Bill Cates is the founder of Referral Coach International and the Cates Academy for Referral Marketing. He is a client acquisition expert and the author of several books, including Get More Referrals Now and Radical Relevance. For over 25 years, Bill has helped financial professionals move from incremental to exponential growth by improving communication, value, and clientele. Before founding Referral Coach International, Bill built and sold two successful book publishing companies. A sought-after public speaker, Bill is also the founder and leader of the Million Dollar Speakers Group and host of the Top Advisor Podcast.
Bill joins me today to share the secrets behind turning loyal clients into advocates for your business. He explains how public speaking engagements can help your prospecting efforts and build your influence. He discusses his philosophy on referrals and offers his best practices for soliciting business introductions from clients. Bill also highlights the importance of investing in emotional connections with clients and underscores the power of communicating values through storytelling.
“The secret sauce to creating advocates for your business is personal connection.” – Bill Cates
This week on The Model FA Podcast:
● Bill’s background: his pivot from the publishing industry to the financial services industry, and his introduction to professional public speaking
● Building influence through public speaking and starting a public speaking career
● How to connect with your audience before you speak from the stage
● Bill’s philosophy on referrals, business introductions, and growing a referral-based business
● The four stages of client relationships
● How to make clients feel optimistic about working together
● The difference between creating value connections and emotional connections
● The “90-Day Dazzle” and how the right client onboarding process can help make your business more referable
● The Transition Navigator and the Anchoring Effect
● Congruency theory and the power of impressions
● Creating the “client-centered why” and the neuroscience of relevance
● How advisors can approach asking for introductions without being aggressive
● Radical relevance and the value of communicating values through storytelling
● The distinction between referrals and introductions
● Book: What Great Salespeople Do: The Science of Selling Through Emotional Connection and the Power of Story by Ben Zoldan and Michael Bosworth
Our Favorite Quotes:
● “One of the best ways to become influential is to speak. There’s something about standing up on the stage that edifies you.” – David DeCelle
● “Depending on what they experience, your clients will view everything you do through a particular lens.” – David DeCelle
● “We’re in the name recognition business. If you make a nice connection with someone, that’ll carry on a long way.” – Bill Cates
Connect with Bill Cates:
● Book: Get More Referrals Now!
About the Model FA Podcast
The Model FA podcast is a show for fiduciary financial advisors. In each episode, our host David DeCelle sits down with industry experts, strategic thinkers, and advisors to explore what it takes to build a successful practice — and have an abundant life in the process. We believe in continuous learning, tactical advice, and strategies that work — no “gotchas” or BS. Join us to hear stories from successful financial advisors, get actionable ideas from experts, and re-discover your drive to build the practice of your dreams.
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President of Model FA, David DeCelle
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Bill Cates 00:07
Recent podcast guest, Brian Sweet, brings his clients, not all of his clients, but most of his clients through what he calls a dream board. And some people have heard of that, you know, you have pictures of things you want to accomplish in your life. And so a lot of advisors will say, “tell me your goals,” “tell me your what you're trying to accomplish,:” da, da, da. It kind of gets incorporated into the plan to some degree and never gets brought up again. So when you keep it lively on a regular basis, you have the plan out, and it's a living breathing thing every time you meet with your client, or you have that dream board or however you connect them that way — that will create that connection and that will create that advocacy for you.
David DeCelle 00:49
Welcome Model FAs, David DeCelle here, president of Model FA and host of the Model FA podcast. Really excited to bring another referral person to the fold. So, as you know, we have Dan Allison on our team. We just released an episode recently, by the time you're listening to this, with Julie Littlechild, and now with Bill Cates. So really the goal here is to give a bunch of different perspectives on various folks’ referral strategies, and what you'll notice is that, quite often, a lot of the referral methodologies rhyme, so to speak. There's some similarities, but there's also some differences as well. So hopefully, you're able to pick a strategy that works for you and your personality and your business and implement it moving forward. So Bill Cates is the author of Get More Referrals Now!, DON’T Keep Me a Secret!, Beyond Referrals, and Radical Relevance, as well as the founder of the Cates Academy for Referral Marketing. For over 25 years, Bill has helped financial professionals move from incremental growth to exponential growth by communicating more compelling value and multiplying their best clients. Thousands of financial advisors are using Bill's Relationship Marketing System to enhance client engagement, create more effective personal introductions, and communicate more relevant and compelling value. Before starting his current business, Bill built and sold two successful book publishing companies. Bill is also the founding member and leader of the Million Dollar Speakers Group. In 2010, Bill was introduced into the prestigious Professional Speakers Hall of Fame, with such members is Ronald Reagan and Colin Powell. A highly sought after international speaker, Bill Cates has spoken for the Million Dollar Round Table six times, including the main platform in the United States, Korea, Malaysia, Australia and India. Currently, Bill is coaching some of our industry's highest performing advisors. He helped one of his clients, as an example, go from 300 million in AUM to over 1 billion in AUM in just seven years. He's also somewhat of an adventurer. He's trekked through the Himalayas of Nepal and Andes of Peru, he has lived in a houseboat in Kashmir, India, climbed Machu Picchu, reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, camped in the Arctic Circle, and he's also toured the country as a drummer in a rock and roll band. And if you can't see me, if you’re just listening to the audio, I am smirking because I've only gotten to know Bill in a professional sense so picturing him driving around the country is pretty funny. So, Bill, I want to first thank Brad Swinehart for introducing us and second, officially welcome you to the show.
