August 2, 2019 by Jason Contant
Sales and customer service staff – whether they are in the broker or direct distribution channel – need to understand that by not cross-selling, they are passively indicating to a client that they’re better-served having their business elsewhere, a Wawanesa Insurance executive says.
“For brokers, what if that ‘elsewhere’ is with a direct writer?” asks Graham Haigh, Wawanesa’s vice president of broker distribution. “Even worse, what if your customer is unaware of a coverage need – be it a commercial client, a condo unit owner, or a tenant – where under-insurance can occur?”
Haigh was responding to a Canadian Underwriter article published last week that found cross-selling is a huge untapped potential for insurers, particularly since consumers overwhelmingly want a single insurer to meet all of their policy needs.
The Customer Loyalty and Cross-Selling in the Insurance Industry study by Simon-Kucher & Partners, a global strategy and marketing consulting firm, found that although insurers frequently contact their customers, they rarely do any cross-selling. In Canada, only 4-5% of the nearly 350 survey respondents said their carrier contacted them regarding additional coverage, even though about 9 in 10 had been in contact with their insurer in the past year.
“While this survey is specific to insurers, my experience is that there is a broad discomfort level with up-selling or cross-selling within organizations of all sizes,” Haigh says. “When we don’t ask for additional business – unless we think our customers are better served by a competitor – we’re doing them a disservice.”
Why are insurance professionals hesitant to cross-sell? Haigh says from conversations with brokers and his own staff, the key reasons include a fear or ‘no,’ and looking silly in front of a customer. “It can be a bit awkward if you ask for an [expiry] date on an auto customer’s home insurance policy, only to be told you’ve been insuring them for 10 years.”
Insurance professionals may also be too busy to cross-sell. “What if [the customer] said yes?” asks Haigh.
Insurance is a technical and regulated industry; as such, there is a tendency to train employees in procedures and regulatory awareness rather than for sales skills such as overcoming objections and dealing with difficult conversations. “Our point-of-sale systems are geared more for compliance too,” Haigh says. “Tick these 40 boxes correctly and we’ll give you a rate, versus enabling frontline staff with insights into a customer’s basket of products, or even better, proposed additional opportunities.”
How could insurers or brokers better cross-sell to their clients? “It will take training, technology and investing in proper sales training,” Haigh said. For example, Wawanesa has partnered with a professional sales training provider to work with its business development team on basic and intermediate sales skills.
“We’ve seen a big uptick in the closing of sales opportunities since doing so,” Haigh reported. “And a greater confidence and comfort in asking for additional business.”