Filed Under:Claims, Education & Training

What makes your agency different from the competition?

Independent agents shouldn't compete on price. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Independent agents shouldn't compete on price. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Years ago, a mentor of mine would say the independent agent space was like a cult, because we all say the same thing when asked to explain why we’re different: “We have great service, we’ve been in business for 'X' years, we’re active in the community, and if you ever have a claim, I’ll be there for you.”

Independent agents, does this sound familiar?

New salespeople are often asked to refine their “elevator pitch” or “value proposition.” This is what you’ll say when a prospect asks why they should buy from you instead of the competition — and it needs to be said quickly, as if you were truly telling them in an elevator.

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Your goal is to find a differentiator — something that makes you stand-out above everyone else — that can be delivered concisely and consistently by every independent agent in your office. Differentiators can take many forms — you, your agency, coverage, hours, programs or a need you discover during the the sales process.

If you don’t have something different than the competition, then price is all that matters. I’m not saying consumers aren’t price-driven, especially in Auto insurance. However, everyone reading this article has clients on the books that received a lower price from other agents than the one you offered, but still bought from you. Why is that? Why would they pay more, and how can we make that the norm, as opposed to the exception?

But let’s be honest: if you need the lowest price to sell something, you’re not a salesperson. At least not in this industry.

The worst way to start a conversation with a prospect is “Let’s see if we can save you money” or asking questions such as “Is my quote the lowest you heard”? Re-frame the conversation to “We’ll find you the best coverage for the best price,” and then document several differentiators so when you’re close on price, you’re winning business — because of these unique differentiators.

One thing to remember about differentiators — think about the prospect, and what’s important to them. Too many times we’re locked into our day-to-day activities and are inwardly focused — “of course it’s important, it’s important to me!” Turn outward and do something critical: Listen to your client. You’ll learn what’s most important to them, and build rapport throughout the sales process.

In my career, I’ve listened to thousands of recorded phone calls and agents that discuss benefits, features, and build rapport—all while touting their differentiators. These are the indpendent agents that have the most success. Agents that focus solely on price are thinking small and short-term, and don’t write nearly as much new business — or repeat business — as the independent agents that follow the core principles I’ve outlined.

Beyond developing your differentiation and elevator pitch, here are my suggestions on a few basic methods to convert a higher percentage of your prospects into new business:

  • Don’t “always be closing." Sure, it’s the goal, but the hard-sell leaves your prospects feeling shellshocked, and likely to hightail it out of your office.
  • That said, ask. Asking for the sale will increase your close rates dramatically. Ask for the sale 100% of the time — but do so respectfully.
  • It’s not about price. Prospects will always tell you the reason they requested a quote is to save money, and that’s true, to a point. It’s up to you to find the real reason.
  • Always stay positive. Negativity is felt over the phone and hurts conversions.
  • Embrace rapport. Be a great listener and learn why the prospect is shopping. You’ll be surprised at how often they’re not shopping price.
  • Be quick. Speed applies to your contact strategy, quoting process, application taking everything in between. The 21st century consumer expects speed, so your pace determines whether or not you close a sale.
  • Have fun. Prospects can sense a positive attitude and want to work with charismatic people. If you’re not feeling it, fake it till you make it!
  • Data. Track metrics and learn to use data for important business decisions. Make statistics visible to everyone and create friendly competition.

As competition becomes fiercer than ever and direct writers are commoditizing insurance, independent agents need every advantage possible to compete.

Stuart Ganis is the founder of Redondo Beach, Calif.-based Ganis Consulting, which provides sales, marketing, operations, and mergers and acquisition consulting to insurance agencies. Follow him on Twitter @StuartGanis

Related: Prospecting 101: 6 ways to acquire new clients

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