Towergate finds asking for a reference easier

If the past was the age of deference, this the age of reference. Instead of listening to authority figures, or ‘experts’, we are more likely than ever to be influenced by the opinions of trusted others – even unknown others – whom we believe are more like us.

Business’ appetite for the concept is insatiable, sharpened by the knowledge that an introduction from a friend or associate is always warmer than an unsolicited approach.

Towergate, a large, UK-based insurance firm, felt its account teams could aid its sales performance by doing more to solicit introductions from its clients.

But it’s not always easy to shift seamlessly into sales mode when you’re not used to it. Account Executives at Towergate, as elsewhere, are responsible for developing business relationships. And that’s the key word. If ever there were a test of a relationship, it is when asking for a referral.

The three month programme was based on briefing and debriefing meetings, three workshops and individual coaching and mentoring sessions. The aim was to ensure the change in attitude and skills – from fear of asking to confidently knowing how to ask – is a long term change.

Two aspects typical of Solution Cell programmes were critical in the success of the programme. Firstly, we engaged managers and managing directors in the process early on, mustering their support for the changes we proposed and to increase its effectiveness.

Secondly, we recruited a team of advocates to maintain momentum after the initial intervention and training sessions.

Advocates helped role model best practice and attended workshops with the participants. The advocates were coached on how to mentor and support the Development Executives and Account Executives, and helped to embed changes in behaviour reinforcing skills and techniques learned.

The programme as a whole involved a great deal of practical activity, to refine skills and build confidence early on. As teams began to put the new ideas into practice star performers –those exhibiting the desired behaviours and adding to sales performance – were interviewed to build success stories into the programme.

The Referral Programme was highly bespoke to Towergate’s business, culture and clients. The design was reworked following a pilot scheme and during the initial delivery so that it evolved to deliver maximum success. “Solution Cell listened to our requirements and came up with a robust plan that delivered the results we desired.” Explained Lisa Bartlett, Sales and Marketing Director at Towergate. “Their willingness to flex and adapt the programme to meet our requirements is exactly what we needed in a training partner. The use of advocates and engaging our senior managers has helped us embed this programme into a long term change. I’m delighted. The results speak for themselves.”

Within three months the programme delivered a 300% return on investment. With an expanded pipeline and a 1:3 conversion rate, Towergate and Solution Cell expect a minimum 600% ROI within 12 months.

"Solution Cell's willingness to flex and adapt the programme to meet our requirements is exactly what we needed in a training partner."

Lisa Bartlett, Sales & Marketing Director, Towergate Insurance

"As you know, the success and feedback of the initial programme has led us to ask for your help to develop our sales managers. You may have entered the tender process late in the day, but we are pleased you did!"

Sally Skinner, Sales and Customer Management Training Consultant, Towergate Insurance