WHEN ECONOMIC times like the ones we face today hit, it’s important to focus on your business and keep a steady stream of prospects flowing. One way to do this is to continue to work with your clients and ask them for referrals to possible new clients. Especially in these times, people need to take another look at their financial plans and begin to adjust to the changes that may have occurred in recent months.
We asked some members to share their strategies and scripts for keeping the prospecting pipeline moving in any situation. Maintaining your self-confidence, asking the right way and continuing to maintain the highest standards of client service all come into play.
Before Karen Faith Koh felt comfortable asking her clients for referrals, she knew there was something she had to do. “I had to sell to myself first,” said Koh, a six-year MDRT member from Singapore.
“For example, would Karen Faith introduce Karen Faith to another person to take policies from her? If the answer is yes, then why?” she said. “When you’re doing this, list all the reasons why you would introduce yourself. And then make these reasons even more outstanding.”
Using this mindset over her 15 years as an advisor has led to a practice that is mainly referral-based. “In my first appointment with people, I’ll ask about a referral,” Koh said. “Most of them say that if they know anyone, they’ll refer them to me. And almost 90% do.”
Part of the reason Koh has this high success rate is her focus on giving her clients an experience that makes them feel comfortable about introducing their close friends and family members to her. “If I have done an excellent job in my consultation with a client, and followed through on what I promised, I believe a referral will come in the end,” she said.
Find your own approach
It sounds simple, but asking for referrals takes time, practice and figuring out what works for you as an individual. Matthew Charles Collins’ father was also in financial services. He had a script and a written description of his ideal clients. After completing business, he would ask clients if they were happy with everything he had done for them. They would obviously reply yes, said Collins, a 16-year MDRT member from Mona Vale, New South Wales, Australia.
His father would move on to asking if they had questions, to which they usually replied no. “If they were happy with what he’d done for them, he’d ask if they had any hesitation in giving him the names of three friends and colleagues who they think might benefit from his advice,” Collins said. His father would then ask the client to call or write the prospects before he contacted them.
“I tried this, and I didn’t like it. It was too in their face for me,” Collins said of his father’s approach. Instead, after Collins has worked with a client for a while, he’ll tell them that he really likes dealing with them. “And if they know anyone like them who they think might benefit from a similar relationship, please don’t hesitate to mention me to them.
“Frankly, if your clients really like you, they will refer without you asking,” he said. “It’s like if you go and see a good movie, you tell everyone they should go and see it.”
María Fernanda Calva Villalón agrees that how she treats a client is the biggest indicator of whether or not they will give her referrals. “By giving good service, my clients tend to recommend me to their friends and family,” said the three-year MDRT member from Mexico City, Mexico. “Since I am someone they trust, it’s much easier to conclude a sale.”
Providing such good service that clients want to recommend Calva Villalón helps overcome the obstacle of clients who don’t want to give names out of privacy or respect. “Instead of asking for referrals, I want to become referable,” she said.
Letting clients know
Still, advisors need to let clients know they’re looking for those referrals, even if they don’t want to hit them over the head with asking directly.
When meeting with clients, Collins includes an item on the agenda that they are “Open for referrals.” Sometimes he mentions it, and sometimes it’s just there as a reminder.
Every few years, Collins changes that agenda item to “Closed for referrals.” When clients notice it, he tells them that he wants to be sure they can provide the best level of service and not exceed capacity in the amount of clients they work with.
“There is nothing like it to spark people into thinking about who they know that might want a scarce resource.”
Collins also suggests finding out who your clients’ CPAs are and asking if you can share what you’ve done for them. Then follow up by meeting with the CPA face-to-face. “See what relationships they have with other people in our industry, and if they might be open to including you in their panel of potential experts,” Collins said.
It takes time
You don’t get referrals instantly. “Clients might be hesitant to recommend, because they’re afraid you may push their friends too hard, or you may not do a good job for their friends,” said Adelyn Tan, an eight-year MDRT member from Singapore. “Don’t stop asking, but remember that this has to be built over time so clients can see your sincerity and caring through your work. You have to gain their trust first.”
Calva Villalón also tries to reciprocate the referrals whenever possible, to build a mutually beneficial relationship. “I give them referrals to their business, telling them I want to help them back,” she said. “If you give with a good heart, you will always receive.”
I share my mission with clients that I want every client I meet to have comprehensive medical and critical illness coverage. I emphasize the critical illness, telling them it’s important for them and for their loved ones. I tell them not to get caught in a situation where they can’t help their loved ones financially because they’ve fallen ill. I will then ask if they have someone who comes to mind who might need this type of coverage. I tell them they can refer my service, or I can get in touch with them, with their permission.
— Adelyn Tan
I find the soft approach best. If you compliment someone by saying something like, “I wish all my clients were like you” or “I really enjoy doing business with you,” and then say, “If you know anyone else like you who you could introduce me to, please don’t hesitate,” then you’ve planted the seed.
— Matthew Charles Collins
I ask everyone! My clients, friends, family and people who I’ve met through other interests I have, such as salsa lessons. Plus, the people I buy from, for example, the owner of a spa I go to and restaurants I frequent. “If I ask you now if you know someone who needs life insurance, you will surely say no, but that is not what I’m going to ask you. I want to work with people with the same characteristics as you: who love their family, who want to improve their economic situation and who can make decisions. Who are your three best friends who meet these characteristics?”
— María Fernanda Calva Villalón