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5 steps to building customer loyalty

February 11, 2020

Using the sales technique of underpromising and overdelivering, insurance brokers can help build credibility with customers and earn their trust.

Bart Shachnow

Sales Performance Director

As Sales Performance Director, Bart, with the help of his team, develops and delivers a broad range... About this expert

Build customer trust

Among the most important characteristics of any professional – whether they’re involved in sales or not – is their credibility. People have to believe that you will deliver on your promises. To the extent that you fail to deliver, your status as a trusted advisor will be in severe jeopardy. A more optimal outcome is when you can deliver more than you promised.

It is in this context that I ask commercial insurance brokers to consider the value of underpromising and overdelivering in relation to the promises and commitments they make.

This is a simple concept but can go a long way to enhancing the value you bring to your business relationships and may help make your relationships more impervious to competitive encroachment.

When you underpromise and overdeliver, you can:

  • Emphasize and make your reputation for reliability and dependability stand out.
  • Manage expectations so that your “downside” is covered in the event things don’t work out.
  • Potentially exceed your clients' expectations when things do work out.
  • Demonstrate how you place your clients’ interests first.
  • Reinforce client loyalty and commitment to your relationship.

In using this strategy, consider applying the following five steps:

Step 1: Restate your understanding of your client’s needs.

Step 2: Review the challenges that may be faced in accommodating those needs.

Step 3: Identify worst-case scenarios you will seek to avoid. (However, your worst-case scenario has to be plausible. It’s never OK to mislead for dramatic effect.)

Step 4: Explain the role you will play in helping to satisfy those needs.

Step 5: Spotlight the actual outcome that exceeded expectations.

I want to emphasize Step 5. It’s important for you to take credit for the work that is invariably involved in addressing the challenges you typically face. You should not feel ashamed or embarrassed about taking such credit, because your client often is not aware of the work that insurance distributors do and how difficult it can sometimes be. You needn’t be obnoxious about it, but “tooting your own horn” sometimes is an important way to demonstrate your value proposition and reinforce client loyalty.

OK, so what might this sound like? Let’s find out using the five-step process:

Step 1: Restate your understanding of the client’s needs.

Mr. Client, we’re heading into a difficult renewal discussion with your carrier about your commercial auto coverage. Given the hardening market, we’re already looking at rate increases of about 9%. In addition, you had some serious losses this cycle, which may increase that rate even more…

Step 2: Review the challenges that may be faced in accommodating those needs.

… so we have both market conditions and your problematic losses over the past 18 months, which we’ll have to address with the carrier …

Step 3: Identify “worst-case” scenarios you will seek to avoid.

So I want to be honest with you. We may be looking at a rate increase of as much as 17% ...

Step 4: Explain the role you will play in helping to satisfy those needs.

We’re planning on aggressively going to bat for you on this one. I’m assembling a team that will make the case that your long-term track record, management skills, recent improvements in loss control, and the newly implemented risk management program we worked with you and the carrier to devise and implement justify an outcome that is more in your favor. We have a lot of work to do to prepare but I’ll keep you posted on developments …

Step 5: Spotlight the actual outcome that exceeded expectations.

Mr. Client, great news! We just met with the carrier. Our team did a complete review of your business operation and management changes, and focused on the commercial auto risk management program that was implemented. We specifically benchmarked these results against similar companies and explained why the favorability of these results, even though they are over a relatively short time frame, are likely to continue to be favorable over the long-term. We initially got a lot of pushback on that but finally won them over. I told you we went in expecting a “worst-case” rate increase in the neighborhood of 17%. The carrier came down to a 4% rate increase, which is what they’re giving their best customers in your business classification. We’re satisfied with this outcome and strongly recommend you take their offer.

I know many adept salespeople use this technique intuitively. That’s fine. But being more intentional about the technique and using it more consistently can help produce better results. For those not using this approach, I strongly recommend it.

I’m always interested in your feedback. Please send me an email with your reactions, comments and suggestions on these articles.

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