Bill Cates 03:31
Well, thank you. A couple of quick things. First of all, in case anybody misheard you, it's Bill Cates, not Bill Gates. Bill Gates has a lot of money, he's given a lot away. My job is to help you make more money and serve more people in the process. And you mentioned Dan Allison and Julie Littlechild; have a lot of respect for the work they do. I wouldn't say different approaches more like different areas of emphasis, because I know Dan talks a lot about feedback from clients, and that's a piece of what I do. And Julie talks a lot about client engagement, which is about becoming more referrable in the first place. And we'll probably talk about both of those things as we go, but good stuff. There is no one right way to multiply your best clients to get more referrals and introductions. But there are some principles, there are some things that kind of run through all the programs, and we'll highlight those as we go too. So thank you for the opportunity.
David DeCelle 04:18
Of course, appreciate you joining. So I'm always curious with our guests how you came about working within our industry. So as I was reading your bio, it seemed like you're in the publishing space initially, and then got into our industry and you've been in our industry for quite some time. So what prompted that shift? How did you even begin to explore the financial services industry to start?
Bill Cates 04:41
I’ll try to keep the story as short as possible, but some folks may find it a bit interesting. So after I sold my second publishing company — by the way, when people say they sold their company, sometimes that's a lucrative proposition, sometimes it isn't. So for me, the first one actually made a good fair amount of money and selling it, and the other one, I pretty much just had my debt assumed by my partner. So one was very profitable, the other was more of an even thing. Looking for the next thing to do, I wasn't in a hurry; had some good money saved up and a friend of mine said, you know, you should be a professional speaker, trainer, whatever. You're good. You've got a lot of business experience, you're good on stage. I go, okay, well, what's that? At the time I wasn't really aware of the world of speakers and experts who write and speak and things like that. And now, of course, everybody and their brother has a book and calls himself a speaker. But back then, I just explored the world a little bit, and I was actually listening to some audio tapes. Many of your listeners will remember those things from way back when, cassettes — by a guy named Scott Kramnik who was in the insurance industry at the time. And I said, wow, I really liked this, but my take would be this. So I was looking to write a book, I wasn't sure what my topic would be, and I decided within about a month, it was going to be on the referral process. So I researched and I taught, I taught and I research for about a year, came out with my first book, Unlimited Referrals, which is no longer on the market, per se. I think maybe you can get it on eBay for four bucks or something; I’ve got about 10 copies left myself. And then what happened within the first year of the book coming out, I did a lot of work in financial services all over the map with wirehouses and some independent folks. There weren’t as many independents back then as there are now, but you know, the insurance carriers, and I realized that what I was teaching was a perfect fit. They all knew the value of referrals and introductions; they wanted more but they weren't particularly good at creating them. And so that's when I decided to focus on financial services. So 26 years later, 99% of the work I do is with financial advisors of all types from folks — brand new sometimes. I did a program yesterday for some newer folks and all the way to grizzled veterans 40 years in the business. So, I love the industry, I believe in the value. So I tell my staff that we're helping financial professionals do their important work with more people, and that's kind of our mission.
David DeCelle 06:58
So one of the things that we share with advisors, and this can be interpreted a few different ways, but one of the things that we share is that in order to — one of the things that you should be doing in growing your business is becoming influential within the group of people that you're trying to serve, be it business owners or the medical professions or things along those lines. And one of the best ways to become influential, in my opinion, is to speak. There's something about standing up on stage that the stage does a good job of edifying you. So I guess thinking back to the very beginning of your career, what advice would you give some folks who want to build influence through speaking but haven't done it before? What sort of beginners advice would you give them to kick off their speaking career?
Bill Cates 07:48
I think experts speak, experts write, influencers speak, they can write. And by the way, before I get to answer your question, in the referral process itself, while we may be asking clients to introduce us to friends or family members, colleagues, things like, a very easy type of introduction is for opportunities to speak. Industry association, professional association, inside a company, they bring folks in be it Zoom or live or in person, I should say. So it's a great prospecting opportunity, as we know. But for someone newer in the speaking, a couple of things. You want to be a good speaker, and you got to know the basics and principles of good speaking. And if you don't have that, if you've not had any kind of formal training, it's good to get that — even if it's Toastmasters, which I heartily endorse. For a lot of people, it could be a great way to get started, and it helps you develop the material and all that. But I'll tell you one thing that I learned a long time ago that’s made a big difference, and that is, whoever you're speaking to, they want you to be good, okay. They're rooting for you to be good. They're on your side. So number one, you don't want to let them down. But if you connect with the audience in some way, and there's different ways to connect, but if you connect with the audience before you get on stage, then they will forgive you some of the classic mistakes. If you say “um” a little too many times, or if you lean on the lectern and you probably shouldn't, or have your hands in your pocket, whatever the kind of the rules of speaking are — if you connect with that audience, they won't care about that. So how do you connect? Well, there's a few things; I like to try to connect with my audience before I even arrive. In other words, I often send a video promoting my program; the people putting on the meeting love that. Or it could be a little checklist, a worksheet, something they can gauge them in my body of knowledge before I even get there. So that's a piece of connection. Anytime I possibly can, I'll shake the hands of just about everybody in the room before I go up on stage. You can also connect with humor, not telling jokes unrelated but good humor, usually a story.
