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How Financial Advisors Can Ask Clients for Referrals

A financial advisor getting referrals from his top clients.

Asking for referrals can be one of the best ways to acquire new leads for your advisory business. It’s cost-effective, which is an advantage if you’re hoping to keep your marketing budgeting in line. And if your current clients are well-satisfied with your services, they may be able to provide you with a steady stream of leads. The key to leveraging referrals from existing clients is knowing how to make the request.

Ready to grow your client base? SmartAdvisor connects you with leads.

Why Is Asking for Referrals Important?

There are a multitude of ways to attract new clients to your business. But referrals can be one of the most powerful ways to grow your client list because you may have a ready pool of prospects you can tap into. And therefore, all you may need to do is leverage the connections that you already have.

When clients are willing to make referrals on your behalf to their friends, family members or coworkers that’s a mark of their trust in you. The happier your clients are, the more referrals they’re likely to make. That can mean more new leads and a more sustainable business over the long term.

Client referrals are effectively a form of free advertising and word-of-mouth can be a powerful thing. If you’re not actively asking for them, you may be missing out on opportunities to connect with people who could benefit from your services and help you grow your business.

How to Ask Clients for Referrals

Asking for referrals can be tricky since you need to strike the right approach. You don’t want to come off as pushy and you don’t want to seem desperate either. Here’s three ways to frame your request so that it’s positively received:

  • Identify clients who are likely to be receptive. Every client is different, and some may be more open to the idea of referring you to people in their circle than others. Take some time to review your client list to pick out those individuals with whom you have the best rapport. If you’re unsure how your clients feel about you, you might send out a short satisfaction survey via email to gauge their sentiment.
  • Choose the right tone. When you’re asking for referrals what you’re really asking your clients for is a favor, so it’s important to keep your tone polite and friendly. Your clients shouldn’t feel pressured to refer you; your messaging should let them know that referrals are certainly appreciated but always optional.
  • Be mindful of the timing. Timing can have an impact on the success of your referral requests. A client who’s just seen their portfolio drop by 10%, for example, may not be the best person to ask for a referral if they chalk the loss up to following your investment advice. The best time to ask for a referral is when clients are most satisfied with the service they’re receiving.

You’ll also need to give some thought to how you want to ask for referrals. There are three ways you can do this, including:

  • In-person requests when meeting with clients
  • Email
  • Direct mail

If you’re planning to ask for referrals when concluding a client meeting, then it’s usually best to keep it short and simple. You can use one of the talking points from the meeting as a springboard for the request.

For example, say that you’ve just been discussing legacy planning with one of your clients. As they’re preparing to leave, you might say something along these lines:

“I’m glad we had a chance to go over some of your concerns about passing on wealth today, I understand how that can be stressful. And if you know anyone who’s going through a similar situation, I’d be happy to chat with them to help put their mind at ease.”

You don’t have to use that exact wording; this is just an example. But dropping the request into the conversation casually might prompt them to mentally scan their list of friends and family for anyone who might need your services.

If you’re planning to ask for referrals via email or direct mail, then it helps to have a written template to send to clients.

Sample Client Referral Request

A financial advisor greets a couple that was referred to him by other clients.

Writing a client referral request letter can take a little time as you want to ensure that you’re getting the format and messaging right. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you write your letter:

  • Personalize the message by referencing something unique to the client, such as a recent issue you helped them with or a shared personal/professional connection.
  • Keep it brief and to the point; don’t let your referral request get lost in an overly wordy note.
  • Be specific about what you’re asking for but keep the tone polite, not overbearing.
  • Thank the client for considering the request and mention that you’re looking forward to your next meeting.

Here’s what a sample client referral request letter might look like:

Dear [Client Name],

This is just a quick note to say hello and follow up on the changes to your investment plan we discussed at our last meeting. It’s important that you feel comfortable with the solutions being offered and confident about the results you’re seeing. Your satisfaction is always a top priority.

With that in mind, I wanted to ask if you might have any personal connections who are looking for an advisor. If so, I’d love to have a chat with them about their goals and needs. And of course, don’t hesitate to reach out if there’s something I can help you with.

Looking forward to our next meeting,

[Your Name]

You can tweak this of course, but it should give you an idea of what to include when asking clients for referrals. You’re underscoring the value you provide to them, reminding them that you’re always there if they need you and gently prompting them to tell their friends and family members about you.

The client may or may not respond; in some cases, a referral may be the response. If a client does refer someone to you, it’s good to follow up with a brief thank you note. Here’s an example of what that might look like.

Dear [Client Name],

Thank you for referring [Prospect Name] to me, I’m looking forward to building our relationship. I appreciate you taking the time to tell them about me, and I hope I can continue to exceed your expectations as we work together.


[Your Name]

If you offer any type of referral incentive, you can mention that here. For example, if you offer a gift card for each referral a client makes, you’d need to add a link with instructions on how to claim it.

Bottom Line

A financial advisor gets new referrals from senior clients.

Asking for referrals may seem awkward, at least in the beginning. But once you get your strategy for asking down, you can begin reaping the benefits of a consistent flow of referrals into your business.

Tips for Growing Your Advisory Business

  • Referrals can be a powerful tool for driving business, but what if you’re starting from scratch with a small client base? You may need to try other marketing tactics to build an audience, which can take time. If you’re looking for a simpler solution, you may try an online lead generation service instead. With SmartAdvisor, for instance, you can get connected with leads and get access to tools that make following up simple.
  • Keeping track of client referrals can help you to narrow down who you should be presenting requests to. This can be as simple as noting how many requests you make to your clients and how many new leads each request results in. If you see that one client is creating zero leads for you, that may indicate they’re either unsatisfied with your services or not receptive to referral requests. If it’s the latter, you may want to consider what you can do to improve their experience going forward.

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