In talking with agencies and brokerages about the integral role marketing now plays in the sales process, I watch people go through a series of reactions, starting usually with denial. Owners and sales people alike are in disbelief that their way of selling – the way they've always done it with cold calling and face-to-face contact – is being absolutely threatened.

But see, what's happening is that access to information has completely changed the way that nearly everyone is making buying decisions now. It used to be that the sales person was influential throughout the entire sales process, doling out information about the industry, the agency, the products, and the carriers. Now, most of that information can be found online and the buyers are finding it on their own.

Plus, they're also finding a whole lot more. In their research phase, buyers are looking at information beyond what the carriers, publications and agencies are saying. They're now regularly tapping into information in social channels, which is all user-generated content – like blogs, reviews, ratings, and recommendations. The buyers are incorporating and weighing all of this information into their buying decisions, as well.

What's happening is that all of this combined is threatening the old way of insurance agency selling. It doesn't mean that selling is dead; it just means that it looks a whole lot different today than it has in the past.

Old way of selling insurance: Having sales people that are good on the phones cold calling lists of businesses, setting up appointments, gathering client information, presenting a spreadsheet of quotes.

New way of selling insurance: Having sales people that are insatiably curious about a prospect or client business and who want to help that business meet any challenges they are facing. Creating educational information for buyers to find online, interacting with buyers in social channels around this educational information, and continuing the educational conversations when they do finally meet face-to-face.

Moving from denial to acceptance

As we walk people through the details of what's happening, explaining what it looks like from the buyer perspective, and what it looks like from the selling perspective, we watch the reactions progress:

  • Denial: "It isn't happening in my market. Not in my town. My clients and prospects aren't doing that."
  • Anger: "I disagree. What types of businesses were included in the studies?"
  • Bargaining: "Maybe in other types of sales, but not in insurance. Consumer products, sure. Other business decisions, sure. But not insurance."
  • Depression: "Oh, crap, I've got the wrong sales people for this new way of selling. How am I going to change my processes? My whole model needs to change!"
  • Acceptance: "Well, I guess going online is actually the first thing I do when I'm thinking about making a purchase. I do it for things like cars and electronics. And, yeah, I do it at work, too."

It's pretty common to watch, and I get that it's completely upending the ways that agencies have always known, and now it means learning a whole new system. But your clients are doing the same thing. If you want to remain relevant to your clients, then, yes, it means learning a whole new way of doing business. But that's just a part of being in business.

Check out your own behaviors and ask others about theirs. Are they searching online before buying? Where are they going and what types of information are they looking for?

 

Photo by Robert Grounds.