Want to strengthen referral business in your insurance agency? Maybe you need a fresh approach.

July 15, 2014

Few insurance agency owners or producers regularly and successfully ask for referrals, yet according to the New York Times, 65% of all new business comes from referrals. Thus, referrals can be a vital source of new business, especially when just starting out. For some, asking does not come easy. Perhaps it feels awkward or you have stopped doing it because you are not doing it well. Here are some tips to help you overcome any stumbling blocks you may be experiencing and begin asking (and getting) more referral business.

Make sure you understand your value proposition and make sure you tell your customer. As an independent insurance agency owner or producer, the most important things you can offer are good products and your professional service. With the myriad of channels available to purchase the products, let’s set product aside for now and just say it– your service, from evaluating the risk, recommending the proper coverage, finding a fair price, and servicing the account, is where you are going to shine and where your referrals are going to come from.

Don’t wait to ask. Create the expectation up front. Inform your customer before you even begin to service them that you rely on word-of-mouth to maintain your business and that you intend on providing such outstanding service that they will want to refer others to you. Remember, the last impression is the one that sticks, so make sure every interaction ends on a positive note and your stellar service extends all the way through to a final follow-up phone call making sure your service lived up to what you promised.

Avoid the awkward ask. We’ve all been asked, “Do you have anyone you would feel comfortable referring to me?” Did you draw a blank? Help your customer identify potential referrals by supplying them with appropriate prompts: Do they know someone new in town, someone purchasing a new home, do they have a friend getting married, or renting a new apartment? Don’t limit yourself to personal lines. If you have expertise and competitive markets in a particular business segment, let them know, and ask for an introduction if appropriate.

Speaking of introductions. Introductions are favorable to the typical form of referral- a name and phone number written on a piece of paper. What many call a referral is really just a lead (translation: cold call), with permission to use someone’s name as the source of that information. Hardly a door opener! A better approach is to offer to draft a letter (or email) of introduction and have your customer sign or send it. Make sure it includes what you accomplished on behalf of your customer and how you intend to follow up with the prospect. If the situation warrants it, offer to treat your customer and their referral to coffee or lunch if they help arrange it.

Put everything on the table. If your customer possesses social media savvy, ask for a recommendation on LinkedIn. If your agency has a local business page on Facebook, allow star ratings and reviews of your agency and respond appropriately. If you participate in local networking events, invite your professional customers along. There is nothing like an in-person testimonial to endorse your insurance agency!

Don’t be greedy. Just ask for one introduction at a time and work with the one you have in a manner that your referring customer would be proud of. Even if you don’t make the sale, your professionalism will reassure your customer that their trust in you was well placed. They may actually want to help you even more the next time around.

Thank them. Get a new customer by way of referral? Mailing a hand-written thank you note or sending a small gift will more than pay for itself and reinforces your customer’s decision to extend their trust in you to others.