Insurance Referrals: Instant Credibility!
One of the biggest tools agents have at their disposal are referrals. A referral is better than a lead and almost as good as a sale! In fact, along with guaranteed quality insurance leads, referrals are one of the best assets a growing agency can obtain, yet they’re one of the largest sources of anxiety for most agents, who are often afraid of their new customer responding to their referral request with a “No.”
I’ve started three agencies from scratch and helped a lot of fellow agents do the same, so I know all about the pressure of wearing every hat in the office when you first open your doors. The biggest question is, Where do you invest your time? After all, you’re trying to do everything, and you need referrals. So how do you turn this around?
Having a process and a network will relieve the pressure and help you focus your energy. First, make sure you have a support staff. I know what you’re thinking, How can you afford a staff when you aren’t closing sales? The truth is you can’t afford to not hire a staff. When you have the right help, you don’t need to focus your attention on managing your agency. I often recall a quote by JD Rockefeller: “I would rather earn 1% off 100 people’s efforts than 100% of my own efforts.” With the right people, you can focus your efforts on what you do best, selling! Moreover, when you focus your energy on your clients, you’ll earn their referrals.
Be their go-to person! As you build your local network, you’ll be able to refer your clients to other trusted professionals. For example, let’s say you just closed a homeowner’s policy with a client who’s new to the area. You can provide them with names and numbers you’d personally recommend (through your network), such as plumbers, lawn-care experts, roofers, or house painters. You can offer a list of the best grocery stores, local restaurants and the cheapest place to buy gas. You can be the person your clients depend on when they need advice. So when you ask them for a referral, they’ll gladly give you one (if they haven’t already).
How do you ask? It’s simple. When you’ve established strong relationships, you simply tell them, “I like doing business with people like you,” and then ask, “Do you know anyone who would benefit from the services that I’m providing to you?” Make sure not to focus exclusively on price, because there will always be someone willing to do it cheaper (but that doesn’t mean it’s better).
Once you have the referral, the “hard” part is over, but the work has just begun. Your client has spoken on your behalf, so now you have to honor that privilege and build rapport with your potential customer. Once you obtain your referral’s contact information, be sure to respect timing. In our business, relationships are what keep clients and create new ones. If you can, set aside a time to meet in person, so you can discuss the kind of honest, trusted, quality service you’re willing to provide. Just make sure not to overwhelm a referral with sales pitches. Leave enough information on a voicemail or email to create interest. I use the “Return in Advance” technique, which allows you to give an example of the type of service you’re capable of providing ahead of time. For instance, you could say, “Hey, this is Bob Klee at (number), and I just updated your Aunt Betty’s policy to reflect her new boat. She gave me your number, and I think I can provide you with the same top-quality service I gave her. Let’s make sure you’re covered…”
Don’t forget to follow up within 24 hours of meeting your new referral. A simple “It was nice to meet you” will go a long way to prove what kind of service and relationship you’re able to provide them as an agent. Plus, if you ever want another referral, you’d better let the ones you have know that they’re appreciated. Once you’ve signed your referral to their policy, find a way to provide service immediately to increase their confidence. It’s even better if you can find a referral for them that referenced the initial meeting you had. They’ll be blown away with your attentiveness and won’t hesitate to not only do business with you but to reciprocate the gesture as well.
Just be sure not to “Overdeliver.” Don’t promise something you can’t follow through with; it’ll make you and the client that provided you a referral both look bad, which could prevent future business with either in the years ahead. After all, your reputation is as good as your word, so make sure you can keep it.
For customers, value isn’t about cost but about how they feel about the transaction. That feeling comes from the relationship you develop and sustain with them. It’s like any other relationship you’ll have: you’ve got to put in the time to make sure it stays healthy and prosperous for both parties. And remember, you may not have the cheapest rates, but you know their community and understand their needs. The truth is, when a customer feels good about the service you’re providing them, they’ll want to help you.