In our annual Advisor Survey, when we ask producers what keeps them up at night, overwhelmingly, the number one response is lead generation. Well, fret no more. Over the next several pages, we’ve provided you with 50 of the best ways to generate leads. As you tackle 2012, make this your year for generating leads and use this list as a launching point. Have a great year on the sales trail.
1) Ask the client. Once you have completed your interview, ask your client if they have any questions. Take care of any concerns. Write down one through 10 on a blank sheet of paper. Most clients will ask why you are doing this. Ask the client to take out their cellphone. Ask your client to give you the names and phone numbers of 10 friends or loved ones. Some give five, however, most give 10. Call each prospect and use the referral approach—it works every time! -Darrell B. Lusane
2) Show and Tell. I have been selling annuities in the senior market for many years. Right now interest rates and caps are much lower than they have been. To generate more leads and sales I go back to my clients and show them what can be accomplished for someone between the ages of 25 and 45 by using Indexed Universal Life to provide protection for the family, while building cash value that easily exceeds the growth of either a Traditional or Roth IRA. I demonstrate using a $5,000 annual premium. When they see the results, my clients are eager to refer me to their adult children. The children then refer me to their friends, which gives me plenty of eager people to see. -Mel Katz
3) Provide the best service that you possibly can and go above and beyond to help them achieve their goals. -Vincent J. Paone
4) Referrals are key. I tell prospects in the beginning of the first interview (always two interviews for sales) how I get paid and one of the ways is referrals. They must agree for us to continue. -Jim Manna CLU, ChFC
5) The SEO Expert. I’ve been in the insurance business for five years now, so I’m over the hump—I’m going to make it in this industry. The first two to three years were tough because like most new agents I struggled with finding qualified prospects. During my third year in business I started my own agency so I could create my own website to generate leads. Since creating my own website (that includes a blog, and useful information, along with a quote engine) I’ve never looked for leads again. My pipeline is full of individuals that are actually looking for the insurance products I sell. However, you can’t create a good website alone, you must have help from an search engine optimization (SEO) expert. My SEO expert gave me pointers on creating a good website that would rank high with Google, Yahoo and Bing. -Bret Ha
6) Community involvement. It has been my experience to get involved in the community. I joined the area chamber of commerce. After 12 years of membership, board involvement, committee leadership and overall community involvement, people know my name. When I contact them my involvement with the chamber gets me through the gatekeeper. Sometimes the person I am trying to reach knows my name just from the various publications they receive from the chamber. The key is to actually get involved. Just being a member and not being active doesn’t do anything. You do have to get involved. -Scott Fishkin
7) The family town hall meeting. It is a process where I get to meet the children and family of my senior clients, who generally want their children to be made aware of the financial plans they have in place, but do not know how to introduce the conversation. The children, on the other hand, do not want to seem like they are prying or being nosy. So this process allows me to meet family members that I would not otherwise get to know until a family death or catastrophe occurs—then it is a very uncomfortable time for both sides, having to deal with strangers that have never met. -Carmine Pardi
8) I started my own lunch group. We meet monthly, one person per profession. -Jon Postyn
9) Empower your clients. Create a culture of referring within your book of business by empowering your clients. Show them that you respect their opinion and would like their advice. Use a simple referral generation script (something proven to work by numerous other top advisors) to lower clients’ defenses and help them easily identify who would be ideal prospect(s) for your firm. Use a script that can easily be adapted for existing clients from any background, and with just a few repetitions under your belt, you’ll find that instead of being a dreaded, awkward activity you avoid, asking for a referral is actually as simple as paying your current clients a genuine compliment. Here’s an opening line I’d suggest you run with: "(Client), I’ve been thinking about something for a while, and could really use your advice." -Matthew J Neuman
Your 2012 Lead Generation To-Do List
Though every agency has time and budget constraints, you can make the most of your marketing and lead generation efforts with this simple to-do list. Make sure the following are true:
10) Your website is updated and current (with SEO best practices).
11) Your agency value proposition is clearly displayed.
12) You have a prominent call to action (above the fold) on your agency website.
13) You have a professional and consistent e-marketing program.
14) You have a quality prospect list with timelines.
15) Your agency makes more than 500 outbound calls per producer per month to targeted prospects.
16) You have a social media initiative in place.
17) You’ve rehearsed your elevator, telephone and voice mail pitch.
18) You have an efficient (and documented) lead-handling process.
19) Your e-collateral is branded and updated.
20) Check off the items in this list for a simple marketing plan that’s bound to increase your book of business in 2012.
Alan Blume is founder and CEO of StartUpSelling Inc.
