It’s no secret that as a business you need to stay top-of-mind with your clients so that they can give you that sweet repeat business and even sweeter referral business — truly the gift that keeps on giving. Being excellent at what you do helps you attract new clients, but there’s a lot that you can and should be doing to set yourself up for referrals. Getting the ask or the timing wrong can mean losing your chance, so having a plan is essential.
Most business owners realize that referrals are critical to their bottom line. Adweek.com shared a survey that found that for B2B brands, referrals converted two times better than websites or social media. A Nielsen study found that 92 percent of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising — an increase of 18 percent since 2007.
It’s no wonder experts say that referrals can be more beneficial to your success than advertising. Easier said than done, you say? We get it. We’ve all been there. You ask a client for referrals only to get an empty promise to follow up, or even a straight-up no. But know this: you are in control of the process and results of your referral ask.
Before you can ask for referrals, you must realize how important referrals are to your business, then commit to prioritizing them. Put the work in so that you can maximize your results; you’ll be glad you did.
Referrals don’t just happen.
Asking customers for referrals must become part of your routine. It must be a consistent business practice that becomes a natural part of your daily work. But before you make your first referral ask, you need to develop a strategy.
Author, trainer and former financial adviser Frank Maselli says many people use archaic techniques or just awkwardly ask clients for names. Instead, Maselli recommends changing the conversation and reframing your ask so you don’t sound like you’re requesting a favor. David Finkel, author of “Scale: 7 Proven Principles to Grow Your Business and Get Your Life Back,” says when most businesses talk about referrals, they are referring to word-of-mouth referrals, or what he calls “passive referrals.” Instead, Finkel recommends an active referral strategy.
Before you get started, take a look at a few of the popular resources we’ve created for what to do (and not do) when asking for referrals:
The first step in developing your strategy is to decide which type of referrals are best for your business by assessing what has and hasn’t worked for you and similar businesses in the past. There are three types of referrals:
Keep in mind that word-of-mouth referrals are great, but for many industries, the power of an online referral can be more visual and permanent. Remember that 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
You will, of course, need to customize your strategy to your business’ specific requirements, but it’s helpful to begin with some best business practices in mind. Joanne Black, author of “Pick Up the Damn Phone,” offers the following advice:
Timing is key.
There are no absolutes when it comes to timing except this one thing: your customer must be completely satisfied with your services or product. There are no referrals without happy customers. Asking an unhappy customer for a referral isn’t just a waste of time — it could further damage your reputation with them and their networks.
Getting the timing right can be tricky. Asking too early can make a bad impression, and asking too late can mean your request gets ignored. Experts say that the right time to ask for referrals varies by industry. The Small Business Administration advises business owners to: “Ask for referrals at a time when the customer is in a mood to give them.” While that’s true, it varies a bit from customer to customer. You want to be sure your customer is in a good mood, so catch them at a point when they’re satisfied with your service and are not in the throes of buyer’s remorse.
Ray Sliverstein calls referrals “the number-one tool in your tool kit. “Get in the habit of reaching for it often–say, as often as you might glance at your watch.” Silverstein advises businesses to follow up after the transaction with a thank you and a question: “Do you know anyone else who can benefit from my services?” Silverstein also recommends that when you begin working with a new customer, bring up referrals early. You could mention that you have a profile on Yelp, for example, or give the customer a few extra business cards to give to friends who might need your help.
In his Inc.com article, Finkel suggests creating referral systems, including a script that requests referrals at the point of purchase; as soon as the customer makes the purchase, thank them for their business and ask for the names of two people who would also benefit from their service. Another of his ideas is a “gift for your friend” campaign that uses gift certificates for the customer’s friends after the transaction is complete.
Referral strategies vary, but an analysis of the advice experts give shows that the best time to ask for referrals is immediately after your successful transaction with them is complete.
For a real estate agent, this could mean getting permission from your client for a Facebook post of a congratulatory photo of you at closing on your new dream home. This way, all of the client’s friends and their friends see your success, and those who need your service can easily find you.
