you want to say, how you want to come across, and that is the most important factor that you can affect to interview well and get a high paying job.
It’s just the same with what you teach. It’s practicing what you should say at the end of a meeting to get these introductions so that you can say it thoughtfully, confidently, and that you have done it before, and it’s not the first time those words have come out of your mouth. I think it’s so cool that you allow advisors to go through your programs, both online and on phone calls, to practice these conversations and to have some accountability so that they can set a goal to say, “I want to have a referral conversation at the end of each of my client meetings this week,” and then at the end of the week, or the end of the month, they can speak with you, and you can ask them, “Did you do it? Did you meet your goal?”
That is the way that you really move the needle is practicing and then doing these asks at the end of each appointment, and then the rubber really meets the road.
Yeah, practicing creates confidence, and so if we don’t feel confident we won’t do it, or if we do it we don’t do it very well, and usually we won’t do it all if we don’t feel confident. I love it when I’m coaching a client who volunteers to practice it. “Bill, can we try this now? You know, I want to try it out.”
I go, “Yeah, sure. You ready? Let’s do it.” It’s always a little awkward. I get that. It’s make believe. Some people are better than others at the make believe, but what you don’t want is you don’t want the first time you do this with someone to be, or when you do it with someone, you don’t want it to be the first time the words have come out of your mouth because you’re going to bumble through it.
Anyway, so that’s why I believe in a [inaudible 00:27:30] of some sort.
Absolutely. Yeah, and so going forward, what is the one recommendation you would give advisors listening? If they want to grow their business, they’re serious about being successful, they’re serious about investing in their marketing and growing their firm, what is the one thing you would have them do today to start moving forward?
Yeah, so I would encourage … Well, two things if you don’t mind. One is to have these value discussions. This is to check in with your clients more often and say, “How are we doing? Are we meeting your expectations? Anything we need to pick up on? What’s working for you?” I’ve seen so many people have such great results just from that.
Beyond that is to get very clear on who is a right fit client for you, what are the demographic, psychographic aspects of that person? Who are you really, truly trying to attract into your business? Because everything you say with prospects and any marketing materials you put together will reflect that. What you’re trying to do is attract the right people and repel the wrong people. I know repel sounds like a negative word, but it really is. We’re trying to qualify in a sense through the words that we use.
You had said something earlier about when you specialize you know their world. It’s all about empathy. Our prospects need to have a sense that we know them, that we have a sense of who they are. When you focus on who your right fit clients are, and then you make the decision and the commitment to focus all your outgoing effort on meeting those types of people, be it through referrals and anything else you might do, then you have a chance to, guess what, multiply your best clients. If you just serve the heck out of your clients, just provide great service, you’ll create incremental growth. Everybody does just doing a great job for folks.
If you want to create exponential growth, then you got to think in terms of multiplication, and that’s multiplying your best clients, and we have a tool that’s free for anybody that knows Claire can get this if you just go to MultiplyYourBestClients.com and get one of our latest eGuides on this. It’ll talk to you about the strategies to do that. If you have any questions, just shoot them by me afterwards. I’m always here to help people.
That’s fantastic. We really appreciate that. I’d encourage the advisors listening to also check out Bill’s ReferralCoach.com. He has so many programs on here so if you’re a financial advisor who is serious about growing your business, you should be working with a business coach, and I know a lot of advisors aren’t, but the top advisors that I work with all have business coaches, and it almost doesn’t matter who you use because the point of a business coach is to have you set goals and to keep you accountable to your goals.
Bill has tons of different programs at different price points so you can do online coaching for referrals, for asking for introductions, and then you can do phone calls for keeping you accountable. It’s all about setting goals, keeping yourself accountable, and keeping your eye on the prize when it comes to growing your business. I encourage you to check out MultiplyYourBestClients.com as well as ReferralCoach.com and see all of the different programs that he has his videos and sign up for his newsletter. He sends out weekly tips to help with your referrals and your marketing, and they’re really great content there.
So thank you so much, Bill, for being part of the program. We really appreciate it today.
You bet, Claire. I have a lot of respect for the work that you do for your clients and always great to speak with you. Thank you.
If you’d like any resources from today’s episode or from other episodes, go to IndigoMarketingAgency.com/remember. It’s hard to forget that address, IndigoMarketingAgency.com/remember.
Claire Akin runs Indigo Marketing Agency, a full-service marketing firm serving financial advisors. It’s her mission to help independent financial advisors help more people through their incredibly important work. Claire is a former Investment Advisor Representative who holds her MBA in Marketing from the Rady School of Management at UC San Diego as well as a BA in Economics from UC Davis.