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Margie Barrie, a veteran long-term care insurance (LTCI) agent, marketer and educator, has been writing articles about long-term care (LTC) planning and related issues for years.

See 2 ways to increase LTC product sales and 10 tips on buying leads.

Today, she looks into a question about persuading clients to help bring in other potential clients.

Question: I want to increase the number of client referrals. Right now what I’m doing is not working. What advice can you provide?

Answer: This question is from me. I know I’m doing a good job providing long-term care (LTC) planning solutions for my clients. Yet, when I ask clients to give me referrals, often the reply is that they’re uncomfortable doing that. So my focus this summer is figuring out how to make this part of my practice not just successful, but incredibly successful.

For help, I contacted Bill Cates, president of Referral Coach International and the author of three books on how to acquire more and better clients through referrals.

Working with him, I realized that I needed to take a step back and set the stage for asking. So this column is the first of two parts. This part focuses more on setting the stage; next month’s column will focus on what to say and action ideas.

According to Bill, a recent study indicated that only 20 percent of satisfied clients gave a referral in the preceding 12 months. So if satisfied and loyal clients don’t generally give referrals, who does? The answer is: Engaged Clients give referrals.

Therefore, my first challenge is to develop two new processes to create Engaged Clients:

  1. To create engagement with my new clients as quickly as possible.

  2. To re-engage existing clients. (I admit I’ve done a really bad job with that.)

The next step is to implement what Bill calls his “VIPs” method for asking for referrals. The goal is to strengthen the relationship, thus expanding the opportunity to obtain referrals and introductions.

Here’s his VIPs Method™:

V: Have Value discussions. This includes periodically checking in and asking for feedback. Astudy showed that 72 percent of clients who gave referrals were asked for feedback.

I: Treat the request for referrals with Importance.

P: Get Permission to brainstorm.

S: Suggest names and categories.

Here are some of Bill’s suggestions that I plan to adapt and use:

  • Create an on-boarding process for new clients. I’m calling it “My Client Service Promise.” It will include an initial letter explaining my commitment to excellence and sending a hand-written thank you note when I take an application. I also plan to frequently use the phrase, “Don’t keep me a secret.”

  • Provide a written explanation for both clients and centers of influence about the process I will use to handle referrals. My goal is to ensure that they feel comfortable referring people.

See also: Referral shades of grey: 10 un-commandments of referrals

Here are some of the phrases I will modify and use for selling LTC products and services:

When talking to a potential referral source:

“George, Im glad you see the value in our initial process. With that in mind, I have an important question to ask you.

“Jane, as we work together, I think you’ll agree that we want our communication to be as clear and candid as possible. Agree? (Yes!) So to that end, I’ll be checking in with you like this from time to time — to make sure we are meeting your expectations and everything is on track.”

When talking after an initial meeting with a new prospect, who’s not even a client yet: 

“You know, we’ve covered a number of items here today. What one or two stand out as the most important we’ve discussed?”

When talking to someone who’s decided to become a client: 

“Bob, you’ve made a great decision. This is important work. I’m curious, what tipped the scales for you? What made you decide to move forward?”

See also: 7 proven ways to stimulate referrals without even asking