Principal and director of Sydney-based practice Griffin Financial Services, Scott Dawkins, discusses how he engages with clients and professionals to gain referrals and build his client base.
How do you go about asking for referrals?
Referrals are a part of the advice process and it is engrained in every step we do. I don’t directly ask for a referral, but I will highlight to the client, when I am working with them, an example of why I get referred. We will talk about being referred to or what an ideal client looks like, we talk about taking on new clients and why we help people in certain spaces. I work with UK expats, so as part of every conversation in every meeting [I make sure] they know that I am a growing business, they know most of my clients come from referrals and they know that I specialise.
To me it is about teaching people what an ideal client for me looks like, and I will highlight when we are talking about things with them what it is about their situation and help them see that other people will be in that same situation – so it is subtle and consistent rather than being direct. I don’t like putting people under pressure and I don’t want them to feel uncomfortable. I want it to be if and when the scenario arises when they come across someone they put me in touch. So a majority of our work will come from a random call or an email from someone saying they have received my details from a client – that happens about three or four times a week.
Are there strategies you employ to get referrals through professional networks?
The same principles I mentioned before apply to when speaking to an accountant, mortgage broker, to a solicitor and all other professionals. I am doing the AFA mentoring program at the moment, and I have had similar conversations with the aspirant [I am working with] who is trying to build his business, and how to grow and how to get referrals.
A lot of it needs to be focused. If you are trying to go into an accountant’s office and you are just another financial adviser that does the same stuff, you need to have a reason why you are different. I think specialising is really integral into getting referrals. If you are good at something, you might do other things which aren’t your specialty, [but you need to emphasise your specialty]. Your language and your marketing and communication and your client value proposition, your website, or the way you put yourself out there is all about specialty.
For me, if I am looking for an accounting referral partner, I will network and make sure I have a natural connection and make sure I have a focused approach about what my specialty is. So when partnering with other professionals to build referral relationships it needs to be focused and specific rather than a scatter-gun approach. When you are talking to a mortgage broker, accountant or solicitor, if you can articulate to them what it is you specialise in and what your target client base is, they will immediately relate to you and are more likely to identify people that you could help and refer them to you.
What recommendations would you give to other advisers and businesses to gain referrals?
You don’t want to be putting someone on the spot, you want to explain the process of [what you do]. You want to explain why it is beneficial, make it easier for them to understand all those things. But if you are expecting them to give you a name then and there, it is not going to work. But I think patience is really important, referrals are not going to happen straightaway, particularly if you are starting out from scratch.
You also need to be active, so lots of energy in a focused way. I think the biggest thing that I find is people don’t have a clear value proposition, they don’t know how to articulate what they do well and consistently and are not focused enough in the client selection. They should not be scared to specialise ... When building referral partners, you need to be active and constantly having conversations. Just because you have one referral partner that gives you loads of work doesn’t mean you should stop there. You should look to build that network.
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