Ask Judi: Liking the Client, Not the Referral


Q:  An existing client recently sent me a referral who doesn’t fit my ‘ideal client’ profile. I don’t want to invest time in trying to land someone who is outside my marketing plan. But I don’t want to offend my client. How do I proceed?

A: This is a classic double bind at first glance. Look a little closer though; it’s anything but. Targeting your ideal client doesn’t mean you automatically turn away everyone else. There are residual benefits to being gracious and offering a bit of your time.

It’s important to be articulate with your existing clients about the type of business you’re trying to grow. You may avoid having to finesse these situations by helping people understand you want to be efficient in building your business. But even if they don’t get that, you can frame your exclusivity as a benefit to them: working smarter means you must hustle less—and you’ll have more time to invest in existing relationships.

Still, there are bound to be a few situations where you are clear, but the referrals come anyhow. Not to worry. No one need get offended. In fact, everyone can come away with a little something, even if you refer the referral to someone else.

Good advice is always valuable. Listen to what the referral needs, really listen for an opportunity to help. Direct him to an online resource; tell her how to open an account with a firm or service better suited to her needs, or suggest another advisor.

Even if you can’t provide breakthrough advice, and the referral leaves your office understanding you two are not a fit, she likely will appreciate your efforts and report to her friend that the meeting was great. Win for all.

Good client behavior should always be encouraged, so make sure you thank every client for every referral sent, regardless of the outcome.

Here again, class counts. Send a gift, write a note, or pick up your phone. Make it clear you appreciate their thoughtfulness. Be sure to tell her how you helped the referral while you take the opportunity to plug for the ideal referral you’d like to receive in the future.

Genuine gratitude and a conscientious approach to all referrals helps define you as an advisor who shoots straight, acknowledges a good turn and gives one in return. That’s smart business.

Judi Rosenthal

Judi Rosenthal is a New York-based financial industry consultant and self-promotion coach renowned for her ability to win sales in any situation. She is also a recognized authority on niche marketing and coaching financial advisors in the techniques of amplifying sales through a well-engineered personal brand.

View Bio

Judi Rosenthal