You woo them, you court them, you often invite them to dinner and buy them a nice meal. You occasionally shower them with gifts, and you bend over backwards to see that they have everything they need to make a decision in your favor. You talk, laugh, and get to know each other. You come to believe that person is “the one” and that you can’t live your life without them. You spend quality time together and when you “pop the question,” the answer comes back with an affirmative.
You then work out the details as the “big day” approaches. Any problems that could jeopardize the relationship are proactively dealt with as nothing in your minds should create any ill will or negative emotions that could result in “the big day” getting canceled. Calls to confirm everything is running smoothly occur regularly; written communications are exchanged.
And then, “the big day” arrives. You dress in your best attire and arrive for the ceremony. Everyone’s a bit nervous at first, but after a few laughs and small talk, it’s time to get down to the business at hand. You step forward, take that special someone by the hand, and say those special words…
“Your policy has been issued, and I’d like to take a minute to review it with you.”
At that moment, the individual has become “married” to you in a sense. They have made the leap from prospect to client. All the care, concern and effort you’ve put into starting this special relationship has resulted in a “new addition” to your insurance client family. Then, the honeymoon begins.
Initially, you thank the client for their business, and promise to be there to help them. You assure them you’ll meet regularly to review what you’ve sold them, and ask to be introduced to their family, friends and co-workers. After all, isn’t that what family is all about? Then you’re out the door and on to the next courting relationship. Your new relationship, now not that new, often ends up being a “one night stand” as you move on to the next sales opportunity.
Getting in front of qualified prospects on a favorable basis is an expensive proposition. Consider the following:
|Dinner Seminar Event2500 Direct Mail Pieces @ 1% Response Rate
25 Buying Units Schedule and Attend
13 Buying Units Set An Appointment
9 Keep the Appointment
5 Buy Something
|Dollars Invested$4,000 Food + Direct Mail + Reservations
$160/Person, Just to Get Them in the Door
$208/Person, Just to Set An Appointment
$445/Person to Have a Kept Appointment
$800/Person to Make a Sale
Hello? Any way you look at it, that’s an expensive means to get in front of a qualified prospect. And if you’re spending those kinds of dollars on a regular basis just to have the opportunity to “court” your next ”bride” or “groom” to be, you’re under tremendous pressure each and every month.
Is there a less expensive way to get in front of clients?
A recent study by the Financial Planning Association (FPA) found that the producers who were exceeding their practice goals were using client events to their advantage. The ability to leverage an existing relationship delivers better results, and can serve as a springboard into their contact network through referral-based marketing.
Consider this: An agent will spend $800 to $1,000 per prospect at a typical dinner event to get in front of someone that’s qualified. If a typical client brings only two referrals to a typical client event, your cost per qualified prospect is now only $267 ton $333, and you’re working with a warmer, friendlier crowd (people there who can validate the good job you’ve already done for them).
Client events can take various forms, and for various reasons. Client appreciation events (one of the most overlooked opportunities) are a way to say thanks while reinforcing why your clients chose to work with you in the first place. These venues can be used to share updates, insights and education. They can also be used to introduce a new area of marketing (such as income planning) to your current clients, creating yet another reason for them to meet with you.
How important are client appreciation events? I often hear agents tell me that client appreciation events are not valuable, as they have already sold the client everything they need. I finally convinced a producer in Illinois to host a client event, and to encourage her clients to bring a friend for dinner. I told the producer that if she filled the room with people, I’d come and be her guest speaker.
The agent went one step further, scheduling a luncheon for her “professional women” clients (and their co-workers) and a dinner event for her “family” clients. So I got to speak (and eat) twice at a nice steak house. We took a “real life” look at retirement planning as I shared some insights into the new “reality” that is retirement for today’s Boomers. I encouraged the clients, and their guests, to schedule time to meet with the agent hosting the dinner if they wanted to discuss what I shared further.
What happened next was, to me, humorous. To the agent, it was a pleasant surprise. Several of her “better” clients, whom she had worked with for years, asked to schedule an appointment. Why? Because we had shared new information, educating them on some important questions they should be asking before they took the proverbial plunge into retirement. It prompted a need for further conversation which led to the opportunity for this producer to write several large annuities, as well as some life insurance and long term care…all with existing clients (whom the agent said she’d already sold “everything” to). And, yes, she also picked up several new clients in the process.
Client events, done correctly, can be extremely valuable to solidifying your current relationship with your clients, reinforcing why they chose you in the first place, and sharing information that may identify a new need in their financial plan, or the opportunity for them to refer you to others who could benefit from the information you shared. Done poorly, it can undermine the very relationship you sought to strengthen. Like a good date, it takes some advance planning, but can pay great dividends.
Client events don’t always have to be expensive, and can also take the form of regular communiqués, such as annual reviews, newsletters, birthday and anniversary cards, phone calls and other means of staying “top-of-mind” with those people who put their faith, trust and confidence in you. It’s something I regularly remind our income planning coaches about because they have invested considerable time, energy, and money to get in front of, woo, and ultimately get the “I Do” from the client. And if that relationship is not cultivated, its value fades over time. Just like marriages, client relationships can (and do) end up in divorce.
It’s important to remember that your clients bought you long before they bought the product or service you sold them. And that buy-in only came after a long and expensive courtship.
So how long will your marriage last if, after the wedding night, you never talk to, interact with, or spend quality time with your spouse? If you’re sleeping in separate beds and you never have moments of intimacy, how long will it be before another suitor “comes calling.”
Just like wives talk about their husbands, and husbands talk about their wives, clients talk about their agents and advisors. What they say about you determines how “refer-able” you are.
Far too many producers will spend $800 to $1,000 for a single customer relationship only to make a single sale to that person and (hopefully) recoup the cost of their investment. Like the uncommitted bachelor or bachelorette, they fail to see the real life value in cultivating client relationships.
By using engaging client events to stay connected, successful producers cultivate the relationship and reap a harvest of income and referrals. They understand each client has, in their immediate circle of influence, 8 to 12 (or more) people just like them who want (and need) what you have to offer.
We are in the people business, and that means relationships ARE important. What are you doing to make sure you and your clients are not sleeping in separate beds after they’ve said, “I Do”?