David DeCelle 09:41
Kind of like your Bill Gates, Bill Gates.
Bill Cates 09:43
Well, a little bit, a little piece of humor. And I do that, I do it for fun, number one. I do it because a lot of people are thinking that. It's kind of the elephant in the room, if you will, and also everyone, myself included, you, everyone listening, we're a bit in the name recognition business. We need people to remember our name, and so I make that association very quickly. That's another reason I do that; so people will remember my name. So all of that can connect with humor, you can connect with good information, you can connect with a startling statistic, you can connect with a provocative statement. There's a lot of ways to connect, but if you're thinking in terms of that, and you actually do make that nice connection, and you've shaken the hands of the few people in the room, and they're giving you good energy back, you can use those people to keep your energy going. That'll carry a long way in this business of speaking.
David DeCelle 10:30
I like the idea of connecting with them in advance, be it through handshakes, or a video introduction before the event, because not only does it give them the opportunity to forgive you if you mess up, as you alluded to, but I feel like it also, people are going to pay attention more if they feel like they already know that person, as opposed to passively waiting for them to get their attention. So getting their attention in advance, I can see how that shakes out very well.
Bill Cates 10:58
Another thing real quick that I do, which wouldn’t apply to every speaking situation — it depends on if an advisor is doing an educational event for clients, maybe they wouldn't do this. But if it's a speech to peers, to other advisors, or in certain circumstances, I like to interview people that are going to be in attendance beforehand. And to make sure I know the group, I glean quotes and best practices and ideas from the people that I interview, so the audience will see that I've gotten to know them a little bit. I'm not just giving a cold, generic speech to them. I know some of their terminology. And then I'll highlight those people that I interviewed. I'll have their photo, they'll be on a slide, I'll say, you know, Joe said this, Laura said that, and use that as a point of conversation with the group. And so they see that I'm helping them be the stars of the show. It's not all about Bill Cates, it's about them and what they need and what they're already doing that's working well. So that's another form of connection, and people really tend to like that.
David DeCelle 11:52
Yeah, I like that a lot. You're making sure that you're essentially having a long winded conversation with them as you're speaking as opposed to just talking at them hoping that they're going to pay attention.
Bill Cates 12:03
Good point. Conversation, not presentation. And sometimes the conversation, depending on the type of speech, you're not necessarily getting them to speak, but you're still talking in a style that's conversant. You're conversing with them, you're not just doing a show. You’re being more authentic, I guess.
David DeCelle 12:17
Now what we're going to try to attempt to do for the next 30 minutes or so is we're going to try and download your brain, which is filled with a number of years of experience, interactions with a bunch of advisers, four different books, a bunch of stage talks, and try and boil it down as best as we can succinctly for the rest of the show. So now to kind of set the stage, I came from, as an advisor, a much more sales based environment where in the first meeting, it would end with who are five people that you know, essentially. Or you'd show up with a list of people and say, hey, can I mentioned your name when we call, and I think that that can come off a little too aggressive. And then when I got into the independent space, I started realizing that it was the total opposite with a lot of the folks that I was talking to from that culture, where they never asked for referrals, and it was more unsolicited and sporadic; it wasn't predictable. They couldn't really — they could put goals down for the year, but they really had no way of actually getting there if they didn't have a system or a process to get more introductions. So I've come to find with a bunch of different folks that there's certainly a middle ground. You can ask and not be salesy. So I'm curious to know, if someone comes to you and says, hey, Bill, I need help with increasing my referrals. What is that process your methodology? What does that look like at the beginning? What's your philosophy around referrals to start?
Bill Cates 13:44
Gosh, that's a huge question. And you're right, there is a middle ground. And, by the way, in case anybody's wondering, can you create a successful robust, profitable business, referral based business, exclusively referral based business? Yes, you can. I've coached people, I've interviewed people who've done it without my help, and we can talk about that. But if you do have that part of asking, it can help it grow a little faster. My podcast, TopAdvisorPodcast.com, I just released an episode of two women in New York who have built a “by referral only” business. They have “referral only” on their business card. They've really done everything we can talk about to generate referrals and introductions short of asking and done very, very well with that. And now we're working a little bit on their asking side of things. So the first thing I look at when someone comes to me and says, Bill, you know, we need a process. We know we're sitting on a goldmine. I can't tell you how many times I’ve heard this, right? We need a process. Sometimes it's a very successful advisor. They've done very well. Maybe they used to ask, they stopped; they never really did ask; they've got some junior advisors. They want those people to be more productive. First thing I ask is, tell me about the referrals you're not getting, you're getting unsolicited — sorry, the referrals you're getting without asking. Tell me about the unsolicited. Give me a sense of quantity. Give me a sense of quality. Are they introducing you to the right types of people? Are you getting a lot of the wrong types? And what that does for me is it helps me understand, get a handle on, are they referrable? And are they doing the things, do they have the right things in place that if they just add an element of being proactive, promoting and asking — which we'll get into — then they can probably see some results very quickly. Now, in some cases, I'll hear, well, we don't really get many unsolicited referrals, but our clients love us. And I'm thinking alright, let's go to that our clients love us part, because we know when Julia Littlechild talks about this, I quote her all the time in my programs, it's satisfied clients are loyal, but they don't necessarily provide referrals. It's the engaged clients, we've created a value connection and an emotional connection, personal connection, I should say, with them. That's what helps you become more referrable, creates the engaged clients. And so sometimes we're going to work on that, first. We're going to work on what does that initial process look like? How are you onboarding people into your practice in a way that makes you more referrable and helps them feel good about the decision to work with you? How are you staying in touch with them over time, that will create more unsolicited referrals and the right kind of unsolicited referrals, so you don't take on clients that don't fit or feel awkward turning them down, and that sort of thing. So that's usually the first place we look is that.
