Every business owner would love to have a profitable referral network, but few are able to manage one successfully to build their network. As an independent insurance agent, having a strong and reliable referral network can guarantee a steady stream of new clients.
However, building a referral network is not as simple as just asking for a review or referral. It’s important that you identify the right people and businesses to add to your professional community. You need the right strategy to ensure that you are able to connect and network together well into the future. Create an incentive for people to want to work with you. That means offering a valuable service and being valuable to your referral in other ways as well, either by also providing referrals, sharing part of the profit, or offering a discount on your own services.
Provide a referrable service
Building a successful referral network starts with creating a service that is referrable. As an insurance agent, if the coverage options you provide or your customer service is poor, no one is going to want to connect with you in the first place. Moreover, they are even likely to refer people away from your services. ASNOA agents do not have this issue as our network offers scores of well-known carriers and product selections that fit any individual.
You need to have superb customer service and an excellent insurance buying experience. Your service must be unique and memorable. The easiest way to accomplish this is to be personable with your clients. Get to know them on a personal level and make it obvious that you care about their health, wellbeing, business, finances, or whatever other interest they deem important enough to protect.
Find the right people and companies to network with
As an independent agent, you have the convenience of being able to connect with a variety of individuals, professionals, and businesses. Everyone needs some type of insurance: auto, life, health, travelers, renters, or some other niche liability coverage.
You want to find people and businesses that also sell to your audience.
Here are some of the people and businesses you should focus your attention on:
- Real estate agents: Connecting with a real estate agent is ideal if you sell homeowners or renters insurance. It’s important to avoid connecting with too many agents in one target market since those real estate agents are likely going to expect some value in return. However, if you do not focus on a specific geographical location or you focus on a larger target market, you can connect with agents in non-competing markets to continue growing your network.
- Accountants and Financial Planners: Accountants and financial planners are two other professions with a steady stream of new leads that may also require insurance. For instance, a financial planner might be servicing an individual or family that is hoping to buy a house soon. They may be assisting a new business that will want some type of liability coverage down the road. Or, they may be assisting others with retirement planning. There is potential for a mutually beneficial networking relationship in all the scenarios above. As part of ASNOA’s network benefits, our agents can receive in-house financial planning services as part of our partnership with Wealth Management in a Box and Creative One.
- Lawyers: Lawyers can be beneficial to network with because they always have a steady stream of new leads coming in. It may be the case, though, that you share more referrals with them than they can provide you. Any time a problem arises with an insurance policy, a lawyer’s services may be requested to help resolve the issue. However, it is not always as easy for lawyers to refer leads out. Lawyers have different ethical obligations to consider. Plus, they will also need to consider the emotions and financial interests of their clients as well. Nonetheless, having an attorney to refer clients to can still be beneficial to all.
- Other insurance agents: If you only sell one or two types of insurance, you can connect with agents in your market who provide other insurance options. This is an easy way to establish a mutually beneficial relationship. ASNOA’s Private Facebook Group is an open forum for our agents to chat and refer business to each other, and it is heavily utilized by our agents across the nation. You can provide the other insurance agents with leads you cannot help in exchange for the same.
There are other professionals that you might consider networking with as well such as marketing professionals, banks and creditors, or construction contractors. Anyone who is selling to the same or similar audience as you can become a valuable asset.
Connecting with referrals successfully
The best people to start connecting with and referring to are current clients of yours. You already know these people, and they trust you enough to work with you themselves. Consider creating a referral program for current clients. Doing so creates an incentive – typically some discount on your services – in exchange for new leads.
However, connecting with strangers is completely different. Here are some tips to help you network like a pro:
- Go to networking events in your industry or target market. Check with the local Chamber of Commerce, online meetup groups, or local newspapers for opportunities. People at these events are looking to meet people just like you so they will be engaged in conversation with you.
- Try to avoid talking about insurance (unless they ask). This is how you become personable and interesting to others.
- Create a memorable business card… and actually give your card to others!
- Do not be afraid to follow up several times. Know the difference between following up and becoming annoying, but one or two follow-ups might not always be enough.
- Use social media to your advantage. Connect with potential sources on LinkedIn and engage with their content. If you need help beefing up your agency’s LinkedIn page, here is a how-to guide that tackles how to attract more leads.
- Be personable with others. Remember names and conversations you have had with them so that you can get the conversation started again.
- Be memorable yourself. The easiest way to do that is to just be yourself and connect with others on a personal level before transitioning into business talk.
Networking to build referral sources is essential for any independent insurance agent. ASNOA is committed to helping you maximize your independent insurance network. We offer our own referral program that gives you 10% of our override each month for referring an agent*, which is a way we reward our agents for helping us grow! You can learn more about ASNOA’s Referral Program here.
*See the website for official details about ASNOA’s Referral Program.