It’s been a busy afternoon, and you’re looking forward to dinner. The phone rings, and it’s someone asking for a quote to insure a 2011 Accord. Odds are they just received a renewal statement from their current carrier, and they’re unhappy with the rate, so they’re calling you and four other agents to find a better price. You’ll take a few minutes to work up a number, but what’s the point? If the next agent is a dollar cheaper, you’ve wasted your time.

If that’s your attitude, you may be throwing business away each month. You can’t really compete on price alone, and as an agent, you have minimal — if any — control over the premiums your clients play. But every call from a price-shopper presents an opportunity to demonstrate the superior value and service your agency offers. That can differentiate you from your competitors and allow you to land the business even when your quote is higher.

It’s a strategy used successfully every day by the highest-performing agencies. With a simple change in attitude and a few minutes of extra effort, you can transform price-shoppers into loyal clients.

Price-shoppers need you

Remember that every price-shopper is calling because he needs what you sell. He needs insurance coverage for his home, his vehicle, or his business, and he isn’t happy with his current agency and carrier for some reason.

Often, that reason is what the caller perceives as a substantial increase in his premium. However, premium increases are rarely the only reason a client starts shopping around. Most people accept price increases as a reality of modern life. They may not like to pay more, but if they’re happy with the service provided by their current agent, and if the increase isn’t out of line, they’ll probably stick around. (That’s especially true when the agent takes the proactive approach of letting the client know about the increase before the statement shows up in his mail.)

If the client is shopping around, he probably isn’t completely happy with the service his agent or carrier has been providing. Maybe there was a problem with billing. Maybe a claim ended badly. Or it could be that the agent just doesn’t seem all that interested in taking care of his needs.

Watch your attitude

Most agencies treat price-shoppers with a degree of indifference, which tells the caller they really don’t want his business. Instead, approach the caller as someone who is genuinely interested in becoming your client. Whether he found your name online, on a billboard, or got it from a friend, he has decided to consider doing business with you. Your attitude can convince him that he’s made a wise choice.

Your tone of voice is critically important. If you sound friendly and interested — and it’s clear that your attention is completely focused on the caller — you’ll already have set your agency apart from others.

Ask and listen

I’m sure you’ve heard the adage that you were born with two ears and one mouth so you’d spend twice as much time listening as talking. When dealing with price-shoppers, that’s very wise. If you ask the right questions and then listen very carefully to the answers, you’ll discover why the price-shopper is calling you and what he wants to hear, and you’ll give him reason to trust you.

Ask why he’s considering leaving his current agent. If he tells you that it’s because the price is too high, don’t leave it at that. You can ask a more probing question such as, “If they gave you a better price, would you be likely to stay?” That’s when you’ll get to the real reason they want to change. It may be a frustrated “they just don’t get back to me right away” or even an angry “I’m tired of them making mistakes!”

Use the caller’s name as you ask questions, because we’re all more attentive and a little flattered when someone remembers our name. Restate the caller’s issues so he knows you listened. “So what you’re telling me is that you’re looking for an agent that pays attention to detail … and has a better price, too?”

Before you promise to call them back, be sure to ask one more question: “Besides getting you a good rate, what’s the most important thing your insurance agent can do for you?” This opinion not only gives you insight — it reinforces your interest in providing a higher level of service. Even if he calls ten other agents, he’ll remember your conversation.

Always ask for the sale

When you call back with the quote, restate what the caller said was important. Talk about the value of your coverage and service. A simple statement such as “Before I give you our quote, I just want to make sure you’re able to compare apples to apples when you make your decision” reminds him that there’s more to insurance than the price.

Finally, use the powerful tactic far too many agents miss: ask for the sale. This simple extra effort can have a significant effect on your ability to turn a prospect into a client. “May I go ahead and prepare the paperwork and have you stop by on your way home from work?” or “Would you like me to go ahead and bind that coverage for you this afternoon?” are examples of ways to ask for the sale that suggest you’re trying to help the prospect instead of simply sell him something.

If the caller isn’t ready to commit, ask him when you should follow up. Don’t let him get away with a vague promise to call you back. For example, you can say, “Once you have all your quotes, I’d like to check in with you to see how we compare and to answer any questions you have.” You’ll be surprised how many prospects will leave that door open for you. And when they do, you’ll make the sale more often than not.

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