Focus on Getting Introductions, Not Referrals

We hate to be sold and it’s rampant. Think about when you go to a car lot and the salesman comes up to you and asks if he can help you. What do you say? “I’m just looking.” Because you don’t want to be bothered. Same if you’re shopping for jeans and your wife is out of town. You have no idea what kind to get or what looks good on you, but when the retail associate comes up to you and offers to help, what do you do? Say you’re “just looking,” even though she knows more about jeans than you could ever imagine. You don’t want to be sold, so instead, you’ll stare at the wall of jeans for who knows how long.

Too many of us focus on referrals. Referrals have a negative connotation in our society—it’s a sales word and no one wants to be “sold.” It’s bad for the producer; it’s bad for the client. Nobody wants to do it! Nobody wants to ask for referrals and no one wants to give referrals because it implies a sale will be made. Agents know clients don’t want to do it and clients know they don’t want to give it.

The idea of getting a referral is hard because even if you do break through all those walls and anxiety surrounding the whole referral process, then all you really have is a forced cold call, and no one really wants to be a part of that process.

So how can you grow your business? Get introductions instead.”

Make your branding part of it, because it’s where prospects get introduced to you and your business. I work with an agent in a small rural town on the east coast who’s everywhere! His face is on the coffee mugs at the local diner, so people are introduced to him through that, so when he has a seminar, or gets an introduction, most likely they already know him or recognize his face.

The key is to get introductions in a way that’s socially acceptable. If you can establish you have fun events that don’t have a “salesy” feel to them, you can meet a lot of people and then use your traditional methods of selling, whether it be seminars, direct mail or social media to get them in the system, taking them from prospect to client. Make sure it’s apparent no appointments will be requested at your events. Why? Because now it’s just a party and people will want to come. Your clients will end up “selling” you because their friends are going to be asking who’s this person? Why are we here? What’s he done for you? In this type of situation, they’re more comfortable talking about what their agent did for them because it’s not forced—it’s natural.

Here are a few easy-to-navigate ways to get introductions:

Birthday Celebrations

Everyone has a birthday, and this is something you can do for your best clients.

Go through the spouse to get the guest information you need. Tell her you’d really like to take her husband and six of his friends out for a surprise birthday dinner. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just enough to show appreciation. Your office either makes calls or sends formal invitations.

What’s key? Having no presentation at all at the event. If fact, you are adamant about NOT asking for appointments. When you talk to the friends that night, make it about your client and how for his birthday, he wanted the six of them here to celebrate with him. Your only responsibilities are greeting everyone and ensuring they’re all having a good time.

At the end of the dinner, you say some nice words about your client and his friends are going to be asking, “Who is this guy? We’re all friends here. It’s his insurance agent? Oh, so we’re all here for a presentation?” You respond by pretending you’re going to have a big speech, but then you make it all about your client—how he’s been a great client of yours and become a great friend and any friend of his is a friend of yours—shower the friends with praise. You’re the ones he wanted to spend his birthday with, I’m just glad to be a part of it and I wanted to give back to someone who has been very important to me and my business over the years. Thank them and they’ll be left pondering who you are and what exactly you’ve done for your client.

What have you just done? You’ve created conversation about yourself without forcing it—it comes naturally because his friends are asking him details about you. Once the event is over, write handwritten thank-you notes with your contact information included and a simple note stating if they ever need anything on the financial side, to certainly contact you. Then, you can put them into your already-established sales engines.

Make Introductions Part of Your Process

When you’re onboarding a client, tell them what you expect from them and what they can expect of you as their insurance or financial professional. The seed is planted, so when you invite them to an event later in the year, it’s not sprung on them.

It doesn’t make sense to talk with clients only once a year. What kind of relationship is that? But you know they’re busy and you’re busy too, so meeting every month doesn’t make sense either. Tell them you want to meet, but that it may not always be a one-on-one meeting. Instead, tell them they’ll be receiving invitations a few times a year to client-appreciation events and as your client, you expect them to come to two or three a year. Think wine tasting, bowling, bocce, anything interactive and fun. Reiterate you won’t ask for appointments or even talk about business—unless you want to because something has changed in your life. These events give you a chance to meet new people and to get your name out there.

Focus Groups

Tell your clients as you bring them on and get to know them, part of what you like to do is get feedback on how their experience went. Mention how you conduct numerous presentations and participate in speaking engagements and you want feedback to make sure you’re talking about what’s important. But for you to do that you need them, as your client, to come and be part of this focus group you host on the third Thursday of every month at a private room in a nice restaurant. For their participation, you’ll serve dinner after, with a total of about 10 clients.

Additionally, ask them if they wouldn’t mind, you’d like to open up my focus groups to people who haven’t been a client before. This way, you get a fresh perspective from those currently working with you and a new perspective from those who have never met you. Promise them it isn’t a sales seminar and you won’t be asking for appointments. The focus group is a low-key, no-pressure environment with good conversation.

You come prepared with articles and topics relating to retirement income planning and or current economic statuses and by the end of your presentation, your clients are talking about how you’ve helped them and their friends are thinking, “Wow, this guy knows what he’s talking about—I need to go see him.”

Women-Focused: Get Pampered

Hold this event once a month at a time that makes the most sense for your female clientele. Find a nail salon close to a restaurant where you can have desserts, drinks and coffee beforehand. Offer yourself up as a women’s resource. Invite female clients to discuss different scenarios that are relatable to them, such as what to do when a spouse dies, Social Security, anything helpful to them.

To qualify for their free manicure and pedicure, they need to first, attend to absorb the important information and second, bring a friend or two with them. After the casual gathering, you send them next door to relax, be pampered and pay for everything. The day a Kansas City producer held this event, it happened to snow six inches. Guess how many attendees he had? All 12 who had RSVPed showed up.

In closing, remember to focus on getting introductions, not referrals. Introductions are more natural and clients are more inclined to participate because it doesn’t feel awkward or bothersome.

For more client-appreciation event ideas that work toward getting you introductions to help grow your business, contact your CreativeOne sales team at 800.992.2642.


Financial Professionals are responsible for compliance with insurance advertising, marketing and lead generation regulations, which vary from state to state.  As in the case with any marketing program, securities licensed producers are responsible for obtaining approval from their broker dealer or RIA before implementing a marketing program. Various state insurance regulations, as well as other state regulators prohibit the “gifting” of items, which may include entertainment expenses, by financial professional in excess of a certain dollar value.  Be sure to check with your state’s requirements and/or your firm to ensure that you are complying with your specific state’s requirements and guidelines.

One Comment

  1. Marvin says:

    Frank – Have given an associate, where I split commissions, a list of guys to contact to sell “retirement income strategy” — basically annuities with 10% to 20% of their assets. Have not been successful in setting up face-to-face meetings. The prospects know I offer annuities as a safe, conservative, guarantee with no loss in principal with supplementary income. Why no success in getting meetings set? Marvin Newman, New Canaan,CT 203-972-8165

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