Don’t Ask For Referrals – Ask For Advice

Let me introduce you to the most powerful business building question I ever learned.
The question was taught to me by Bruce Peters, my coach and mentor and my predecessor in doing client advisory boards for financial advisors. I have used it in many scenarios regarding many services. I have used it in sales presentations and performance evaluations. I frequently ask it on behalf of advisors at their client advisory board meetings. It is a powerful question. Here it is:
If you were in my position, trying to do what I am trying to accomplish, what would you do?
Let’s examine the value of this question in the context of getting referrals. People are complemented by being asked for advice. It gets their creative juices flowing. It elicits the kind of information you want while strengthening the relationship rather than deteriorating it, which is what happens when you ask directly for referrals.
For example, how does a typical client feel when asked “who do you know the can use my services?” Now, how do you suppose the client would feel if, after providing a description of your target client, you ask “if you were looking for other people like this, what would you do?”
First, this puts a lot more context around the request. It is a lot easier to recall people of a certain description than it is to think of people “who could potentially use our services.” It engages their creativity. If anyone comes to mind, there is a good chance your client will offer their names. If not, they have a graceful way out. There is no wrong answer. You may even get some good marketing ideas from them.
As I mentioned, this question can be used in all kinds of situations. If you had to describe the value of these services to other people like you, how would you do it? If you are trying to provide the ideal services to business owners like yourself, what services would you offer? If you were trying to connect with your trade association, how would you do it? If you had to fill the position of receptionist like I need to, where would you look to find the best candidate? If you were trying to improve your performance in this one particular area, what do you suppose you would try first?
Learn how to utilize this question and you will find yourself receiving much more useful feedback from clients and centers of influence.

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