Sales Tip #8: Build a Successful "COI" Referral System

  • Originally published December 23, 2011 , last updated January 12, 2016
Sales Tip #8: Build a Successful "COI" Referral System

You're probably tired of hearing how referrals are so wonderful. “They are easier to close, they make quicker decisions, and they are more profitable…”

You don’t need to be told why getting more referrals would be a good thing. You just want to know how to get more referrals. You’re likable, trustworthy and very good at taking care of your clients, so why aren’t the referrals flooding in?

First, let’s look at why most agents don’t make the most of their referral efforts, then we’ll look at some steps to help you get the results you want.

Why is Your Referral Game Broken?

1. Not enough centers-of-influence (COIs) – Most advisors work with too few referrals sources or COIs. Although most advisors would say they have three to six referral sources, this simply is not enough. What defines a good COI? Many advisors define a good COI as someone that meets with many prospects. While this is an important component of COI, much more is needed. For a true quality COI, the person must see a high number of qualified prospects that like you and want to help you be successful.

2. No system – Another hindrance is that most advisors have no system in place to manage activity or results. Building a successful COI referral system is like building any other business: it takes time, effort, commitment, and an organized plan.

3. Lacking zest – The third area is lacking differentiation. Many of us just focus on getting through our day and if we can't set ourselves apart from other advisors, the busy COI will not think of us.

4. No sincere connection – The final shortfall in most referral systems is a sincere connection with the COI. How can we expect a COI to refer us business if there is no connection?

How Do You Fix It?

Here are the four pillars in building a successful COI referral system.

1. Work with enough COIs – You should have 10-12 core COIs and about 100 potential centers of influence in a business network. The core COIs are the ones you'll take to lunch on a regular basis. The others are people you are working with to develop a relationship. Two good ways to increase your core COIs are to attend networking events and to ask your current core COIs for suggestions.

2. Get a system – The key to success is to have a formal system that allows you to track past and future activity. One simple idea is to contact your core COIs twice a month. The first contact can be an easy phone call asking for advice, offering advice, or a simple, "Hello, how is business?" The second monthly contact should be in person and you should leave something behind like a brochure, news article, or something pertinent to that professional's business.

3. Differentiate, differentiate, and differentiate – Stop doing and saying what the other advisor is doing and saying. What do you specialize in? Do you only work with businesses, medical professionals, dentists and contractors? What is it that you do differently than every other advisor? Be very specific.

4. Open an investment relationship account – This is the one almost every advisor misses or lacks focus in, and it is the most important. You need to make regular ongoing deposits into your relationship investment account.

  • Take the time and really get to know your COI
  • Find ways to add to the relationship
  • Be a reliable resource
  • Ask for advice. Everyone loves to voice his or her expertise
  • Always create a good impression

Commit to these steps and you should see your referrals, and your production, increase as a result.