Tag Archives: referrals

Turning Referrals Into Introductions

We tie ourselves into knots trying to understand why more of our clients, who clearly love us so much, don’t tell their friends and families about us.

I’ve written, at length, about why clients don’t refer and why they do, and I believe that understanding the answers to both questions is critically important. What I haven’t specifically addressed is how they refer. And how clients refer is almost as important as if they refer.

We know, from our investor research, that very few referrals are actually introductions.

If you think about it, two things need to be in place for a referral to result in an actual meeting.  First, your client has to make a compelling case for the value you deliver. Then, the prospect needs to be so motivated to talk to you, he or she will track you down and set up a meeting. I’ll go with “unlikely” on that one.

The answer to the problem, of course, is that we need to find a way to encourage our clients to make direct introductions.  But how?

At the risk of over-simplifying the solution, I’m going to over-simplify the solution:

Ask clients about how they referred, and they will likely tell you. Then use that information to encourage more clients to refer (or introduce) successfully.

See also: Two Checklists for Getting Referrals  

So how do you go about it? Consider this:

Identify five clients who have provided referrals over the last year and invite them to lunch or ask for 10 minutes of their time at the end of a review. They referred you to someone they care about (the world’s greatest indication of trust) so there’s a good chance they like you and will say “yes.”

Let the client know that you’re trying to understand more about how clients refer and that you would value their input. Try this on for size:

I was really honored that you referred me to <insert name of client>. It means a great deal. I wondered if I could ask you a bit about that?

From there, dig in on the circumstances:

  • Did <he or she> ask you for an introduction to an adviser?
  • Was there something about his/her circumstances that made you think we could help?

Probe on the circumstances, how your client’s friend raised the issue and why the client thought you could help. Had they experienced the work you do in that area, read about it on your site or learned about it through stories you shared?

Then dig in on the process. Try this as a starting point:

It’s interesting, but we hear that clients refer all the time, but we don’t often meet those clients. Can I ask how did you make that referral?

Probe on whether your client shared contact details, sent the friend to your website or perhaps passed on information or articles you had written. Dig into whether there is anything you could do to make it easier.

The way the client responds to the first questions will help you understand:

  • What topics are clients discussing when they think of you (e.g., was it related to investments, to life or to retirement?)
  • Did your client refer you prior to being asked for a referral, or did he/she wait for a clear indication that a referral was being invited?
  • How do your clients perceive the problems that you can solve?

That information will help you craft stories that will help your clients spot a need for advice.

See also: Restoring the Agent-Client Relationship

The way the client responds to the second question will help you understand the specific ways in which they refer, and if and how that translates into introductions. It will also help you understand if there is anything you could do to facilitate more referrals or make introductions easier or more comfortable.

A Bonus

And you may just find that by asking the client to help you understand referrals, it reminds them that you are open for business. Not a bad result.

Thanks for stopping by,
Julie

Insurers Win Big With Social Media

Insurance agents have long understood the need to be social as a part of their sales process: the best agents have always been those who build strong relationships with and educate customers, keep in touch and ask for referrals. But new ways of communicating have resulted in new expectations buyers have, such as being able to Google an agent and check out his or her LinkedIn profile before deciding to proceed. This means that insurers need to rethink the sales process and the tools that they provide to their agents, so agents can take full advantage of the power of social media.

The profile information and status updates that more than one billion people share each day on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn offer agents incredible insights into what is happening in the lives of current and potential policyholders. These insights signal to agents what types of insurance are needed by the customer and generally allow the agent to build trust through personal connection and personalized service. As a result, agents can now be smarter about when they contact customers and prospects and more directed in their communications, saving agents time and improving business results. Researching prospects on social media and understanding what's happening in their lives ensures that every call will be warm. In the era of social media, the cold call is dead.

The insurance industry has been an early adopter of social technology. While regulated industries, including financial services and insurance, tend to be cautious because of compliance concerns, a study by International Data Corp. found that the insurance industry has actually blazed the trail with social media. Farmers, Nationwide, Thrivent Financial, Northwestern Mutual and other Fortune 500 insurance organizations have instituted forward-thinking initiatives on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter that have demonstrated social success that other industries are attempting to replicate.

