I plead guilty to enjoying a cold beer or two, and I’ve watched with amazement as the decade-long bull market in the craft beer industry shows no signs of abating.
In today’s virtual age, many salespeople rely heavily on Internet-based sales and marketing strategies to sell products and increase market share. E-selling tactics such as direct email, interactive websites, online advertising, and social media programs are used to supplement traditional marketing, such as TV, radio, print advertising and public relations. All of these can certainly be effective in raising brand awareness. However, face-to-face selling is often the most effective way to build customer loyalty and boost sales.
Face-to-face meetings with prospective clients can set the stage for increased results in terms of products sold and customer acquisition and retention.
Our teams sell supplemental insurance, which, as the name implies, supplements existing coverage. Benefits are paid directly to policyholders and can be used to help pay for the extra non-medical expenses often associated with serious illness or injury, such as routine household expenses, transportation to and from medical appointments, and child care, as well as co-pays, deductibles, and co-insurance costs.
Because some insurance companies often provide customer leads to sales agents, initial prospect contact tends to be more personal – usually a phone call or a visit to the home -- than an email blast. This offers a good foundation to engage in face-to-face relationship selling. Although one-to-one meetings can be more time-consuming, here are three key reasons why they pay off over the long run.
Face-to-face selling builds relationships and ultimately builds trust.
Let’s face it, we all prefer to work with vendors and business partners we trust and with whom we share something in common. A sales agent greeting prospects at their home, small business office or local coffee shop with a friendly smile and handshake sets a positive tone. Engaging in light conversation before getting down to business allows each person to “take each other’s measure” and may reveal something they have in common, be it a shared neighborhood or community, a civic or church organization, or rooting for a particular sports team.
The sales agent has the opportunity to ask relevant questions about the person’s situation and listen attentively to the responses, before explaining how the product or service can offer benefits. These kinds of interactions are much more difficult when contact is limited solely to the phone or virtual realm. After the first meeting, whether or not a sale was closed, your follow-up with customers can then include email and/or phone calls because a relationship has been established. Successful agents continue to build on that relationship, eventually establishing trust.
A high level of personal service leads to additional referrals, which can result in increased sales.
Once a prospect becomes a satisfied client, a good business practice is to ask him or her for referrals ‒ other individuals or small business owners they believe could also benefit from supplemental insurance. If customers feel you listen to their concerns, answer their questions honestly, provide high-quality products, and serve them with a high level of integrity and support, they are typically happy to share referrals from within their families, communities and other networks. This can be invaluable in growing a thriving client base and increasing the volume of business to ensure your success.
Face-to-face selling simplifies complexity, getting to “yes” faster.
Supplemental insurance covers a range of product options that can be tailored specifically to an individual’s or family’s needs. This makes the sales process more complex than, say, automobile insurance, which can be easily selected over the phone or through a website simply by providing brief information and a list of desired coverage limits.
Most leading supplemental insurance firms offer an array of policies, which may include different levels of protection in the event of disability, accident or illness, critical care, or specific conditions, such as cancer, heart attack or stroke. Because these choices can be confusing, a consultative, highly personalized selling approach is important. Coverage needs to be tailored to an individual’s specific circumstances, so a person’s age, family situation, and chronic conditions must be taken into consideration, along with the practical factor of budget.
No matter what is being sold, a dedicated and skilled sales agent can help each individual client better navigate through the available choices to arrive at an optimal solution that balances the needs with the budget. In short, they can apply their expertise, experience and powers of persuasion to get to “yes” sooner rather than later or not at all.
The need for more face-to-face interaction with prospects and clients in this virtual age has never been more important. Unless you first have established a relationship, e-communications and social media postings can be too easily deleted and forgotten. Bringing a face, voice and empathetic personality to the interaction makes it more human and real, and can lead to a mutually beneficial relationship over the long term.
Doug Abercrombie is senior vice president, chief agency officer for Combined Insurance. With more than 30 years of sales experience with Combined Insurance, he is responsible for the company’s U.S. sales strategy, talent management and market development and growth. For more information about career opportunities, visit www.combinedinsurance.com.