Agency growth is completely dependent on producer pipelines. Yet, we typically see producers struggling with one of two situations: either they have empty pipelines or ones filled with the wrong opportunities.

Fill your pipeline with the right opportunities by being purposeful about finding prospects using the merits of your work and knowledge.

1) Fill your pipeline with client referrals

Producers tell us they’re uncomfortable asking clients for referrals because they don’t feel they’ve earned it. But this is mostly an excuse to not put yourself in a position of perceived vulnerability.

We also hear that when you do get referrals, they’re usually for inadequately sized and targeted businesses. Yet, you write the business anyway because of obligation and/or having nothing else in the pipeline.

People generally offer these non-targeted referrals because you’ve asked them to identify potential clients for you. Your clients are busy people; respect their time and your business by taking control of the process, eliminating the guilt, and helping clients give you the referrals you do want.

Begin earning client referrals with this exercise. Divide all your clients into three categories based on strength of relationship:

Tier one: You have a great relationship and know you’ve done a great job.

Tier two: You have a decent relationship, but feel you could strengthen it.

Tier three: The relationship is a struggle.

For tier one clients, write down what you’ve done for them. It’s a great confidence boost to see that you have actually earned the opportunity to ask for referrals. Next, do some research to find out who they know: review their LinkedIn connections, the organizations they belong to, and their business neighbors. Then, approach these clients with the names of the people they know who fit your target client profile and for whom you’d like an introduction.

For tier two clients, determine what you need to do to strengthen the relationship, and go do it. Then move them to tier one.

For tier three clients, determine the problem and either fix it by addressing it head-on or choose to move on.

2) Add to your pipeline with the right marketing activities

Another great way to get the right prospects in your pipeline is with activities targeted to prospective clients who recognize and appreciate your knowledge. Use everything you know about compliance, effective benefits programs, or key-man planning to work for you in prospecting:

  • Write educational articles for local business publications. Also publish them on LinkedIn.
  • Hold educational sessions for 5-10 clients of your attorney, accountant and banker. * Repeat for local business groups.
  • Organize CFO discussion groups to explore alternative funding or examine complex ACA issues. Invite five clients, and ask each to bring a peer. Hold multiple sessions focusing on like-sized businesses.

We’re in prime prospecting season right now.  Summer will soon have people distracted with weather and vacations, and then we’re right into another 4th quarter. Make this your head-down prospecting time to earn the business you need to become the feared competitor in your market.
Keneipp is a partner and coach at Q4intelligence, driving agency transformation. Learn more at q4intel.com. Reach her at wendy@q4intel.com, on LinkedIn, or Twitter @WendyKeneipp.

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