It is so unfortunate, but it is the rare producer who truly takes advantage of what should be his/her greatest source of new business opportunities: existing clients. For whatever reason, producers lack the confidence, determination, and discipline to make referrals an integral part of the client experience. The result is that book of business growth is slowed dramatically and prospecting becomes more difficult than necessary.
Producers are usually hesitant to ask for referrals because, deep down, they aren’t sure if they have actually earned the opportunity to ask.
If you will incorporate the following ideas into your sales process, you will find that the standard for earning a referral is mutually understood and agreed upon by both yourself and the client. Helping one another (broker/client) becomes just another part of the relationship.
Set the expectation at the beginning of the relationship - Thank your new client for the confidence they have placed in you. Assure them that it is well placed, but also remind them that you are able to deliver the high level of service they are expecting because you work off of referrals. Therefore, instead of cold calling and chasing long shot prospects, you and your staff are there to service their needs.
Referrals have to be earned - You just earned their business. Shouldn’t delivering on the promises you made to earn their business also earn you the opportunity to be introduced to other people they know? Tell them,
“I know I haven’t yet earned the opportunity to ask you for a referral/introduction, but, after we have met all of the expectations we have set that earned us your business - would it be fair at that point for me to ask you for some referrals/introductions to other business owners who you know?”
I don’t think you will ever be told no.
Accountability – You made the promises of what would be delivered, now report back and make yourself accountable for, and get credit for, what you have done for them.
You have to ask – You set the expectation, you agreed on the standard to be met, you made yourself accountable for meeting the standard, now you have to ask. Make it a formal part of the agenda for your continuation meeting (continuation of your relationship as the broker). It shouldn’t be a surprise for them to see it on your agenda. In fact, they will be expecting to see it there.
Make it easy – Do the research; know to whom they can probably make referrals and introductions. When you get to that part of the agenda, share your list, and ask them an appropriate timeframe for them to make the call.
Follow these suggestions and you will find yourself working off of nothing but referrals. You may have to work at it a bit, but it sure is a lot easier than cold calling!
Photo by Anne Thorniley.