For more transactional businesses, like HVAC repair, plumbers, salons, spas, etc., offering a small discount for a quick Yelp or Google review before a customer pays would be an easy way to get the word out to people who are searching for your service — and reputation — online.
Obtain a referral in 3 easy steps.
Here is how the experts say you get it done, step-by-step:
Step 1: Do your homework. Determine what has worked for your business and others like yours. You could ask your client for referrals before or after you complete your work. You could send an email immediately after your transaction including an easy way to post a review on a social media site or other website.
Step 2: Deliver exceptional service, ensuring that your customer is happy — so happy that they will share their love for you with their friends.
Step 3: The moment a customer compliments you, accept the compliment and thank them, then make your referral ask. Be polite and direct. Make it easy for them, and thank them for their business — and referrals.
Bringing it all together, it’s important to remember a few things about referrals. First, you are the driving force behind your own success. Do good work and be specific about what you want from your clients. Second, time your ask appropriately. Make sure that your job really is done. And lastly, make it a habit. The more you do it, the more natural this process will be in the future.
Medicare Blog | Medicare News | Medicare Information
Anthem will acquire Cigna for $188 per share, the health insurance companies said Friday. The deal, including Cigna's debt, will be worth $54.2 billion. It is the largest-ever health insurance transaction and part of the mass-scale merger race that is fundamentally changing the industry and fueling concerns over costs and competition.
The definitive agreement comes a little more than a month after Anthem went public with an offer of $184 per share, which Cigna rejected. The two sides had sharp disagreements over who would lead the combined company, which will have $115 billion of revenue, and if Anthem would receive approval from its sponsor, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.
Industry analysts have pointed out several advantages to an industry consolidation.
A larger insurer can gain more leverage and negotiating power to use in hashing out rates with care providers. However, the two mega deals announced this month are going to be scrutinized heavily by regulators, who want to ensure that they do not gain so much power that they can dominate the market.
The impact these big acquisitions have on consumers likely won't be felt for at least a year, because insurers have already finalized most of their plans for coverage that starts in January. A combination may lead to fewer choices and some price changes for consumers, depending on where they live and who already is in their market.
Anthem's combination with Cigna will result in a company with a much broader base over which to spread costs and expenses, and it could make technology investments over the industry's biggest customer pool.
Data and technology are playing a growing role in monitoring patients and care. At a very basic level, that means things like tracking whether patients are keeping up with their immunizations.
Insurers also are trying to give consumers better information on the cost and quality of the care they buy, based on their coverage. Deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs have been rising for years. That leaves a growing number of consumers with bigger bills to pay before most of their insurance coverage starts, so it can encourage more to shop around.
Anthem officials have noted that a Cigna deal will help build their company's Medicare Advantage enrollment in states like Texas and Florida. Medicare Advantage plans are privately run, fast-growing versions of the federally-funded program for people over age 65 and the disabled.
Anthem, based in Indianapolis, is currently the nation's second-largesthealth insurer, while Cigna ranks fourth in terms of enrollment. Anthem Inc. specializes in selling individual coverage and insurance to workers of small businesses. It also has grown its government business, which includes Medicare, Medicaid and coverage of federal employees.
Health insurance is Cigna Corp.'s main business, but it also sells group disability and life coverage in the U.S., and it has a growing international segment that Anthem lacks. Much of Cigna's health insurance business involves coverage where the employer pays the claims and then hires Cigna to administer the plan, a growing and less-profitable form of coverage in employer-sponsored health care.
The deal is targeted to close in the second half of 2016. Cigna stockholders still need to approve the agreement, and Anthem shareholders need to approve the issuance of shares in the transaction.
Anthem stockholders will own about 67 percent of the combined company, with Cigna shareholders owning approximately 33 percent.
The Anthem board will expand to 14 members. Cigna's President and CEO David Cordani and for independent directors from Cigna's current board will join the nine current members of Anthem's board.
Cordani will serve as president and chief operating officer of the combined business, with Anthem's Joseph Swedish as chairman and CEO.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
While the definition of success may be debatable, most people would agree that the leaders of companies getting good traction have likely garnered some measure of it. Want to know how high achievers get to the top? Here are quotes from 20 founders and CEOs on the daily habits that help them get more out of business and life.
