3. Gather contact information and background. Once you have a list of names, ask for information, as well as what would be the best way to approach the prospects. Consider asking for a personal introduction; have the client contact the person to let them know that you will be getting in touch soon. In most cases, it's best to simply ask the client to give the person a call or email heads up that you will reach out to them.
4. Commit to following up. Your client is making the effort to contact the people being introduced, so make a point of assuring your client that you will follow up with a phone call immediately and that you will let him or her know how the conversation goes.
5. Thank your client. Tell the client how much you appreciate the introductions and that you look forward to providing these people with a second opinion of their financial situations. Also send a brief, handwritten thank-you note. This has become a lost art and is greatly appreciated.
6. Call each prospect. Your goal for the initial contact with each prospect should be to schedule an initial second-opinion meeting, during which you can conduct a process of discovery about the person's finances, goals and values. Tell prospects that your client spoke highly of them, and mentioned that they might benefit from meeting with you.
If a prospect says "yes" to your offer, schedule a specific date and time to get together. Explain that you will send a follow-up letter outlining the financial information and records that he or she should bring to the meeting in order to make it productive.
If the prospect responds with "no, thanks" or "maybe," he or she may already have an advisor. If this is the case, point out that in a challenging environment, many people are looking to have a second opinion to ensure they are truly on track toward their goals - and that you would be happy to offer that assessment at no cost. Emphasize that you don't take on new clients unless you can offer them substantial value, and that if you find that their current advisor is doing a great job you will say so.
7. Send an invitation. Immediately after arranging the initial meeting with the prospect, send a follow-up letter to prepare him or her for the meeting. Include the documents that you will need to conduct your assessment; these may include items such as tax returns, brokerage statements, mortgage statements, wills and trusts, and other financial records.
8. Let your client know the results. Your client who made the introduction will be curious about how things worked out. You do need to protect client confidentiality, of course, so get a prospect's permission to report back to the client who provided the introduction. But if you do receive permission, let the client know if you were able to get in touch with the prospect and, if so, how the first meeting went. Lack of feedback devalues your client's efforts on your behalf - and could make it tougher to get new introductions.
9. Thank your client again. A client who provides one introduction is likely to provide more down the road. Keep your clients inclined to make additional introductions by acknowledging how much you appreciate their assistance. It's important that you acknowledge the client simply for providing the introduction, whether or not the prospect worked out.
By following this process, you'll demonstrate to your existing clients your value and commitment to helping investors solve key financial challenges. In return, you can expect them to reward you with qualified introductions to new prospects, enabling you to build a rock-solid business for years to come.
John J. Bowen Jr., a Financial Planning columnist, is founder and CEO of CEG Worldwide of San Martin, Calif., a global training, research and consulting firm for advisors.