You have no doubt been told – and told often – to craft a value proposition that clearly and succinctly reflects what you deliver to clients.If you get it right, the argument goes, then prospective clients will understand the value you deliver and your clients will be able to articulate that value to potential referrals. And while the first part is true, it turns out that the second is not. A value proposition is a good thing but is different from how you articulate your value to drive referrals.
The Words Never Uttered at a Dinner Party
I recall sitting in the audience at a conference and seeing that advice in action. A group of very successful advisors shared how they described the value they delivered. The statements were varied (as they should be) and terribly well crafted.
One advisor said this:“We are wealth and life builders. We provide investment management, services and financial counsel to individuals, families and organizations.”It was well-crafted, but here’s the problem. I don’t know about you, but I have never been at a dinner party – or any other social event for that matter – when someone uttered these words. “You know what I really need? I need a wealth and life builder who can provide me with investment management services and financial counsel.”The words that clearly describe your value on your website are different from the words you need to use to help clients understand the real problems you solve. Referral opportunities happen in the moment, as part of a conversation about real issues and challenges. Your goal is to connect the dots in the minds of your clients so that when they hear a friend or colleague talking about specific issues, the lightbulb goes off and they think of you.
The Key to More Referrals
They think of you because they believe you can help solve a problem. And, they refer you in the same way they might suggest a book, a website or an article. When we suggest any of those resources, it’s not because the person was “looking for a book” or “wanted to read an article”. We suggest the resource because it relates to the challenge a friend is describing and might be a solution.In the same way, the key to more referrals isn’t helping clients to “spot a need for an advisor”, any more than it is to “spot a need for a book”. It’s about helping clients to “spot a need for advice” and then immediately make the connection back to you. We know that people refer to help their friends, but we don’t always make it easy.
Conversation Triggers are the Answer
So how do we make it easy?I believe we need to move beyond the value proposition and craft stories that help clients to understand the problems we solve. However, I think we need to craft those stories in a very particular way so that we help clients to connect the dots. To do that, it’s helpful to focus on ‘conversation triggers’.A conversation trigger is a word or phrase that you use to describe the problems you solve that matches how people actually talk about those problems. When you use the same words, you make the connection in the minds of your clients because the human brain is hard wired to do just that.Let’s look at an example: With whom do you work and what do you help them do?
“I help couples to communicate about money, so they are both pulling in the same direction.” What are people saying that might suggest a problem you can solve (the conversation triggers)? “We keep arguing about money.” “I feel like I have to make all the decisions.” “We just don’t seem to be on the same page about the future.” How might you share the story of what you do?
“We work with a lot of couples and families and here’s what we hear….They say “we’re arguing about money.” Or one person feels like he or she is making all the decisions. It’s often a symptom of needing a shared vision and that’s a big part of what we help clients to do. It’s incredible to see couples start working together to design a really meaningful vision for retirement and it’s amazing how the conflict seems to disappear.”The reality is that when people are talking about their problems or challenges, they may not know that professional financial advice may be the answer. They focus on the impact of the situation and they talk about how they experience and feel
about it and those words are critical to creating the bridge between problem and referral.Related: How Connection Will Fuel Your Growth in The Future
So What’s Next?
If you want to think about how to use conversation triggers, consider the following. Identify one of the problems that you solve for your clients. You likely solve many, but choose one and focus there. Consider what clients might be talking about with friends or family that would suggest they are dealing with a problem you could solve. What are the trigger words or phrases? Describe the problem you solve using those trigger words.
How and when to share these stories is a topic for another post. You can find those opportunities in casual conversation with clients when they mention an issue they are experiencing. Or, you can, naturally, take the time to share more about the work that you are doing and how grateful you are for the opportunity.