1. Prioritize a daily to-do list.
I've got a running task list called "near-term," which contains things that I want to get done during the next one to two weeks. Every morning over coffee, I pull from that list to build a task list called "today." I make a commitment in the morning to clear this and make sure to deliver at the end of each day.
--Sean Duffy, CEO of Omada Health, a digital-therapeutics company that was selected by Fast Company as one of "The World's 50 Most Innovative Companies."
2. Remember names.
Not just staff members but also their spouses, kids, and even pets, if appropriate. Obviously I don't interrogate people for these names, but as they come up in conversation, I try to make a mental note. It helps me to get to know my team...and your team [notices] that you are actually paying attention.... There are several tricks you can do to try to remember someone's name. I always repeat the name when I hear it and then say it a few times over in my head.
--Jonathan Cogley, CEO and founder of IT security company Thycotic which ranks at the 2,671 on the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing companies in 2014, up 760 spots from 2013.
3. Research people before meeting with them.
Before a meeting, I always do research on whom I'll be meeting with. Understanding the person's work history, the school they went to, or even knowing their hometown helps me tailor the way I communicate with them.
--Mike Zivin, cofounder and CEO of Whittl, an online appointment booking platform for neighborhood businesses, which recently raised a $3.3 million series A round with backing from GrubHub co-founder Mike Evans as well as GrubHub's first VC, Origin Ventures in Chicago.
4. Schedule family time.
Most small-business owners and entrepreneurs start a business to make a better life for their families. If you get caught in the trap of working 20-hour days, your business may thrive, but at what cost? You may be able to send your kids to a great college, but if they've never spent an afternoon with you in 18 years, is it worth it? I'm very conscious of making time for my kids, whether that means working with them (my oldest is interning in the office this summer) or carving time out to go to tournaments and games. It's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, but it's so important to step back and look at the big picture.
--Ted Devine, CEO of online small- and microbusiness insurance agent Insureon, a company at the 107 spot on last year's Inc. 5000 list.
5. Walk while working.
Part of being a successful executive is being able to interact with people at a moment's notice, which requires a fair amount of stamina. To achieve that, I work at a treadmill desk all day, and end up walking about eight miles each day.
--Douglas Merrill, former CIO of Google and now CEO of ZestFinance, a big-data startup that uses more than 100,000 data points about an individual to figure out if he or she will pay back a loan.
6. Avoid all habits.
I think having randomness in my day is critical and keeps my brain active. I see too many people whose habits ultimately stifle them. They won't try something new because it conflicts with something they've always done. When I feel I'm falling into a rut, I try to find a way to change things up. That's one of the reasons I travel so much. Of course, it gets me in front of clients, which is critical, but as much as anything, always being in new environments keeps my mind sharp and my thoughts flowing.
--Rodney Williams, cofounder and CEO of LISNR, a new communications technology company that sends data over sound waves (such as streaming video) and recently won the Gold Cannes Lion for Innovation in Mobile.
7. Purge your email inbox.
I get my email inbox to one page by day's end. My job is to communicate and build relationships with clients, prospects, and employees, and all email is dealt with, responded to, or filed as complete. It only stays in the inbox if it needs further follow-up. People need to know they can get response from me, not just the other way around.
--Darin LeGrange, CEO of Aldera, a company that provides health plans (insurers) with the back-office technology that handles billing, claims processing, coverages, and more.
8. Avoid all carbs before noon.
That's my peak energy time, and too many carbs throw me off my game. The momentum created in the morning goes a long way into the afternoon. If you don't start strong, you don't finish strong.
--David Kalt, founder and CEO of Reverb, a marketplace for musical instruments and gear that has raised about $5 million in funding and expects to do $130 million in transactions this year, up from $40 million last year.
9. Don't dive right into work in the morning.
Without fail, I start every morning off with a cup of "proper English tea," even when traveling in San Francisco, and leisurely check the daily newspaper headlines on my tablet, before diving into email and catching up on the company Chatter feed. Having a slower-paced morning routine helps me work more efficiently as the day goes on.
