In today's business landscape, keeping existing clients is crucial. Cross-selling, or offering your current clientele complementary products and services, is an important strategy that can significantly boost client retention. Dive with us into this episode of IATS, as we discuss effective cross-selling and its role in maintaining client loyalty.
We're joined by Steve Tombarelli, Senior Vice President of Programs and Services at SIAA, who sheds light on crafting an unforgettable client sales journey and the importance of nurturing "sticky" client relationships through multiple interactions, turning those encounters into promising cross-selling opportunities.
In this episode we also touch upon the fine balance of informing clients about relevant products without coming across as too assertive. Don't miss out as we discuss the pros and cons of honing a niche market, as well as techniques and tips that will enable you to excel at client retention and cross-selling.
Hello and welcome to Insurance Agents Talkshop. I'm Doug Coombs, your host and chief marketing officer at SIAA. Today's episode is improving retention with cross-selling, and I'd like to introduce my guest and colleague, steve Tamborelli, senior Vice President of Programs and Services at SIAA. Welcome, steve.Speaker 2:
Thanks, doug. It's a pleasure to be here and this is such a great topic for us now in the hard market and helping our agencies and grow across the country. So great topic, great timing.Speaker 1:
Excellent Thanks. So for any business let me set the stage here it's far more cost-effective to retain a current client than it is to find a new one, and so it means focusing on customer retention is simply smart business. And one of the best ways to do this is by cross-selling, meaning offering existing clients additional services and products that match their needs. And let me just sum that up by saying really it's just a lot less expensive and a lot more efficient to sell to your existing customers than to acquire new ones. So why? It's always a valuable strategy. It's important, or its importance is magnified, in a hard market, as Steve was just mentioning, and it helps our agencies navigate the challenges of reduced capacity and higher premiums by deepening existing client relationships, diversifying revenue streams and enhancing the overall client experience. So on this episode of Insurance Agents Talkshop, we explore the act of cross-selling in its role in enhancing that client retention. So we'll dig a little bit into the client sales journey, the advantages of a one-stop approach and the power of creating quote-unquote sticky client relationships, and also, if we have the time, we'll get into discussing the merits of niche or niche specialization and reducing competition and bolstering client trust. So I just wanted to mention. For those of you who may be unaware, steve created the very successful Business Insurance Advantage, or BIA, program here at SIAA, and the course teaches agencies how to efficiently target, write and expand their small commercial business, and he's also responsible for working with agency growth coaches across the country and helping member agents grow and succeed. So it is nice to get his expertise here on this topic. So, steve, I'd like to tackle today's topic on retention through cross-selling, with consideration to both commercial lines and personal lines, and let me ask you this is there a true crossover in terms of cross-selling from commercial lines to personal lines?Speaker 2:
Absolutely it's a missed opportunity if an agency is dealing with a commercial lines opportunity and they're not having the discussions around what personal lines that person has. Do they have a home, the car, second home, toys? So it truly is a missed opportunity if that discussion doesn't take place. And when you look at it too, it's an opportunity to strengthen the agency, strengthen the relationship and build trust with that client and have that client as a referral base too.Speaker 1:
So you're kind of answering my next question actually in my head here, because I was going to ask you how important is cross-selling and enhancing the customer retention for business and you're touching on that. Do you want to go into that any deeper?Speaker 2:
Sure, I'm going to be off a little bit, but somewhere somebody told me once there's like 16 different touch points that you can have with a client if they have a small business. It's their business opportunities, it's their personal lines opportunities, life, other things. So when you look at most agencies are anywhere between one and three that they're working with a particular client on. The more touch points that you can get when you sell a commercial opportunity to look at their personal lines business, the more opportunities that you get, the stronger that relationship is going to be. And it's a holistic view of that person. How does their business interact with their personal lines? What's their goals? Are they looking for additional things in their personal business? So really having that lens to be able to look at both commercial and personal and having that relationship with the client just totally strengthens the retention because the person is less likely to go outside and start looking for a different agency if they're happy and you've got more touch points with them that you understand their entire picture, not just one little aspect of their life or their business.Speaker 1:
Very good. It's interesting, as you were mentioning touch points, I'm wondering are there specific moments during a client's insurance purchase journey, if you will, that are particularly effective as cross selling opportunities?Speaker 2:
