The secret to a successful referral system

coffee-meetingI started in insurance about 9 years ago working with a very successful insurance carrier. When we met our goal of being in the top 2% in the nation, I thought I would feel more financially and emotionally accomplished. They didn’t measure success the same way I did – I wanted to genuinely help people and have more control of my financial future.

In January of 2012 I started my own agency from scratch in the worst possible market for insurance in 60 years. I knew we would have an uphill battle getting off the ground. I began going to a program taught by Mike Crandall and it completely changed my outlook on sales. I realized I could be the best salesperson in the world, but it’s not going to do me any good if there’s no one in front of me to talk to.

I developed a plan to grow my business through one-on-one networking. Over the course of about five months, I met with three new potential referral partners a week for coffee. During those 20 weeks, I had met with about 60 people. Here’s how I did it:

  1. I reached out to industry connections, attended networking events, and found people on LinkedIn.
  2. Then I would call the potential partner and vet them out, get a feel for their business and try to determine if the relationship has potential
  3. We would meet for coffee. I opt for coffee meetings instead of lunch because it’s very purposeful. You can get more covered in a one hour coffee meeting than a two hour lunch.
  4. Have a schedule for the meeting and set a time limit of one hour. The objective is to get to know each other and determine if there’s any reason to send each other business or not. Consider the referral partner’s customer buying cycle. For example, if I met with a commercial lender, I know the lender is going to see my potential client before I will. So, I’d consider who the lender needs to know before they can acquire their client, which would typically be a commercial realtor.
  5. I would then meet with commercial realtors, not just because they can send me business, but it would also help my commercial lender’s business. If the lender and the realtor can have a valuable relationship, then it would add value to the relationship I have with both of them. Instead of me sending the commercial lender one or two clients, I’d rather connect them with someone who can send them a flood of clients.
  6. Provide value to your referral partner within 3 days. Otherwise, it will never work. Ideally, within a week I want to send them 3 leads and of those 3 leads I want them to close one of them. I know that if they close one of those 3 leads they’re going to feel really good about the relationship.
  7. Evaluate the relationship after 30 days and determine if it has legs or if we should go our separate ways.

Through this process, I found that a third of everyone I met with would typically work out. In our first year of business, I signed more clients than any year prior to becoming an independent agent. In the second year, we tripled our business. This year, we’re on track to double the previous year.

Nine years ago when I first started, I thought if I got 4 or 5 referrals a month, I’d have it made. Today, we get at least one referral a day. Those deals don’t always work out, but our close is about 55 percent in an industry with an average close rate of 15 percent.

I encourage you to launch your own referral network and really focus on that area of your business for a few months. The effects of that hard work will help take your business to new heights.

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