--Jeremy Roche, CEO of FinancialForce.com, an ERP solutions provider built on the Salesforce1 Platform which equips customer-centric businesses with a unified cloud platform and all the applications necessary to grow both the top and bottom line.
10. Make small but meaningful personal statements.
After the ritual coffee every morning, I make sure I have a clean pair of crazy socks. No crazy socks, no glory. They anchor my confidence and remind me that different is good. Everyone could use a personal statement.
--Ahmed Albaiti, founder and CEO of Medullan, a digital health innovation company that works with payers, providers, and pharma on patient engagement.
11. Quantify your life.
There are 8,760 hours in a year, and I know exactly how many of them I have spent working, with family, exercising, or on community activities. For the last 15 years, I have kept a matrix of how I spend each hour in the day in an effort to live a balanced and optimized life. I've had nine major surgeries as part of a lifelong battle with Crohn's disease, so tracking my time and health is essential to helping me maximize every moment. It's also provided the perspective of both a patient and an executive to my companies.
--Jeff Margolis, chairman and CEO of Welltok, creator of CafWell, the health optimization platform that helps consumers achieve optimal health. Previously, he founded the health IT company TriZetto, and took it from startup, through IPO, to a $1.4 billion leveraged buyout.
12. Pay attention to people, not devices.
Put the cell phones away. I try to keep them out of sight when I'm around my kids and in all executive meetings.
--Rick Morrison, CEO of Comprehend Systems, which works with big names in the life-sciences industry, such as Boston Scientific, Astellas, and AstraZeneca, modernizing and improving the quality in their clinical process through cloud-based tech.
13. Wake up early and swallow the frog.
Mark Twain was onto something when he suggested you should tackle your most challenging project first thing in the morning. I wake up at 5 a.m. almost every morning, including weekends. My mornings are a time to tackle thought-intensive tasks, or approach projects with a new perspective. I consider 5 to 8 a.m. my power hours, and try to get through one significant undertaking by 8 a.m. every day.
--Neha Sampat, CEO of digital tech solutions provider Built.io, which powers innovation at the intersection of enterprise mobility and the Internet of Things (IoT) for startups and Fortune 500 companies. Sampat also co-founded KurbKarma, was named a "San Francisco Business Times 40 under 40" honoree, as well as one of "50 Women in Tech Dominating Silicon Valley" in 2015.
14. Don't "find" time for family, make time.
As the CEO of a rapidly growing company, it's easy to let the job consume you completely, to the detriment of those closest to you: your family. It's not enough to "find" time to spend with your children, because the job will always find a way to fill every minute. So I make it a priority to spend two hours a day focusing only on my children. It helps me to recharge my batteries, think more creatively, and it also gives me that daily reminder of why I work so hard.
--Ratmir Timashev, CEO of Veeam, a data center backup company founded in 2006 which now employs more than 1,500 employees around the world and brings in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, with its sights on reaching $1 billion in revenue in the next five years.
15. Talk constantly with your team.
Team culture is critical in the American service economy. The only way to make sure that your team is working together at an optimal level is to make sure that you talk both formally and informally with your team.
--Vikram Aggarwal, CEO of EnergySage, a solar-marketplace company that recently secured a $1.5 million Series A round of funding and announced a partnership with Green America.
16. Drive your kids to school every day.
Sure, I would love to sleep later than 6 a.m. every day, but that half hour we spend in the car is amazing. I also try not to schedule client or internal meetings at 3 p.m. That's when I have a scheduled conference call with my sons. They get on board the bus from school, and that's our time to chat about the day so far. Finally, in the evenings, from the moment I walk in my home until they go to bed, my phone stays at the front door so they understand that family time is a priority.
--Sandy Rubinstein, CEO of DXagency, an ad-engagement agency with clients that include DirecTV, HBO, MTV, and Whole Foods.
