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9 Ways to Boost Referrals in a Volatile or Bear Market

by Bill Cates

Some advisors shy away from creating referral opportunities during bear and volatile markets, while others seize on the opportunities that are all around them.

At the risk of being overly simplistic, it probably boils down to your belief in the value you bring during these times.

If you believe you are as valuable to your clients during a bear market or uncertain economic times you probably never stop looking for people to serve. If, however, you doubt your value when everything isn’t smooth sailing, then you probably miss the opportunities that are right in front of you.

The key is having the right perspective and taking the right actions.

Here are some suggested perspectives and actions that I believe will help you through this or any bear or volatile market – to both help you retain your current clients and stimulate their willingness to introduce you to others.

  1. Engaged Clients Give Referrals
    Studies have shown that it is “engaged clients” who provide referrals and introductions. Your clients have to feel engaged with your value and engaged with you as a person.

    A volatile market presents a great time for you to help your clients feel both. First, you adjust their positions– or not – as needed. And since a volatile market can be emotional for some clients, being a good listener and not hiding from the tough conversations helps them connect with you as a person.

  2. Low-Maintenance Clients?
    There is no such thing as a “low-maintenance client.” While some clients require more contact from you and some need more handholding than others during a time like this, every client should be part of your client-engagement model.

    And during a volatile market, your communication should increase. Find a way for you and your staff to reach out to every client. In many cases, you’ll be getting their voicemail, so leave a message and let them know you’re ready to talk to them if they feel the need. You can send an email with a similar message, but if you use email, make sure it’s not a “bulk email.” Make this individual.

    Note – When it comes to communicating via email with your clients, if you detect any negative emotion on their part, stop the email correspondence and pick up the phone.

  3. Problems Turn Into Referability
    A relationship that’s had a problem that’s been handled well, is a stronger relationship than one that’s never had a problem. Now is the time for you to show your clients what you’re made of. How you handle this time will go a long way to enhancing your referability.

  4. (Some) People Are Complaining
    The reason why this can be a great time for referrals is that this is a time when people start to complain about their situation and sometimes about their advisor’s communication (or lack thereof).

    If your clients are hearing those complaints and hearing from you in the right way, they will often suggest their friend or colleague speak with you. Hopefully, all of your “A” clients know that you’re looking to serve others and that if they send their friends and colleagues to you, they’ll get the royal treatment.

  5. Debrief with Your Clients
    After this volatility calms down or the bear goes back into hibernation, you want to debrief with your clients to make sure there are no lingering negative emotions or doubts.

    “We went through a tough patch, didn’t we? I’d like to get your candid feedback about how my team and I handled it with you. Did we reach out enough? Did we answer your questions well? Do you have any lingering concerns or doubts or are you feeling good about where we are right now?”

  6. Don’t Stay on the Surface
    Don’t let this conversation say on the surface. If a client says, “Everything’s okay.” Probe a little.

    “Are you sure? Is there anything you’d like to say about what we’ve been through? As we move forward, are you concerned or curious about anything? Let’s not let anything go unsaid.”

    “Let’s not let anything go unsaid”
     are powerful words in any kind of relationship.

  7. Promote the Possibility
    During any positive call with a client, you can bring up the possibility of introductions. As long as you know you’re on solid ground with your client, you can say something like…

    “My guess is you’re going to have conversations with friends, family, and colleagues over time and you’re going to have some folks who aren’t getting the same response from their advisor. Some advisors hide under their desks during these times. You know I’m never too busy to see if I can be a resource for others you care about. Please don’t keep me a secret.”

    Or you can go one step further and ask, “Is there anyone who told you they are feeling a lot of anxiety or stress during these uncertain times? Perhaps you can introduce them to me – to help reduce their stress and just make sure they’re covering all their bases.”

  8. It’s time to take a leadership role with your clients
    This is where your value really shines. Taking a leadership role comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s having a tough conversation like we’ve been discussing. Sometimes it’s speaking to your clients, in a nice way, about their mistaken assumptions. Your willingness to have “tough conversations” with your clients puts you in this leadership role and makes you highly referable.

  9. Don’t avoid negative emotions
    Any time you or a team member is on a call with a client and you detect that something’s not resolved or you detect that they’re not happy with an answer, probe a little. Sometimes it takes a couple of digs to get to a deeper level.

    Your goal here is twofold: 1) You want to demonstrate that you’re there for them and you’re not afraid of these types of conversations, and 2) You want to get the emotionality expressed.

    People don’t usually make good decisions when they’re mired in negative emotions. When you’re steady and strong, and you’re taking a leadership role, you’ll be coming from a place of calm confidence. And, therefore, you’ll be increasing your referability!

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