Be effective in getting referrals – part 3 in our series from Matt Anderson, The Referrals Academy

by | Sep 25, 2017

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This is the third and final article in his series for IFA Magazine aimed at improving your success at getting referrals.  In it, Matt explains how you can make it easy for others to open doors by being so clear about what you want that they don’t have to think about it.

As a financial planner, when it comes to getting great referrals, you want to identify people who your client or contact will know and like and who sound like good potential prospects for your business.

Since no single strategy works every time, you need a toolkit of approaches to be great at getting referrals – at least three strategies.


If you have developed a planning or fact-finding tool, that can help. Otherwise, here are the seven ways to excel in this area:

  1. Pre-plan your asks

Before you meet, do some homework on who your client is connected to:

What can you find out online or through LinkedIn contacts? What people have they already mentioned as being in their life?


Do this: Once a week, look ahead in your diary and for every meeting scheduled, ask yourself: what would I love to ask this person?

Asking yourself this question is one of the best referral habits you can have because it will hardwire you to always be thinking about an ask.

2.Listen differently


Do this! Make it a goal in every meeting you have, to identify between 1 and 3 names of people they know and like and who sound like potential prospects.

When you do, you will find that you pay more attention to conversation that in the past may have seemed frivolous or unrelated to your agenda for the meeting.

You already know that there are times when you don’t listen closely to everything someone says. When you make a point to listen closely for names, you’ll start to notice that, more often than you realised, they do mention specific people.


Tip: Pay attention to the questions which business professionals ask you. Instead of just answering the question (which is our natural inclination), ask yourself WHY are they asking me this question? Sometimes people have someone in mind they want to introduce you to but want to qualify you better without always disclosing that they are connecting the dots to a specific person.  Probably this person just needs a little more nudging from you: “Do you know someone who might have this need?”

3. Ask ‘fishing’ questions

If you don’t yet know the names of prospects in somebody’s personal and professional world, just ask different questions. Remember, the goal is to identify specific people or opportunities for you.


Personal connection fishing questions:

Use the acronym FORD. Find out about people:

*In their Family/Friend network;


*Related to their Occupation;

*That are part of their Recreation activities (hobbies AND talents) – what do they love?

*Involved in one of their life Dreams/goals – emotional triggers (grandchildren?)

Ask people: “I’m curious:

“What kind of guidance do you get at work about your pension/benefits?”

 “Some people talk about financial-related topics to others; some tend not to. What’s it like where you work?”

“Who talks about financial-related topics to you?”

“What do you tell other people about our work?”

Business connection fishing questions:

You are still looking to find out who each person knows and likes and who sounds like a good prospect for you. Ask those in business (including current and potential introducers) about:

  1. Their best sources of business
  2. Who they work closely with (colleagues and clients)
  3. Most interesting projects
  4. Where they meet people and make business connections
  5. Where they get best practice ideas from (e.g. peer group)
  6. Any target markets they have or specific industries they focus on
  7. What type of business they are most looking for
  8. What else they are hoping to accomplish this year

Do this! Start asking 1 or 2 new questions to ‘fish’ for names of people.

4. Use generic specifics

If you have yet to identify anyone: take your broad ask and narrow it down to one or two people: instead of 30 family members say ‘siblings’ or ‘parents’; ‘close friend’ beats ‘friends’; and ‘favourite colleague at work’ beats potentially dozens of anonymous ‘co-workers’.

For business owners: ask about their favourite clients, favourite vendors who they outsource to, and their top referral sources.

Do this! Use this approach instead of saying ‘friends, family or work colleagues’

5. Memory jogging stories

Educate people about the different types of work you do by sharing stories about others you have helped. Deliberately choose examples based on who they probably know. During general conversation, start weaving in these stories.

Client asks: “So how’s your week going?”

You tell story: “It’s been pretty interesting because I’ve helped two people….”


“Things are really good at the moment. In fact, just recently I had a great experience…”

The goal is to hear: “Oh, you might want to talk to…” Look for flickers of recognition.

You could even legitimately ask: “Do you ever run into people in that situation?”

Do this! Incorporate 2-3 stories of recent clients to plant seeds with others about who you want to work with.

6. Memory jogging lists

A few people have success presenting a list of prospects or memory joggers to a client. If you’ve got water in the well with someone, it ought to be perfectly appropriate to say:

“Before we wrap up, I’m curious to ask you about a list of area businesses that I put together the other day. (Show list) Do you have any decent contacts at any of these places? I’d love to talk to them about their (fill in the blank) needs because I’ve worked with a lot of similar organisations and they’ve turned into excellent relationships.”

There are many ways to present this. It could be a specific list of prospects or it might be examples of specific situations when people use your services. As ‘memory jogging’ indicates, your goal is to help people connect dots in their heads to people they know who they can connect you with.

Do this! Create an ideal client list of specific names, companies, locations or professions and life situations. Consider titling it “Some People We’ve Helped Recently.

7. Highly specialised subject matter

Explaining a highly specific topic to someone else which applies only to a small number of people can help narrow a network down to an effective ask. David, a past IFA client of mine, met with a lawyer to talk about how he was helping a few of his clients. He showed him a highly specialised estate planning strategy that applied to just two of this lawyer’s fifty or so clients. Because it was so defined, it made the ask and getting the referral easy. Had the strategy applied to all fifty of this person’s client base, it would not have worked well since fifty is an overwhelming and impractical request of anyone let alone a busy professional.

What to do now: identify which one or two of the above seven strategies you already do and add just one of these seven to your toolkit for identifying prospects until it seems to be clicking and turning into a habit. Only then should you plan to add another strategy, otherwise it will be overwhelming and you’ll end up not doing any of them effectively.

About Matt Anderson

Matt Anderson, founder of The Referrals Academy, has grown his business almost exclusively by referrals. He has trained and coached people from over 30 countries and specialises in helping financial advisers to get more and better prospects. He is based in Chicago but was born and raised in Coventry. He is the author of the international bestseller Fearless Referrals, which Brian Tracy, author of The Psychology of Sales, says “teaches you the “Golden Rules” for developing a continuous chain of high quality referrals for any product in any business.” The book is available on Amazon.

Connect with Matt on linkedin – or check out his blog:



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