David DeCelle 16:19
So on that note, if I may interject, we couldn't be more in alignment with that, because in a similar vein, but said slightly differently than how you put it, we believe that there's four main stages of client relationships. So a new client, when someone first signs on, and then over time they get to a good working relationship, then they become a loyal client, and then they become a raving fan. And the difference between when they give referrals or when they don't get referrals is between that loyal client, raving fan status. And the biggest difference, which is what you just alluded to, is, are their expectations being met? Or are they being met, and you're making them feel really good? Because people, it's not worth talking about you just because you met expectations. But when you give them that wow experience and connect with them emotionally, that's when they want to share that experience with other folks. So I guess, what are some tips or tricks or tactics, if you will, on how to make people feel good about working with you and to elevate that client experience?
Bill Cates 17:24
A couple of things. First of all, I like to say that the secret sauce in creating advocates is the personal connection that we create. So, the value connection, we ask good questions, we teach, we have responsive service, we do a good job managing portfolio, putting the right insurance or annuities or whatever else, whatever it maybe, we’re doing a good job in that area. That's the value connection. That's important. But the personal connection is how we get to know our clients in ways that go way beyond the core work that we do. And, of course, that's where social event type things, client appreciation events, breaking bread with clients, even if it's just the two of you, or you and a couple or whatever, is walking someone to a car, when you get out of your office, the conversation changes. And so it's the personal connection that makes a huge difference. And last week, I was in Nashville, and I was speaking to a room of about 130 financial advisors, all independent; everyone in the room was generating at least a million dollars or more per year. So pretty high level; some two, three million. And a lot of the conversation during the whole conference was about events and gifting and customizing gifts and all that stuff. I'm going, wait a second, are we financial advisors or are we event planners? What's going on with this? And of course, the answer is, well, yeah, we're financial advisors, we're taking care of that. But we know that creating that other side of the relationship is so important to keeping people with us and creating advocates that we really want to pay attention to that. And that's one thing that we can do, that my recent podcast guest, Brian Sweet, brings his clients — not all of his clients, but most his clients to what he calls a dream board. And some people have heard of that. You have pictures of things you want to accomplish in your life. So a lot of advisors will say, tell me your goals, tell me what you're trying to accomplish, da, da, da. That kind of gets incorporated into the plan to some degree, and never gets brought up again. So when you keep it lively on a regular basis, you have the plan out and it's a living, breathing thing every time you meet with your client. Or you have that dream board or however you connect in that way. That will create that connection and that will create that advocacy for you. I do want to go back to something now. I do agree that when you have that, when you go from that satisfied client to that advocate, that certainly is a great place to start getting a lot more referrals and instructions. And with that said, I see a lot of people doing very well getting unsolicited referrals and occasionally asking with brand new clients, and that's by having the right onboarding process. So I was coaching these guys out on the West Coast, and I said, so tell me about your onboarding process. They go, well, we put them in the CRM, we do this. It's all this internal stuff they do, which is important. I said, what is the client experiencing? What are they feeling in this new, brand new relationship? Oh, well, we haven't really thought about that. So I'll give you two examples, this guy Brian Sweet again. He has what he calls a 90-day Dazzle. And so the first 90 days of the relationship, he's inviting them to educational events. He's inviting them to appreciation events, be them virtual or in person, depending COVID, no COVID. And lots of other things that he and their staff do, and the people go like, wow, my last advisor, never did anything like this. And Rod Gibbings, up in British Columbia, Canada, has what he's labeled the Transition Navigator; that's his term, not mine, but here's what he found. When people are transferring assets, it takes a little time for that to happen. There's a little kind of a no man's land period of not much communication, possibly, or if they're going into underwriting for life insurance, same thing. And so he's found that in that part, that transition, that brand new client, there can be some angst. They're wondering, did I choose the right firm, the right advisor, and so he almost over communicates during that timeframe. And he gets a ton of unsolicited introductions just within the first month of his new client relationships because of how he onboards them into his practice. So yeah, I agree, we want to create those advocates. It takes time to create those folks, in most cases, but there are some things we can do very early to create them as well.
Patrick Brewer 21:27
Hey, Model FAs, I know you're enjoying this conversation, but I wanted to take a quick break to talk to you about the Model FA Accelerator. This is a unique collaboration between us and you, where we help you build a financial advising practice that you can be proud of. We focus on the foundational concepts around how to pick a niche, or a specialization, how to price your services, how to construct an offer that people are going to buy, and then how to market it and sell it in a way that will get people to sign on the dotted line and become clients of your firm, all while giving you the information to scale and set up workflows and operational processes that will allow you to reclaim your time and build a practice that doesn't run you. So if you'd like to hear more about that, go to www.ModelFA.com/accelerator, or www.ModelFA.com. Hover over Work With Us and click on Accelerator. Hope to see in the program.
