In the “good old days,” cross selling meant having the courage and persistence to ask your clients for the additional business. The legendary State Farm agent and author Cosmo Conte proved that as an effective means of building an agency’s book of business.
Although the old ways can still work and be profitable for your agency, today’s consumer needs to be treated differently. Instead of asking them, they need to be positioned to ask you. And that’s not all bad, because customer service representatives and account executives sometimes have a hard time asking someone for more business.
Even on the producer side, there’s often an unspoken fear that the client might think them too pushy or too greedy if they ask for additional business. Sometimes that fear can result in inaction — they settle for what they have, rather than going for more, even though cross selling is truly in the best interests of your client.
And it’s definitely in the best interests of the agency:
- Since the agency has already invested in onboarding the client, the costs of prospecting, relationship development, and first sale have already been incurred. The true profit lies in expanding that relationship to include additional lines of coverage. Carrier commissions are the same, so earning the same commission with less expense output becomes higher profitability.
- The more policies a client has with your agency, the higher the rate of retention – unless you really mess up on the service side of the relationship.
Years ago we placed all of our business and personal banking and investment accounts with a medium-sized regional bank. They provided excellent service, knew us by name, and even had a special account representative who handled the specific needs and circumstances of small business owners. We were more than happy with them.
Unfortunately, the bank was bought by a large national banking operation, and the personal touch quickly disappeared. Within a year, even the people that had been retained during the takeover – the people who knew us and had given us great service – left the new organization. Hardly a month went by without problems popping up. It was aggravating and frustrating, but we chose to go along with it for one simple reason: transferring every account, both personal and business, seemed like too much trouble. So despite poor service, we remained their customers. Today, we are back with a smaller, high-touch regional bank that is very much like our original bank – but it took a major faux pas on the part of the other bank to make moving worth the trouble. So always remember that retention and account penetration grow proportionally.
The question is: How do we cross sell in today’s market? The answer is a consistent policy of proactive educational nurturing. Through an effective campaign of education and information, we are positioning ourselves to enjoy the benefits of “reactive cross selling.”
This means we have to focus on content and motivation by instituting campaigns for email, electronic newsletters, seminars, community involvement, and social media. These campaigns must provide information in a non-threatening, non-selling way to our clients – in other words, helping them through a support and nurture system. This means you must constantly manage your database of contact points (some clients have many more than one) and maintain a clean database of viable prospects that could also benefit from these campaigns – particularly newsletters, email bulletins, and seminars.
Email is great for bulletins containing critical information or deadlines that clients and prospects need to know about immediately, without waiting for your next scheduled newsletter. Don’t attach a document to the email; mount it to your website and provide a link to it in your email. That drives more traffic to your website where they might spend additional time.
Use variable, randomized signatures, including your basic contact points. Have a list of maybe 10 specific signatures with different product or service-focused messages, then set up your email system to randomly pull signatures for every email sent from your office.