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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Prospecting: Playing Your Cards Right BY JEFFREY SMITH MAY 10, 2012

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock PhotosWe’ve all been there …  on the receiving end of a ringing phone. Or on the other side of the table at a café. Let’s face it, would you rather hear the voice of a salesperson or a friend on the other end of the line? Would you rather be tapped on the shoulder by someone trying to sell you something, or by a close confidant wanting to share a story of a recent good experience? Even if you don’t know the person approaching you, knowing in advance who they are and what they are all about makes for a much more comfortable conversation, doesn’t it?
Chris Burns, one of our bright young stars and a producer we work with in the Atlanta area, has it figured out. He uses a tried-and-true strategy that puts his customers to work for him. He turns them into his advocates. This leads to more applications, more contracts and even more satisfied customers who then become advocates themselves. 
This activity is called “prospecting.” Specifically, the program Chris uses for prospecting centers around personal endorsement cards.  It’s a strategy that’s been around for about as long as Chris has been alive but, even in this day of texts, tweets and pokes, it’s incredibly effective.
“At the end of a successful sale, I explain to the client my system for expanding my business,” explains Chris. “Then I ask if they would be comfortable introducing me to their friends — not just giving me names and numbers and referring me to them, but actually introducing me as if I were in the same room with them.”
It’s so simple it’s almost hard to explain: You just ask your existing client — the person for whom you’ve already done good work — to hand write a few comments about you on cards you provide. The cards have your name, picture and contact information on them. The note should be an honest, heartfelt message from your existing client that introduces you and encourages the friend or relative to meet with you. You collect these back from the client and mail them to the prospects.
As Chris can attest, when you follow up, you have a much better chance of getting a meeting. His success rate of getting a meeting with someone who has received a personal endorsement is upwards of 30 percent.
But it’s not just quantity. There’s more quality, too. 
“It really makes the first discussion more comfortable because there’s a lot more trust established on the front end,” he says. “An actual handwritten note makes a connection. It takes away a lot of the awkwardness.”
The problem many producers have with using a technique like this is that the whole referral processtends to be an afterthought. You help a client and then ask for a few names and start cold calling. Instead, try making it a priority like Chris Burns has. If you set up a strategy and a process in advance and build it into your client experience, then prospecting through personal endorsements can work for you, too.

Jeffrey Smith Jeffrey Smith
Jeffrey Smith is a Certified Financial Planner® certificant and vice president of agency sales and development for American United Life Insurance Company® (AUL), a OneAmerica®company. He is responsible for the creation of the Center of Excellence, an on-demand, online learning center for career agents. Prior to joining OneAmerica, Jeff was a general agent in Madison, Wis. Jeff will occasionally share the lessons of the Center of Excellence with LifeHealthPro.com readers. He can be reached at jeffrey.smith@oneamerica.com

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