Customer referrals are a great way to grow your insurance business, but how do you get them? Overhaul your current process with these tips.
Customer referrals are some of the easiest and the best kinds of leads to get. They’re easy to gain (you don’t have to have some kind of crazy referral scheme to win them over). They’re more likely to become customers. And when they do become your customers, they’re extremely loyal.
Additionally, referrals are an inexpensive means to grow your business. Your referral program doesn’t have to be a large part of your budget, but you should be willing to offer incentives.
When we talked to our customers, we learned that a lot of insurance agents weren’t consistently asking for customer referrals, and they were frustrated. Referrals are obviously a great source of business, but agents aren’t asking for them often enough.
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Why Aren’t Insurance Agents Asking for Customer Referrals?
1. Call reluctance
Agents may not take the time to ask for customer referrals because they’re not sure when or how to ask for referrals on the phone.
2. No incentive programs
Insurance agencies may have no incentive programs in place for their agents to offer. An agent may be hesitant to ask for a referral when customers, family, friends, colleagues, and vendors get nothing in return.
3. Forgetting to ask
Insurance agents are human! They may forget to ask for referrals or to remind their staff to reach out to a customer.
4. Too busy
Insurance agents may not have time to spend on referrals because they’re focused on new client acquisition.
5. Lack of content
Not having the right resources readily available (such as email templates and call scripts) can really hurt an agent’s ability to easily generate referrals.
While working on these five reasons might help agents increase an insurance agent’s ability to generate referrals, working on these surface issues alone won’t fix the larger challenges beneath.
The 3 Underlying Issues:
There are three underlying challenges that agents face when working to sustain continuous referral generation:
1. Process: how frequently should I reach out to clients, family, friends, colleagues, and referral partners? What should I say so that I don’t come across as unprofessional or needy? Who should I be contacting?
2. Time management: how do I consistently make time each day to send emails, schedule call reminders, and execute calls to ask for referrals?
3. Technology: How can I save time each day by automating referral generation activities?
Ensure that your sales producers understand the steps of your referral management process.
If your sales team is not knowledgeable about the intended referral management plan, they will likely have trouble keeping up with the regular practice of it. A sales team that is knowledgeable of the steps and understanding of the importance of growth through referrals is going to be consistently stronger and more reliable on follow-ups and referral asks.
Provide a system that saves your team time so they can reliably execute the referral management process.
When you wish to implement a time saving system, the number one consideration should be making sure that the time spent on a task like referral growth is spent as efficiently as possible. A CRM or lead management system allows you to have everything you need in one spot. There’s no need to juggle different programs or scramble for additional details. This cuts time and improves your staff’s ability to quickly move from one task to the next. Agents are able to save time even before running an automated process.
Use the right technology for an automated process.
In addition to managing your time more efficiently with a lead management system, the technology available today can also run some tasks for you. When you build a reach-out process, you can schedule automation that takes the tasks out of human hands and makes personal contact with customers on its own. For example, Blitz sales software combines with a web form tool to create a scenario where customers are asked on a recurring cycle to provide referrals. When those customers choose to share a contact, the web form tool collects the referrals and drops the new contact into the Blitz account as a lead for the sales agent. All these steps are performed regularly without a sales producer spending any time on it.
Create Your Referral Process
As you begin a referral process, you’ve got to make sure that you’re worth referring. When you prove your value to a client by providing excellent service, they’ll more readily refer you because that client sees you as someone who can take care of business. Keep in mind the following to increase the chance that your current clients will refer you:
- Excellent Service – Make sure that the client is happy
- Incentive program – What benefit do they have for referring?
- Ease of referring – Make the ability to share simple (Webform, or provide a template)
- Regular touches – ask, remind, ask again later
When you earn a referral with a client, you’ll be able to continually assist and build on that relationship. As you do, the opportunities for referral asks will continue to present themselves.
Decide When and How to Ask for Customer Referrals
Having a plan for when you would like to ask for referrals saves time. Ask yourself, when do your sales producers have the best chance to successfully generate referrals?
On when is the best time to ask, Matt Anderson, author of The Fearless Referral Fundamentals suggests, “The answer to this is not complicated. You ask when the client is happiest.”
When the client is happiest could mean asking after a meeting that’s gone well. When a client is happy and relaxed, he or she will be more forthcoming with a referral.
A general rule for asking for a referral:
Data shows that the best time to ask for a referral is after providing the quote or the first few days after binding the policy. The relationship with the client has reached a level where there is a higher probability of receiving a referral. This technique is more effective than asking for referrals at the bottom of every email.
Version 1: “Working with you was a pleasure and it’s important to me to make sure that you’re happy with my service. I’ve built my business on client satisfaction. How would you rate my service while we worked together? If you have friends, relatives, and neighbors that may benefit from my services would you feel comfortable referring me? Do you know of anyone I might talk with today?”
Version 2: “Your friends, relatives, and neighbors should look for the best financial service professional to work with. I hope you feel comfortable recommending me. Would you please do two things in return for my services today? First, tell your friends about me. And second, when one of your friends needs a retirement planning analysis, pick up the phone and tell him or her about me. Would you please do that for me?”
Use multiple methods to ask for customer referrals:
Of course, there are many different ways to ask for customer referrals. Our research suggests using multiple delivery methods. Some people respond more to email, some are more responsive to phone calls, and some are more responsive to text messages. It’s always a good idea to cast a wide net! If you reach out with multiple communication styles, you have a better shot at successful referral generation. When you stick to the forms of communication approved by your clients, you’ll remind them of the good work you do and inspire them to help spread your message.
Handle older clients with care:
While your new customers and contacts will have a very fresh experience with you to draw from, your current contacts may need some nurturing before a referral ask. The opportunity to present them with an update or a review of their service is an excellent way to rekindle that relationship. During the process of rekindling, you are poised to lead right into that referral ask. By making sure they are cared for within your business, you’re able to gain new referrals from old clients.
What do you do with customer referrals after you get them?
There are some options to consider when storing your referrals as they come in:
Paper is temporary and easy to lose. While a referral may come in as a handwritten note or perhaps a business card, it should be a top priority to digitize that referral and get the information into whatever follow-up tool you use to ensure that the referral is contacted.
Excel is often a storage or transfer tool for contacts. While Excel is an incredibly powerful tool for data graphing and formatting, it’s not terribly useful as a lead management tool. Most CRM and lead management tools can interpret Excel sheets and use them to import lead lists.
Email is another tool in your referral arsenal. This is more of a communication tool only. And while referrals will be held right in your inbox, they’re also easily lost. It’s best to use email as one of the many branches of your reach out process while managing that process with an overall system that’s based on your plan.
Databases can hold your information, and when attached to a CRM or follow up program, grant you the power to keep tabs on all the contacts you wish to keep in touch with.
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When trying to improve your referral generation strategy, consider your process, time management, and technology. You don’t need a crazy customer referral scheme to ask for referrals. Simply be good to your customers at every stage, instruct your sales producers to do the same, and make the ask when it feels like the right time. With the right process and tools at your disposal, the easier it will be to use referrals to scale your business.