While all agents know how important referrals are to their production, the most successful agents have developed the art of getting referrals from clients into what seems like an effortless process.
Joseph St. Pedro, president of St. Pedro and Associates, Royersford, Pa., tells his clients right up front how important referrals are to his practice. St. Pedro, an eight-time Court of the Table and a six-time Top of the Table qualifier, has built his business on referrals from the clients with whom he has created relationships.
“At the very first meeting I tell prospects that my work is going to depend a lot on their goodwill, meaning that they are ambassadors of my business,” he says.
St. Pedro explains to new clients that if hes spending time going out looking for more new clients, hes spending less times providing service to them. Therefore, he says that it is always in his clients best interest to send him referrals–giving him more time to manage their accounts.
St. Pedro incorporates this request for referrals right into his presentation. “It keeps me focused on the presentation, and it keeps the client focused, understanding that referrals are part of the process,” he says.
As soon as a prospect writes him a check, St. Pedro moves directly into the referral presentation. “As soon as they write the check, thats the beginning,” he says.
But just asking for referrals isnt enough, he says. St. Pedro continuously markets himself to his client base to maintain his visibility.
“We plant the seed up front in our first meeting, and then we continue to stay in front of them. The referrals just come naturally,” he says.
Kyle Herrman follows a similar model. Herrman, who is director of branch development for Mainstreet Securities, Hays, Kan., stays in front of clients on a regular basis by holding periodic informational sessions with them.
“Its just an informal meeting with 8 to 10 clients to let them know whats going on in the market,” he says. “We tell clients to invite a friend to come and well serve coffee and doughnuts.”
Herrman explains that by holding these informational sessions, hes letting clients know hes on top of whats happening in the market, and hes showing that hes making an effort to keep them informed.
“At the same time, youre showing their friends that you provide ongoing service to existing clients,” he says.
St. Pedro takes this approach a step further, by treating a number of his top clients to a client appreciation night, where he will rent out a hall or a restaurant to take them all out to dinner. “We dont talk about product, we just tell them we appreciate them coming,” he says.
St. Pedro contends that even weeks after this type of event, he continues to receive calls from clients who know people that would benefit from his services. “Clients ask me Would you mind if this person gave you a call?” he says.
But holding this type of event can be extremely expensive, and quite out of range for a young agent building a client base. St. Pedro says the key is to maintain your visibility, and he explains that there are some inexpensive ways to do this.
“If clients think of you on a regular basis, theyre going to send you referrals,” he says.
One way St. Pedro does this is by subscribing to a service that will fax a one-page summary of the Wall Street Journal to a list of his clients. The fax has his name and logo at the top of the page. “This only costs 80 cents a week per client. I send it to 55 of my top clients,” he says.
He notes that for many of his clients, this is the first thing they see in the morning.
“I want them to be thinking two things: one, they dont want to move their business; and two, when they hear that someone needs planning, they think of me,” he says.
St. Pedro compares this expense to taking a client out to breakfast, which would cost about $10 for one meeting. “For 80 cents, youre in front of that client all week,” he says.
Guy Baker, managing director of BMI Consulting, Newport Beach, Calif., uses a technique he calls “Reverse Referrals.” Baker first determines who he would like to have as a client, based on his criteria, and develops relationships with those people who are trusted by the prospect.
“I identify who I want to meet, and develop relationships with people they trust, so they can refer me in,” he says.
“This speeds up the process significantly,” he explains. “I dont have to go through the trust-building process the same way I would if I had cold-called them, or met them through a seminar,” he says.
“If I go into a meeting with a business owner by going through the human resources person,” he explains, “theres a certain level of trust there, but its not the same as going in through the chairman of the board.”
Since Baker focuses on marketing to the closely held business owner, he says he has had success getting referrals through other trusted professional advisors. “A CPA firm, a law firm, a P&C firm, or even an investment advisor,” he explains. “Ive created alliances with a lot of firms and they introduce me to their top clients.”
Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, May 27 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.