You have heard the old saying from the movie Glengarry Glen Ross, that talks about the ABC’s of selling: “Always be closing.” Well, I am a firm believer in a similar concept of “Always be cross-selling.” Cross-selling is one of the most powerful tools you have as an insurance agent. Let’s explore that opportunity to cross sell.
To cross-sell insurance effectively, you need to be able to identify opportunities. One way to do this is by taking a more proactive approach. When you first start trying to cross-sell this way it can feel uncomfortable. Rest assured, you’re not the only agent who feels this way. However, with a little practice, you’ll learn to do it more naturally and effectively. The more you implement good cross-selling strategies, the easier it will get to bring up complementary and related products. Here are a few tips that can help you.
That proactive approach begins with a proactive phone call to every one of your clients at least once a year. Renewal calls are like penicillin for insurance agencies in the sense that they can solve every major problem that an insurance agency has. Some of you may be asking, “What do you mean? How do renewal calls help solve agency problems?”
I’m glad you asked. More times than not you will uncover that you have bad contact information, or that the client doesn’t have enough coverage, or simply that the client’s coverage is not quite up to your agency’s standards. All these corrections not only help you update your system and sell more policies, but also become a huge value-add to your agencies. Often, this approach is called proactive retention. Instead of being reactionary to the ringing phone and upset clients, being proactive allows you to impress the client, control the situation, and cross sell more opportunities.
Look for opportunities
When you speak with a client during a renewal review call, you should look for opportunities to cross-sell. You can gather vital information, such as if your clients have policies with any other insurance agents. Even if they do, you can then get the X date, so you have that data ready to go. There are endless opportunities to cross-sell during renewals. If you keep your eyes open, you will find opportunities right underneath your nose.
You can take this time to make recommendations. Renewals represent a time when people are thinking about their insurance, and you can make recommendations, such as improving coverage up to agency standards or higher, as well as other lines of coverage you recommend. This gives you an incredible opportunity to show up and show off—by educating your prospects on why they need your recommendations. This moves the conversation from transactional to relational. By doing this, you’ll also get the opportunity to at least quote, or plant the seed for other potential cross-sell opportunities. For example, if you were looking at a customer’s coverage and identified that he or she had home and auto coverage, but no umbrella, here is an opportunity for you to improve his or her coverage, but also get the opportunity to cross-sell.
There is no shortage of ways to cross-sell when making renewal review calls. However, there is also a big opportunity for you to fall into the dangerous remarketing trap. When facing a rate increase, you might be immediately tempted to begin remarketing the policy before talking to the client. You may even hear the clients in your head asking you to remarket their coverage every time there is an increase. However, let’s stop and take a moment. Start by doing a quick review:
- Did you look at the reason for the change in rates?
- Was there something that changed in the household (e.g., driving activity, a new vehicle, a recent claim, or a protection class change)?
- Did the client have payment issues that are challenging the rate?
- Was there an underwriting guideline update (e.g., the roof was last replaced 20-25 years ago)
- Were there weather-related issues in the area?
Take the time to investigate the reason for the increase, reach out to the customer to review the reasoning, and then act. Ask questions to get a clear picture of any changes to the risk, and then present options. If clients decline to answer these questions, that’s OK, just remind them that you were trying to help, and move on. If they answer your questions, make sure that you follow through on your promise by setting a date and time to reach back out to review the options available to them.
It’s also a good idea to remind clients that if they only have one line of business with your agency, they miss out on the most significant discount most carriers offer—the multipolicy discount.
Make every renewal call special by being professional, knowledgeable, and helpful. Ask open-ended questions and wait for the answer. Don’t try to answer the questions for your clients. Bring up something you might remember about them, their kids, pets, hobbies, classic car, or the last place you saw them. Customize the conversation to the type of client with whom you are speaking.
Make sure to refer to the existing coverage they do have and then ask where their other policies are, or if there is a note in the file that they had auto insurance with Carrier XYZ, then ask if they still have that policy. Ask when the last time the other agent reached out to review their coverage options with them. Build the relationship and be the person they want to turn to with all their insurance questions and needs. If you never ask the question, you will never know the answer. One thing is for sure, someone else will ask and get the answer. Monoline business is a race to the finish. Generally, the first person to ask wins the business.
Cross-selling is a unique sales situation. It’s not like you have only one chance to close a deal. You’ll have several opportunities to interact with a customer, so don’t stress trying to fit everything into one conversation. That’s a surefire way to make things harder on yourself and confuse your client at the same time. Instead, be patient. By taking a proactive approach to renewals—and making proactive retention calls—you can increase the opportunity to wow your client and open the door for cross-selling opportunity.
Remember to ask questions and plant seeds along the way. The more you talk about cross-selling opportunities with your clients, the more cross-sales you’ll make. It may take a little time, but it’s well worth the effort and patience.
Heath Shearon is a second-generation insurance professional, creator of the Insurance Town podcast. He built a successful agency before transitioning to the carrier side. Working with hundreds of insurance agencies throughout his career as a marketing representative and consultant, Shearon has a natural ability to network and build relationships. He has parlayed that into a career in consulting with agencies all over the country in the areas of sales strategies, niche marketing, relationship-building, cross-selling, customer retention, mergers and acquisitions, developing culture, and brand-building. He is a strong believer of the accountability factor in coaching and enjoys working with agencies both large and small. Reach him at Heath@Agencyperformancepartners.com.