I’ve heard one producer say that even after saving a prospect thousands of dollars they doggedly refused to pull the trigger and change agents.
This happens so often that agents have taken to extracting commitments — sometimes even in writing — before they provide a cost and coverage review, to make sure the prospect will let them be their agent once they deliver some agreed upon level of improvement.
Here’s what one agent tells prospects:
I’m willing to shop thoroughly, negotiate aggressively, and get you the best rates I can. But I want your commitment up front that if I do lower your rates by an amount we agree upon, you’ll drop your current agent and become my client.
In principle, this is a good idea. It’s reasonable and fair.
But in practice it sucks. Why? It put you on the opposite side of the table from the prospect, instead of alongside them.
People don’t like ultimatums (especially if it’s from someone selling insurance). So unless you want to start off as an adversary, this approach is probably not the best way to proceed.
What can you do, then, to get a fair commitment from prospects before you invest your time and efforts in reviewing their insurance?
One simple answer is to make friends with them first.
Consider the following approach for getting on the same side of the table as your prospects. (You can make this even more succinct or phrase your questions differently, according to what you already know about the prospect’s needs):
“Thanks for setting aside this time for us to meet. Before we get going, I want to be sure I understand what you want to get out of this review.
Of course, I initiated getting together today, but companies often have different reasons for meeting with me, and different goals.
Some have risk problems or coverage issues they need solved, some businesses aren’t happy with the service they’re getting. Everyone, needless to say, wants to keep costs down.
What would be the best-case result for you?
What would you like to have happen as a result of this meeting and insurance review?
Can we agree up front on specific improvements we’d have to make so you feel it’s worthwhile switching to our agency? What do you think?
After they’ve articulated their objectives, it’s good to restate them as an active listening practice, and then, in an attitude of collaboration, tell them what you’ll be doing to achieve them.
This could include shopping markets, talking with company underwriters, researching work comp classifications, etc. The point is to let the prospect know about the experience and skills you’re bringing to the table, and the efforts you’re about to make on their behalf. The more detailed you can be without taking up too much of the prospect’s time, the better. Once you’ve done that, then ask gently and firmly:
Now that we agree on the aims, I’d like to ask a key question, if that’s OK? [It’s good to smile after you say this so that you convey a casual but sincere sense of mutual understanding and appreciation. That will eliminate any possible pressure the prospect could feel.]
As long as I’m able to deliver what you want, is there any reason you wouldn’t be able to end the relationship with your current agent and become our client?
Don’t say anything more at this point. Just wait until the prospect gives a clear and affirmative reply. If they hesitate or don’t give you a straight answer, you could add,
Sometimes I know there’s an ongoing business relationship that people don’t feel comfortable changing. We all have those. But I’m just like you, Mr. Prospect, I don’t want to take up your time or spin my wheels if we’re not both on level ground here. Are there any reasons you wouldn’t feel comfortable changing agents?
Just listen and understand where they’re coming from. Don’t formulate a reply while you’re listening – just hear what they’re telling you. If they explain the reasons for their reluctance, that’s potentially a sign that they’re inviting you to help get past them.
Often you can do that by simply replying with caring reassurance. If, on the other hand, they’re strongly attached to their incumbent agent, it may just be better to thank them for their honesty and walk away.
In most cases, though, people will appreciate your candor and integrity. You’ll actually gain points for your friendly and professional attitude.
When you agree on mutual goals up front, you not only have something specific to shoot for – you’ve created an accommodating playing field and have a genuinely receptive prospect.
What do you think? How do you handle situations when prospects have strong resistance to leaving their incumbent agent, even though you can offer clear advantages? Share your thoughts in the comments below…