But it's time for all insurers to move to the second wave with social. In the first wave, many companies rushed to get as many “likes” as possible on their Facebook pages. But research shows that these “likes” have failed to convert into lasting value and tangible return on investment. In the second wave of social, insurers are realizing that they need to focus on results achieved through true engagement and authentic relationships. Just as it has always been, since long before the digital age, developing long-standing relationships is key to building a successful business in the social era.

For insurers, moving on to the second wave means two main things:

First, insurers need to provide unique and relevant content that agents can use on their Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn feeds. For an agent, sharing relevant content via social channels builds credibility and helps establish them as a trusted expert that their connections will turn to when they need insurance. Marketing departments already know the type of content that resonates with customers and are typically producing professional content used in other online and offline channels. For example, success stories about the value of insurance or financial planning tools are valuable pieces of content for agents to share socially.

Second, insurers must empower the field. As an example, Thrivent Financial, a Hearsay Social client, has hundreds of agents actively managing their own local Facebook pages. As financial experts, Thrivent Financial representatives share value with their close-knit communities by consistently posting relevant content, like IRA calculators and market analyses. In addition, Thrivent reps share personal updates and plan community events, building an authentic social presence while still appropriately representing brand.

Organizations that empower agents to create their own local social-media presences are many times more effective than when the same messages are shared from a corporate page. While having five million fans wins bragging rights for any brand marketer, from the consumer's perspective, it can be much more powerful to hear the story from a local representative that you know and trust.

A local insurance agent's Facebook page

Savvy chief marketing officers at insurers have done a great job of making a relatively abstract product tangible by creating some of the most interesting and memorable personas in the history of marketing — Mayhem the Allstate villain, Flo the Progressive Girl, Snoopy representing MetLife and the GEICO gecko. For an industry that sells a product you can't hear, see, smell, taste or touch, this is impressive. And the characters can drive social-media strategies, allowing a company to create a social-media asset for a character (e.g., the Facebook page for Mayhem). Getting consumers to “like” the page can provide yet another entry point into the News Feed, increasing engagement for the brand and driving sales. When your local MetLife agent posts a picture of a sleeping Snoopy with the text “TGIF,” how can you not click “like”?

While insurers are off to a great start with social marketing, there is so much more that they can do to leverage the power of social media into sales. By coordinating enterprise-wide social selling programs, insurance companies can empower agents to attract more prospects and build stronger relationships, leading the way by selling socially.

Call It What You Want

Call it what you want … lead generation, business development, canvassing, door to door, talking with referrals, follow up from a networking event, asking for referrals or even making the “Dreaded Cold Call.” You can disguise it anyway you want. You are prospecting!

Prospects may come from a variety of sources that include your warm or natural market. You may also receive a steady flow of prospects from centers of influence, such as attorneys, doctors, accountants or VIPs in your community. What about referrals from clients or friends? You may even belong to associations and business networking groups. What about social media? (compliance permitting).

Skeptics say that prospecting is dead. It’s not. And it never will be. The decision to prospect is yours alone.

True, the old way of selling is dead and gone forever, but prospecting continues to be the foundation of all successful businesses and salespeople. So what is prospecting?

Prospecting is defined as “in search of” or “to labor for.” What are we all searching for? We should be prospecting for (or searching for) new customers, or new business from our existing customers. It’s that simple.

Question — If you had the cure for cancer, how many cancer patients would you approach each day? Of course you would approach as many as you could. Make sense?

Why then, do we stop prospecting? The simple answer is that it is hard work. We get lazy and complacent. After all, it’s easier to check your voicemail or email isn’t it? Voicemail can’t object, email doesn’t challenge our value. We get caught up in all the stuff that really doesn’t matter.

In closing: The following quote from Frank Bettger’s book How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling says it straight out, “You can’t make a sale, until you write some business; You can’t write some business, until you have had a conversation; And you can’t have a conversation until you make the call!” Are you ready to have more conversations, write more business, and make more sales? The decision is yours and yours alone.

Happy Prospecting!