Agency Financial Management
Identify your ideal clients and over-deliver on your service promises
For your insurance business to thrive, it is imperative to have a standardized sales process that has been proved effective and can be replicated, from obtaining a lead through servicing the client and beyond.
As we know, the sales process typically includes prospecting/lead generation, qualifying the prospective client, connecting with the prospective client, providing a solution, closing the deal, and servicing the account. An important additional step in the process is securing referral business.
Beyond sales, keeping your top talent from all departments engaged and energized while providing an exceptional employee experience improves retention, which in turn enhances the client experience and leads to agency success.
What other elements need to be in place to support this? When evaluating your sales process, it is important to keep in mind the influence that marketing, technology, customer service, and even human resources have on sales success.
The sales process has three stages: procuring business, winning the business, and servicing the account once the deal is closed.
Procuring business includes prospecting and lead qualification. It is important to develop a strategy to define and identify your ideal client. This profile can be based on what current clients “look like,” as you likely will be able to meet the needs of prospects that are similar to those you already serve. You will want to create alternate profiles if new products or services become available that are beneficial to different client groups.
Once identified, researched, and vetted, leads/prospects should be added to your database or CRM platform in a systematic and consistent manner agency-wide. Ask yourself these questions: Once entered, is prospect/client data integrated and complementary among departments? Is the definition of a prospect/client consistent throughout your agency? Are all departments working with the same computer applications, and if not, are they cross-trained to do so? All of these elements are necessary for the prospect/client to have a seamless experience. Don’t let gaps in your technology undermine your sales process.
Be sure to examine the methods used to keep your prospect database clean over time. You’ve worked hard to qualify leads and nurture relationships. It only makes sense to validate that your data is current and correct.
Next, when developing your marketing plan, ensure that your emails, website, blogs, white papers, eBooks, and social media generate quality leads by speaking to the needs of your clients/prospects. Also check that your messages are consistent across all platforms and that they align with your agency’s mission, vision, and strategy.
Another important alignment is sales and marketing. Prospects are more likely to take a call if they have been touched by an email or other marketing piece. Your sales team should be working hand in hand with your marketing team so they understand the messages the prospect is receiving and what specific piece generated the lead. This will allow for an immediate connection and a more efficient sales process.
Winning the business
Winning the business starts with engaging the prospect directly and ends with closing the deal. In the initial conversation you are not only educating the prospect about your agency but also starting to demonstrate that you have done your homework and have some understanding of the prospect’s pain points. Your presentation should be practiced and concise and cover the aspects of your business that would be of most interest to the prospect.
Research is vital, and you can use the Internet to learn much about your target company. You may want to have an account manager assist with the research. This will help familiarize him or her with the prospect and will put the manager ahead of the game when the deal is closed.
When doing research, try to understand the mission, vision, and products and services the company offers—but don’t stop there. What do your ideal clients look like, and what are their greatest concerns? Additionally, try to gather prospect data, business plans, org charts, and financials. Research the people with whom you be will be meeting. LinkedIn® can provide information on career path, education, even hobbies and outside interests. A prospect I met with recently shared a love for biking. This gave us an instant connection as we discussed our biking experiences. Also, consider reaching out to your contacts who can provide valuable information about your prospect and his or her company.
As the prospect confirms or identifies issues, listen carefully. Once you have a clear understanding of the prospect’s needs, ask to set a time to present a thoroughly researched proposal that will allow you to demonstrate in detail the solutions you can provide and the benefits that will be gained from working with your agency. Be sure to include your value proposition: what differentiates you from the competition.
Before submitting the proposal, you will want to research, evaluate, and reevaluate solutions for your prospect, be prepared to manage objections, and be ready to close the deal.
As you know, cross-selling additional products to existing clients is often a big part of your revenue stream. You’ve already sold your prospect on a product and your service; now it’s a matter of explaining how other products you offer will be a good fit for his or her needs.
Servicing the account
Servicing the account is a critical part of keeping the business you have worked so hard to earn. Again, you will want to provide a seamless transition from closing the deal to introducing the account manager or customer service representative who will service the account. This can be done in person if practical, or with a conference call if the logistics call for that.
Although the producer will always be available to the client, the goal is for the client’s first instinct to be to contact customer service. The account manager can help make this happen by listening carefully to understand questions and solve problems as well as getting to know each client. Account managers should be willing to take the extra step and always deliver what is promised, over-delivering whenever possible. This is very important at Oak Street, as we provide service for the entire life of the loans we fund. Our goal is to have the same account manager work with the client throughout the life of the loan. The relationship that develops often results in repeat business.
Beyond people, your technology for servicing the account is also important—especially client-facing portals. Although you want your account managers to interact with your clients, you also want your clients to be able to easily access and manage their accounts where applicable. Out-of-date or complicated technology can give a black eye to an otherwise seamless experience. Likewise, having customer service representatives who are not thoroughly familiar with and cross-trained on all applications can convey a bad impression and can provide a poor customer experience.
As mentioned earlier, building solid relationships often results in winning repeat business. These relationships can also be leveraged to gain referrals.Client referrals are important for many reasons. They instill more trust in prospective clients, cost your agency very little, and show your employees that your agency is doing things right.
A word about HR
Human resources plays an essential role in supporting the sales process. The HR department manages the process of finding new producers, retaining successful ones, promoting talent from within, and training, both technical and leadership. Beyond sales, keeping your top talent from all departments engaged and energized while providing an exceptional employee experience improves retention, which in turn enhances the client experience and leads to agency success.
Marketing, technology, servicing, and human resources all play important roles in creating a systematic and effective sales process and should be taken into consideration as you create a seamless progression from lead to close to servicing and beyond.
Rick Dennen is president and CEO of Oak Street Funding, which provides commission-based lending for insurance agents who need capital to buy, build or sell their agency. Dennen is a licensed agent in the state of Indiana for life, accident and health products and a licensed certified public accountant in the state of Indiana. In addition, he holds an MBA in finance and is an adjunct professor of venture capital and entrepreneurial finance at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.