David DeCelle 22:17
So I like all of that, and there's some things I want to kind of digest and go back to. You had mentioned there's folks who are, whether it's gifts or events or dinners or whatever. An easy objection for an advisor is well, all that stuff costs money, right. And they don't need to be lavish gifts or anything like that; they can be smaller ticket items that are very personal and meaningful, that don't cost a lot of money. But when you think about what the alternative is, like when we work with clients, if they want to do lead generation with us, or a smart asset, or whatever type of company that does it, you're looking at anywhere from like $2,000 to $5,000 a month in lead purchases to get any sort of meaningful names or number of names to where the ratio actually shakes out to where you get a client out of it. So the alternative, I think is more expensive than if you're just pouring some love into the folks that you already have. And then second, the 90-day Dazzle and the Transition Navigator, I really like those because what they're leveraging, I forget which book I came across this concept on, but they're leveraging what's called the “anchoring effect.” And essentially, the anchoring effect is, early on, depending on what experience they're given, everything that you do moving forward is going to be viewed by them through a particular lens. So it could be viewed through a positive lens, or it could be viewed through a negative lens, because they're going to be watching you very closely. And if you put them in the proper mindset at the very beginning, and this kind of almost goes back to what you said about speaking, when if you send the video in advance, you shake their hands, they're going to be more likely to forgive you if you make a mistake. And it's no different in advisor and client relationships. So I love the idea of branding them too, because they probably communicate the 90-day Dazzle to them or the stuff to them. And if they don't, at least the internal team knows that, hey, this is an incredibly important time for us to be able to deliver an outstanding experience for them.
Bill Cates 24:23
Yeah, I know that Brian does not tell the clients that we are now going to go through the 90-day Dazzle. I think that probably would create some expectations that you don't want to create potentially. You want to surprise them. You want them to like them and surprise them. I don't know whether Rod mentions the Transition Navigator. I think it's more of internal stuff. You know, what we are talking about here is it's something called congruency theory. And it's essentially when people form an impression about us. It's that anchor impression that you mentioned. Then they will look for evidence that affirms it, and quite often discount evidence that goes against that. I mean, we do that when we're dating and we meet someone; we ignore the red flags, right, and that sort of thing. So one of the best ways to do that, one of the best ways to create this little emotional connection between our prospect or brand new client and us, is our client centered why. Our client focused why. So there's a lot of different kinds of ways people are talking about “why” out there; Simon Sinek has some good stuff. And there could be, there's the why you got in this business, which means maybe you are a finance major, or maybe you like working with money, or maybe you should like making money, and you like the flexibility of your schedule. Those are all good things, and nothing wrong with those motivations, but that's not the why I'm talking about. I'm talking about the why you believe in the value; your emotional connection to the value that you bring. And so when you communicate that early on in a brand new relationship, and it's usually there's a little story there — something that happened to you or something that happened to a family member or client — then that is an anchoring story. That's where they get a sense of who you are as a person. If you want to influence their current and future financial lives, they’ve got to get a sense of who you are. And so that client focus why is huge in making that initial connection, like you talked about the with the speech, right? Connect before this business, connect early in the relationship, and then everything goes from there. I recommend you use that, by the way, with prospects. You don’t need to wait for someone become a client. Somewhere early in the new relationship, you say, here’s a little bit about what we do, how we do it, and we'll go into more detail. I certainly have a lot of questions to ask you. But let me shift gears just for a second, tell you a little bit about why I do this, what drives me every day. And that's where you talk about that client focused why, and everybody's going to be a little bit different; it should be a little bit different. And people listen to story differently. In my book, Radical Relevance, I was researching a chapter on the neuroscience of relevance. One of the things I learned is that the brain actually listens to a story differently than when it's reading bullet points, or you're explaining something, quote unquote, logical. So people lean in a little bit better, you connect a little bit better, when you have these little short anecdotes and stories.
David DeCelle 27:03
Have you ever — I'm looking at it right now on my desk, that’s why I'm gazing over to the right — but have you ever read the book called What Great Salespeople Do by chance?
Bill Cates 27:13
I have not, I don't think I have.
David DeCelle 27:14
So it would be a good book to pick up because I agree with you 100% on multiple aspects of what you just said, in terms of the way people listen to a story compared to, if you if you think about it, even when I've asked you questions, you’re giving client examples. People are going to be way more engaged listening to those because they can relate to them. They feel like they're that guy or that gal. But also, I think it's an incredibly important and effective way to humanize yourself as well. So what I love about the book What Great Salespeople Do is it goes through all of those different types of stories that you can share. So the who I am story, the why I do what I do story, the who I work for story; all these different things that you're able to weave in throughout your sales process. But it goes a layer deeper, because some folks and advisors may say, yeah, that's a great idea, but I have no idea where to start. And if you know this, the way that movies are created, the way the most engaging stories are articulated, they go through and they create the setting and they go up to the conflict and the resolution, and there's some points in between. So what this book does a great job at is giving folks the exact structure of how to create their stories, and it's a great way to begin formulating that. So just wanted to, for the folks listening as well as yourself as well. Because some people may say, yeah, that sounds good, but where do I start? This is a good manual that you may be able to share with them as well.
