Menu

Strategic Planning 2004

MOTHERHOOD – APPLE PIE – RELATIONSHIP SELLING

Here are three clich├ęs that are used to describe that which is good. However, some mothers aren’t the ‘saints’ that we would like, apple pie makes you fat and most of us talk about Relationship Selling – but few accomplish it.

Relationship Selling is a device and philosophy that evolves a relationship between the agency (not just the producer) with each client as the basis for providing those clients the products and services of the agency. Consultative Selling is a method within a forming relationship in which the needs of the client are the only important parts of the relationship between the agency and the clients.

Every time you ask a prospect to “quote their policies” they tag you as ‘another’ insurance salesperson – just like all the others. And, if you entice them with the prospect of providing them insurance coverage at a lower price, you have labeled yourself as a Price-Chopper, useful as long as your price is, indeed, lower than their current price or than that of your competitors. Your time will be used (often) to quote and market just to keep the client’s current agent honest.

Isn’t it time to practice what we preach – that we are, in fact, DIFFERENT from our competitors?

How are you REALLY DIFFERENT from your competitors. The answer I get most often is that we provide “PERSONAL SERVICE.” Don’t you think that every agent in the country thinks that his agency is providing “PERSONAL SERVICE?” How is your personal service different from everyone else’s?

I was actually in an agency recently whose staff and owner told me that their uniqueness was a grade of service that was unequaled in the insurance industry. As our conversation continued, they admitted serious backlogs causing multiple calls from clients to follow up on unprocessed requests and mail that sat unopened because of the additional call volume caused by these repeat callers. This is the traditional ‘Catch-22.’ It certainly does describe ‘unequaled customer service’, doesn’t it? But it may not be quite the service standards that the owner would like to boast about.

While most agencies believe in (or pay lip-service to) personalized and excellent service, most don’t accomplish that as a form of uniqueness in the industry. Converting to Relationship Selling and Consultative Selling will accomplish that uniqueness, but like all transitions of thought, they are not easy.

In Consultative Sales, the concept forwarded to the client is,

“We don’t SELL insurance – our job is to protect your assets! Since we are providing you this service, our job isn’t over until we have determined the quality of all of your insurance products and have pointed out any gaps or weaknesses that we find. It is up to you to decide if you want those weaknesses or gaps strengthened and whether you would like to take our comments back to your other agent to find out why he hasn’t pointed this out to you previously, or if you simply want us to provide the proper protection. Our role is satisfied when we have fully protected your assets or have identified areas of need for your attention.”

The cross-selling effort that is an integral part of the Consultative method of Relationship Selling is to take EVERY new business client written by any department or division of the agency and “shepherd” that client from one department to the next with each subsequent department or producer introduced by the preceding department or producer until the agency has analyzed all forms of insurance devices needed by the client (and probably has sold the client a number of products and services). A grid is maintained on every client that indicates when they were seen by each department, who was their contact, what happened, what the next step is for that particular product or service and to whom was that client referred next. It may take a year or more to fully integrate a client into the agency’s consultative approach to relationship selling, but it will be worth it. Clients will have every reason to feel that you are on their staff as a true risk manager for both personal and business insurance risk assessment.

THE REFERRAL TREE

An additional function of the consultative approach to relationship selling is that every department must actively solicit referrals after each analysis:

“Can you think of anyone that could benefit from an analysis of risk and asset protection as I have done for you?”

This will develop a Referral Tree using every new business client at the agency to generate an ever-increasing customer base with little additional “cold” marketing. Every new client can easily refer you to six or more new clients over time. And each of the new clients forms a branch that bears its own fruit.

If you dedicatedly pursue the Referral Tree, you will NEVER need to solicit for clients again. However, please don’t confuse the proactive Referral Tree with the occasional reactive referral from clients. Yes you still get new clients from existing clients, but only on a haphazard basis. As the old saying goes, “Even a blind squirrel comes across acorns once in a while.” Do it on purpose and you’ll fill your tree with acorns every Fall.

If you would like to learn more about Relationship Selling, Consultative Selling and the Referral Tree, call Agency Consulting Group, Inc. at 800-779-2430. We can teach this process to producers and implement incentive programs that are loaded toward successes of these devices.