Tips for Building a Referral Network in the Current Environment

Referrals can be the bedrock of a renewal-based income. Referrals typically convert to customers at a higher rate, take less time to acquire, and incur lower acquisition costs than most forms of marketing. A robust referral program – built on both professional networking efforts and existing client relations – is often the key to year-over-year success and could very well be the key to increasing sales during a very different 2020 selling season.

Start with a solid foundation. Adopting the attitude that your referral network will only give back what you yourself put into it is the first step successfully growing this arm of your business. Building a strong referral network begins with the premise of forming lasting relationships by providing value. Embracing this principle gives you a great, automatic advantage moving forward because you understand that your success ultimately depends on the ability to create and foster meaningful relationships. If, for example, you head into a networking event asking yourself how many leads it might generate, your efforts are likely to die on the vine. Instead, consider asking yourself questions like “How can my services help these colleagues grow their business?” or “How will networking with these colleagues grant me the ability to better serve my clients by offering them a broader level of expertise?” Ironically, this fundamental shift in philosophy – deferring your best interests by placing the emphasis on the best interests of fellow professionals and clients – leads to a stronger referral network and consequently more sales.

Do your research. Where do you expect to refer the most business over the next six months to a year, and where do you expect to receive the most business over the same period? Answering these questions provides clarity as to which individuals, groups and business sectors to target for your referral efforts. Once you have your list, mine LinkedIn to uncover more information about your prospective partners. General info such as company size, geography, seniority levels, etc. can help you filter your list. But trawling LinkedIn really pays off when you dig down to the granular level and uncover who the organization’s gatekeepers are, their history with the company, personal likes & dislikes, contact information and much more.

A little research goes a long way when it comes to tapping your existing client base too. Start by identifying your top referrers, then analyze the list you come up with and identify commonalities. Do your top referrers share geographic proximity? Do the majority of them share the same product category (ie. Medicare Advantage plans)? What time of the year do they generally refer you? Answering these and other questions can give shape to the internal referral campaign you put together.

Connect. Communicate. Rinse. Repeat. Virtual meetings are all the rage right now for good reason: they work! Invite colleagues to a virtual meeting to discuss a potential partnership in a way that makes clear what’s in it for them. Keep in mind that an invitation to a 15-minute meeting is more likely to be accepted than a request for an hour-long session. In your meeting, express both the tangible and intangible benefits partnering with you provides: increased sales from referrals as well as becoming a more trusted resource by way of knowing where to send clients in need of different services. Following up with timely communication (without being annoying) is often key to closing the deal. Planting “seeds” in the form of emails or LinkedIn messages prior to reaching out by phone can increase the likelihood of the prospective partner answering your call.

For current clients, consider throwing a Client Appreciation Party by hosting a virtual happy hour or bingo game. Doing so communicates that you genuinely care about your customers and keeps you top of mind. At the end of the event, thank participants for attending and for referring friends and family; tell them this makes all the difference for your business. Then, email each attendee a free Medicare Educational Guide branded with your business that they can then pass along to others they feel will benefit from your expertise.

Sending personal letters to colleagues and clients is a great way to follow up and reinforce the value you provide. Potential referral partners who receive a letter from you a few days after attending your event will appreciate you taking the time to thank them and will be reminded of how your services can help grow their business. And right now is a great time to send letters to current clients; communicate that you’re accepting appointments for plan reviews and remind them that receiving a referral is a high compliment. By doing so you are giving equal attention to retaining your current business and growing that business through client-generated referrals.

The current climate of social distancing certainly presents its challenges. However, these challenges can be overcome by reminding ourselves that we’re not only in the insurance business, we’re in the relationship business. And right now we’re all doing what we can to grow and maintain our relationships (both personal and professional) by whatever means we can, no matter how imperfect those means might be. When people understand that relationships are what we value most, everything else – including sales – is sure to follow.

As a National Marketing Organization that works with thousands of independent agents, we understand the importance of generating new leads in order to grow your business. That’s why we work diligently to provide the resources necessary for successful marketing. If this information is valuable and you want to know more about the services we provide our agent partners, please contact us at marketing@berwickinsurance.com or 888-745-2320. Or visit our website berwickinsurance.com.

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