They say insurance is a relationship business. How do you forge and maintain relationships with your customers and prospects? Consider the answer as a question.
Long-term success is achieved by your ability to relate to others, manage conflict and solve problems. Selling is not telling, so, use questions instead to drive your relational success.
Questions foster two-way communication. When a prospect answers your questions, they feel important and it allows them to tell their story. Without even realizing it, they are beginning to relate to you. Their answers provide insight into their struggles and set the stage for you to deliver solutions. Because the solutions were developed through this process, there is no need to persuade the prospect to buy what you are selling — they simply recognize their need for your solution.
But don’t necessarily ask questions that you don’t already know the answers to. In fact, you can boost the power of your questions even more by keeping the following four tips in mind.
1. Become an Expert in the Industries You Target.
Knowledge is power. If you don’t know the industry you’re targeting, people in the industry itself will see right through you. There’s no replacement for taking the time to understand the pain points your customers deal with on a daily basis. For example, if you’re targeting restaurants, join a local or state restaurant association so that you stay up to date on the hot topics impacting the industry. Take a class in restaurant risk management or read some whitepapers and case studies. Then, when you meet with restaurant owners and ask them your questions (What problems do you deal with?), you have an answer and an offer to help them.
Additionally, when you become a true industry expert, you may be surprised at how few of your customers and prospects fully understand the challenges facing their industry. When you reach the level where you’re also the go-to information source for your customers and prospects, that’s when you know you’ve built real knowledge and real relationships based on that knowledge. Knowledge breeds credibility, and credibility breeds trust, which means sales will follow closely.
2. Offer Solutions to Other Problems by Recommending Providers You Know.
Now, you’re an industry expert and you’re solving problems for customers and prospects as you encounter them. But no matter what the scenario is, you can’t possibly have all the answers and all the solutions.
This is where you have to dig deeper than just knowing it all. You have to first know what you don’t know, and then you have to know the people that do know. Creating a network of trusted providers that you can direct customers and prospects to in their time of need is crucial to being in a true partnership. Cultivating that feeling with your customers and prospects is extremely important to your long-term success. People don’t like feeling as though they’re constantly being sold something; when you can provide solutions without expecting something directly in return, you’re going beyond the buyer-seller transaction to a real relationship and real trust.
Additionally, when you drive business to other providers, it’s more often than not a two-way street. Not only are you helping customers and prospects and building a relationship there, but you’re also building a relationship with the providers you’re driving business to. They, in turn, will become your best form of advertising by way of word-of-mouth. Nobody works with the clients you have and the clients you want more than other businesses, and if you create a strong network, you have achieved much more positive sales momentum than thousands of dollars of advertising could ever hope to.
3. Have a Digital Presence Through Which You Can Share Your Expertise.
Let’s face it: It’s 2015. Whether you like it, love it or downright hate it, technology is here to stay and the next generation of business owners wants to find their information, not through a phone call or by way of a flyer, but through a simple Google search.
Here’s a good place to start: Go out to Google yourself and search for your business. Do you show up at or near the top? If so, great. If not, please put down this article right now and get to work on that!
But now, let’s take it a step further. We all know that Google and other search engines are quite adept at finding what you’re looking for. But what about when you don’t know what you’re looking for? Put yourself in the shoes of a business owner and imagine that you’re looking for insurance. Where do you start? Let’s say you own a bar. Do you type in “bar insurance” followed by the city you’re located in? Try that yourself with an industry you focus on. Does your agency show up in the top two or three results?
If not, you have to ask yourself what that means to your future. In some areas and in some industries, this may not be as important as others. But for most of us, you can strengthen your digital presence easily by maintaining a simple blog on your site where you can share some of the expertise that you’ve built. Even short and to-the-point blogs go a long way in improving your site’s page rank. You don’t need to be an expert in search engine optimization (SEO), but if you’re not maintaining a strong digital presence, you’re falling short.
4. Make It Easy to Do Business With You.
We all have people in our lives that we deal with because we have to, not because we want to. Don’t be one of those people.
From start to finish, your goal is to put your customers at ease by making them feel comfortable that you know what you’re doing and by making the process easy. If you’re abrasive and pushy, they might do business with you once, but they’ll constantly be looking to get away. Make getting in contact with you easy and straightforward, and be as responsive as possible. It’s all common sense, but it’s amazing how often we forget that while a sale is the end goal. Approaching a prospect with that mindset is more likely to lead to an unsuccessful outcome than by simply asking: “How can I help you solve the problems you’re having?”
If you’re knowledgeable about and involved in the industries you’re targeting, easy to find and easy to work with, then you truly can follow the simplest advice of all: The answer is always a question.
Jim Kuerschner is the corporate sales manager at Society Insurance, a Wisconsin-based commercial insurer focusing on the hospitality industry.