Letters of Recommendation

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A subscriber recently asked me the following question:

"I often ask my clients for a ‘letter of recommendation.’ They all say ‘yes.’ But getting them to actually write the letter is another story. Several say, ‘write one and I’ll sign it.’ What’s the best way to ask for and follow up on acquiring a letter?"

I’m addressing this question because I believe testimonial letters (or letters of recommendation) are close cousins to referrals. They operate on the same principle of "borrowed trust."

First, an important note: In the financial services arena, you must be careful about testimonial letters. You can’t use a letter that discusses financial performance. You can only use letters that talk about the process or service you provide. Do not use letters that speak about financial performance — directly or indirectly.

Asking for these types of letters is easy and simple. When a client has given you a "value recognizing statement" or you’ve had a discussion about the value they’re receiving, it’s a perfect time to ask for a letter. Say something like "I’m glad you’re seeing the value in the work we’re doing. You know, George and Silvia, every now and then it’s good for me to get a letter from satisfied clients, to show others who might be interested in my work. Do you think we could put what you just said in writing?" Most clients will happily say "yes."

The two reasons why many clients will ask you to write the letter are:

  • They’re very busy and don’t see themselves getting to it, and/or
  • They’re not sure how to write such a letter and trust you to write an appropriate one.
Whether I’m writing the letter or my client is, I always discuss two things very briefly: the time frame to make sure it happens, and the specific elements that I want in the letter. The more detailed the letter (about your process, knowledge, wisdom, service, etc.) the more powerful it is.

If I’m writing the letter, I’ll preface it with an introductory statement such as, "I’ve taken the liberty of writing a darned good letter. Please review it carefully and adjust the wording as you deem necessary." I usually get my letters back word for word, with only minor changes, if any.

I used to always offer to write the letter, but I don’t anymore. I’ve received some great letters from clients that I could’ve never written.

However you approach this, you should make using letters of recommendation a part of your marketing mix. Third-party endorsements work. Collect as many letters as you can. Use them liberally. When you have a number of letters, you can select the most appropriate for each prospect’s situation.
The goal of the CompleteMarkets editor is to bring valuable content to the CompleteMarkets members. Providing content to insurance professionals to enhance their sales process, increase revenue streams, understand their clients and provide value to their agency. 
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