I think there's a couple things and you hit the word journey and that's exactly what it is Very poor agents go out there and they're trying to, right out of the gate, talk about everything that they do and how they can help them and all that. It really is a journey. It's a journey to understand what that client's makeup is. What are they looking for, what do they have, what are they trying to protect, what's their goals and plans. When you look at that journey, it's kind of an education process. Certainly in the beginning of the journey, letting that client know that you're a full-service agency, you have the ability to help them in many different points Over the course of conversations and talking to them, it really strengthens that opportunity to hone in on a couple of things. You understand what their personal lines are. You understand maybe they have jewelry needs or collection needs or second homes or umbrellas or whatever it may be. Over the course of your discussions and understanding that person's makeup, it can give you the opportunity to then open the door, to then be able to suggest other coverages and where you can help that person to tie everything in as you get closer to the close it then creating that opportunity to go back to reference the point hey, you talked a little bit about your second home, or you talked a little bit about your needs because you have a youthful driver in your home, things like that. When you close on your primary piece of business, there's a great opportunity to bring it back from that discovery point, to bring it back to then talk about other opportunities, those other touch points that we're talking about.Speaker 1:
Got it. Those are all really valid points, I believe. I guess, though, even as we talk about the journey and uncovering needs, as the conversation goes on at different points in time, I think the conventional wisdom would be that the first policy sale, or the renewal period would be the prime moments for cross-selling. Do you agree with that and, if so, why is that timing so crucial?Speaker 2:
Yeah, I do. I'm just going to lump both of them together. It's that trust point At the time of the first policy sale or the time of the renewal, that client is saying to you I have faith in what you propose to me, I like how it protects my needs and I'm making the decision to do business with you. So you have that validation that that person wants to work with you or they're continuing their relationship with you. That's a strong point right there, a positive point to be able to start. Okay, well, I'm glad we have this taken care of, but let's talk a little bit more about this over here. So it really gives you that opportunity to open the door and have further conversations. Again back to those 16 touch points. I talked about some of those other things to show the person how you can help them protect their assets and protect their business.Speaker 1:
Understood, okay. So that being the case, then can you talk a little bit about how being able to offer multiple insurance types and therefore being able to be that one-stop shop, create benefits for both the agent and the client, and then how that subsequently would affect the retention rate?Speaker 2:
Yep. So think about this. Way you get the 16 touch points. There really is going to be no agencies that have all of those, but the more you have. So let's say you're dealing with a client for commercial lines and the personal lines business is with an agency down the street. That agency down the street is going to be asking for your commercial lines business at some point in time. So the more that you can tie all these things together from an agency point of view, you're kind of keeping your competition out rather than having your competition side by side with you in working with that client. So as you can build that trust, like we just talked about over the policy close or the renewal, you're building that trust in adding on to the number of touch points you have with that person, eliminating your competition from being right there with you side by side. From a person's point of view, from an individual's point of view, the client's point of view, think about it this way that person has to deal with multiple insurance agencies and the people at different agencies have less of a lens into what that person's total picture is. So are there assets, whether it's business assets or personal lines assets, other assets being covered correctly, because there may be less. Of that lens into how things interact and where they're going and where their needs are and what they're planning for the future. When you look at keeping competition out and keeping that client in their best interest as far as what their insurance needs are in one spot really benefits both the client and benefits the agency.Speaker 1:
Got it so, and so you're making me think about how important that whole relationship, if you will, is in terms of your clients and maintaining business with them. So I'm just wondering if you might take a moment to talk about the concept that I mentioned earlier about sticky relationships with clients. I think you're getting there and I'm just wondering what's you know? Why is this an essential, or this approach essential for customer retention?Speaker 2:
When you look at stickiness, one of the things that we've been talking around is the more touch points, the longer, more likely the person is to stay with you. But it's the other things too. People do business with people they like and people they want to do business with. So it's the things that you're doing, the little things. You may be using social media tools at the agency and posting things around, things that are happening around town For a business. You may be sending them out informative things that come across about their particular industry, something that's going on or something that's relevant. So that stickiness goes beyond just the number of policies. It goes on the interactions. How are you building that relationship? How are you having touch points over the course of the year, whether it's digitally or meeting with them or just supporting some of the things they do creatively? If you have a restaurant, do you buy gift cards and send them out to other clients, things like that. So that stickiness is not just the policy sold, it's that whole look of how you work with your clients and keep that relationship strong, so that you are warding off the other competition, other agencies in your town, because hey, I've got my policies here and I get all this information about my business, or I get my policies here and they're constantly talking to me about my kids' birthdays or whatever it may be. So it's all those things that you tie together, or even simple pictures of things that are going on. In town there was a 4th of July parade and you post that on the agency website. It's all those things that tie together to make that stickiness around a relationship and a client Got you.Speaker 1:
