Acceptance speech: How to communicate with clients and prospects when accepting referrals

By Dan Richards | May 13, 2004 | Last updated on May 13, 2004
3 min read

(May 2004) There are two constituencies when accepting referrals: the existing client who provided the referral and the prospective client.

When dealing with clients giving referrals, you have three objectives to consider: genuinely thanking them for their confidence, reaffirming their decision to work with you and maximizing the likelihood of future referrals.

Contacting existing clients should happen at the point of the referral. The process can be as simple as writing a note of thanks or making a telephone call. Less obvious, but equally important, is keeping him in the loop when you’re certain the referral has signed on.

The possible outcomes of the referral include: a) the referral becomes a client; b) he decides to stay where he is; c) he chooses to go elsewhere; or d) he chooses not to meet with you at all.

Whatever the result, you should make another short phone call to clients, thanking them again for their confidence. Even if it’s to say their referral has decided not to move over but that you’ve agreed to stay in touch, you’re still acknowledging that you value these kinds of introductions, regardless of the short-term outcome.

You also need to ensure a positive initial experience for new clients. One advisor I know has a strict regimen for contacting new clients. Once a month for the first six months, the advisor or his assistant calls the new client to touch base, perhaps to say: “You should have received your first statement — I’m calling to see if you have any questions.”

After that period, the advisor asks clients to complete an interim report card rating his performance and asks permission to share the feedback — it’s usually positive — with the client who made the introduction. This is a real confidence builder for clients as it reaffirms their decision to make the initial referral.

Accepting referrals also requires a process to deal with the referred prospect. Today, more prospective clients are soliciting multiple referrals and interviewing a number of different advisors before making a selection. And the higher-net-worth the client, the more likely this is to be true.

Whereas at one time a referral won you the prospect, now it simply gets you in the game and gives you the right to compete for the prospect. As a result, your communication process with the prospect must differentiate you from the competition.

Take, for example, the referral strategy of a Toronto-based stockbroker. His first contact involves calling the prospect to set up a face-to-face, exploratory meeting. He then couriers an information package to the prospect’s place of work, including a note confirming the broker’s background, his philosophy and firm. The third contact occurs when the advisor’s assistant calls the prospect a day before the meeting informing him to look for a space reserved in his name should the parking lot be full.

Lastly, when the prospect (and possibly his spouse) arrives, the receptionist greets them and asks, “Are you Mr. and Mrs. Smith? Dan told me he was expecting you and to let him know as soon as you’re here.”

Essentially, the stockbroker has put a clearly defined process in place. Since implementing this process, the advisor’s success rate converting prospects to clients has increased dramatically.

There isn’t necessarily one right referral process. But you do have to find one that works best for you and keep it consistent among all your prospects to reap success.

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Dan Richards is author of Getting Clients, Keeping Clients: The Essential Guide for Tomorrow’s Financial Advisor and is based in Toronto. He can be reached at

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Dan Richards’ column “Marketing Frontlines” appears every month in Advisor’s Edge. To read archived articles or to subscribe to the magazine, please click here.


Dan Richards