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"Long-term agent-customer relationships are the lifeblood of successful insurance sales. Having established relationships with customers means there’s built-in trust and a sense of comfort they have with you. In turn, this can create cross-selling opportunities. Patrick Hull even writes in Forbes that your chances of selling to an existing customer is 60 to 70 percent. But that number drops dramatically to just 5 to 20 percent for a new prospect. That’s why it’s easier to pitch additional coverage to existing customers than to sell products to new ones. And people need insurance at different stages for different aspects of their lives. Auto insurance customers grow into homeowner insurance customers every day. In some of those cases, a customer’s career may take a new direction, and they move from employee to business owner. In those cases, that customer will likely need business insurance. Here’s how to open that conversation with your customer.  

Making the Leap from P&C to Business Insurance

Chances are, you do have such a customer in your book of business. Leigh Buchanan at Inc. points out that 27 million working-age Americans are starting or running businesses. That’s nearly 14 percent of the population. Using that math, you can estimate that about 1 in 7 of your P&C customers are business owners. As long as you as you have a solid relationship and strong rapport, a percentage of those customers may be inclined to purchase business insurance from you. And your longtime P&C customers likely are happy with their coverage. That’s why they’re longtime customers. Start with that assumption when you begin to explore whether this person would need business insurance, as well. Drew Gurley at ThinkAdvisor adds that if you already have an existing book of P&C customers, cross-selling and rounding out your accounts is fairly easy. After all, if it’s worked out well with something like homeowner’s insurance, why not allow you to handle their business insurance, as well? It’s just a matter of taking the right approach when you pitch the cross-sell..  

Identifying Opportunities in Your Customer Relationships

Your first task is to figure out which of your existing customers are business owners. As John F. Carroll puts it in InsuranceSplash, sometimes cross-sales fall into your lap, and one of your P&C customers will directly seek out business insurance from you. Maybe they’re already satisfied with their coverage as well as your company’s professionalism or customer service, so this is a natural next step for them. In those cases, simply explain how business insurance works. You also should mention that there is a wide range of products in this line that can include coverage for property damage, legal liability and employee-related risks. When the business doesn’t come directly to you, it’s up to you to identify which of your customers are business owners. This is where developing deep agent-customers relationships pays off. The Quotit team stresses the importance of getting to know your clients and what’s happening in their lives. This can include everything from marriage to the birth of their children to retirement to business milestones. They say that this is what paves the way for great relationships and creates an opportunity for future cross selling — and we agree. The team at Ameyo adds that customer engagement is also the key to creating happy customers — some of whom will refer you to their friends, colleagues and family members. Go beyond surface-level conversations and strive to make a personal connection with your customers. When doing so, make it a point to discuss things like their employment and pending business ventures. In other words, position yourself to understand what they do for a living.  

Create a Process for Capturing Important Customer Information

There’s a good chance you’re currently using some type of customer relationship management (CRM) software where you input data such as address, phone number and email. In fact, Margot Howard at Nutshell explains that 65 percent of businesses implemented a CRM within their first five years. Another simple way to identify business owners is to ask about employment when initially adding information to your database. While it might not always make sense to immediately cross-sell, you’ll know which P&C customers to target later on for business insurance. Also, be sure that all other staff members follow this process, as well. That way, you’ll have complete data to work from when you look for any potential cross-selling opportunities.  

Pitching Business Insurance

You’ve identified the entrepreneurs in your book of business. Now, how do you go about actually pitching your business insurance products? For starters, you’ll want to speak to their specific needs. John Boitnott highlights seven types of business insurance at Entrepreneur; these run the gamut in terms of protection, from product liability insurance to insurance for home-based businesses. Understand how each of these products might address your prospect’s needs. Again, strong relationships will come into play here, and you’ll want to borrow from your knowledge of each particular customer when presenting them with business insurance. The TechInsurance team makes a great point that “cross-selling comes naturally when you lead with insights.” By this they mean helping customers understand how a particular product is the perfect fit for their needs.  

Make Yourself a Trusted Advisor

TechInsurance also mentions the importance of being a resource for your P&C customers. They offer a quote from sales strategist and keynote speaker Ryan Dohrn, who says: “Most sales people are seen as ‘money takers’ and not as a ‘resource.’ From day one of the prospecting process, the sales rep needs to position themselves as an industry expert or someone that is all about helping the client.” The idea here is that fixating solely on selling is counterproductive. Instead, you should strive to become a resource for your customers, someone who can painlessly explain the ins and outs of business insurance. Besides sharing your direct knowledge, it may also make sense to show them an article, slideshow, video or any other type of content that can facilitate the learning process.  

Highlight the Benefits of Sticking with Your Company

Carroll at InsuranceSplash touches on another potent technique: Showing the value of having only one agency as opposed to getting coverage from multiple providers. He explains that you may not always be able to win the price war, but there are some significant benefits that can help persuade existing customers to trust you with their business insurance. Some of his examples include discussing multi-policy discounts, fewer coverage overlaps and being a preferred customer. The Mutual Benefit Group team expounds on this point by noting how independent insurance agents serve as personal advisors, work advocates and valuable consultants. If you’ve been dealing with a customer for an extended period of time, it shouldn’t be hard to sell this aspect of your services. Finally, the staff at NerdWallet talk about the convenience factor, which can be appealing to a lot of people. Keep this in mind, as well.  

One Last Note

Laura Mazzuca Toops writes in PropertyCasualty360 that cross-selling insurance is a no-brainer; it improves your retention rate, increases profits and strengthens relationships with customers. Besides that, your customers will be happy because they’ll have access to more robust coverage without any hassle. It’s truly a win-win. So, it only makes sense that you’ll want to offer business insurance to the entrepreneurs among your P&C customers. Following this outline should help you streamline the process and get more of your customers on board. Images by: mavoimage/©123RF Stock Photo, paylessimages/©123RF Stock Photo, langstrup/©123RF Stock Photo"

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