There are many so-called “experts” who tell us the best ways to prospect. Most talk about tactics: build a script, pick up the phone, be ready to get past the gatekeeper, overcome objections. The truth, however, is that these tactics are artificial, see-through and presumptuous. They don’t give credit to the prospect, and they undermine you. In fact, the “tactic” approach gives salespeople, especially insurance salespeople, a bad reputation.
Connect the dots
So, why is there so little discipline regarding how to prospect? Perhaps because prospecting encompasses such a wide range of activities, including cold calling, advertising, direct mail and email campaigns, web strategies, networking activities and referrals.
Smart agents realize that successful prospecting requires a strategic approach to ensure client acquisition and retention. They develop a prospecting strategy that drives their sales strategy. The two are not separate. They are tightly integrated into the sales process.
Harness the power of referrals
By now, you know the power of a referral strategy. You’ve read books and articles, listened to podcasts and attended webinars. When you receive a qualified referral, you receive an introduction to the person you want to meet and who wants to meet you.
Most agents agree that they convert that prospect to a client 50 percent of the time, often even 80–90 percent of the time. There are no “hard costs” to referrals — just your time and referrals budget. Best of all, finding ways to make referrals happen consistently dramatically boosts your production.
3 essential components to referral success
Achieving referral success means adopting referral selling as a strategic initiative for your company with a disciplined, systematic, measurable process. It includes three essential components:
1. Sales strategy development
- Ensure your sales and marketing strategies are integrated.
- Map your sales process: Outline your client-facing steps, as well as the critical action steps between client meetings.
- Set production and client goals: How many new clients do you need to meet your production goals?
- Establish benchmarks for recognizing and rewarding referral activities: Determine the referral activities that drive results.
- Outline reinforcement activities: Assign an “accountability partner” and identify coaching opportunities.
- Set company and individual referral goals: weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually.
- Ask yourself: How will I know this initiative will be successful? What is the return on investment?
2. Skill building
Shifting to referral selling is a behavior change. It doesn’t happen with the flip of a switch (although we wish it would). To learn any new skill, you need to focus, study and practice. Fortunately, referral selling doesn’t take a long time to master — but you must work it every single day.
- Differentiate your business from the competition: Ask yourself: “Why would a client work with me? What do I offer that is different from every other agent out there?” Create several stories about the results clients achieve by working with you.
- Identify your “Ideal Client:” You gain power by focusing on a specific niche, demographic or product. You become the expert, and people only want to work with the expert. Don’t dilute your message. Stick to what you do well.
- Identify multiple sources of referrals: Your current clients are your best source of new business, and they’re also the most under-leveraged. They’re glad to help, but you must ask.
- Learn and practice a proven process to ask for your referral introduction. It’s never, “If you know people who could benefit from my services, please let them know.” That gets you nowhere. It’s much better to ask: “Who are one or two people in your network that I should know?”
Working a process consistently is always the biggest challenge. You’ve set your strategy, and built and practiced new skills. If you don’t put your new behaviors into practice right away and continue to implement your strategy, you’ve wasted your time. Here’s what you need to do:
- Integrate referral selling into your sales process, so that referral selling becomes the way you work. Asking for referrals should be a daily activity.
- Set your weekly and monthly referral goals. Decide who you will contact each and every week. Make the call and set the meeting.
- Coach referral skills and behaviors. If you are a sole practitioner, find an accountability partner and meet in person or virtually at least every two weeks.
- Record and celebrate your success!
The bottom line: Adopt referral selling as your strategic initiative. Consider your business goals. No hoping, no wishing, no begging — just a straightforward, easy-to-use, referral-selling plan that will catapult you over every other insurance salesperson out there.
Go for it!