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When you've earned a referral, make your case to clients

April 3, 2018

Referrals are an important part of being compensated for your work. How you frame your request for a referral can be a game-changer.

Bart Shachnow

Sales Performance Director

As Sales Performance Director, Bart, with the help of his team, develops and delivers a broad range... About this expert

Broker Tip Asking for Referral

Last year, I wrote an account development tip that addressed the issue of asking for referrals. I made the case that you should ask for referrals whether you win or lose a piece of business.

I’ve gotten a lot of feedback about that article, so I thought I would delve a little deeper into the topic. I’ll offer additional insights here and in future columns.

The fact is, we do a lot of important work for our clients that is not formally compensated. Bringing a prospect or client’s attention to gaps or deficiencies in their risk management or insurance program — whether or not they choose to follow your advice — is important work. Your insights and ideas can help clients avert catastrophic losses to their assets, resources, reputation and/or brand. That’s not an exaggeration. You deserve to be compensated for that vital work.

Whenever I mention that to brokers, the reaction is virtually unanimous agreement; in fact, I have yet to encounter anyone who disagrees. So why don’t brokers consistently ask for a referral? The reasons and rationales abound: “I don’t want to feel pushy,” or “That feels too aggressive” or “The prospect may say ‘no.’”

To that last point, if someone is not willing to give you a referral, that’s fine — move on. (In future tips I’ll address how to pursue the matter further in a professional, courteous manner.)

Brokers also ask me to recommend the best time to ask for a referral.

Given that you deserve to be compensated for your work, I believe whenever you provide value to a prospect or client, or do something that exceeds expectations, you are on especially solid ground in asking for a referral. These situations would include but are not necessarily limited to:

  • Identifying potential gaps or deficiencies in a risk management or insurance program for a prospect
  • Identifying unexpected money-saving opportunities
  • Delivering better-than-expected renewal terms, conditions and/or price
  • Settling a claim faster and on better terms than expected

These types of situations demonstrate value that you should feel comfortable capitalizing on. It might sound like this:

“Chris, as we told you, we had a tough renewal this year. But we delivered results that we both agree are far better than we expected. That’s what you pay us for. Another critical way we get compensated is through referrals to businesses like yours, where we can deliver similar value. One company we’ve been interested in pursuing is one of your vendors, (name of company). Can you make an introduction for us and vouch for our capabilities with their CEO?”

By the way, you’ll notice that I’m very specific about who and what I want in a referral. Although making an open-ended request (“Who do you know who might be interested in what we do?”) can work, a better approach is more targeted, where you have a specific contact in mind. Granted, that may take a little more research on your part, but it can potentially reap bigger dividends.

Given the widespread interest in this topic, I’ll have more to say on it in the coming months. In the meantime, stay in touch!  Email me your comments and questions. I’d love to hear from you.