In the heyday of the insurance business, your insurance salesman was a member of the local community. He would knock on doors, sit down with your family at the kitchen table and discuss your needs face-to-face. When the Internet upended the insurance industry, salespeople withdrew to their desks and shifted from actively pitching potential clients to waiting for customers to approach them.

Insurance sales strategies need to evolve again, this time to a modern model that reflects the proactive, customer-first principles of the door-to-door salesman days, aided by the efficiency of the Internet. The companies that thrive today and in the future will be those that anticipate their customers’ needs and establish solid personal relationships.

How the reactionary culture evolved, and why it’s problematic

When sales strategies shifted from the more personal, door-to-door approach to in-office, online marketing, great sales professionals were left without a clear plan for applying their proactive techniques to the new medium. Many insurance companies became more reactionary in their marketing and sales strategies, waiting to be approached by customers seeking particular coverage rather than reaching out to recommend plans.

Additionally, many agency owners are skilled salespeople but not strong business owners. They don’t train everyone on their team in upselling customers, missing an opportunity to empower their staff with a proactive sales mentality. Everyone who interacts with customers should be well-versed in how to round out accounts, retain policies, and convert new opportunities.

If you’re only giving customers what they’re asking for, you’re missing a chance to build loyal, long-term relationships. The more policies they have with the company, the more likely they are to stick around. If they don’t feel particularly invested in the company — or valued by it — customers will be more willing to take their business elsewhere.

Proactive models

Insurance agencies should take a page from the restaurant industry’s book, where servers and employees are taught to upsell and constantly anticipate customers’ needs. Go to any Subway branch, and the person preparing your sandwich will invite you to turn it into a combo meal. There’s a big disconnect when Subway employees recognize the value of rounding out your business on a $7 meal and your agency CSR can’t explain the benefits of bundling a $10,000 life insurance policy with a disability insurance policy.

Building relationships is key

Proactive marketing isn’t just about upselling clients and recommending additional coverage. It’s about making them feel valued and reassuring them that you have their best interests at heart.

Non-sales correspondence, such as helpful lifestyle tips or a holiday greeting, lets the customer know you want more than his money — you want a loyal partnership. These messages also encourage customers to get in touch regarding issues they have with their plans or service, allowing you to correct any problems before they hurt your business relationships. When customers know someone is looking out for them, they’re more likely to remain loyal.

How to create a proactive marketing culture

  1. Educate your employees. Everyone on your sales team should be well-versed in your company message and prepared to proactively sell clients. Without this consistency, customers’ needs will fall through the cracks, and you’ll miss out on valuable sales opportunities.
  2. Constantly assess your customers’ accounts. Every customer interaction, whether digital or face-to-face, is an opportunity to check on the customer’s status and assess his needs. “Is there anything else I can do for you today?” is not a proactive question. “I noticed your health insurance policy is up for renewal in three months. Do you anticipate any of your coverage needs changing?” is a proactive status check.
  3. Build a healthy database of emails, and get in the habit of making sure your contact information for clients is up-to-date. The more extensive and accurate your database is, the more effectively you can market to clients.
  4. Do your research. Get in the habit of regularly segmenting your consumer data to find accounts that fit a proactive sales profile. For instance, run a report of all your customers that are nearing retirement and have a life insurance policy without LTCI. Call them up to explain the benefits of the coverage.. This exercise can be done with most types of insurance.

By establishing a strong company sales culture and providing consistent, proactive training to your staff, you strengthen your position as an insurance provider and set yourself up for growth as the industry changes. Best of all, you’ll solidify your relationships with your customers by showing them you always have their interests in mind.

See also:

How to meet your clients’ needs in 2014

4 tech gifts for insurance agents

What’s in it for them?