The longer I am in business, the more flexible I must be. More of what I knew is not what I need to know. It’s a dance with our clients. Sometimes you take them in your arms; at other times, they move you to where they want you to be.
Information gathering has changed, and clients have become incredibly informed. No longer do they need me to tell them the kinds of coverage available out there. All they need to do now is to open their computers or their mail and they see the products we sell being offered to them, along with plenty of videos of how something works and why. And every version of every product is presented as a cherry on top of the ice cream sundae of their lives.
If selling is a dance, we are not always the lead; sometimes we must follow. We need to listen better.
As we move more toward the idea of our products being bought, not sold (most insurance isn’t there yet, but someone will figure out how to do it eventually), we need to decide what we change and what we don’t.
Here are some things I’ve changed over the years, and some things I’ve held firm on.
I still want an in-person meeting. Some of my fellow Medicare-insurance agents will scoff at this idea, but I am adamant that clients still meet me at least once. I have some clients who are equally adamant that we don’t meet, and if they feel that way, we won’t. Most clients say they don’t care, but they really do.
It is still a sign of respect when — after talking on the phone or emailing them about choices and even giving them the option of doing business through the mail — you still tell your client you’ll come down to see them in person. Get your hands dirty. Yes, it means you’ll see one person instead of talking with 10, but that one person has a greater chance of being a client for life than the others have.
Electronic communications are there only when clients are comfortable with them. Tell my mother she’ll have to receive her statements electronically and she’ll say, “OK,” but she’ll hate it and eventually hate the company for making her do it. I personally dropped my auto insurance after an accident when I called in to talk to their claims adjuster because every two sentences ended with the disclaimer: “For faster service, go online.” I was distraught, I was not in a good state of mind, and I wanted a person to hold my hand.
These tools are great for convenience, but insurance is still a human interaction. Don’t try to retrain your clients too much; they’ll accommodate us only so far.
If you have lots of options, listen and fact-find; be open to changes. The majority of my Medicare clients are in Medicare Supplements. The statistics of my practice bear out a high level of past dissatisfaction with the alternatives.
It would be easy for me to say no client should be in an alternative plan. However, that wouldn’t be accurate. Why? Because my clients who have alternative plans are happy in those plans too. Why? I learned to listen better to what clients are asking for. They lead that dance and I follow their lead.
I also ask more open-ended questions instead of asking leading questions in order to get the sense of what clients want. My clients tend to be happy now with what they choose because I have learned to listen better and follow their lead to where they’re the most comfortable.
Bring your A-game to every meeting and treat longtime clients as though they were new clients. Business gravitates toward those who want it. A long-time client wants to talk with you because of some new concerns? Be prepared to address them. You don’t know whether your client is talking with someone else. And the competing advisor they are talking with may take those concerns more seriously.
If you blow off client apprehensions, you may find yourself without a longtime client. Unfortunately, this was learned the hard way. Think it won’t happen to you? Then you must be new to this business. Welcome to the insurance sales dance!
Elie Harriett co-owns Classic Insurance & Financial Services Co., an independent agency specializing in individual Medicare-related insurance. Elie may be contacted at [email protected]