Increase Quality and Quantity of Referrals with Trigger Questions

Sue BerginBy Sue Bergin

With 70% of new clients coming from referrals, one could assume that successful advisors have mastered the art of tapping into client contacts.[1]  A new study sheds light on how advisors might get even better at this practice.

Recently, researchers set out to test the theory that the average American knew 290 people.[2]  Instead of asking survey participants how many people they knew, the researchers asked trigger questions.  They prompted participants with specific names. Participants were asked how many Kevin’s or Karen’s or Keith’s or Brenda’s that they knew.

shutterstock_77829232pngResearchers then extrapolated Social Security data on the percentage of the population with those names.  They concluded that the average person knows 600 people, not the previously assumed 290.

This study is instructive on how to get better results when asking for referrals.
Rather than ask a client if there is anyone that they know who could benefit from your service, prompt clients to focus on as narrowly defined groups as possible.  As Bill Cates advises in his book Get More Referrals Now!, when asking for referrals you should suggest names and categories and use trigger questions.  An example of a trigger question is “What other small business owners do you know who are contemplating retirement in the next five years?”  Well-formulated trigger questions lead clients down a path that could increase both the quantity and quality of referrals you receive.


[2] Segregation in Social Networks Based on Acquaintanceship and Trust, Thomas A. DiPrete, Andrew Gelman, Tyler McCormick, Julien Teitler, and Tian Zheng, 2011