21) No Cold Calling. The top lead generation strategy, hands down, is referrals. A referral means you receive an introduction. The introduction could be from a current client or from anyone in your trusted network. When you receive a referral, the prospect wants to meet with you, you have earned immediate trust and credibility, your sales process is shortened, they only talk to you (no competition), and you convert that sales prospect to a new client more than 50 percent of the time. (Most advisors say more than 70 percent.) No other sales or marketing strategy comes close to these results. -Joanne Black
22) Use the three I’s for follow-up and follow-through: Invitations, information, introductions. Also, understand what makes you different and be prepared to demonstrate "improvements." -Adrian Miller
23) Utilize LinkedIn Groups. Join groups in your local area and start participating in the conversations. This will create brand exposure for you while positioning yourself as the financial expert in your community. Comment on posts, create conversations, share articles and blogs. Whenever you write a new blog share it with your LinkedIn groups. If you are connected to 10 groups locally, each of which have 1,000 members, that’s 10,000 people that can potentially see your blog and link back to your site to read the full copy. -Amy McIlwain
24) Always ask about family members and church. -Hanne Bull
25) It’s Free. 1. Put a compelling offer, such as a free white paper, analysis or tool, on your website. Require the user to complete a short form before downloading. 2. Drip market to your leads by e-mailing a tip of the month. Supplement with a quarterly printed piece such as a customized magazine through tailormademag.com. 3. Optimize your website for key search terms, and publish online articles that link back to your site. -Heather Sloan
26) I Like using orphan accounts. Why? Because too many agents are not in it for the long haul—they’re just looking for a quick dollar or a way to validate their debts. Next, I like to keep in touch with my current clients by sending them cards and letters on different topics like long-term care or IRA planning, plus a telephone call from time to time. -Wayne Cunningham
27) Get recognized as an expert by reporters. Send clients links to media coverage. Figure out which organizations your best clients belong to and join them. That’s where you’ll find your best prospects. -Judith Alexander
Improve your lead generation process
Lead optimization is critical to your survival. So, how can you build a process that works for you? Lead generation has traditionally been a function of a marketing department and is often done in a silo with little input from sales. This doesn’t mean that the sales department has no role in the process. If salespeople get involved in defining the lead-generation process, it actually makes it easier to streamline and optimize the lead-management strategies. Below is a possible framework to consider:
28) Mutually define a "qualified lead." By mutually agreeing on the definition of a lead, sales will be getting the leads they want and the marketing organization can laser focus their lead-generation activities. If you don’t have a good lead definition, the sales teams will continue to self-select prospects and any demand-generation programs in place will have diluted results. The other benefit is that the sales organization will have no excuse for not acting promptly when leads are generated, as they have agreed on the qualification process.
29) Communicate. Sales and marketing core teams should meet a minimum of once a month to discuss the effectiveness of the lead-generation program. By determining which lead areas are providing the highest results, the marketing team can adjust their focus even further. This forum also allows for open dialogue between the teams to continue fostering the alignment lacking in most firms. After all, both organizations have the same goal, and it helps to feel like you are a united team. This meeting can also be used to discuss upcoming campaigns, programs and messaging calendars.
30) Sales execution: Time helps no sale! When provided a lead through the lead-generation function, the sales team must act immediately. Letting a lead languish for a few days or weeks is the quickest way to lose a good prospect. If sales ultimately determines that a prospect is not fully qualified, they should not abandon the prospect. A best practice is to return that prospect to the lead-generation process for continued nurturing and provide feedback on why it was not fully qualified.
31) Share successes. When a company is consistently making their sales numbers, both the sales and marketing teams should be jointly recognized. It was a team effort after all, with several individuals contributing. To further align these teams, consider building compensation plans for all participants that reward all contributors based on the sales success attained. Money is motivation, so build plans that drive the behavior you are seeking.
Remember: Lead-generation optimization is a must-have for 2012. If you don’t have a formal lead-generation program, start one today. If you have a program, build a process to make it better. Your firm’s survival may depend on it.
Dan Hudson is co-founder and president of 3forward.
