Building Client Relationships and Asking for Referrals

February 16, 2015

Meet their needs and your clients will stay with you for the long haul. Make your clients happy and they’ll start referring their friends and family to you.

But what is it that makes clients happy? Is it your products? Your services? Those are important, sure, but it’s the relationship you have with each of your clients that is going to have the biggest impact on your overall business.

The agent–client relationship isn’t just another professional interaction. Think of it as a long-term investment in your business.

Client Relationships

A client isn’t just coming to you for your products and services. They want a real person, who is there to ask just the right questions, make knowledgeable recommendations, and answer their questions. They need someone they can trust their business to, someone they can call if something goes wrong.

To win new clients and retain existing ones, you’ll need to demonstrate that you can meet all these needs. Your client needs to have a good relationship with his agent. He wants proof that you’re the right person for that job. You know you have the knowledge, skills, and experience to help your clients. Now, you just have to prove it.

To build a relationship with each of your clients takes time and work. It’s an ongoing process. Your clients must get to know you as a person, work with you, and develop trust. Try focusing on these six key habits to improve your relationships with your existing clients and build strong relationships with new ones.

  1. Project Confidence

Often you’ll hear advice to have a positive attitude. But where should you direct that positivity? What exactly are you positive about? Having confidence in yourself as an agent is a good place to start. Be confident in your skills and your ability to help your clients. If you don’t believe you can help your clients, how will they?

With confidence will come energy. You want to help your clients determine their goals and meet their needs. Focus on what you can do for each client and how to communicate that effectively, and you’ll open the door to building trust in the agent–client relationship.

  1. Build Trust

Trust is the basis of any relationship. But how do you get new clients to place their trust in you? Trust is built in many ways. Start by showing you’re dependable. Follow through and keep your word. Before you make a promise to a client, be sure you can deliver.

You can also build trust by demonstrating expertise in your field and knowledge of your products and services. Continue to learn about your products and commit to strengthening your services. A good understanding of and commitment to your business will go a long way towards building trust.

  1. Foster Open Communication

Be open and honest with your clients from the beginning. Train your clients to do the same. You want to know if they’re unhappy with a product or the service. Otherwise, how can you work on making things right?

Being able to have frank discussions can help demonstrate your professionalism. Practicing empathy in all your client interactions can demonstrate your commitment to doing right by your clients.

  1. Stay Service Oriented

Make it easy for your client to work with you. You don’t have to bow to every wish a client has, and eventually you will encounter that client with a big wish list. But if you stay focused on providing the best services you can and offering the best products you have, your client relationships will be stronger.

Look for ways you can streamline. If your processes or procedures are cumbersome, consider how you can make them easier. Give new clients guidelines for any complicated procedures when you onboard them. Train your clients on what to do if they have problems or questions and do your best to resolve issues quickly.

  1. Deliver Strong Results

Deliver on expectations and you’ll be well on your way to cementing a great client relationship. After all, that’s why they hired you. You can’t actually do this alone though. You’ll need your clients to communicate honestly with you about their goals and expectations.

Especially when you’re just starting out as an agent, it’s also a good idea to overdeliver, just a bit. Exceed expectations by giving a response a bit quicker than anticipated or add a personal touch to your service. It will really set you apart.

  1. Bring Your Personality

But exceeding your clients expectations isn’t the only way you can set yourself apart from the crowd. Beyond just the products and services you offer, you have something else very unique to offer: yourself.

One of the biggest business truths is that people do business with people. You’re not just another agent connecting the client with products and services; you’re you. It’s okay to show you have a unique personality. It’s also okay to share personal details as long as they can help you relate to and bond with your clients.

Show interest in what your client shares with you. Be attentive to their needs, try to understand their motivations, and recognize they’re a person, just like you.

Asking for Referrals

Once you’ve got some client relationships established, it’s time to start asking for referrals. Much like building relationships, asking for referrals is an ongoing process. Referrals can be an important part of your business. For some professionals, two out of three new clients are referrals.

The best thing about referrals is that connection to a current or former satisfied client. Your mission to establish trust and build a relationship is already half-way there.

At first it can be nerve racking asking a client for a referral. What if they say no? What if they think you’re being too pushy. You don’t want to wreck the relationship you’ve worked so hard to build.

Here’s the way to get past your nerves and get the referral: Know where you stand with the client before you ask and help your client understand the value you can bring everyone they refer.

Start a Conversation: How am I doing?

Start with a conversation. This can be a frequent conversation if you interact with a client regularly enough.

Ask the client how you’re doing. Make sure they’re satisfied with their products and services. A happy client is the kind of client you want to give you referrals. This check-in also gives you the chance to answer any questions or address problems the client might have. Keeping a client happy before and after you’ve gotten their business and helped their referral can put you on the road to get further referrals from the same client.

Remind the Client of Your Value

Let’s say you have a client who says he’s very satisfied but not comfortable giving out a referral. Acknowledge your client’s concerns. There are some salespeople who can be quite persistent, long past any window they had for a sale. Your client doesn’t want to unleash an unwanted sales barrage on their friends or family.

Your job is to reassure your client you’ll treat his referral with the same respect and professionalism you’ve shown your client. And then keep your word. Your client is a satisfied customer. Your client trusts you with his business. Remind your client of the value and expertise you provided him. You could also explain more about how referrals factor into your business and let your client know you’ve enjoyed his business and are looking for more clients like him. And then let him think about it. At this point, you’ve made your pitch and it’s time for your client to digest your request. He may also need time to think about who could benefit from your products and services.

Ask In Person

There’s a reason so many business deals happen in person. It’s much harder to say no to someone’s face. A request made face-to-face is more likely to be successful than one by phone or email. If you regularly meet your clients in person, make a point of working a referral ask into your regular business. You could include a few business cards with any papers you leave with the client. Or you could ask if the client knows of anyone in need of insurance or financial planning services at the end of every meeting.

Practice Makes Perfect

So, how do you get started? Just start. You’ve heard what you need to do, now you just need to practice doing it. If you’re still leary to ask on the fear you might scare away an important client, skip that person for now.

Make it easy for yourself. Go through your contact list and choose your client. Pick someone who you know is particularly satisfied or has an easygoing personality. Work out how you’ll phrase your request ahead of time and how you’d respond to the client’s questions about referrals.

Show Your Gratitude

Once you’ve got the hang of asking your clients for referrals, be sure to thank them. You should already be thanking your clients for their business on a regular basis, but consider how you could go the extra mile when a client refers a potential customer to you.

Emails are a fine way to acknowledge your clients, but consider something more personable for referrals. In our digital, paperless, pressed-for-time era, a simple handwritten note can have a huge impact. Some agents even send a larger gift if the referral becomes a new client. How you choose to show your gratitude for your referrals doesn’t matter, so long as you do it.

How Referrals Can Help Grow Your Business

It will take some time to build your business and client relationships up to the point where you can begin asking for referrals. But it’s a great goal to work towards. Leads are an important part of your insurance business, but acquiring and working new leads can begin to feel time consuming and mentally draining. When referral leads start coming to you, it can give you a whole new perspective.

About Troy Wilson