How we “ask” for referrals

Fresh on the heels of graduating from college in 2001, I came to my dad (with a job offer to P&A in mind) and said, “All right Dad, what is next?”  He said, without hesitation, “Go find a job…”  The silence was deafening…

The tech bubble had just burst, so jobs were not aplenty.  For the short term, I pieced together an income making sandwiches at a downtown Lincoln restaurant by day, and bartending by night.  Hardly a fruitful career path.

After six months or so, I got it together and shortly thereafter was hired by a well-known national bank here in Lincoln.  Within a few years, I moved up the ranks to be a private banker, which allowed me to rub shoulders with high-net-worth banking clients. 

During my three-year stint as a private banker, business development was a key component of my job.  As part of that, I attended many seminars designed to “enhance referrals”.  The desired outcome of each seminar was the same – to come up with the perfect mix of words to entice/encourage a client to introduce me to someone within their inner circle.  It all felt quite icky and didn’t yield very good results. 

I had much better success with candid conversations, intentional follow through, and looking people in the eye and telling them the truth.  The realization of that contrast in approaches was (I think) all part of my dad’s master plan…and he wanted me to learn it on my own.

Thankfully, the second conversation in 2006 with Big Fish and Dan was different, and I was hired to join the P&A team.  Referral seminars and elevator pitches became a thing of the past, and I quickly recognized that the P&A culture aligned with the candid/intentional/truth approach. 

The way we have come to “ask” for referrals at P&A is not by mastering an eloquent and enticing pitch, but rather through a few key behaviors that seek to build trust:

  1. Answering phone calls.
  2. Returning phone calls.
  3. Doing what we say we are going to do.
  4. Asking questions to better understand our clients. Then ask more questions.
  5. Provide recommendations that are in our client’s best interest, not necessarily ours.

Getting to the point of the matter, we received more client referrals in 2020 than in any other year during my tenure (15 years total).  We are all very, very thankful.  All situations have been a bit different, but we have found a common thread when our clients reach out to us to inquire about the friend or family member that they would like to send our way for help.  They ask the same questions:

Are you taking new clients?

Yes, we have intentionally built a service structure that puts in place a Lead Advisor and Service Advisor for every client relationship.  This expands our capacity to take on new relationships while maintaining the high level of service to which our existing clients have become accustomed.

Who do you work best with?

Short answer: If you are a happy client of P&A, then look in the mirror.  That is who.

Long answer: Our clients are going through money-in-motion events, like retirement, the sale of a business, an inheritance, or simply seeking a new advisor.  We do have a minimum relationship size, but leave it up to us to talk through those.  We ensure that any client referral is taken good care of, whether the result is engaging in a formal advisory relationship or not.

How should I make the connection?

There can be a perceived fine line between being pushy and proactive. We will be intent on the latter.  Send us their info and we will give them a call, or send a subtle introductory email, with some high-level information about our firm.  Then, we will leave the ball in their court to respond.  In the event you want to let them reach out to us…we will stand ready.

Pittenger & Anderson, Inc. does not provide tax, legal, or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.  Additionally, the information presented here is not intended to be a recommendation to buy or sell any specific security.  To learn more about our firm and investment approach, check out our Form ADV.

For the full Terms & Conditions of using the Pittenger & Anderson, Inc. website, click on this link.


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Since 1995, Pittenger & Anderson has guided individuals and families going through money-in-motion events. We are a fee-only Registered Investment Advisor and a full-time fiduciary providing investment management, financial planning, and complimentary services to 800+ clients in over 30 U.S. states.

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