Sales are the lifeblood of any business. So, one would think that each company will have a well-thought-out sales strategy. The reality is that most insurance agencies have, at best, a general outline of a sales strategy. More often than not, agencies are stocked with individual producers that will do their own thing when it comes to sales. Management prods them along, hoping for the best with no real control over what happens.
What’s wrong with each producer having their own sales strategy? The lack of a unified sales strategy allows for flexibility in that each producer tries out their own system. If they fail, it is the producer’s fault and not the fault of management. However, if they succeed, usually the secret sauce they developed remains private and is not replicated in the agency.
Individual sales strategies create balkanization within the agency, which leads to a lack of cohesiveness and lack of predictability. In agencies that lack a sales strategy, management is reactive, and the only control is to fire poor performers and look for new producers that have better sales skills.
The net result of not having an agency sales strategy is that sales are not consistent. That means management cannot have accurate projections of sales. Also, the agency cannot take advantage of best practices in sales techniques, and the quality will also be inconsistent. Perhaps the biggest problem for agencies that do not have a sales strategy is that today’s customers’ buying habits expect it and the competition will comply, leaving agencies without a plan withering on the vine.
At its core, a sales strategy is just a plan by a business on how to sell its product. The basics include: a description of the products being sold, a definition of the ideal customer, an outline of how customers will be identified and made aware of the agency and its products, the steps to contacting the potential client, how prospects will be qualified and scored (lead scoring), and details on the actual sales process, which includes information on sales presentations, handling objections and closing techniques. Goals and projections for the primary steps should be included for both individual producers and the agency overall. Tracking of performance is also a critical element that needs to occur regularly.
Developing a sales strategy for the agency will take time in the beginning and is an ongoing effort for continuous process improvement. However, the work upfront pays many dividends down the road. There are many books, seminars, and consultants that can assist in this strategy.
The digital world has changed sales. Thirty years ago, the salesperson held most of the information about the product, and the customer had to interact with the seller to get the best and current information. Today’s customer often does a fair amount of research before they interact with a salesperson. Customers often have a good understanding of the basics about a product, so when they engage a salesperson, it is to compare the uniqueness of products and services. Therefore, an agency’s sales strategy needs to incorporate how customers behave today or that agency will not grow.
The Problem with Insurance
Insurance sales is sometimes treated as commodity business by agents and clients. Products are usually very similar. Price battles are brutal. Coverage wars are difficult. Neither is winnable. With a policy in hand, anyone can match both. Agencies will often say we have the best customer service. Well, “most” agencies can’t all have the best customer service, so that becomes a trite pledge.
Is there any real way to stand out in this hyper-competitive industry? Here is where having a well-thought-out sales strategy becomes important. Customers need to see something that differentiates one agency from another. There are many ways this can occur. Two distinctive approaches are to focus on niches and use the consultative sales technique. These approaches won’t work for all agencies, all the time, but they will for many agencies.
Many agencies already have a niche without realizing it. For the sake of this argument, one can say that if an agency has 10 or more clients in the same industry, that is a niche. Having a niche leads to new possibilities, such as identifying as an expert and creating customized programs.
In this case, the agency’s sales strategy will dive into the niche or niches and outline ways to exploit this expertise. For example, an agency might have a niche with recreational marijuana. As this industry explodes, uncertainty abounds. What about clients that deal only in cash? How are vehicles that transport marijuana and cash underwritten? Are federally raided grows covered under the basic policy? These are tough questions that change all the time, and there is only one way to answer them: industry expertise.
Having a niche lends itself naturally to the consultative selling technique. Consultative selling focuses on the customer’s unique situation and needs. During this process, the salesperson starts to build a relationship and trust. Only after the prospect’s needs are understood, and the rapport is strong, the salesperson can offer proper and customized solutions.
An agency’s sales strategy will vary based on the resources available, the skill and personalities of the sales team, and the overall vision of the owner. There is no one size fits all sales strategy. Firms without a sales strategy in today’s market will be left struggling as those with a comprehensive plan will be thriving.
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