Getting Agents To Use A Prospect Referral System

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Every agency manager knows the lifeblood of agency growth is a continuous stream of qualified prospects. Yet, Benchmarks ongoing survey of agents indicates most dont use a prospect referral system.

This real lack of use of referral systems of any kind by agents is more than a sad commentary for agency managers. Its a real problem. It means the source of new prospects to grow the agency is in the hands of agents who dont use a referral system. Agency managers need to address this problem if the agency is going to grow at all.

Why dont agents use a referral system? The reasons are numerous and a partial list is given below. But, the real purpose here is not to criticize any particular referral system. Its to examine the problem to determine possible solutions. Heres our partial list:

–Agents are reluctant to ask for referrals.

–Agents dont understand the real value they provide the client.

–Agents dont know how to ask the right way for referrals.

–Agents arent convinced they can deliver the value the prospects may need.

–Agents havent figured out how to show the client providing the referral the value the agent has delivered.

–Agents dont provide follow up to their valued clients to get more referrals.

–Agents eventually give up using a referral system because it doesnt produce the Tier 1 prospects they need, and worse, obliges the agents to service the referral anyway.

To most agents, this is agony because its not a process!

What can agency management do about this? There are two process solutions: First, deal with the symptom and, second, eliminate the problem.

A way to deal with the symptom is for the agency to adopt and standardize a single referral system for all agents. (It doesnt matter which one. Remember, were only addressing the symptom.) The agency can then establish guidelines or goals for the number and type of referrals required per agent, per month, etc., and monitor compliance with the agencys program.

The symptom, lack of use, is addressed but the problems of agent reluctance, etc. remain because over time the results become a numbers game versus a quality solution. Further, for this approach to become truly successful, it requires every agent, from prot?g? to senior, to change their attitude and psychology about asking for referrals. Is this possible in your agency?

Whether your agency can or not, implementing this approach is a tall order. It requires constant management attention and reinforcement at the agent level, whether prot?g?, experienced or senior–all of which consumes managements time.

So, what solution eliminates the problem? The approach that focuses on solving the real problems with agent-owned referral systems is to obtain referrals through agency-owned strategic alliances. In this approach an agency manager takes responsibility for establishing strategic alliances with CPA practices, P&C agencies, banks, attorneys, etc.

The agency is now in control and positioned to drive the referral process at the rate necessary to assure growth goals are met. Sales teams or agents then do what they do best–work the referrals that result from the alliances.

A superior and quick solution is to train a single individual in the agency to develop and maintain strategic alliances that result in a continuous stream of referral. This leverages the talent of one person across all agents with potentially enormous results. Noteworthy, it avoids having to train every agent to implement important agency growth initiatives they prefer not to do–ask for referrals and form alliances. Just as noteworthy, it keeps the agents focused on what they do best–selling.

Best of all, the strategic alliance approach avoids another tragic flaw of all other referral programs. The strategic alliance approach can be implemented to focus exclusively on the partners Tier 1 clients and avoids referring non-Tier 1 prospects. This is why strategic alliances are the Ultimate Tier 1 client referral system.

, a consultant with Benchmark Consulting Services, Ltd., focuses on providing agency managers with practical solutions for growing their businesses. He can be reached via e-mail at BenchmarkVision@comcast.net


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, May 13, 2002. Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.