Wealthy people and good poker players have at least one thing in common: The habit of holding cards close to their vests.

At least that's what a wirehouse veteran named Jack told me while explaining his difficulty getting referrals from wealthy clients.

“My clients don't give referrals,” he says. “The wealthy people I deal with do not want people knowing their financial affairs.”

 The issue isn't whether or not Jack was rationalizing his inability to get new client introductions from his current affluent clients. The fact that he was not getting them, coupled with our recent findings regarding how the affluent use word-of-mouth influence, highlights a significant challenge facing Jack and many other financial advisers.

There are four important facts for advisors who share in Jack's struggles:

Key Fact #1: Nearly three-quarters of all prepurchase selections made by the affluent (i.e., deciding when and where to begin their search for someone to talk to about their financial affairs) are the result of opinions from immediate family members and trusted friends and colleagues. Translation: word-of-mouth influence is king, queen, prince and princess in getting face-to-face with affluent prospects. Nothing is more effective.

Key Fact #2: Less than 20 percent of all final major purchase decisions made by the affluent (i.e., determining whether they are going to allow the referred financial advisor to handle their financial affairs) are the result of opinions from immediate family members, trusted colleagues and friends. Translation: The word-of-mouth influence advantage dissipates when it comes to closing the sale. There is a significant difference between how the affluent go about their predecision screening and how they make their final decision.

Key Fact #3: Many financial advisors do not receive their “fair share” of affluent referrals and introductions. Translation: Many financial advisors are uncertain about what to do or how to do it when it comes to generating affluent introductions and referrals. Our research clearly indicates that many financial advisors are not perceived by the affluent as being capable of performing as an unbiased solutions provider for the multidimensional aspects of the affluent family's financial affairs.

Key Fact #4: When making the final major purchase decision (i.e., determining whether or not to conduct business with a new financial advisor), the affluent are most influenced by two specific criteria: (1) features and benefits, and (2) comparative evaluation and analysis. Translation: Financial advisors must have the tools, knowledge and capability to serve as financial coordinators who can provide clear solutions and oversee every aspect of their affluent clientele's financial affairs. Consequently, a financial advisor must also be willing and able to handle close scrutiny (comparison shopping) before the final decision is made.

None of these four key facts are complicated. When you, the financial advisor, hand a prospect your brochure, it is absolutely essential that you are consistently doing everything you professed in that brochure. The following steps can help you get started:

  • Review all your brochures and other collateral material. Take note of everything you promise, the things that you imply and the overall impression you are attempting to make through your materials.

  • Be brutally honest with yourself and make two lists: one listing everything you are doing consistently (as advertised), and the second listing everything you need to begin doing (in order to become as advertised).

  • Select two actions from the second list, that you can execute immediately.

In today's affluent and high-level world, where features and benefits are always accompanied by comparative analysis (shopping), you must make absolutely certain that you are able to deliver on all fronts. That is what will make you referable.

Writer's BIO: Matt Oechsli is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients. oechsli.com