Q.I need to increase my leads and create better quality leads to improve my closing ratio and productivity.

A. Generating referrals is an excellent way to develop leads.

For some creative approaches, I asked Michael Beck of Exceptional Leadership, an insurance and advisor coach, and David Frey, president of Marketing Best Practices and author of The Small Business Marketing Bible to share their expertise. Frey identified four characteristics that generate a consistent flow of referrals.

Having the ability to create relationships with large groups of people who know what you do Following up consistently and developing “top of mind” awareness in clients and prospects Coordinating a long-term follow-up relationship marketing campaign Differentiating yourself from competitors and other marketing messages

Beck and Frey suggest five ideas to implement:

  1. Recognize people for giving you referrals. There is a difference between thanking and recognizing. Thanking, is a one-to-one exercise, such as a gift or a handshake, while recognizing is a one-to-many exercise. For example, at a client appreciation event, Frey arranged to have his best client arrive in a long white limousine, disembarking in front of 50 people. At the dinner, he asked everyone to applaud him. The result? The client sent over 10 referrals the next month.
  2. “Ping” your network every 20 days. Pinging is casually and quickly greeting people and can be done in a number of ways, such as emailing a newsletter, sending a greeting card or simply calling.
  3. Send a customized greeting card each month. Frey has collected funny and interesting cards that he feels stun, surprise and delight his network. He sends cards based on a schedule. For example, month one: thank-you card; month two: referral card; month three: holiday card and so on. Top insurance sales people also routinely send clients birthday cards.
  4. Build your own network by becoming a “connector” by providing your own referrals. Go to a networking meeting, meet five people and select one to endorse. Then send an endorsement card to the other five. Keep doing it, and you can build a referral network.
  5. Invite your clients to a private client lunch. In the invitation, inform them who is coming and their job titles. Invitees will want to attend when they know who else will be attending. Do this at least once a month, inviting new people as you meet them.

Margie Barrie is a principal at Hagelman Barrie Sales Training Solutions. Responses and questions can be sent to feedback@seniormarketadvisor.com.