Bill Cates 28:44
I've actually written a guide a little bit on that, because I'm a big believer in when we talk about our value, that's what Radical Relevance is all about is how do we how do we communicate our value in a way that's compelling, relevant? So I'm a big believer in saying “for example”; lots of little anecdotes like I'm kind of doing here a little bit, like Brian Sweet, Rod Gibbings, and Diana Defrate and these various folks. So we do have to be careful because we don't want these stories to be too long and drone on. You’ve got to be careful about that. But here's my little formula, and I suspect it's mirrored in that book. So you have the main character, in this case, in most of your stories it’s going to be one of your clients perhaps, or it could be you, and they encounter a challenge and then how they feel about it. So what's the setting? What's the challenge? How do they feel about the challenge? Then what's the solution? What's the results of that solution? And how do they feel about that? That how do they feel about that, the emotional connection to the results is very important, because we know that what do people want from financial advisors? Well, they want to feel good about their financial situation, right? They want clarity, they want confidence. It's feelings, that's what they want to feel about it. So we always want to bring it to that at the end of the story. Here's how she felt. Here's what we did. Here's how she feels now. People can relate to that; it pulls them into the story. And so that's my little formula as well.
David DeCelle 30:05
Agree. I'm going to scratch out my book here, What Great Salespeople Do, and I'll put in written by Bill Cates because it's spot on. So I appreciate you sharing that. So now let's jump to, let's assume that an advisor is delivering a great experience, they are dazzling them, as you referred to, first 90 days, and let's just assume that the clients absolutely love the advisor. But their referrals, although some unsolicited referrals are in fact coming in, it's not predictable. You can't forecast; you can't really plan your business growth. So assuming that the clients are primed and ready to refer, how do you then suggest that an advisor goes about actually asking to where the client feels comfortable, the advisor doesn't feel salesy, and it results in actually getting an introduction that can start to go through that process?
Bill Cates 30:59
So first of all, let's have realistic expectations here. And this is not empirical research. This is anecdotal research. I will say that over 26 years of teaching this, most advisors have in the range of about 20% of their clients will give them referrals, make introductions, from time to time, without asking. Probably have another 20%, give or take, that will never do it. You could run into a burning building, save their children, they wouldn't introduce you to anyone, because they're just very private, especially when it comes to money, or they've had a bad experience. And then that's 60%. That's kind of a gold mine that most people are sitting on. That's where we have to be proactive. We know that serving the heck out of our clients, forming these great relationships, will create some unsolicited referrals, will create incremental growth. But if you want to create exponential growth, if you want to multiply your best clients, then you've got to have a way to be proactive. There's two main ways to be proactive. One is promoting introductions, referrals. Let me, first of all, you hear me saying referrals, introductions a lot, almost in the same sentence. Let me make a distinction. So in my mind referrals, per se, the way they've typically been taught, the referred lead called George, use my name, they're pretty worthless these days. People don't pick up their phone. George is wondering why their friend gave their name out to this person they don't know. So we really need to think in terms of introductions. So when you're with a client, whether you’re with a prospect, whether you’re with a center of influence, anyone who has the ability to connect you with others, make sure you're using the word introductions because that's what you want. Don't use the word referrals; use the word introductions. Now here we're going to kind of use them interchangeably, but, so how do you promote? Well, there’s a lot of different ways to promote. I’ll give you a couple, two or three. One is the first, if you meet someone through an introduction, you want to acknowledge that, you want to celebrate it a little, just softly. You know, it's great that Laura recommended we get together. My guess is you may not even be here if it weren’t for Laura saying some good. Oh, yeah. That's the way this business works. When people find the value, they like it, they introduce, everybody feels more comfortable, you feel more comfortable, something like that. Just celebrating, right? It's the truth. It's not a tricky gimmick, it really is the truth. I've been teaching a phrase forever. It's one of the titles of one of my books, Don't Keep Me a Secret. Don't keep the work we do a secret, don't keep the important work we do a secret, don't keep me a secret, all kinds of variations. It's a fun little thing; there’s a smile kind of attached to that. I know that not everybody feels comfortable saying that, that's fine, we got lots of different ways. A straighter version of that is never too busy to see if I can be a resource for other people you care about. Now, I want to unpacked that just a little bit. Never too busy to see if I can be a resource. So the words “to see,” those are the qualifiers. So any veterans, anyone who's looking to be a little more careful who they get in front of — never too busy “to see” if I can be a resource. So that's the way most people think they're asking. I was coaching a firm of about seven advisors whose two kind of main partners, and they had about five Junior advisors they were bringing on and trying to get them up to speed. And they said, Bill, we're asking all the time, we're just not getting many. And I said, okay, well tell me how you're asking. And they're essentially saying never too busy to see if we can help others. So they're promoting, they're not really asking. So let's make that distinction. Now that has its place; that can turn into introductions, referrals right on the spot. It plants the seed for later. Most people listening to this have probably done something like that. Nothing happened when you did it. But next time you get together, they say, hey, I think I got somebody for you. They're doing it on their own terms. And that's all good, it all counts, but the actual ask, so I have something I call a VIPS method. You can remember this by thinking of the referrals and the introductions you get as the VIPs of your