32) Personal contact. Broach a conversation with everyone you come in contact with, in a non-invasive sort of way. Ask questions...and listen, listen very carefully. You can always find something to start a conversation about—their children, the price of...? How long have they...? What kind of work do they do? Are they doing what they always dreamed of? Smile, keep an open body stance, and be interested. -Don Aronowitz
33) Client appreciation event. I invite several of my current clients to an evening get-together. I send invitations and follow up with a phone call. The event is social with the focus on having some fun and enjoying some food. I allow each client to invite one or two of their friends. I tie in a community focus by asking everyone to bring some canned goods that we will donate to the local food bank. I target a group of 20 to 30 individuals. When I do my holiday event (early December) we have a white elephant gift exchange. It provides both tangible and intangible benefits. A tangible benefit is someone remembering that they had some business they needed to discuss with me as well as the referral aspect. The intangible benefit is the event helps me solidify my relationships with my existing clients. And as we all know, my clients are another advisor’s target. -Bruce Campbell
34) We do a lot of direct mail to target markets. -John Crawford
35) Trusted advisor. Since I have built my reputation as a trusted advisor, I go to my client rolodex and send a customized card to all of them, asking for referrals (family, friends, neighbors or work colleagues, which are all pre-qualified by our client). By doing this my manager and I have been able to generate five to seven additional hot leads per month. Our clients are our best business partners as they do the hard work of getting us the best quality hot leads. And the cost is minimal in sending the cards, and the ROI is very good. -Alejandro Chetto
36) Build customer confidence. We use Facebook, Twitter and a blog to build customer confidence by giving them free information that they can use and need. Once they see us as a trusted source, they raise their hands for service or to purchase a product. -Duaine Owings
37) Email, email, email. Do it often. Do it systematically. Email prospects. Email clients. Email centers of influence. Email anyone you can get an email address for. It’s cheap, everyone has email, and it is easy to generate engaging content. Become a local news source using email to provide content to local news outlets. Combine email with an interactive website and you’ve struck gold. The possibilities are endless! -Stephen R. Vachon
38) The social media value. A dedication to "inbound" marketing and the utilization of social media—blogs, Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, etc., combined with SEO—generates a constant flow of self-qualifying leads. By building trust and adding value with these tools, we have created a flow of qualified prospects who knock on our door. This is an efficient and cost-effective methodology for generating leads. Keep in mind, success requires a consistent and a focused out-reach.The general public, the insurance and benefits marketplace and seniors utilize the Internet to gain knowledge about plans, programs and services—as well as the providers—before calling an agent broker, or insurance company. Once empowered with information, they will seek you out! -Philip Eide
39) Client trust. In my opinion, it all starts and ends with being referable. Getting a client is easy. Being the person your client trusts and is ready to enthusiastically hand out your business materials to everyone they know—that is the least expensive and highest-result marketing a producer can use. -Mark Valentich
40) Don’t forget your clients. Ask for qualified referrals from existing clients. -Ron L. Stahl
41) The written letter. Referrals are the best leads, but if you wait until the end of the sale to let the prospect know you expect referrals, you are dead in the water. A referral with a sincere, written introduction is best. At the start of the process, I show my prospects testimonial letters from previous clients and copies of letters of introduction they have written. I tell the prospect, "If I do the same for you as I did for those clients and if you are very happy with the product and my services as they were, I expect you to do the same as they did, fair enough?" By the end of the sale process, when I deliver the policy in their hands, I say "Mr. Client, I am so pleased that you are enjoying your new (life insurance, medicare supplement, whatever). That means, you are now as happy as my previous clients were. Can you now put me in touch with some of the people you know—relatives, friends or people at work for example —who would appreciate the same good experience that you are having?" -Oscar Rodrigues
42) Ask everybody you see. -Jodi Bishop
43) Lunch-n-learn. One of my best ways to generate leads are "lunch-n-learn" financial workshops for employees at local companies. At the close of the classes, many of the employees ask for my help with their 401(k)s, 403(b)s, 457 plans, and their personal brokerage accounts. -James R. Veal
44) Networking groups. I am a member of BNI and received a lot of referrals for there. I also follow up with referrals from referrals. -Michael C. McNamara
45) Existing clients. The best leads I generate are from my existing clients. Each year I contact them by phone three to four times and mail out an information letter every quarter covering estate planning topics that generates phone calls, questions and referrals. -Edward M. Ramias
46) A great choice. At policy delivery, take the time to tell the client they made a great choice—a great decision to protect their funds and loved ones. Tell them they should be proud of making this happen. Also let them know that so many people overlook this opportunity. Many people just sit and wait, not knowing where to turn. If they know of anyone that could benefit from this type of product as well, you would love to help them and they (your client) can feel good about helping others. -Joseph A. Jacobs
47) Rollovers. If you have done rollovers, ask your satisfied clients if they know former co-workers who will be retiring soon. They are normally pleased to help out. -Bob Armstrong
48) I always go back to the well. I make "just checking in" calls to my client base. It is a casual call. However, during that call I am gathering information, such as retirement plans, what other coverages they have and with whom. Any term [policies] terming out? Under performing UL? Adult children or parents that may need coverage? I also jot notes on copies I get of service letters, annual reports, etc... The biggest problem with this strategy is that after making these calls, I tend to get too busy and have to stop calling for a bit to catch up. -Lee Martinez
49) Saturday morning golf. During the summer months, if you golf, don’t be afraid to schedule yourself a tee time around 9 a.m. for one, then get paired up with a couple or maybe three other guys. It’s an opportunity to meet two to three new prospects per week and you already have one thing in common. At the end of the four hours I’m sure you’ll know if you’re going to do business—and if not, you enjoyed a round of golf! -William Voyles
50) I work the qualified plans market. It is a great way to get an annuitized income; however, it is also a tremendous way to get add-on sales through rollovers and additional business. Once you have a client in this way, they can’t help but make referrals, since they are totally convinced of your overall value. -Stephan Slota