17. Meditate daily.
Twenty minutes upon waking and 20 minutes as soon as I walk in the door at the end of a day helps me maintain a level of mindfulness that enables moment-to-moment awareness. Meditation has strengthened my ability to be open to new possibilities and ideas without attachment to "my way," and has helped foster a level of communication amongst my team that respects and celebrates new ideas, the very thing that inevitably moves business forward.
--Ernie Capobianco, CEO of digital marketing agency Sq1, which serves clients including Michaels, Jiffy Lube, Shell, and Papa Murphy's.
18. Plan for tomorrow.
At the end of each business day, I take some time to regroup and think about the most important items that need to be accomplished the next day, as well as what actions the team needs to take to accomplish those tasks.
--Michael MacDonald, CEO of nutrition and weight-loss company Medifast.
19. Exercise at least five times a week.
I either hit the gym or get 90 minutes on my mountain bike in the morning and start at 6 a.m. At first it was hard, but now I can't go without it. It de-stresses and sets the tone for the entire day.
--Jason van den Brand, co-founder and CEO of online mortgage refinancing startup Lenda, which graduated from Silicon Valley-based 500 Startups last year. Since then, the company raised its first round of funding, has been growing 40 percent month over month since December, and recently passed the $40 million mark in loans financed through the platform.
20. Publicly commend an employee.
I try to give a written compliment to an employee on something they accomplished the previous day that aligns with our company's core values. The written compliment is public to the entire company through a platform we use called HighGround. I think that doing so helps reinforce our company's core values and helps us live our values every day.
--Ethan Austin, founder of the online fundraising website GiveForward, which has raised more than $150 million and hosts 20,000 active fundraisers at any given time.
What daily habits help you achieve more in business and life?
(Bloomberg) -- Aetna Inc. agreed to buy Humana Inc., the second-largest provider of private Medicare insurance, for $37 billion in cash and stock to broaden its health-care coverage.
The transaction values Humana at $230 a share based on yesterday’s closing price for Aetna, the companies said in a statement Friday. That’s 23 percent above Humana’s last close.
The acquisition comes amid a period of consolidation in the industry, with all of the five biggest health insurers looking at deals. Humana’s 3.2 million Medicare Advantage members have made it a target, since more Americans are turning 65 and becoming eligible for the health program for the elderly and its private insurer-run version.
Willis to merge with Towers Watson in $8.7 billion deal
“Medicare Advantage is a coveted space,” Michael Bernstein, a partner at Baird Capital’s U.S. private equity team who focuses on health care, said in an interview before the transaction was announced. “To develop a similar scale in Medicare would take a great deal of work and time, which would be bypassed by making that transaction happen.”
Terms of Deal
Humana shareholders will receive $125 in cash and 0.8375 of an Aetna share for each of Humana’s. Aetna’s shareholders will own about 74 percent of the combined company and Humana’s will own about 26 percent.
The deal is expected to close in the second half of 2016. Aetna’s chief executive officer, Mark Bertolini, will be chairman and CEO of the combined company.
Medicare membership is projected to rise to 68.4 million in 2023, up 26 percent from this year, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Humana, based in Louisville, Kentucky, covers more than 14 million people through commercial, Medicare and Medicaid plans.
Centene Corp. said Thursday it agreed to buy Health Net Inc. for about $6.3 billion in a deal that creates the biggest private administrator of Medicaid, the federally funded health program for the poor. Cigna Corp. rejected a $47 billion takeover bid from Anthem Inc. last month, saying the offer wasn’t in the best interests of shareholders and Anthem executives weren’t fit to lead a merged insurance giant.
Some of the consolidation talk has been fueled by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Known as Obamacare, the 2010 law overhauled the U.S. health-care system with new rules that push insurers to look for savings. The law also provides subsidies to help people afford coverage, creating millions of new customers that the companies are racing to capture.
A Supreme Court ruling upholding those subsidies for more than 6 million people has helped clear the path to dealmaking. The 6-3 decision on June 25 in the King v. Burwell case said the U.S. can continue to give people money to help them buy coverage on the federal healthcare.gov website.
Citigroup Inc. and Lazard Ltd. provided financial advice to Aetna, while Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP is acting as legal advisor. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. gave financial advice to Humana and Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP is its legal advisor.