I was impressed when I spotted the cream white envelope. It was about halfway down in the stack of incoming mail. Heavy paper, 27-pound or 29-pound bond paper, I’d guess, quite formal. The delivery address on the front of the envelope had been handwritten in beautiful cursive. The sender had affixed a first-class stamp in the proper place, perfectly square to the corner of the envelope. Brilliant!
I turned the envelope over to open it and spotted the return address on the envelope flap. My commercial insurance agency had sent the document, whatever it was.
I carefully opened the envelope and pulled out a scalloped-edge brown card, perfectly fitted to the envelope. In silver ink, the printed message on the front of the card read, “Happy New Year! Wishing you the best for 2024.”
OK, good so far. Nice thought. Thank you, I think. Someone spent some money and went to some trouble to send me such a “happy new year card”. Fine.
I turned the card over. More silver-ink printing that said, “We appreciate your business and we’d be grateful for your referrals.”
The Nick Miller “Impress Me Meter” immediately swung from “medium positive” to “irritated”.
“Are you KIDDING me?”, I said aloud, to no one else in the office.
Some marketing person at the agency or whoever they work with thought that sending a “please share referrals” C A R D would be a good thing to do.
Really? They talk to us only when we call to ask for a Certificate of Insurance for a client and when they’re quoting the annual policy update (which, by the way, they send by email with a message that says, “We’d be happy to talk about this if you have questions or if anything has changed”). For years, we’ve dealt with one person at the agency; she has recently moved on and her replacement hasn’t called or emailed to introduce him or herself.
Further, if a friend asked, “Why are you recommending this agency to me?”, the best I could say is, “They’re usually responsive and efficient when we ask for something.” That could be helpful to any friend whose insurance agency has been rude, neglectful, and slow… and mine has done NOTHING special for us, EVER! [Well, maybe, the annual nature-themed wall calendar they send is special, I’ll give you that.] No discussion about risks or vulnerabilities. No calls to ask about our business or to suggest ideas.
Unprompted referrals or introductions happen when Person A (our friend or client, the potential introducer) sees that Person B (their friend or colleague) is experiencing a challenge and says, “I know someone who could help you with that….They’ve been very helpful to me….Here, let me connect you.”
Alternatively, there are many ways we can ASK someone to introduce us to others, one of the best of which is, “We’ve been able to help you address X. Are there others among your (for example) suppliers or clients who are experiencing this same challenge. I’d love to be able to assist them.”
We can discuss whether you like or don’t like that language or whether the most recent sales book you read suggested something different.
My point is: (1) The clearer and more immediate and valuable the reason to be introduced, the better and (2) personal is FAR, FAR better than sending an email, card, or letter referral request, no matter how nice the paper is.
I’m still irritated!
Nick Miller is President of Clarity Advantage based in Concord, MA. He assists banks and credit unions to generate more and more profitable relationships, faster, with business clients, their owners, and their employees through better sales strategies and execution. Additional articles on Clarity’s web site.
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