Let’s talk about potentially the greatest shift in sales in this century: Need-based selling. Need-based selling means restructuring your sales strategies around your individual client’s needs. Up until the pandemic, most sales tactics were based on product offerings; you can provide countless auto policies from all of the biggest carriers, and that is why people should get their insurance from your agency. Frankly, that way of selling just won’t cut it anymore.
So what’s changed? Well, people. This pandemic triggered in us the need for security, which naturally is your M.O., but this time it’s a bit different. Everyone is in it for the long-haul now, and a stable, secure mindset is what people are really after. So how does that change how you do business as an independent? You can’t just assume to know a client’s needs without talking to them directly. Chief Revenue Operator of Zoom Ryan Azus said that “Sellers have to adapt to be greater listeners.” Listening to clients is the number one way to strengthen your relationship post COVID-19, because it reassures your customers that you are there to help them through the foreseeable future. Build a hypothesis with the customer of what their future will be, then insert your product into that scenario (Scott Olrich COO Docusign). Now let’s examine the evolution of buyers’ expectations.
Doug Camplejohn, EVP of SalesCloud at Salesforce, said that “customers’ expectations have changed,” but what does that mean in a world where technology has replaced face-to-face communication? The main change is the need for accessibility. Ironically, everyone is more accessible now with the implementation of strict social distancing guidelines. This is due to the aggressive utilization of technology to replace in-person communication methods; everyone is on their phones and computers participating in video chatting, instant messaging, emails, the whole kit and caboodle. Before we get into the specifics, use this technology to your advantage! The more regularly you demonstrate empathy to the customer’s situation the better. This can quickly strengthen the client/agent relationship because it deepens trust, and trust is “consistent behavior over time” according to Camplejohn. The goal is to link your services directly to your customer’s sense of well-being.
We’ve identified three other changes in expectations as well:
- A refocus on “essential” items
- Incorporating more opinions in the decision-making process
- Needing transparency from businesses
The shift to refocusing on only the “essentials” ties into our conversation about linking your agency to the client’s sense of security. We cannot stress this enough, you must be essential to your customers! Even through rate increases, clients have to believe you an indispensable. Prove to them you are cognizant of their situation and trying your best to help them, and don’t be surprised when they bring other people into the decision-making process. The need for a second opinion stems from feeling insecure, which is a reflection of the currently unstable economic climate as well as the customer’s personal situation. Budgets are shrinking, and that is something all independent agents must be aware of when trying to make a sale. So be understanding and encouraging when your client pulls in their spouse or friend to help, and be transparent about your intentions.
Transparency is vital, especially since the majority of buyers now will not entertain businesses that hide their processes. What does transparency as an independent agent look like? Being open about your shopping process, letting customers know the difference between comparable policies, keeping them updated on new carrier offerings and rebates, etc. Buyers want to understand the process because it helps them feel secure. They want to be sure they are picking the right coverages, so help them understand! If you don’t have the answer to their questions, don’t pretend! You’ll come across as unauthentic and risk damaging their faith in your abilities (Scott Olrich COO Docusign). Working with your client to determine their best path is a great way to demonstrate your expertise as an insurance agent while incorporating their uniqueness as a customer.
There are many layers to need-based selling, but the main point is focusing on your customer. They are unique people with varying needs, and they demand to be heard. So listen to them! Ask them what buying looks like for them after COVID-19, offer specific advice, take note of their grievances, etc. Basically, have a genuine conversation with them. Check in on their life and see how your products and services can better their current and future situations! The buyer/seller relationship is not as cut and dry as it used to be because buyers want more from their agents. As an independent agent and part of ASNOA’s network, you are in the best possible situation to accommodate these new (and very strong) needs. So adjust your selling strategy, and go from “always be closing to always be helping,” (Doug Camplejohn EVP & GM SalesCloud).