Of all the roles in insurance, sales are certainly the ones that are most dependent upon face to face contact, developing rapport and establishing long-term relationships. And as such, it’s perhaps the role that’s suffered most from remote working.
Existing pipelines of prospects may have helped many get through the early stages of lockdown, but the difficulty of trying to establish first contact and developing those all-important relationships became abundantly clear as the lockdowns dragged on.
“Research shows that building rapport is definitely a challenge in the virtual world and in particular when we are building rapport with new contacts for the first time having not done so face to face. It’s not just the operational change, it’s the challenge of engaging without access to body language and non-verbal cues,” says Nick Thomas, a sales coach and consultant to the insurance industry.
While most others have been able to get by with a combination of video, phone calls and email, many salespeople, in a role that’s somewhat uniquely reliant upon direct human contact, have struggled to do the same.
But despite what people may think or even hope, the idea that they can slip back into the familiar and profitable world of face to face meetings on a permanent basis are slim.
“That’s just not true,” says Nick.
“We have to follow our clients and they’re likely to reduce their property footprint and start implementing agile working practices.
“So, securing a face to face meeting is going to be harder as people will only be in the office two or three days a week and with board meetings, team meetings and client meetings, will they really be able to make time to talk about insurance?”
Despite this, in new, complex or risky environments research shows buyers may engage with sellers earlier in the sales process, creating opportunity for sellers. It’s all about making the most of whatever contact can be secured.
To do that, brokers will have to prepare longer and better for online meetings to ensure that they make maximum impact when face to face meetings do happen. Even to make contact brokers will need to be more buyer focused and therefore research more to understand the buyer so they can bring perspective.
It’s no longer good enough to make non-personalised approaches. There’s just too much traffic (a 300 – 400% increase in email prospecting according to hubspot, and reduced response rates).
“To succeed in sales in the future, you need to be great at bringing relative perspective to prospects. It’ll take a lot more preparation before the call and the ability to bring something that is going to be relevant to prospects, something that’ll make a difference to their working life,” he says.
He describes this approach as ‘consultative selling’ and advises brokers to broaden their touch points with the market by using social media to build their brand and awareness and following up with a short video clip rather than an email to make more of an impact.
But while the approach to sales may be evolving, Nick believes the core skills remain unchanged: “It’s all the same skills as they’ve ever needed. Building rapport, posing good questions, understanding the client’s needs and being professional in their approach are all still as important as ever.
“We just have to do them in a different way. We have to be good at doing both face to face and online.”