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Odds are that from the day you started out in this business, you heard the adage “this business is built on referrals.” Referrals may be your best source for new clients, but how do you get more high-quality referrals than your existing clients can provide?

The best way to gain additional high-quality referrals is to form “host-beneficiary” relationships. The “host” is an entity or professional who has clients that you desire. You need to show the host why it is in his or her best interest to refer clients to you. You then become “the beneficiary.”

The benefits of building these types of relationships include:

Prospects will be “warm” since someone whom they trust will have recommended you. They already know about you, your service and how you are paid.

? Once you establish these relationships, it doesnt take much time to maintain them. Therefore you can focus your efforts on meeting with prospects and clients, instead of on the phone begging for appointments.

Strategic Alliances. The most common type of host-beneficiary relationship would be strategic alliances that you develop with other professionals, such as accountants or lawyers who serve the type of clients you want to target. Your goal should be to develop a network that will refer business to you, and you will reciprocate by sending your clients to other members of your strategic alliance. But to successfully do this, you need to start thinking “outside the box.”

For example, life agents long ago started calling on property-casualty agents, as p-c agents make the perfect hosts. In return, the life agent can provide referrals or compensation (depending on state law).

Perhaps your specialty is money management. In this case, you need to work with professionals who see money in transition and can send you clients. This is money that has just been acquired and needs to be invested. It could come from a business sale, lawsuit, divorce, property sale, lottery wining or death benefit.

Sources who would know about this money in transition go beyond the obvious attorneys and accountants. Additional sources include real estate brokers, business brokers and funeral directors. How many relationships do you have with these types of professionals? In each case, you can refer business to them or compensate them if state laws allow it.

To Receive, Give First. Call the professionals you want to meet. Tell them that you have clients who you think may be able to use their services. Offer to take them to lunch. What professional would turn you down? At lunch, find out about them, their practices and what types of clients they want. Position yourself as a resource for those types of clients. You must establish your value to this professional as a means of building his practice. Offer them referrals first, as a show of good faith.

You can also discuss mutual marketing techniques that can help you both build your practices. Attempt to leave the lunch with a joint marketing commitment, such as mailing to each others client lists a jointly presented seminar, or a mention in each others newsletters.

Another good way to find professionals to align yourself with is to ask your family and existing clients. Your top clients likely work with accountants or lawyers with whom you may be able to partner. An introduction from a mutual client serves to give you instant credibility with these potential partners.

Creative Possibilities. A little creativity can go a long way in your search for good “hosts.” I knew one long term care insurance producer who contacted the local hospitals senior services coordinator. As you may know, hospitals have very active departments for courting the seniors in the local area. Some of the services they provide may include free blood tests, cholesterol screening and exercise classes.

This agent offered to teach a monthly class on long term care insurance. The hospital viewed his classes as an added service they could offer the seniors.

Each class he taught introduced him to the attendees and established him as a trusted expert. He spends the days after each class meeting with seniors in an office that the hospital provides and writing applications for LTC insurance. He found the perfect host and now hes a wealthy beneficiary.

This approach was so successful that this is now his sole marketing method. He travels his state giving classes on long term care insurance and then writing policies after class. He is a top LTC producer in the United States.

Other creative possibilities could include:

Local professional associations. You can join the local realtors association as an associate member. Develop relationships and let them know you are seeking, for example, senior clients who are trading down and will have a large sum of cash to invest. Or young families with income over $100,000 and three children, for a significant life insurance sale.

What about people who sell office furniture? Do you think they can introduce you to business owners with expanding businesses who might need insurance, estate planning and investment advice?

If college funding is your thing, do you think teachers might be a good source of referrals to parents? Virtually every county has one or two teacher associations you can probably join.

It takes some creative thinking to establish good host-beneficiary relationships, but once in place, most take little maintenance. By offering a winning solution to a complementary professional seeking to grow his or her business (or seeking extra income), you can effectively create a stream of additional business for yourself.

, CPA, CSA, RIA, MBA, is president of NF Communications, a Walnut Creek, Calif., firm producing marketing systems for financial sales professionals. His e-mail is lklein@nfcom.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, May 19, 2003. Copyright 2003 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.