Selling Insurance is a Relationship Business

As the insurance sales arena continues to evolve and change, so too have the technologies and tactics changed along with them. The old tried and true techniques of the past (door to door sales, anyone?) aren’t always the most effective in today’s selling world.

Insurance sales is a tough racket, especially for selling in a business to business environment. However, with all the questionable techniques for developing leads and closing sales available, there is still a proven tactic that everyone in the sales game should still master, and that’s building relationships.

This is something you won’t get asked about on the insurance exam, and they don’t teach it in insurance school—but your career will depend on relationships.

What is the Relationship Sales Approach?

As the phrase would suggest, relationship selling involves developing and strengthening the human connection an insurance salesperson has with prospects and customers. Rather than the agent only focusing on service or product price, the priority is on building a relationship based on trust between agent and customer. Obviously, pricing and coverage details are significant discussion topics, but without developing a meaningful connection with the insured, you’ll be missing out on long-term commission and referral business.

By taking a genuine interest in your potential customers and caring about strengthening relationships with prospects, it can seriously improve the chances of closing the sale and keeping a customer for the long term.

Deepen the Relationship with Existing Clients:

One of the primary reasons this type of selling and relationship building is so effective is because it allows the agent to become more than just a broker of insurance policies to existing clients. You become a trusted advisor and confidant, and, in many cases, friends with your customers. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes: Who would you rather buy from, a stranger or a friend? Exactly.

Understand that what we’re discussing isn’t so much a sales “technique” as it is just best practices for an insurance agent. While there are some tactical things you can do to improve your relationships with customers, it really just comes down to being a decent human being.

And let’s face it, by doing the “right thing” by your clients you end up with more upselling opportunities and referral business—which are the most profitable kind of sales lead.

Develop Rapport with Prospects:

While maintaining and developing good relationships is important for existing clients, it also makes sense to apply this philosophy to prospects as well. While it’s harder to foster a relationship with a prospect whom you’ve only had a few conversations with, for a good prospect it’s worth your time and effort. Understand that not everyone will buy from you today and that it takes time to build a trusting relationship. With that in mind, you can be an advocate even to your prospects, keeping their best interests in mind at all times—and not your own.

Prospects who don’t know you well already will commonly begin to start forming opinions of you right from the first handshake. Make a good first impression by putting yourself in the prospect’s shoes. Earn their trust by offering insights and solutions that they can put to use without buying anything from you right away. And do not, under any circumstances, bad mouth a competitor.

Relationship Selling Best Practices:

It doesn’t matter how many LinkedIn, Facebook, Snapchat or Twitter profiles you have promoting your insurance business, If you don’t get the basics right no amount of technology will improve your relationships. In the insurance business face time is crucial to establishing a good foundation for future discussions, even if you don’t make the sale at this renewal.

Developing good meeting skills is essential in this business. Lots of experience is really the only way to improve on face to face meetings.

Because of its crucial importance to the sales and relationship building process, let’s take a look at some of the skills insurance agents should be focusing on.

Be a Good Listener First:

Your grade school teachers were right about paying attention and listening. If there’s one sales “tactic” that wins the day above all, this is it.  It’s far too common for new insurance agents to ramble on with excitement about the latest pollution policy they heard about at the last sales meeting. But what if the prospect is only interested in talking about a credit they’re not getting on their workers comp policy, and not your fancy pollution coverage? In order to truly connect with a client, you need to be asking questions and listening to answers.

By understanding someone’s needs, you’ll be better able to target specific solutions that solve their problems. And by solving problems you’ll win more business. Be a problem solver.

Relate as a Human, Not a Salesperson:

For relationship building to genuinely take root, you’ll need to connect with your customers on a more personal level. While small talk has its place, especially at an initial meeting, don’t just leave it at that.

Instead, take the time to learn about a customer’s interests and find some common ground you share. Keep tabs on their company news, promotions, published white papers, business successes, etc. Find ways to spark a conversation about those shared interests or where you can relate in some meaningful way. This helps separate you from other salespeople who are in it only for the commission dollars.

Keep Your Word and Be Honest:

Whenever you break a promise, don’t follow-up, or fail to deliver you’re doing significant damage to the trust and reputation you’ve worked hard to build. Things happen in business from time to time, of course, but do your best to make sure you’re delivering as promised.

Building a meaningful, trusting business relationship with a customer takes time. If you’re missing deadlines and otherwise not delivering on what you promised, you can very easily lose a customer and ruin a good relationship.

The same applies to honesty. Insurance agents are often (and unfairly) portrayed as a sleazy bunch, only out for themselves. By taking an honest approach from the start about everything from policy exclusions to pricing and everything in between, your relationship will be on solid ground—even if you don’t end up making the sale. The prospect will remember you for doing right by them.

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