An important part of my training and development program at Northwestern Mutual when I first entered the business was learning how to develop a referral-based business model. One of the requirements as I transitioned into this business was to predefine my market. I diligently went through what are known as “discovering your markets” exercises. I came to my training class with a list of over 300 contacts that were either strong personal connections or knew my connections.
Many of these contacts—most of which I developed at the University of Wyoming (known for its strong engineering department) and through my wife’s position in the accounting field for an oil and gas firm—were in the energy field. These have continued to be a rich source of prospective client leads. I also believe that our firm’s analytical approach to financial planning, risk management, and investment planning has led to a natural affinity between engineering clients and our style as advisors.
After identifying these potential prospects, I started to build my practice. I reached out to those people to schedule meetings and take them through our planning process. My firm trained me on how to build messaging that would lead to being “referable.” Our referral-based business model incorporates an intentional prospecting space within the sales cycle. At each meeting, we give the prospect the opportunity to introduce us to the people that they care about. Hopefully, we will have the opportunity to see if we can be a resource for them.
After a decade in the business, we have refined that referral-based business model further. Our team researches the background and connections of new clients we are meeting. At the conclusion of a meeting, I will mention that the way that our business grows is through favorable introductions. I ask if they would suggest a list of people who might be willing to learn more about our financial-planning process. We often use our research to suggest people who might work at their company, be a member of an organization they belong to, or are connected in some other way. This has been an invaluable resource for continually refreshing our pool of potential prospects.
Tips to build a successful referral-based business model:
- Predefine your target market and build a list of highly targeted, relevant contacts.
- Build messaging that would lead to being “referable”; incorporate prospecting space within the sales cycle.
- After a meeting, ask the client/prospect for referrals. Do homework beforehand on potential contacts in their network.
Disclosure: Tyler Ric Holden uses Holden Financial Group as a marketing name for doing business as representatives of Northwestern Mutual. Holden Financial Group is not a registered investment advisor, broker-dealer, insurance agency, or federal savings bank. Northwestern Mutual is the marketing name for The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, Milwaukee, WI, (NM) (life and disability insurance, annuities, and life insurance with long-term care benefits) and its subsidiaries. Tyler Ric Holden is a representative of Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Company (NMWMC), Milwaukee, WI (fiduciary and fee-based financial planning services), a subsidiary of NM and federal savings bank. All NMWMC products and services are offered only by properly credentialed representatives who operate from agency offices of NMWMC. Representative is an insurance agent of NM and Northwestern Long Term Care Insurance Company, Milwaukee, WI, (long-term care insurance) a subsidiary of NM, and a registered representative of Northwestern Mutual Investment Services, LLC (NMIS) (securities), a subsidiary of NM, broker-dealer, registered investment advisor and member FINRA and SIPC. This publication is not intended as legal or tax advice. Financial representatives do not give legal or tax advice. Taxpayers should seek advice based on their particular circumstances from an independent tax advisor. As each investor’s tax-planning needs are unique, investors should consult with their tax-planning attorney prior to implementing any tax-reduction strategy, including tax-loss harvesting.
Photography by Diane Huntress