Most professional baseball pitchers who have achieved Hall of Fame status attribute their success to having a variety of pitches. Not only did these professionals control the speed and pitch location, but they also threw many distinctive pitches such as a two-seam fastball, a four seamer, a curve, a splitter, a change, a split finger, a slider, and a cutter. Many times while viewing a game the commentators say the pitcher's best pitch is not moving, causing him to rely on another pitch. Soon the opposing team identifies this weakness and capitalizes on his one pitch arsenal. His fate for that outing is usually failure. The same is true with an insurance producer.
So what are the pitches an insurance ace should throw? The four basic pitches are: the coverage pitch, the premium pitch, the producer benefit pitch, and the personal rapport pitch. You'll need to deliver all of these throughout the sales process. With effective dialogue, probing, and need discovery, you can identify exactly which pitch will be the one needed to make the sale.
Producers often rely on the pitch they like to throw rather than identifying the pitch that will make them successful. Successful producers know that they need to use the pitch that relates to the most pressing need of the prospect. This pitch in combination with the others will give you the greatest chance of success.
The coverage pitch
Often the coverages and limits on the expiring polices are copied so an "apples-to-apples" quote can be made. How can you make the coverage pitch when all that you're doing is duplicating the existing agent's work?
[Related: Mobilizing producers to make the sale]
Rather than copying previous tactics, you need to examine the prospect's exposures, operations, limits and coverages. If you don't do proper due diligence and just copy the prior work of others, you're saying that the existing agent knows exactly what to do. This places you in a weak position and nullifies the coverage pitch.
Instead, you should use your knowledge to change the coverage from what the prospect has to what is needed. If the expiring policies offer adequate coverage, you should look beyond the existing coverages and offer new ones, like cyber liability.
The premium pitch
Often prospects just want the bottom line, the lowest premium pitch. These buyers may even ask you to just e-mail the quote.
There are two cautions that need to be observed when tossing the premium pitch. First, coverage usually is secondary for this type of buyer until a claim occurs. Make sure that you document and receive the insured's signed declination of coverage when you recommend coverage that is not selected by the insured. Often, when a claim occurs, the insured's memory fails to recall items of importance like declining coverages that were quoted and offered. Unless you have the proper documentation, the agency's E & O policy most likely will be paying the claim.
[Related: The perfect sales professional]
The premium pitch can be an effective way to acquire business. But remember that if you win solely by price this year, you can lose by price next year. Your great price this year could be offset by someone's great price next year. If you're successful using the premium pitch, make sure that during the policy year you effectively develop the benefits and rapport pitches. Doing a good job with these two extra pitches may enable you to modify the game next year. Ideally, the client will be comfortable with you and the benefits provided, so that next year you should able to overcome another agent's premium pitch.
The producer benefit pitch
During the new business transaction it's difficult to deliver the benefit pitch. It's not easy to demonstrate that you can give the new client the types of services expected and demanded. The use of referrals and client testimonies go a long way in making benefit statements reality.
[Related: 100 best sales ideas 2015]
During the fact-finding and quoting process, and before you issue a quote, make contact with the client, offering specific benefits. Stop by for photographs, to measure the building, or to get more detail on claims—all with the hope of delivering the benefit and rapport pitch. As a result of these numerous touches the client should become more comfortable with you, developing rapport. In addition, clients are also able to see that you're offering in just a few short months more services than the previous agent did in years, building on the benefit pitch.
This process is much easier with renewals. During the first year the account is written, you should make four or five in-person contacts, depending on the size of the account. This maximizes the benefit pitch. You can visit the insured in many ways, for example to delivering the new policies in person, attending the inspection survey, delivering complex certificates of insurance, assisting with the prior policy audits, and conducting pre-renewal meetings. All of these actions enhance your effectiveness, maximizing the benefit pitch.
The personal rapport pitch
Similar to the benefit pitch, this helps you to fend off other agents. It's no secret that people buy from people they like. Unless you're willing to get on the mound and start throwing the rapport pitch, you can easily be replaced by others who have developed a relationship with your client.
The rapport pitch may not show success instantly. Building a trusting association with future clients is not an easy task and usually takes time. Be patient as this pitch does give you great opportunities. The rapport pitch takes effort and time, but the reward of excellent retention ratios is well worth it.
Unlike professional baseball pitchers who work every five days, the insurance agent needs to pitch multiple times every day. Keep your pitching arm ready and strong by capitalizing on continuing education, not just to renew your license, but to enhance your arsenal of pitches. Take the mound and throw strikes. Batter up!
James Dougherty, CIC, works at the Allwood Forlenza Agency in Clifton, New Jersey. Dougherty brings over 35 years of insurance experience both on the agency and insurance company side of the business. He has served as the NJ Underwriting and Marketing Manager of Aetna and the NJ Resident VP of Penn National Insurance Company. On the agency side, Dougherty held executive management positions for two, multi-state, regional insurance agencies.