“I think I’ll wait ’til next year.”
“We’ve compared in the past and it didn’t work out so I don’t think we want to do that again.”
These are just a couple of the common excuses offered when prospects decline to meet for a cost and coverage review.
Sometimes it’s even worse. We’ve heard about situations where the challenging agent was able to cut a prospect’s premiums by a meaningful percentage, but the prospect steadfastly refused to leave his current agent.
Behind this implausible inertia and these seemingly wishy-washy excuses lies a common roadblock to your success: the emotional discomfort of breaking an existing agent relationship simply outweighs the benefits of switching.
Why do these folks choose to stay put instead of making a change that’s clearly in their best business interest?
This sort of buying inertia boils down to just two underlying reasons: social anxiety and fear of making a mistake.
We’ll get to uncertainty about making bad buying decisions next time but today let’s look at the purely social reasons for sticking with an incumbent agent.
The Awkwardness Factor
Maybe their agent is a friend or neighbor. When push came to shove, one business owner admitted, “I kind of feel like I’m being [emotionally] blackmailed. I see my agent at my kid’s soccer games and I just can’t bring myself to take the business away from him, even though I realize you guys know more about my industry and can probably do a better job.”
Even without the neighborly anxiety, long- or short-term business relationships are still relationships. And relationships are based on expectations. When those expectations are met, the relationships continue; when they’re not, they tend to collapse.
We’re guided by social norms. One of these is reciprocity. People feel obligated to give back to others when they receive something. If their agent’s helped with a claim, met with them at renewal times, or even if he’s just greeted them warmly from time to time, there’s resistance to breaking that relationship by taking their business elsewhere.
For any sales prospect to take action and change agents, the motivation to switch has to outweigh the motivation to keep things as they are.
And the algorithm to expedite this kind of change is simple – strengthen the reasons for moving and weaken the importance of staying put.
Here are three steps to override this kind of buying inertia:
First, get the prospect to recognize and acknowledge his resistance to changing. Raise the issue with the prospect in a non-judgmental way. Help him see his agent isn’t going to hold a grudge.
“People sometimes feel uncomfortable changing agents, like they’re not being loyal. But agents don’t hold grudges just because a client moves their business. Honestly, John, agents understand that businesses need to act in their own best interest. And no reasonable person could fault you for doing that.”
Second, reassure and remind him of the benefits he’ll gain by changing.
“The money you save on business insurance, as you know, goes right to your bottom line. And in this case John, you’re not only going to be saving some significant money but getting a lot better coverage as well.”
Finally, you can help him pull that trigger by offering to alert his incumbent for him.
“Many people feel uncomfortable telling their current agent they’re going to move their business insurance. That’s understandable. But please rest assured John, you don’t even have to talk with your agent. I’ll give him a call to let him know we’re going to be handling your account from now on and do my best to smooth it over. I’m sure he’ll understand.”
Those seemingly uncomfortable moments don’t have to stand in the way of providing solutions that are better for the prospects you’re courting when you help them see the value and get past the anxieties of change.