Sit down at a lunch table during any advisor conference, and I can pretty much guarantee you that sooner than later, the topic of conversation will gravitate to client referrals. In fact, I can’t think of a more fitting battle flag motto for most advisors than "referrals, referrals, referrals! ” Don’t get me wrong, referrals are great; and by all means you should keep asking for them.
BUT…if you really want your referral game to work big, you need to go small.
For years, ClientWise has been successfully training, developing and coaching advisors how to build an effective and productive Loyal Client Advocate (LCA)™ program. In fact, if you have interacted with our firm in any way, you likely have heard a great deal about this program. At its core, the program isn’t about asking for referrals; it’s about inviting a very small, select group of clients (no more than 5-7 per advisor) to commit to supporting the ongoing growth and success of the firm by agreeing to identify 3-4 high-value prospects each year (i.e., one person per quarter).
These advocates will be natural connectors with large networks, who understand and can articulate your value proposition, view you as a trusted and valued resource, and are excited for others to know about you. It’s genuinely a win-win proposition; you get tremendously qualified leads, and the participants get a sense of truly being vested in the success of the business.
How well has the program worked? For the 40,000+ advisors who have participated, on average it has translated into a minimum of $25MM net new money a year. Hands down, this has been the most productive asset growth program ever created at ClientWise.
Overcoming a new hurdle
When it became clear that this pandemic wasn’t going to be a quick, passing speed bump in the road, however, we began thinking about whether the LCA™ program could still be effective. For most advisors, these introductions have typically taken place on a golf course, during an in-person lunch, or while attending a professional sporting event – all suddenly either difficult or impossible, depending on your location.
We didn’t worry too much, though. Our top clients adapted on the fly, and they did so with precision by leveraging their growing comfort with Zoom. With a little advance preparation, it’s really a quite simple process:
- The client makes their referral by saying, "You mentioned you want to get more clarity around your financial future (or some specific wealth topic). Let me introduce you to my financial advisor the next time we video conference."
- When they send their referral the meeting invite link, have them prepare the prospect for a warm hand-off. “I’ll introduce the two of you and we can all chat for a while, but then I’m going to excuse myself so you two can have a confidential conversation.”
- When opening the meeting, the advocate introduces you and the prospect, frames your business value proposition, and then gently excuses himself/herself.
How has it worked? Can advisors really close new business without spending significant time sitting down face-to-face with prospects?
I was chatting the other day with an advisor in the Southwest who’s been leveraging the LCA™ program for years. He told me about a recent experience where one of his client advocates mentioned a friend who was planning on selling his extremely valuable business, and the advocate’s desire to get the two of them together post COVID-19. When the advisor said, “Let’s just do a Zoom meeting,” the loyal client advocate was a bit incredulous given the potential size of the relationship. After the advisor assured him that the firm does meetings like this all the time, they went ahead. The advocate set up the Zoom meeting, made the introduction and excused himself so that the advisor and his team could meet with the prospect and some of his family members.
Fast-forward a few months, and the advisor has a brand new $250MM+ client who he has never met in person. That’s precisely what can happen when compelling client advocacy is aligned with the power of virtual communication technology.
Coaching Questions from this article:
- How are you tracking towards your 2020 growth goal? How much of that has come through new client relationships?
- How are you currently engaging with your loyal client advocates to acquire new clients? Are there ways you might be more effective given the current restraints imposed by COVID-19?
- If you haven’t yet built your team of LCAs, what steps can you take to identify and engage deeply loyal clients and begin laying the foundation for developing them into more proactive advocates?
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