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Agent to Agent: When Cross Selling is Service

By Cheryl Fessenden, CFO & Partner
Barber Insurance Agency

Mental Shift - Staff Buy-In

Cross-selling has to begin with a mental shift. As a business that is devoted to customer service, cross selling had to be understood differently and the first aim was to recognize that there is a genuine value for our customers to have one agency holding a thorough understanding of their needs. This, coupled with the potential savings of package discounts and the convenience of having one place to call, made it possible for everyone to buy into the idea that it is more than cross-selling, this is our obligation!

Changing Habits- Scripts and Incentives

We began by simply letting customers know what other services we offer. Employees were given scripts to practice with in staff meetings where they could share tips and success stories to build confidence. They were also encouraged by weekly and monthly incentive programs that would reward them for doing so.

“Here you go” vs “Did you know?”

The breakthrough, however, came when we started a shift from simply mentioning our services with a “Did you know we also offer...?” to right out asking “You could save $X on your auto if we also had your CA home insurance, would you like a quote?” and in some cases, with the help of tools such as zillow.com we simply pull the public data to develop an idea and give it to them to peak their interest. This new approach created overwhelmingly positive results, as customers’ curiosity was engaged and the savings, convenience and services were laid out before them. Our motto became “Here you go” vs. “Did you know?”—and the incentives for the staff changed to focus on quote opportunities, not just passive prospecting.

Quality and Prioritizing

With a big flurry of quoting, we had to better our abilities to prioritize these leads. Quite simply, this process casts a wide net, and with that, a wide variety of varying sales cycles. Here it’s about seeking to refine our focus on those customers who would benefit most from our services and being there at the right time to close the leads on their other renewals.

Measurable and Not So Measurable Success

This effort has improved our monthly averages for new policies by 12-13% which we measure by tracking a cross sell attempt into an active status, and we anticipate those numbers to grow. Harder to measure, but equally beneficial is the increased customer loyalty and referral potential that comes from growing one customer into 2 or 3 policies, who come to rely on us as a resource.

Fine Tuning and Tracking Efforts

Consistently tracking the efforts is key. It remains the #1 topic of our weekly sales meetings, as everyone continues to share their stories, and results are posted for everyone to see. To make it an even playing field, and to allow no excuses, we report weekly on the # of customers each person has “touched” and the # of leads each person has produced, and calculate their ratio. So regardless of the role each person plays in the office, and whether one talks to 10 people or 1000 people in one week, the ratio is relevant and the goal is to have created an opportunity out of as many of those contacts as possible.

We have found that whether a customer is calling to make a payment, or even complain about a rate increase, there is opportunity everywhere, and we continue to better our efforts and skills in capturing those opportunities.

July 8, 2011