Occasionally we ask a room of insurance agents, "How many of you wish your office produced more referrals?" Every hand goes up. Every time. Referrals can be great, and for more reasons than just "more sales." For example:
- A referral is an implicit validation of customer satisfaction.
- A client who refers a friend to you cements their own commitment to you.
- It's easier to win trust with a referred client.
- Referrals are easier to multiline.
- Referrals increase brand awareness.
- Referrals are more likely to contribute to retention.
Moreover, social media endorsements provide many of the same benefits. In this post, we'll provide a step-by-step method to turn your agency into a harvesting machine.
Step 1: Provide Value and Trust
Value and trust are pre-requisites to asking for clients to give back to your agency. You're producing value when you sell the policies at a fair price with the added value that you, your team, and your company provide. You're producing trust when you show care and credibility. If the client is receiving trust and value, they'll be eager to share with people they know, but you will usually need to ask.
If you're uncomfortable asking for these "favors," just think about how willing you are to recommend someone you trust, or give a good rating to a business that provides great service. You've given your clients great value, and you deserve to get credit for it.
Step 2: Survey Your Client
After a successful interaction that increased value and trust (such as a review appointment), follow-up with your client to ask them about their level of satisfaction. This should only involve a few quick questions about you, your team, and your office, for example. The last question is the most important one:
"On a scale from 1 to 5 (or 1 to 10, or whatever), how likely would you be to refer a friend or family member to our agency?"
Every client who gives you a high score is a candidate for a referral. (If a client gives you a low score, forget about referrals and endorsements. Focus on how you can turn it around.)
Step 3: Forget Referrals; Get Recommendations
If you've gotten referrals before, you know that not all referrals are equal. Many referrals amount to little more than cold leads. The person who can warm those leads up for you is the client who is making the referral in the first place. They need to turn the referral into a recommendation. Here's what it looks like:
- The client gives you the names and contact information of the people they're referring.
- The client contacts the referral on your behalf.
- If by email, they send a pre-crafted message and CC you.
- If by phone, they hit some important points and mention that you'll be following up.
- You follow-up with the referral.
- Be sure to compliment your client and highlight your relationship's high points.
- Describe how you're different from everyone else.
- Start the process of learning about the referral's circumstances, needs, and challenges.
- Schedule an appointment.
The difference between this and cold-calling a phone number of someone who is not expecting your call is huge.
Step 4: Ask for Social Media Endorsements
Your happy client should be willing to endorse you on social media, whether it's liking you on Facebook, rating you highly on Yelp, etc. You'll need to provide the link(s) to them and possibly give them some instructions. Make it as simple and effortless as possible for them.
Step 5: Show Appreciation
There are three ways to show appreciation to a client who gave you more business or boosted your reputation online:
- Follow through. This is the most important thing. If you get a recommendation, don't ignore it. Follow through and give your client feedback. (Learn more on this here)
- Say, "Thank you." Don't forget this. It's simple, it's free, and it works.
- Offer a gift. This is optional, but some agents provide movie tickets or a gift card when the referral buys a policy. For many agents, it’s less expensive that buying and calling a list of cold leads.
Step 6: Measure and Learn
You may have noticed that there are several things worth measuring here. First is customer satisfaction, based on your survey. Second is the number of times you ask for vs. receive referrals and endorsements. Third is how effectively you convert referrals to clients.
Once you have those numbers, you can do some correlation to learn things like, "Which client categories are most likely to refer someone?" or, "Which team members need more training on getting Facebook likes?"
You've spent your career taking good care of clients. They appreciate you, and they know others who would benefit from the value and trust that you provide. If you're consistent, this approach will raise your brand awareness and help you scale.
by Matt Wagner, Vice President of Strategy