Check Out Bill Cates’ NEW Top Advisor Podcast™
Interviews with Top Advisors for Top Advisors!

Listen + Subscribe Now

What do you do when a prospect asks you for references?

by Bill Cates

I had breakfast with a successful financial advisor last week and he told me of a unique way he responds when someone asks him for references. Since he works almost exclusively from referrals, it doesn’t happen much, but when it does, he responds by saying, “I’d be happy to provide you with references, but with three conditions.”


Here’s a prospect – with whom he’d like to do business – and he has “three conditions” before he’ll provide references. Most people would just say, “Sure. No problem. Happy to do it.”


Condition #1
If I contact several clients to make sure they’re okay with providing them as a reference (which I know they will all be okay with) then I need to know you will call them. It would be somewhat embarrassing for me if you didn’t. Will you do that?


Condition #2
“Before we get to the references, I need to know that this is the last thing you need in your decision process to work with me. If there is anything else we need to discuss, let’s do that now. Then I can provide you with the references. Is that fair?”


Condition #3
Assuming we’ve been working together for a few years and assuming you’re finding great value, I’ll then be able to use you as a reference should anyone ask. Are you okay with that?


In this last condition, notice how Larry plants the seed that they’ll be “working together for a few years.” Larry calls this “down streaming.”


Now I know that some of the financial advisors who are reading this are thinking, “But I can’t use testimonials.” True. Some advisors can’t. But this isn’t a testimonial. You’re gaining permission from a client to have someone contact them. It’s different. And, with that said, check with your manager or legal department to make sure you stay compliant.


What is working for you when it comes to providing references? Tell me! I’d love to hear from you. Send an email directly to me at

Referral Coach