business. So the V is what we call the value discussion, value check-in, client feedback, talking about expectations being met; it's a check-in to make sure that really people are seeing the value. The next, the I is treat the request with importance. Why? Well first of all, the work you do is important. I hope you believe that, and then how you put it out will determine how it comes back. If you put it out in a weak, wishing washy, apologetic way, which some people do, then you're not going to get a very good response, you're not going to feel comfortable, they're going to feel your anxiety and it just doesn't work. The P is permission to brainstorm. So two parts of that; the first is getting the buy in. What we know is that not everyone likes to do this. Not everyone likes to do it when you ask. We can't be assumptive. The old methodology is the assumptive. In fact, on the insurance side of this industry, they call it the affirmative. Did you find today's meeting valuable? Well, yeah, great. Who do you know? It's really a setup is what it is. I call it a discussion on purpose, because I want it to be some give and take. And that gets the client more in touch with the value, and we can unpack that more if you want. So permission to do this, and then brainstorm. You don't say brainstorm, you can say explore, think about, talk about, put our heads together. But it's that collaborative, that sense of collaboration in the process. And then finally, the S is suggest names and categories. Sart as narrow and specific as you possibly can. We call it the bull's eye and quest. So the biggest mistake that most people, financial advisors and others in asking for referrals is they say something like, who do you know we might be able to help? Or can you think of anyone else who should know about this important work? Or some variation on that. You're throwing up in the whole universe, and their mind doesn't land anywhere. And so it usually fizzles. Occasionally it works, but usually fizzles. So people do that a few times; they'll stop doing it, because it's just they feel uncomfortable because it didn’t go anywhere. So the bull's eye is specific people you know they know. So from the minute you meet new clients and staying in touch with them over time, not only you're trying to learn about them to serve them better, but you're also learning about them to know who else they know in their life, creating a little inventory of possible introductions. So that's the place to start; very specific, very narrow, and then you can open it up. You can eventually get to a little more general brainstorming, but you want to start specific. I saw one study that was done by Matt Oxley, if I remember correctly, and it was something like with affluent clients, 83% of these people did not like to be asked for referrals, but 86% like to give introductions. So they don't like the generic who do you know? Do you know anyone you can refer me to? That's just fizzles. But if you say hey, how do you feel about introduced me to your sister and brother in law? Assuming we come up with an approach that would feel comfortable? Would you be open to that? Yeah, maybe, what do you think would work? So people love to do that for the most part, and that's what's going to work much better for folks. So that's just an essence of what it looks like to ask. Please don't believe, don't pay attention to anybody out there that tells you, you shouldn't be asking or that clients aren't thinking about others or thinking about helping you. Well, no, they're not until you bring it up. And some of them love to help you. Some of them want to help you but they don't know how, they don't know who, how to introduce you. They don't know if you're still taking on new clients, if you haven't brought that up lately. They don't know if the people they know fit your business. Last fall, I was having a COVID safe dinner with my financial advisor, Aaron, outside, and he sat down. He says Bill, you know, I heard something today that you're going to feel disappointed in me about. I go okay, well, what did you do? He says, well, I was talking to a client, the client loves me, and she says, Aaron, are you still taking on new clients? And I go, yeah, you don't want that. You don't want people wondering, at least your A clients, your A plus clients, right? So there's lots of ways to stimulate this without being cheesy, without being pushy. We've never had anybody ever hurt a relationship here. The worst thing that happens when you ask is it plants a seed that promotes the possibility for later, and that's the worst thing that can happen.
David DeCelle 38:35
I've been holding back smirks the whole time. Because I think these are things that work, period. I think back to how we were introduced, and Brad Swinehart from White Glove, him and I, we've actually never once met in person. But with both of our social presence and being in the similar industry, we've become really good friends, and him and I always give each other unsolicited referrals because we have a fantastic relationship. And we're open to making those introductions — excuse me, not referrals, introductions — then on the other side, like someone like Dan Allison, who's on our team now. But for him specifically, I knew in prior conversations with him, as you mentioned, getting to know people, not just serve them better, but to get to know them better and possible introductions that can be made. And he talked to me about how first times he spoke was at Orion when Eric Clark, the CEO, first really started the business way back when. So, months later, I went to Dan and we have a great relationship, and I said, hey, can you make an introduction to Eric Clark? And he's like, yes, happy to do so. And then Eric Clark was on the podcast. So I’m big believer in when you ask someone, hey, who do you know, they have hundreds if not thousands of names like running through their head and then it's paralysis by analysis. But when you go in with something specific, you increase the likelihood. So I agree with everything that you're saying. I think the challenge is, is that advisors need to turn it into a process that they do all the time and build the habit and have stop gaps in their calendars to remind them like, hey, are you asking for introductions still? Because we can get out of that habit pretty quickly, because for some folks, it can be uncomfortable. But if you go about it the way that you're talking about, which is make them feel awesome before you ask for anything, and if you ask for something, make sure that they're open to that discussion, and ultimately make it easy for them to make that introduction by feeding them a name essentially, of someone that you know they know. So I think we're very much in alignment philosophically about introductions.
