It is possible to offer a quote without substituting your judgment for your customer's, which is a leading cause of E&O claims.
Every salesperson's aspiration is to turn every prospect into a successful business relationship. In sales, you want a seat at the table with the inner circle—the elite group that holds conversations about business growth—because their growth is your growth.
However, to earn that coveted seat, there must first be an earned level of trust through careful preparation that begins well before the sale.
The foundation for your client's trust is established during the fact-finding part of the sales process, where you learn as much as you can about the business, its products and services, its team, its locations and its plans for the future. When you sit down with business owners, listen as they express pride in their business accomplishments while guiding the conversation to fill the gaps in your understanding of the risks involved both today and in the coming months and years.
During your meeting, take careful notes about what's discussed. Your fact-finding notes should be supported by a checklist that will guide you through the conversation. If you haven't prepared your own, the Big “I" Virtual University offers several great examples.
The customer may confide in you about their last insurance experience—what they liked and what they would have changed. As part of that discussion, you should ask the customer to share what coverage is currently in place and what changes they are looking for. Although your role in many states is that of an order taker, at least initially, you are not required to stop there. However, discussions regarding offerings and rejections should be carefully documented.
This is the point where you have an opportunity to take advantage of what is, perhaps, the most important strategy of all for avoiding or mitigating errors & omissions claims: sell insurance. It is possible to offer a quote without substituting your judgment for your customer's, which is a leading cause of E&O claims. There is a subtle, but significant, difference between offering to quote a higher limit or new coverage and actively recommending it.
In every case, resist invitations to “tell me what I should buy." Rarely will your judgment be as good as your customer's when it comes to their business and livelihood, especially when 20/20 hindsight comes into play in the wake of an inadequately insured loss.
Trust is also earned over time through a continuing sense of security. You've heard the old adage “the only constant is change" countless times, and that is especially true of your customers in this rapidly changing world. Though your initial placement of coverage may have been outstanding, it will not withstand the effects of time, growth, inflation and innovation.
Granted, it may not be possible to visit every client at every renewal, but there needs to be a sensible cadence with your contacts. In many cases, your client's business will have changed substantially in just a few years, presenting new risks. If inflation has been running hot, there has been a recent storm that led to a boom in the rebuilding of homes and businesses, or the client purchased new vehicles or equipment, you may need to accelerate the timing of your visits.
But even if there hasn't been such an event, new insurance products are coming on the market all the time in response to unmet insurance needs that may benefit your customers. A disappointed client may or may not be successful in pursuing an E&O claim against you for failing to recommend new limits or coverages, depending on the law in your jurisdiction—but they almost certainly will not trust you going forward.
For that reason, your early conversations should identify a point of contact within the business and plans of ongoing communication to ensure that questions can be asked and answered as they arise. This creates a reliable channel through which updates, acquisitions or changes can be reported and handled in a consistent manner beyond simply trading cell phone numbers. This ensures easy access to trackable information where everyone is engaged and in participant mode during communication about needed updates and included on communication follow up confirmations.
Your communication plan is a tacit reminder that you can provide insight into the best insurance products to protect them and their business … but only as long as they keep you informed.
Madlyn Tombs is an assistant vice president, claims specialist with Swiss Re Corporate Solutions and works out of the office in Kansas City, Missouri. Insurance products underwritten by Swiss Re Corporate Solutions America Insurance Corporation, Kansas City, Missouri, a member of Swiss Re Corporate Solutions.
This article is intended to be used for general informational purposes only and is not to be relied upon or used for any particular purpose. Swiss Re shall not be held responsible in any way for, and specifically disclaims any liability arising out of or in any way connected to, reliance on or use of any of the information contained or referenced in this article. The information contained or referenced in this article is not intended to constitute and should not be considered legal, accounting or professional advice, nor shall it serve as a substitute for the recipient obtaining such advice. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of the Swiss Re Group (“Swiss Re") and/or its subsidiaries and/or management and/or shareholders.