All right, so that's really good, and you're actually getting into the tactical now, and I like that because, truly, my next thought or question is around identifying the top three tactics. You've actually just identified a number of them, but are there three that you would identify as tactics or practices that agencies should consider to enhance their client retention in a more general sense, especially when looking to sell cross sell more effectively?Speaker 2:
There's so many more than three, but I'll take the time to narrow it down to three for us. I guess the first one I'd say is communication. You don't want the only communication points to be at the time of sale, the time of renewal. So some of the things I talked about earlier is making sure that you're sending out communications during the year, making sure that, whether it's fun communications or relevant business communications, you're having those communications that are going out. I'm going to talk about a little bit here about the hard market. The agencies that are succeeding now are the ones that are communicating before the hard market hit or as the hard market is, staying, with us educating the clients around what the hard market is. The agencies that are losing are the ones that their clients are surprised by what's happening. That communication is important and there's so many different ways, from fun communications to policy communications, to education and knowledge about what the insurance industry is. I think the first one I kind of bucket around communications. The next one that I'm going to group a few things together also is the relationship. Again, people do business with people that they like, if you understand their business, understand their personal needs, know the family, know those things that are going on with the person's life and how things change and events that are coming up. Maybe it's birth of a child or whatever it may be. The more that you have that relationship with your client, again it's stronger and harder for that person to leave and go someplace else just based upon price or whatever it may be. That relationship is so important and it's not something that starts right out of the gate. It's something that's developed over time but it's also a conscious thought on the agents. Part is to uncover things and develop that relationship and build a strong relationship with that client for the long term, not just this policy sale and move on to the next one. The second one I talk about in bucket is relationships. I think the last one and it's extremely important and sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn't happen is service. How does the agency service that client? The reason why I said sometimes the statistic is somewhere around 20% of policies have claims. Majority of the time does not claim going into an agency, but there may be needs in a business that they're adding more vehicles or expanding their space or doing things differently on the personal side. It may be a new driver or a new car or moving or whatever it may be. How does the service team, are they at the agency? Are they aligned with the principle and the philosophy of how the agency wants to take care of their clients? The servicing of the clients, both on the personal and commercial side, is key because a lot of their relationships could be damaged or lost based upon service falling down. It's key that the service people at an agency are aligned with what the principles philosophy is and how that person wants the clients taking care of. The other thing too and I'll tie in that we're talking about cross-selling here when that service person is talking to a client and accomplishes what they want to do add a new car, bought a new home, added this to the business, whatever it is. We talked earlier about that policy sale point and the renewal point. This is a great opportunity for the service folks to be aligned to ask hey, I see that we're working with you on your personal lines, but we're not working with you on your umbrella. Can we talk to you about that Again, that validation of you've done something positive for them, you've taken care of whatever their servicing need is. Can you open up an opportunity for another touch point with that client because of that positive thing that just took place. Summarizing, I think communication, relationship and service are three key things to bucket and be looking at.Speaker 1:
Steve, I follow the logic of everything you're talking about there tactically with those three components. When you talked about service, it made me wonder do you believe that service centers offered through the carriers have a part in delivering the service?Speaker 2:
Great point. I do, when you look at the carrier service centers, a couple of things with the major carriers. They've been doing it for a long time. They've been doing it right. A lot of them get JD powers, accolades, so we know they do it right. The other thing that we know is that the carrier service center knows the policy inside and out and anything that the person is trying to do. They know how it will interact with their other policies also. So there's all these positives about they've been doing it a long time and they know their products inside and out. Where it falls short and where there's an opportunity is how the agency positions a carrier service center. So a lot of agents are afraid of carrier service centers because that's my. You know I'm losing control. My client is calling the service center. Well, why do they need me? The thing is, you really get a position the service center to be in addition to your agency, and what I mean by that is and I'll give a little example We've talked earlier about the time of sale and closing all of that and letting the client know that you work with the carrier service center. From the particular