Bill Cates 40:43
This is not rocket science. This really boils down to confidence. And pretty much everything in our life that we accomplish usually boils down to confidence. So how do you get confident in anything? Well, first of all, you learn a process that you know works, or at least you have faith that it will work because you see other people using it, right. So we teach a process, but you learn a process, and then you practice it. And that cuts out probably about 80% because most people don't want to practice. They’ll practice their golf game at nauseum, but they won't practice anything related to building their business. But you practice, and then you become more confident, and you still may be a little uncomfortable. It still may be a little stretch out of your comfort zone, but you're feeling more and more confident. And then eventually, then eventually you'll feel comfortable, confident and comfortable. So don't expect to feel comfortable the first few times. My rule of thumb is this. If you're going to start asking, start being proactive in some form, start with the path of least resistance for you and for your clients. And that would be first of all clients who love you. So I always encourage advisors to make their love list. That could be 10, could be 25, whatever; these are the already the advocates or just they just love you. And then you can go to those folks. The joke is you can bumble through it, and they'll feel sorry for you and still give you some referrals and make introductions. And then also look at people who've already done it, unsolicited. And you go back and you say, David, six months ago, you introduced me to your sister and brother in law. I appreciate that. I think they told you we're working together, and I didn't ask. You just unsolicited; I guess now I am asking. I do have actually a couple ideas. Some people you've mentioned in the past and a couple categories of the types of folks that we serve. Well, in fact, you're in one of those categories. Can I run that by you? You've already given me a referral, what are you going to say? Yeah, of course, what category on my end? So you create a little curiosity, you create a little fun sometimes. And that's where you start with this. It can’t possibly hurt those relationships. I've had people blame it on me. They’ll go to their clients and say, you know, we attended this session by this guy, taught us how to ask for referrals, introductions, can I try it out on you? And they’ll go yeah, sure. If they're from Jersey, they'll say, yeah, give me a best shot. So have fun, start there, and then you work your way.
David DeCelle 42:54
Awesome. Well, I think this has been very helpful and kind of gives people not just an outline of how to go about this, but some specific tips and tactics. I appreciate you sharing that. Transitioning slightly, so if this is your first episode, listening to our podcast, we ask all of our guests what one of their favorite books is. And the whole goal is to be able to expand your mind outside of just our industry and figure out what other resources are out there that can help you personally or be applied to your business. So Bill, you chose The Hype Handbook, which I actually hadn't heard of before. So I'm curious to hear a little bit more about that; The Hype Handbook by Michael Schein, I think is how you pronounce it.
Bill Cates 43:37
Michael Shine. Yeah, I think it's S-C-H-E-I-N, but if you go Google or Amazon, it's The Hype Handbook.
Tell me a little bit more about it.
That was a book that was referred to me. A colleague called me about it and referred me to Mike, and we've talked a few times since, so don't let the title fool you. We are not in the hype business. Hype, you feel like it's fake, it's over the top, it doesn't fit financial services. Don't let that title fool you. He does have some examples of people who've done that. He’s got a great example about how Alice Cooper got put on the map, particularly in the United Kingdom; you know, the snake thing. He tells a story about how they came up with the idea to have Alice Cooper have a snake and how it made a huge difference. And that's hype, right? But there's principles behind all these things. And so he outlines about eight different principles of promotion, different ways. Research is one of them; to have what you do verified by research. It could be quoting other research; could be the research you've actually done, which I think is great. Endorsements, social proof, all those various things, but he's done it in a way that creates some very interesting examples. And I've definitely used the ideas in the book for my own business. So The Hype Handbook, it's worth the read. You have to think through it like alright, how do we take that principle and use that for our business? And not every principle will necessarily fit automatically, but I guarantee one or two or three will fit. So I love the book.
David DeCelle 45:00
Love it. Well, as you were going through the overview, I went on Amazon and scooped it up. So I'm excited; I'm a listener, so I got the audiobook version. Appreciate you sharing. Well, awesome. So Bill, this has been fantastic. I appreciate your time. For some of the folks who may want to learn more about what you're offering, or perhaps work with you or have you speak or whatever it is that they want to do in terms of engagement with you, where's the best places for them to find you?
Bill Cates 45:28
Sure, thank you, I'll give you three links. The first one is referralcoach.com, that's my main website, referralcoach.com, and you can pretty much find anything from there. My new podcast is the TopAdvisorPodcast.com. TopAdvisorPodcast.com and interviewing, I talk about it. I'm interviewing top advisors for top advisors, and just some incredible stories and examples of real world stuff people are doing now that's really making a difference. And I guess the third one would be ExponentialGrowthGuide.com. ExponentialGrowthGuide.com. That's a guide I wrote that really incorporates all the things I've been teaching around referrals for all these years, and then my some of my new content from my book Radical Relevance is in there as well. And that's a nice, it's free, just go get it; it's free. And that's a good entrance into my world. I'm very accessible. If anybody's interested in chatting about what I teach, I'm happy to do it.
David DeCelle 46:24
Awesome. Well, thanks for sharing and the folks who edit the show, they'll make sure that not only those links are in the show notes, but we'll be sure to link your four books in the show notes as well, in case anyone wants to scoop those. So with that, we appreciate you all listening to the show. And if you would do us a solid and share this with someone that you think could also find it to be valuable, we'd appreciate that. In addition to that, the other ask that we have is if you'd be so kind as to leave us a review on iTunes, we'd appreciate that. And if you do so, just screenshot that review once it's published, and shoot me a text with that screenshot at 978-228-2338. You'll get an automated response to enter in your name so it gets added to my contacts, and then beyond that automated response, it's me actually chatting with you back and forth. So if you do that, you can either put Bill Cates or Bill Gates in the text as well, and that way I know what episode it’s in reference to and by doing so I'll allocate some time for you for a free coaching session. Once you know the episode releases, we'll give it a week or so and then I’ll pick one of the people that sent that over as a thank you, happy to do that. With that, Bill, appreciate you joining and looking forward to see how our relationship develops moving forward.
Bill Cates 47:44
Likewise, thank you.