Quick, what is the greatest source of new clients among financial professionals? Most likely, you replied "referrals." Now, would you rather be referred to four new lower-tier C clients or one new higher-tier AAA client? It's a no-brainer. Being referred to an AAA client is like hitting a grand slam home run in baseball.

So how do you get more grand slam referrals? The answer involves learning which kinds of clients are likely to deliver the most new assets, how to become a specialist instead of a generalist, and how to mine likely sources of grand slam referrals.

For starters, you need to identify the person you want to be referred to. Would you rather be referred to an executive who has an account with another full-service broker dealer or an unemployed executive?

If you chose the first person, good luck. As a source of new assets, less than 15% of assets are acquired by advisors as transfers from other brokers. A better source of new assets is people in transition, like the second person. Roughly a third of all new assets come by rollover. Review your own business and you will probably find that rollovers have been a very good source of new assets. What if you were acquiring a new rollover client every month or even every week? Let's discuss how to do that.

Are you a financial generalist or a specialist? If you decide to specialize in working with people who have rollovers, try branding yourself as a transition specialist. You can tell people about your specialty like this:

"During the changes in the global economy of the last few years, more people are either leaving their jobs because of layoffs, retirement, or just needing a change. Suddenly, their life is upside down and now they need a strategy to help them deal with the transition. I specialize in helping those people understand where they are, what their choices are to replace their benefits, how to make sure their retirement needs stay on track, and how to deal with the inevitable cash-flow issues that come up. Most important, once they find that new opportunity, I help them put a plan in place so they will be more prepared when they transition again in the future. Who do you know that is changing jobs, retiring, or thinking about either one?"

This is merely a template to give you some ideas about how to position yourself to become a transition specialist. Once you have established yourself in that role, here are some ideas for keeping the referrals coming in.

The first source of referrals to people with rollovers should be your current clients. Even if you asked them a few months ago and they said they didn't know anyone, don't assume that the same is true today. It is possible that they have met someone new or that a longtime acquaintance has been laid off since you last met. Ask every time, but in a low-key manner:

"Since we last spoke, have any of your family or friends had a job change? Has anyone that you know been laid off or retired? (If yes.) Really, who is that? Is there anyone else you know? (Keep going until they run out of names.) I specialize in working with people in transition and find this is a time when many people simply need to talk. I'm happy to see if I can help. What do you think the best way to be introduced would be?"

Another source of referrals is from people who work at a company going through transition. If a firm is going through mass layoffs, has been taken over by another firm, or is moving out of state, you can meet dozens of grand slam referrals in a short period of time.

Don't overlook real estate agents, who can refer people moving into the area to take new jobs. Such transfers often bring a rollover with them.

Finally, an often overlooked resource of clients with rollovers is from people in your own personal network. When you educate the people in your network about the fact that you are specializing in working with people in transition, guess who is likely to pop into their mind when someone announces he or she was laid off? Can you imagine this conversation?

"You were laid off? That must feel challenging. You should call (insert your name here). He specializes in working with people in transition and will be happy to meet with you. Should I put you two in touch?"

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Todd Colbeck is principal and founder of the Colbeck Coaching Group,
a subsidiary of General Business Center, Inc. You can reach him at this email address.