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It’s All About Relationship: Nurturing the Sales Process


Posted on 18 May 10

In several issues of Insurance Unplugged, we’ve talked about the need for relationship selling, implementing a system that fosters constant communication, adapting a consultative approach, and adding real value for both prospects and clients. But many producers lack the tools to do so. They either don’t have an adequate number of prospects moving through their sales pipeline to cultivate relationships, or they give up midstream because they get rejected after one or two solicitations. But if you look at the statistics, you’ll see that 80% of all sales are made after the fifth to seventh contact. This becomes unmanageable for producers so they abandon the process. In fact, only 10% of producers have the means to hit that five to seven contact point. The remaining 90% are scrambling to establish rapport, build relationships, and make sales.

There is a system, however, that addresses this very issue and provides producers with the means to communicate on an ongoing basis with prospects, build trust, and form relationships. It’s SALESPRO Opportunity Builder, a web-based relationship marketing tool that provides a proactive and customizable solution for any producer to nurture relationships with suspects and prospects and cement existing relationships with clients for high retention rates and referrals.

SALESPRO is a product of Relational SalesPro, LLC (RSP). We spoke with co-founder and president Deborah T. Miller about the system and how it’s helping independent insurance producers in the sales and marketing process. Deborah has devoted her entire career to the insurance industry in sales, producer development and management. Deborah spent 18 years on the agency side with State Farm and managed the top direct-writer insurance agency in the country — State Farm's Cosmo C. Conte Insurance Agency. She managed both the San Diego and Cleveland Offices with full decision-making authority and was a licensed producer. She gained a real understanding of cross-selling, up-selling, and the entire dynamic of what an insurer provides a captive agency in terms of sales and marketing support. After State Farm, Deborah worked for State Auto Insurance in Columbus, Ohio as a Sales Consultant. It was there she saw the flip side of things — the disadvantage independent agents have in terms of integrating a methodical sales system in their organizations that combines technology and the human touch to nurture existing clients and establish relationships with new ones. This revelation was the culmination of Deborah’s journey within the insurance industry and the beginning of creating what is known today as SALESPRO Opportunity Builder.

SALESPRO initially began as the Marketing Auto Pilot System (MAPS) when Deborah co-founded MarTech, Inc. in 1996. MAPS modules were insurance-specific, PC based and included leads, hundreds of sales letters and pre-built campaigns for Commercial Lines, Bonds, Employee Benefits, and Personal Lines. These systems helped producers develop a solid pipeline of qualified prospects and increased sales so radically that her clients ask for territorial exclusivity to prevent their competitors from getting their hands on it. After several years of R&D designed to capitalize on technology innovations, MAPS evolved into SALESPRO, a web-based, proactive and easy-to-use system, complete with everything including a Call Center portal.

The SALESPRO systems include hundreds of sales letters, written specifically to individual markets and are all strategically linked together. “The system is configured in such a way that the right communication gets to the right person at the right time,” says Deborah. “It is so proactive that literally all a producer has to do is make phone calls to set up an appointment — if indeed he/she is making those calls and not an outside telemarketing firm. Other than the appointment-setting, the system does everything else. A producer can contact thousands of prospects and remain in contact with them for up to five years regardless of where they are in the buying decision.”

With SALESPRO, the prospect perceives the producer has individually drafted each communication based on current circumstances. Building rapport and relationship is the key and backbone of the system. “If a producer is not successful in writing the business initially, it’s not a problem because RSP has built five full years of nurture communications. The system gives producers a time-saving, competitive edge by cultivating relationships and builds top-of-mind awareness with prospects on a continuous basis,” says Deborah. “This is important because a prospect must develop an awareness of a producer’s unique value to comfortably say yes to an appointment. SALESPRO easily keeps the producers name in front of the prospect, until the prospect is ready to buy.”

What makes SALESPRO unique is its fundamental philosophy. It’s not about transactional sales – sending one letter before renewal time and hoping you get an appointment. It’s about having a process that fosters a consultative approach with prospects, tapping into their needs, and embedding the producer’s name as someone who stands out from the crowd. “The key is to make an introduction,” says Deborah, “and then to build on that introduction through a series of communiqués over time. This is what builds trust and ultimately establishes a relationship.”

Communication can be in the form of letters, emails, and faxes. Initially sending out letters to establish that first introduction is something Deborah feels strongly about. “Some may think that sending letters is archaic, but there is a visceral process that individuals go through before they choose to allow someone to come and talk with them. Letters provide tangible and emotional awareness of your uniqueness; a prospect sees your logo and your signature (Deborah advocates signing your name using a blue pilot pen) and holds the letter in his/her hand. Even if the prospect doesn’t read the letters and tosses the first five or six, the producer’s name and logo has registered in the prospect’s mind. Deborah also believes that if a producer wants to market via email, he/she should start with letters and switch only after personal contact with a prospect is made. Regardless if that contact is a face-to-face appointment, or a conversation over the phone, the producer should ask the prospect, out of respect, if he/she has a communicate style preference. If the prospect prefers email, thank him/her and suggest that he/she include the producer’s email address on a safe list.”

SALESPRO is easy to set up and use. The producer’s existing prospects are imported into an Excel template and sent to RSP for import. A report is run and returned to the producer to review. This action allows the producer to make changes and additions to ensure the data is clean. In the Excel template, there is a grid to indicate contact type per name; for example, new lead, referral, existing client, etc. Based on this contact type, the system automatically sets the campaign strategy. It’s completely automated, and the producer doesn’t have to become involved until it’s time to make phone calls.

“Based on the contact type information, the system will automatically know which campaign to activate,” says Deborah. “Having been in the business, we have accounted for every conceivable next step requirement so all communications appear personalized. The system will run on its own until there is a point of human intervention, which is usually the time to call to schedule an appointment or visit the client. And, regardless of where you begin in the sales process, our system will know what to do.”

Clients using SALESPRO can either make the appointments themselves or hire an outside telemarketing company. If they choose to outsource the appointment-setting, the telemarketing firm will have access to the system on behalf of the clients with which it’s working. “We provide access through our Call Center portal where the calls are made. It’s very simple…you don’t lose any time in productivity, working live on the record so that the producer can see what the telemarketer is doing and vice versa. Producers can add notes to assist the telemarketer in understanding the value proposition that the producer brings to the table for a particular prospect.

RSP has also established relationships with three coaching companies with different niches to provide additional services to agencies and their producers if they choose. One company works primarily on personal development, leadership, and results management; another focuses on sales and presentation training; and a third acts as an outsourced sales manager. What’s more, RSP has an arrangement with a fulfillment service for those that want to outsource everything and only run appointments.

SALESPRO is available on a subscription basis with a small initial set up fee. The additional phone and coaching resources are contracted directly between the vendors and the agency.

“It’s all about building relationships and nurturing them,” says Deborah. “Building relationships is not a new idea, just not commonly practiced because building the process takes a huge time commitment. With SALESPRO, the process is already built and ready to launch allowing for a quick return on investment.”

To find out more about SALESPRO, please visit www.relationalsalespro.com, or contact Deborah at 800-893-1578 or email her at dmiller@relationalsalespro.com.


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