It happens to every insurance agent on a fairly regular basis: the phone rings, and the person on the other end tells you they’d like a quote for their coverage. Most of the time, they’ve either experienced a price hike from their current carrier, or they’ve had a less-than-positive claims experience. You take the time to prepare the quote, and call them back to share the numbers. They thank you, and promise that they’ll be in touch — and you never hear from them again.

In fact, that may even happen on more than half of the quotes you handle, through no fault of your own. While we all wish customers focused on personal service when choosing an insurer (because that would give us an advantage), it’s a price-focused business. Sometimes you can offer the better rate, and sometimes you’re the higher price.

So what happens to all those quotes you prepare for people who never call you back? If you’re like most agents, you probably keep them in an active file for a couple months or so, and then you toss them in the trash. The time you invested in preparing the quotes is just a cost of doing business, right?

Why do people really change agents?

I noted that insurance is a price-focused business, but years of working with agents have convinced me that price really isn’t the primary reason that customers change their insurance agents. A rate increase or a rude claims examiner may be the trigger that starts the process, but there’s usually an underlying reason: the customer has been less than thrilled with the service his or her current agent has been providing.

That service may not be bad; it may just be lackluster. The customer doesn’t feel like his or her business is important to the agent. Maybe the voice on the phone isn’t friendly, or the customer thinks it takes too long to get answers to questions. Perhaps the customer feels that his or her loyalty is being taken for granted. Whatever the reason, the customer is emotionally ready to make a move — and when that rate increase shows up in the mail, it provides the motivation.

Why is that important to you? Many of the people who call around looking for quotes will eventually decide to stay with their agent. Some will use what they learn to bargain with the agent in an effort to negotiate lower rates. Others will decide that the price difference just isn’t worth the perceived hassle of switching carriers. But the underlying problem — the reason they had been thinking about changing — is still there. Well, at least until something triggers them to take another look elsewhere.

You can be that trigger

Instead of taking those old quotes, filing them away, and forgetting about them, why not make following up a couple months down the road part of your ongoing marketing activities? It can be as simple as starting a brief conversation: “Bill, we appreciated you calling us for a quote on your insurance a couple months ago. I just wanted to see how things were going, and if there’s anything we could do for you.”

As with cold calls, a majority of the time, the answer is going to be no. That’s okay, and it doesn’t mean the door is closed. The fact that you took the time to call them and show an interest in their needs will help them remember you when they are ready to make a move. That’s especially true if their frustration with their current agent revolves around a lack of service or responsiveness. (Always end the call by asking if it would be okay to check back with them in a few months. You may be surprised by how many people will give you permission to call again.)

Sometimes, though, calling will put you in the position of capturing the prospect’s business right then and there. It will make them think of their continued dissatisfaction with their current agent and open a conversation that could lead to your gaining their business.

Other ways to follow up

When someone calls you for a quote, they have to provide a great deal of information. By keeping track of this information — whether through a simple Word file, a spreadsheet, or customer contact software — you can use it for targeted marketing efforts. For example, since many auto policies renew every six months, four to five months after you’re called for an auto quote, you can send a brief letter to the prospect. It might say something such as, “You contacted us a few months ago regarding your insurance needs, and now that your policy is probably approaching renewal time, we’d welcome the opportunity to see if we can provide better and more affordable coverage.”

You can also mail postcards or greeting cards every couple of months just to remind the prospect that you’re eager to handle their business. If you obtain email addresses from your prospects, you may also be able to follow-up with them online. (Just be careful about using email too frequently or making a very blatant sales pitch, because the recipient — and your Internet provider — may consider your message to be spam. Be sure you offer a way to opt out of your email list.)

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