Most producers get referrals by asking their clients for the names of any acquaintances who may need their services. But when the producer calls the acquaintances, they don’t know who he is, they don’t know what he does, they don’t know why he is calling, and they don’t know how he got their names.

If the producer follows the process I describe below, the referral will be expecting his call and will know who he is.

Step 1: The personal introduction. The producer should prepare an endorsement letter about himself, which the client will send to the referral. This letter basically says, “I’m working with Larry, and he’s done a great job for me. I think it would be worth your while to meet him.” At the bottom of the letter, the producers should add a sentence, “If you don’t want me to give your name to Larry, let me know.” This gives the prospect the opportunity to opt out. The producer does not want to waste his time on people who aren’t interested in what he has to offer.

The producer should prepare these letters before the business development meeting so that the client can sign them. With the client’s permission, the producer then can print envelopes for the letters, adding the client’s return address. When the note arrives at the referral’s home, it appears to have been sent from the client’s home.

Step 2: Drip marketing. Now that the producer has been introduced, he must build the prospect’s trust to improve the odds that he will get the prospect’s business. I usually make two additional mail contacts before attempting to call for an appointment.

A few weeks after the initial introduction, the producer should follow up with another passive form of contact. He might send a copy of his newsletter or a booklet the prospect might find useful. The producer might attach a personal note or Post-It.

The third contact should be a personal letter from the producer. This is where the producer introduces himself and describes what he does. This letter should mention, “I got your name from so-and-so. If you have any questions about me, fell free to call so-and-so before I call you next week.”

Step 3: The telephone call. The producer should follow up with a telephone call the next week, as promised. This call is to set an appointment.

Yes, it really can be this simple to increase the number of referrals that the producer converts into clients. The secret is to use a systematic approach to obtain and process referrals.

Editor’s Note: The preceding is an excerpt from “Developing Referral Systems That Work” by Larry Klein, CPA, CSA, an article that originally ran in the July 2004 issue of Life Insurance Selling. To read the full story, click here.

To read last week’s Words from the Wise, click here.

For more advice about referrals, see:

Turn lunch into great referrals

The secret to asking for referrals more frequently

7 proven ways to get referrals without asking