Why Sales must be Everybody's Business in Insurance?

Sales is NOT a dirty word!

Many people in our industry who are on the technical side of the business, and even some at management levels, sometimes think that sales is a dirty word and distance themselves from it. Let’s get one thing clear first: Insurance companies are sales organizations that underwrite risks and service and pay claims.

Selling should be part of every employee’s job description irrespective of which department he or she sits in. As discussed during last week’s blog, your claims folks are the ultimate customer-facing staff and they, of course, should also be selling your firm.

Why Focus on Sales?

In addition to the universally-accepted concept that firms that don't sell and grow will eventually die, below is my insurance industry-specific (linear) logic as to why you should focus on sales:

> You can’t deliver an underwriting profit unless you underwrite.

> You can’t underwrite unless you quote.

> You can’t quote unless you receive a submission.

> You can’t get submissions in the door unless you sell.

Voila! Basic and simple. In any business, you can’t aspire to be number one in terms of top line, bottom line, customer service, and talent acquisition and retention unless you sell and grow. Size does matters in insurance and it enables you to:

> Build a portfolio so you can portfolio-underwrite and produce an underwriting profit.

> Remain a relevant and attractive employer for existing and future talent.

> Generate profits and invest in customer services and user-friendly systems.

> Grow your net earned premium, surplus, and lower your expense ratio.

NOTE 1: Top line growth and bottom line results are NOT mutually exclusive. Winning companies achieve both.

How to Build a Sales Culture?

Here are a few tips from The Insurance Management Playbook:

  • It starts at the top, with you as the leader. You should lead by example and make sales, customer, and broker calls and visits.

  • Leading and inspiring the entire company to buy into your vision, pull together, and cooperate, as one team, to be laser-focused on achieving your sales objectives.

  • Sales is as much about growing and making profits as it is about honesty, ethics, and integrity. This is an industry I am passionate about and it really disheartens me when I read or hear about abusive sales practices such as miss-selling to retirees and robbing them of their life savings or a UK-style PPI scandal.

  • Quote-to-win should be your motto. Selling is not just pitching; your ultimate objective is to win business that promises to deliver an underwriting profit. Explain to your salespeople and production underwriters that they get paid to bind, not to just quote.

  • A sales organization is one that is laser-focused on the numbers: submissions flow, client visits, quotes released, quoted-to-submitted ratio, bound-to-quoted ratio, and so on. Figures should be reviewed daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

  • A strong sales culture is further cultivated by celebrating wins. Gather the team after you have just won a new account or secured an important renewal, say a few motivational words, and ring the “binder bell.” Bell-ringing moments create a healthy sense of internal competition and are good for sales.

  • And, of course, continuous and ongoing training and development to invest in your people and up their technical skills are important to ensure they become better salespeople and continue to win in the marketplace.

NOTE 2: Your sales cycle, by the way, only closes when you ring the cash register by collecting premiums. It is as pointless to sell without making a profit as it is to sell without the timely collection of premiums.

There are two Ps in Sales: Profiling & Process

Not everybody is a natural-born salesperson. Some folks have certain qualities, inspire trust, are good communicators, and tend to do well with customers and brokers. Others are more reserved, technical, expert characters that can be equally effective as long as they are given the required sales training and tools to go out and sell your products and services.

Profile: Here I come as David Letterman with my top ten picks for a great salesperson’s traits:

1. People-friendly, outgoing, positive, and energetic.

2. Passionate about insurance.

3. Tenacious and relentless in the pursuit of his or her sales targets.

4. Empathetic, has a high level of EQ, and can easily put himself or herself in the shoes of the customer.

5. Issue-spotter and solution-provider.

6. Hungry and loves to win.

7. Articulate communicator, good presenter, and presentable.

8. Humble, good listener, and great storyteller—at the right time.

9. Generous. As entertainment is an important part of selling, great salespeople are generous but also judicious in their spending.

10. Technically-astute and well-informed about the products and services he or she is selling.

Now, even if someone doesn’t have all of the above traits, as long as he or she follows the steps outlined in the second P below, process, he or she should have a high probability of being an effective salesperson.

Process: A 4-Step Approach to Optimize your Sales Process

1. Agree an underwriting appetite and strategy with the wider team.

2. Obtain alignment from all functions.

3. Communicate the appetite internally and externally with crystal clarity.

4. Prepare for your sales meetings obsessively:

> Gather information.

> Agree action points.

> Ask for the business.

> Share the knowledge with other functions.

> Follow up diligently and in a timely manner.

> Schedule next visits before the end of your current one.

NOTE 3: Your IT systems should support your sales efforts and deliver accurate business intelligence reports on a real-time basis. Investing in connectivity is also key to provide access to information for an increasingly mobile and out-of-office salesforce.

What’s the Bottom Line?

Your challenge as a leader is to build a strong sales culture without compromising profitability. Everyone in your organization should wear a sales hat at some point during the day. I'd like to re-emphasize that top-line growth and bottom-line results are not mutually exclusive. Honesty, integrity, ethics, and a relentless desire to win in the marketplace should be your sales team's guiding principles. Always.

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