Archives for February, 2013

Upgrade Your Referrals

February 28th, 2013, Comments Off on Upgrade Your Referrals.

When it comes to referrals, focus on quality instead of quantity

Whether you’ve asked for a referral or one has been volunteered, what do you usually do with it? Do you just say, “Thanks, I’ll let you know what happens.” Or do you linger a little longer to learn more about your new prospect? I always advocate quality over quantity. Coming away from a meeting with 12 referrals all at once doesn’t usually yield the kind of results you’d like, because the quality of the referral is usually not very good.

When you take the time to upgrade your referrals, you benefit in two ways. First, you learn the type of things about your prospect that will help you have a better conversation with them. You’ll demonstrate your relationship with their friends and you’ll be able to build rapport more easily. Second, when your referral consists of little more than a name and phone number, it doesn’t feel like much more than a cold call. When you learn a lot about your new prospect, you’ll feel more comfortable (maybe even excited) about the call and more likely to call the prospect right away.

The stream of consciousness

There will be times when your referral source will get into what I call a “stream of consciousness.” He or she will just rattle off a dozen names (or more). Sometimes, he will grab his smartphone or directory of association members and feed you a ton of names.

When you catch a referral source in this flow, don’t stop it. Write the names down and encourage more.

After the flood is over, go back and identify three to five people you’d like to learn more about. Tell your referral source that you’ve learned through experience that you’ll be more successful in reaching, and eventually helping, people if you take a few at a time and learn as much as you can about them. Then tell your referral source you’ll call him in a week to learn more about the next “batch.”

Questions to ask

Here are a few general questions you want to ask your referral source in the upgrading process:

  1. Why did you think of him first?
  2. Has he expressed any concerns in this area?
  3. Could you give me a sense of his personality?
  4. How do you think he’ll react to his name coming up in our conversation and my reaching out to him?
  5. What do you think is the best way to approach him, so that he’ll be open to speaking and meeting with me? How can I pique his interest?
  6. What is something you like or admire about him?

The golden key

I need to emphasize the importance and power of the last question. When you receive a referral, ask your source what he admires about his friend (or colleague, or family member). Then use this in your opening conversation with your prospect. You will be absolutely amazed how easily this opens the door for you.

Of course, you may have other questions specific to the situation that you will want to ask as well. These include questions that may help you qualify the person as fitting to receive your call in the first place. Don’t ever hesitate to make sure it’s a good match. You don’t need to be wasting your time calling people who don’t fit your practice.

Three factors will allow you to have these types of conversations with your referral sources: time, a relationship and courage. Manage your appointments well so that conversations aren’t rushed. Some producers like to schedule special meetings just for this purpose. The better the relationship you are able to establish with your clients, the more willing they will be to have this type of conversation with you. And if you’re not in the habit of getting upgraded referrals, you will have to tap into your courage the first few times. Soon, it will become second nature.


By Bill Cates, CSP, CPAE

Bill Cates is president of Referral Coach International and the author of “Get More Referrals Now!” and “Don’t Keep Me a Secret!” To learn about his free newsletter, boot camps, coaching program, video training program and more, visit Cates can be reached at

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John Meehan, CLU (1922 – 2013)

February 26th, 2013, Comments Off on John Meehan, CLU (1922 – 2013).

John Meehan, CLU (1922 – 2013)

NALU Past President John P. Meehan, who died on February 11 at 90, was one of our association’s most colorful and passionate leaders. I was privileged to be one of John’s several protégés in my NALU/NAIFA career.

After service in World War II, and with a degree from Boston College, John spent his entire insurance career in Boston with the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York—MONY–where he built one of its most successful agencies. He and his wife, June, had seven children, three of whom have each spent more than 30 years in the business.

John was president of NALU from 1971 to 1972, after winning a hard-fought election for Secretary in Houston against Alabama’s Frank Steiner in 1969. An important NALU initiative at the time was something called HR 5, which would allow tax-deductible contributions to education-funding plans.

John had been responsible for the creation of the New England Forum a few years earlier to give the six New England states voting parity with states like California, Florida, New York, etc. In Houston there were 89 New England delegates all committed to getting John elected Secretary. The contest was fierce.

But John had two aces up his sleeve. In the middle of the convention, he flew back to Washington to testify on behalf of HR 5, a fact we New Englanders publicized well. Naturally Frank Steiner was furious, but that was only the beginning.

NALU had bought a couple thousand tickets to see the Houston Astros play at the Astrodome and every NALU seat was filled. I can still hear the roar of 2,000 voices–1,999 in joy, 1 in anger– Frank’s–when at the seventh inning stretch on the scoreboard in center field flashed the words,


For all practical purposes the election was over and John won. Happily Frank Steiner went on to win the following year and he and John became great friends.

Memories of John

One of NALU Past President Bob Tedoldi’s favorite memories of John is from 1976 as they rode to the airport together from Bob’s first national convention. Bob had watched in amazement as John worked his “political magic.” Bob says his enthusiasm for NALU was “over the top,” and he announced to John that he was “eager to be a NALU leader.”

Bob goes on: “John must have been amused by this upstart, but shared his wisdom . . . He told me to continue to pursue my dream, but premise it on service to others, not on my aspirations. If it is fulfilling to be in leadership, then do it without worrying about ‘climbing the ladder,’ and despite the outcome, I’d be happy.”

Long-time Massachusetts AALU National Committee Person Bob Evans remembers working with John on NALU political efforts. He says: “There was never a day when I wasn’t in awe of him”.

He adds: “But when I became Legislative Chairman for MALU, I was even more amazed. He knew the right people in the right places, and singularly kept Savings Bank Life Insurance at bay. And when he would testify on the issue of the taxation of cash values, he all but got a standing ovation from the normally disinterested legislators. He so obviously sincerely believed that his position represented the best position for every client, and every agent.”

NAIFA Treasurer Matt Tassey, CLU, ChFC, LUTCF, remembers that John’s “mind was amazing and his ability to keep track of promises made and kept from the past and into the future was a marvel to behold. Watching him work his magic and seeing his face break into a full smile assured us that our candidate would be called to the stage to take the oath of office.”

Past Trustee Bill Irons adds that John was “the quintessential Boston Irish leader who exuded confidence, had an infectious laugh and a commitment to a purpose that always benefited others.”

My own favorite memory of John is of walking into a fund-raiser for Massachusetts Senator Ed Brooke sometime in the 1980s. John had in his pocket a check for $1,000 from LUPAC, now IFAPAC. We walked up to the senator, John handed him the check, and in a firm voice and with a bright Irish smile, said, “Senator, LUPAC is here!” making it clear in his next sentence that we were the insurance agents. John’s pride and love for us and our industry were unforgettable.

That was John Meehan.


By David F. Woods, CLU, ChFC, LUTCF

David Woods , CLU, ChFC, LUTCF, is past president and past CEO of NAIFA. Contact him at 413-567-0094.



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