Keeping it Conversational

Face it, doing a good job with front line underwriting requires agents and brokers to ask a ton of questions.  A significant amount of data is required by insurance carriers to accurately rate a risk.  Consumers, who aren’t really enamored with having to purchase insurance in the first place, get turned off when there is a significant amount of recontact during the information gathering phase.  Therefore, it benefits the insurance professional to continually practice keeping it conversational.

Three key ideas come to mind as we look at perfecting conversational data gathering skills:

  1. Ask well thought out, open-ended questions

As professional insurance agents and brokers, it’s incumbent to craft questions that get the prospect or client talking.  The more they talk, the more you learn.  The more you learn, the better you can assess their risks and provide appropriate solutions.  Challenge producers and account managers to experiment with crafting open-ended questions that elicit numerous details.  It’s important for agents to know their applications well enough to be able to enter the data into the right places as part of the fact-finding conversation rather than going through an application line-by-line.  For example, consider starting with the Description of Operations by asking, “Tell me about your business – how was it formed, how do you operate?”  “Where do you see the business in three years?”

  1. Listen and follow-up

Once you’ve asked your well thought out, open ended question, be an active listener.  Capture what is said so you can circle back and ask follow-up questions to fill in missing pieces.  For example, your prospect may answer by telling you that the business is a partnership with two others; they have three offices in three states; the types of customers they prefer are small-to medium-sized retailers, and they have twelve employees.

From this, you have some information to fill in some fields on applications, but you also have background for follow-up questions.  Maybe you’d conversationally ask something like, “Wow, the three of you must be pretty great friends to have run a successful business for so long.  Tell me more about your partners” or “So, is your partnership a formal LLC?” followed by “Can you please provide me with your EIN number?”

  1. Set appropriate expectations

Once you’ve gathered as much detail as possible in the allotted appointment time, clearly state what the next steps are.  That might entail needing to connect your account manager with the CTO to complete the cyber application, or it may involve sending the information you’ve gathered to several companies to gather quotes.  Whatever the case, explain next steps, set timeframes, and review how the process works both best and less-than-best case scenarios. Also clarify what additional information might be needed once the initial quotes are presented so the prospect can begin gathering that additional information so that you can do the best job for them.

I know this likely seems simple, but to makes things appear simple takes hard work and practice.  The insurance business is still a relationship business, and to build relationships you must have great conversations.

How do you practice keeping it conversational?

Related content:  When Was the Last Time You Asked “Why?”