policy that you sold, I work with this carrier service center. Let me tell you how we work best with our clients. I want you to call into the office when you have a service need. What we're going to do is we're going to look at that need and, if it's best handled by the carrier service center, we're going to connect you with the carrier service center and they'll be able to take care of your needs. But what we're going to do is make sure that it's the right place to go and we're going to make sure that we know. You know what you're looking for and what you're trying to accomplish with that service need. So a couple of things are happening there and one of the things you can say too is that you know I don't do this for all of my clients, but you know, for the certain clients it makes sense, for it's a great option and it makes sense for you. So the first thing you're doing is you're setting it up at the point of sale that this is what's going to be happening. The second thing you're doing is you're not losing that local relationship, touch point, all those things, because they are calling into your agency and you're linking them out to the carrier. But the biggest thing and this is where a lot of people miss is this is another sales or cross sell opportunity. So you know, let's say somebody calls in today, a couple of days later, the service team at the agency calls back to that person and says, hey, just double checking, make sure everything went the way you wanted it. You know, I saw that you were trying to do this just want to make sure everything is the way you wanted it. And 99.9% of the time the carrier service sent in they do it right. Am I going to say 100% of time? No, so in case something fell short, your team is there to pick it up. But the big thing in talking about cross selling is back to that positive checkpoint. Oh, yeah, they added my card. Hey, you know what? They told me that I have to look at this over here. Do that. So everything was positive in that experience for your client. But your service team is now going. Hey, by the way, that's great, but I also noticed that we're not working with you on your life insurance. So it's again keeping that opportunity to introduce something new at a positive point in an interaction with the agency. So I think carrier service centers they offload some of those repetitive needs off of your service team and again, they do it right. They know how policies interact, so they are a very, very important strategy for agencies to look at. Got it.Speaker 1:
Okay, then it does make sense, and that was, quite frankly, you know, I've been of that opinion too for a little while, and I like the way that you talk about integrating the use of that service center or those service centers into the overall client experience with your individual independent agency. Very good, okay. So let's switch gears a little bit, if I may, and I'm wondering from your perspective, is it beneficial to specialize in certain niche or niche markets, and how can expertise in that kind of niche area enhance trust with clients?Speaker 2:
So the answer is yes, but it's not an easy yes. So, absolutely, there's all great reasons for you to hone in on a particular line of business or type of business and become the expert on that, so you know who the right carriers are, who has the right policy terms and exclusions or endorsements for the particular needs of that particular type of client. You're educated on what's going on in the industry. All of those things, so all positive things that create that strong relationship in the agent as the expert in that particular area. The other thing, so a couple of things to think about and look at, is one is you want to make sure that you have enough carriers that work in that space. So, whether it be higher net worth individuals on the personal line side, or whether it be a particular industry on the commercial line side, you don't want to just go, hey, I'm going to go out after this and not be aligned with carriers to say I've got product that fits the needs of that particular segment. So the first thing is you want to make sure you're aligned with a carrier. The second thing is and you got to look at this with your eyes open this is kind of why I maybe hesitated a little bit in the beginning. A lot of people do this or look at this, so you may be going into a crowded space where others think that they are an expert in a particular industry. So, putting your time in your education, doing your homework, being involved in the associations, being involved in groups and creating content for the put out to help them educate the client and things like that, you're going to have to invest a little bit of time. So it's not a slam dunk to all of a sudden say, hey, I want to get into this industry, I'm going to be the expert and move forward. You're going to have to think about what your competition looks like and how do you step ahead of that. So having a carrier going at it with your eyes open, looking downfield that you're going to have to put a little bit of work in. But as you start acquiring clients and those referrals and the word of mouth and if there's a claim to be able to talk through to new clients, hey, this happened to somebody in your industry and this is how we were able to make sure that they got back, their home got set up the way they wanted or the business was back up and running the way they wanted. So it's kind of spending the time educating, having a carrier aligned and then over time, developing the specialized things that you can spotlight. That puts you as an expert in that particular segment, whether it's personal lines or commercial lines. So it's a great thing to do, but not 100% easy.Speaker 1:
Right, right, and my follow up to this was actually going to be about around the pitfalls of doing this going towards a niche market approach, and I think you've identified those. So I identified well what some of the potential pitfalls are. So let's switch gears yet again and let me ask you this I'm wondering if, from your perspective, how does an agent educate clients on relevant products without coming across as too salesy? And I asked that question largely because obviously we all have the old perceptions, or characterizations, if you will, or generalizations, about selling insurance. But I mean, there's a real need here that's being met. But how does an agent approach making sure clients are informed and are educated on what they need to know without coming across as too salesy?Speaker 2:
There's some digital means and other ways that you can do it. So when you look at some of the digital tools that an agency has at their fingertips, they can put things up on their LinkedIn page or their website or Instagram, whatever it may be. They can put some things up around a particular industry or an additional line of business, things like that. So it's kind of that subtle awareness that they're putting out there to their existing clients and potential clients. So I agree with you, you can come across very sleazy that you've got this checklist out and you're standing in front of them and it's like life insurance. No, okay, let me move on to this. No, let me move on. But kind of having that subtle approach where you give the ability for the client to think a little bit about hey, is that something I should be concerned about or something that I should take interest in? The other thing is anytime you can get a claims example, because that brings it home hey, this business went through a fire law, so went through some type of closure because of an incident or whatever it may be, and here's the things that we help them to put them back on their feet. So having those claims kind of scenarios that somebody can look at, brings it home If they can think about their business or their personal situation and say, yeah, I want to be able to make sure those things are protected. So really, it's kind of some subtlety to it and it's more of an eye as opposed to a science. But there's different ways through digital media and digital tools and putting out a quick video is always great to talk about some things that are happening in a particular industry or whatever it may be. So there's a lot of different tools and, yeah, it's the conscious thought not to have a checklist in front of somebody and just be going on to the next one, right, okay.Speaker 1:
And that's, yeah, yeah, awareness, I think, is kind of what it boils down to, yeah, so okay. So even in that response to me, we've kind of skirted around or skimmed a little bit the topic of using data technology and analytics when it comes to client retention, and I haven't gone into that with you today because I think we could probably record two episodes alone on that topic. But do you have any high level thoughts for agents regarding the use of data in the area of client retention and cross selling?Speaker 2:
I'll try to make it quick because I agree with you. We can go on for a podcast. Yeah, you know, there's a wealth of information in an agent's AMS system and most agencies underutilize their AMS system by far. So the ability to be able to track clients, track the policy counts, have important dates that are in there for whether it be you know birthdays or you know touch points and what you're sending out. So you know, I think the first thing I'd say is really get a good handle around the AMS system that every agency has sitting in their office. And then there's a lot of other tools out there and there's things that insure tech companies have to help you know, cross, sell and understand who your clients are, and those things too. So it's really being able to navigate through some of the things that the insure tech space has. That also helps it. But you know, like I said, the agency management system is sitting there and there's a ton of information that can help somebody cross, sell, upsell, retain clients, be stronger, build their agency right there. That's sitting there in their agency currently.Speaker 1:
Very good, yeah, and again it seems to be a nice starting point for a lot of the activities that agents would embark on relative to client retention and cross selling would be that agency management system Makes a lot of sense. Exactly Okay. So I was going to get in a little bit. I'll get into a little bit about the panel discussion that you hosted or facilitated, actually over a year ago now, on selling in a hard market and ask about some of the takeaways from that. I think some of your responses to this point have kind of incorporated some of the learnings from that panel discussion and so in the interest of time I'm going to shy away from it. But what I do want to do is let people know that they can, if they're interested in seeing that panel discussion or listening to that panel discussion. It is available on siaacom under media and insights, and it was a well done, well thought out, great panel discussion. I thought, as a somebody who listened and watched it and I will say that and let me know if I'm wrong here, steve that the big takeaway from that panel discussion for me was the communications aspect.Speaker 2:
Absolutely. We had a lot of industry leaders on that panel and that was the big thing. It's communication, understanding that the hard market's here and it's staying for a little bit, but yeah, it's communication and making sure that your clients are educated and communicated to.Speaker 1:
Gotcha Okay. So, steve, we've actually reached our timeframe. This has been great and I want to thank you for joining me today. I really do appreciate your time it's been. I think I'd like to have you on again, if you're okay with that, because this has been a great discussion, and I want to remind everyone, obviously, that Steve is the Senior Vice President of Programs and Services here at SIAA. Steve, thank you very much for coming on the program.Speaker 2:
Thanks, doug, enjoyed it and anytime you want to have me back, be happy to come back.Speaker 1:
That's good news. I'm glad to hear that. So for our listeners. Thanks for tuning in today to Insurance Agents Talkshop. As a reminder, I'm Doug Coombs, chief Marketing Officer at SIAA, and to learn more about SIAA, the agent alliance, please visit siaacom and if you enjoyed today's episode, please subscribe to our podcast, insurance Agents Talkshop. And be well everyone, Thank you.