Insights and Perspectives

Financial Advisors: Don’t Ask For a Referral – Do This Instead

 As a financial advisor, you rely on quality referrals from your clients to build your pipeline of business and offset any client attrition. But you also have limited time. Between building your practice, handling your fiduciary responsibilities and managing investment portfolios – not to mention running the everyday of your business, referrals might get put to the side.

And let’s face it, asking for referrals can be uncomfortable not just for you – but for your client, especially if not handled with the utmost in care. There’s also a natural, human psychological component that every business owner feels about “putting themselves out there.” No one wants to be rejected. And clients don’t want to feel they’re being pressured into giving the names of their friends and family. So, what can you do instead?

First, some quick statistics on client referrals for Financial Advisors.

Did you know that:

  • 70% of millionaires are likely to refer people to their primary advisor, but only 10.7% of advisors ask for referrals? 1
  • 92% of financial advisors say that referrals are their best source of new business? 2
  • Referred customers have a 16% higher lifetime value? 3

With that in mind, here are four quick steps to get referrals from clients and build your pipeline right now.

Four Steps to Fire Up Your Referral Pipeline – Without Asking for Referrals

1) Choose your people

  • Pick the names of five clients you have really solid relationships with.
    • These are people with whom you may have developed close friendships with, or you have a lot in common with outside of your business -- like common hobbies or community activities.
    • They also could be people for whom you really respect their business acumen as well.
  • Create a list of these clients – names, phone and emails – written or digital.

2) Schedule it

  • Pick a day and time to block out one hour in your calendar – as if it were for meeting a new client for the first time.
    • Make sure nothing else gets booked during this time
    • Set it as recurring meeting every week, same day and time

3) Ask for advice

  • During your hour each week give a call to the client at the top of your list and work down. But don’t ask for a referral.
  • First, let your client know how much you respect them and value your relationship with them. Let them know you are working on building your business. Then, ask for their advice – just as you would a trusted friend.
  • The most important thing is not to have agenda from your end. Use these conversation starters:
    • I would love to have more clients like you- what do you think I could do to do that?
    • What do you think about the service I’m giving?
    • Do you have any feedback or ideas on how I could grow my practice?

4) Listen – Take Notes & Take Action

  • Listen deeply to what your clients have to say and take notes
  • They might have ideas that surprise you, they might offer the name of a friend or family member, or they might spark a new idea you’ve never thought about before.
  • Then, keep using the time you’ve blocked off in your calendar to start to implement those ideas.

Asking for referrals is hard. But the value to your practice is high. With each call you make, you not only strengthen the client relationships you already have, but you increase your chances for filling your practice with new high-value clients. Your current clients you call on for advice will feel included and respected – and invested – in helping you grow your business as well.

So don’t ask. Instead, have a conversation – and look forward to what the results will yield.


Another way to get clients without asking for referrals, is to partner with experts who bring a different set of skills to the equation. Host an event or webinar and bring together a CPA, a specialist in early or late-stage retirement planning, or even retirement health and fitness. Cross-pollinating can introduce you to new prospects - without having to ask for a referral.

Let us help you grow

As a leading national TPA, we have the in-depth retirement plan expertise to deliver seamless solutions for every type of plan. Let us help you grow your practice and stay connected with us on LinkedIn for more practice management ideas, tools and strategies.

1) Cultivating The Middle-Class Millionaire, Russ Alan Prince, 2005

2) Wharton – UPENN Report, Do Referral Programs Increase Profits?, 2013

3) The 2017 Financial Advisor Marketing Benchmarks Report, Outbound Engine Consulting, 2017