Referrals are no longer just names with contact data provided to agents and client service reps. Today, they are intertwined with social media likes, recommendations and reviews. These online affirmations reverse the traditional referral flow by suggesting you to the prospect – instead of the prospect to you. This confluence of old school referrals and digital recommendations results in an interesting new normal. Therefore for the purposes of this column, “referrals” means both endorsed leads and online tributes.
Selling insurance for a living doesn’t automatically mean that you are entitled to a steady flow of referrals from your insureds. Providing a well-written policy comes with its own rewards: the satisfaction of doing a good job and a commission. Referrals are something beyond that; they’re potential “tips” without the monetary handoff. They’re also something you must earn.
Below are six ideas to help you gain more referrals and to maximize their utility.
Align Format and Delivery.Referrals encompass many forms and formats. The outbound variety can be produced by satisfied insureds and presented to potential buyers verbally via a phone call, video chat, or an audio or video recording. They can also be authored and displayed in writing on paper, via email, PDF and other digital formats – including comments and recommendations on social media. To maximize the impact of testimonials, align the format and mode of delivery to your prospect, based on their preferences.
Display Trustworthiness. Online recommendations from actual clients are influential, particularly to active shoppers, and it’s why they are so desirable. But they must also be authentic. Entreating buyers to post favorable reviews and offering modest rewards in exchange for positive comments is common across multiple industries – but it also adds a question mark to their trustworthiness. Be careful to never cross the line with your agency’s online testimonials.
Offer Basic Assurances. Don’t expect people to provide you with names of friends, family, neighbors, and business associates without some reasonable assurances from you. For instance, promise to use their name only with their permission when you contact a referred individual or firm – and pledge never to expose any confidential information about them or their policies.
Use with Care. Traditional referrals encompass a small, curated group of consumer or business leads. In contrast testimonial-style referrals, regardless of format, have a virtually unlimited audience, as they can be posted online, displayed in ads, shown during sales appointments, etc. To obtain such public tributes, assure their authors that you’ll use them judiciously and only as intended. For instance, don’t include them in your advertising without proper authorization, if they weren’t originally provided for that purpose.
Also reassure your client that you’ll promptly delete their recommendation, if requested to do so, from any locations under your control.
Consider Inducements. Small dollar gift cards and drawings for big-ticket items offered in exchange for suggested leads are common incentives (subject to insurance department regulations).
Use them prudently as you don’t want to look like you are buying endorsements from your own insureds.
Say Thank You. Today, when so many people feel entitled, a sincere thank you is rare, particularly in the harsh world of business. The most heartfelt way to say thanks for a referral is with a personal call, visit or handwritten note. Still in this digital age, a thoughtful text or email may suffice, depending on the recipient and the content of your message.
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