Referrals And Hot Prospects

My research over the years has shown most people do a lousy job of getting referrals from existing clients that result in new prospective clients. The referral pitch usually takes one of two forms: The counselor asks for the names and phone numbers of three of the new client’s friends—which the client knows become former friends after the “where did you get my name” call, or the client is handed three business cards with the suggestion they be handed to people that the counselor can help—without saying what that help might be. There is a better way.

Many people do like to be helpful, but before they let someone approach their circle of friends they need to feel they can trust the outsider and that this new person might actually help. Trust usually takes time. This is why client appreciation events where existing clients are encouraged to bring a friend work well (a client coming to the event means they trust you).

Show the referrer how you can help by describing a real problem and your solution. The client knows you can get them a bit more interest—because they purchased a multi-year guaranteed annuity—but if you talk about how you were able to help a widow whose husband recently died get more income, this may remind the client of someone they know. Talking about specific ways you’ve been able to help people will create more referrals.

Hot Prospects
For many years when I owned my broker/dealer we did an investment seminar for consumers at one of the banks using our program. Although the reps were under our B/D, they were bank employees and the program was managed by a banker. The seminar was very successful! We asked attendees to fill out a card if they’d like to be contacted to set up an appointment with one of the reps and we got over three dozen of those bright yellow cards back requesting contact.

A month later I’m back in the bank doing my regular rep visit. Sitting in the bank manager’s office I notice a stack of yellow cards and asked if those were the appointment requests. He said they were. I asked how many appointments the reps had been able to make and he replied he hadn’t handed out the cards. His thought was he’d hand out a card as a reward when a rep had a particularly good month.

If you’ve ever made an honest living—by that I mean been in sales—you understand the difference between a hot lead and a cold lead. By the time this manager got around to handing out these leads the prospects had largely forgotten why they wanted the appointment and few ever became customers. A couple of years later the bank was taken over by a larger bank and this manager was let go.

This is a good time for fixed annuity sales and it will become explosive when the market falls and keeps falling for awhile. Consumers will become anxious to buy something that not only does not go down when the market does, but pays more than the bank. In this environment the agent’s sole goal should be to see as many prospects as humanly possible. Don’t tell clients that your appointment book is full and let’s meet next month. Set the appointment for 9:00 pm or on Sunday afternoon. Paperwork getting too intense? Hire a temp (pay $18 an hour to free up your $500 an hour time). Delay that vacation you always take this time of the year and see clients instead. You’ll have plenty of time for vacations when the hot times end.

Jack Marrion provides research and consulting services to insurance companies and financial firms in a variety of annuity areas. He also serves as director of research for the National Association for Fixed Annuities and as a research fellow for Webster University.

In 1994 he wrote a book to help banks market investment and insurance solutions to their small business clients. In 1996 he produced the first independent hypothetical return monthly publication comparing all index annuities on the market, and in 1997 created the first comprehensive report of index annuity sales, products and trends, “Advantage Index Product Sales & Market Report” (quarterly).

His insights on the annuity and retirement income world have appeared in hundreds of publications. In 2006 the National Association of Insurance Commissioners asked him to address their annual meeting and teach regulators the realities of index annuities. He was invited back in 2009 to talk to the NAIC about the effects of aging on senior decision-making. He is a frequent speaker at industry functions.

Prior to forming Advantage Com­pen­dium, Marrion was president and owner of an NASD broker/dealer with offices in nine states. Previous to that he was vice president of a life insurance company and vice president of an NYSE investment banking firm. He has a BBA from the University of Iowa, an MBA from the University of Missouri, and a doctorate from Webster University.

Marrion can be reached at Ad­van­­tage Compendium. Telephone: 314-255-6531. Email: ­