Here's why your customer service representatives and account managers should take the lead with cross-selling and up-selling initiatives.
Traditionally, the producer role is the most recognized and coveted role within an agency. After all, producers are the community-facing champions who are most associated with creating new customers and driving agency growth. They're the face of the agency at carrier and community events, chamber and association meetings, and on social media. Meanwhile, back at the office, the service team—made up of customer service representatives and account managers—quietly toil away, serving clients and juggling tasks.
But something is changing. In recent years, the role of the account manager has been elevated, and new responsibilities and opportunities are presenting themselves to this group of task-driven, competent professionals.
This change is driven by initiatives that many agencies struggle to gain traction with. Cross-selling and up-selling client accounts is a critical strategy to not only grow revenue but also to protect the client, yet few agencies seem to have cracked the code successfully.
Are Agencies Leveraging the Wrong Team?
While many agencies claim to have adopted a consultative approach to selling, few sales processes focus on cross-selling and up-selling. Even when mid-year reviews and emerging risk identification strategies are detailed components of the client engagement, not every producer leverages the process to grow revenue and better protect clients.
Here's an out-of-the-box solution: Service teams should take the lead with cross-selling and up-selling initiatives.
Why? First, producers tend to focus on closing business and moving on to the next opportunity. Second, and I've seen this first-hand in training, producers have a real fear of loss. They fear that if they up-sell too hard, the client will push back and think they are just trying to make an easy buck. While this emotion is real, it can put a client and the agency at risk.
On the other hand, service teams find themselves on the front line with clients every day. They are likely the first to hear when a claim occurs and, more often than not, are responsible for working behind the scenes to navigate the claims process. This also means that they are one of the first to know when a policy will not perform, either due to a lack of or limited coverage.
Because service teams are close to clients in a different way and often work in the trenches to resolve issues, they experience first-hand the frustration and anger clients express due to a lack of coverage when a claim occurs. This makes them uniquely sensitive to client issues and provides an opportunity to be client advocates.
Elevating Service Teams
If service team members are the right individuals to perform these essential activities, their workflow must change significantly.
Because a large amount of the work they do is in reaction to the needs of their clients and the producers they support, too often the service team isn't in control of their time and how it is allocated. This lack of control can make it difficult to achieve success with cross-selling and up-selling initiatives.
While broadening and elevating service member roles makes sense, it is not without its own set of challenges. Service professionals often recoil at the idea of being “salespeople." They often have a different mindset than their producer colleagues and express apprehension about having a revenue goal tied to their performance.
To help shift perceptions, it's helpful to consider the client-facing benefit of cross-selling and up-selling. Businesses are at risk and often don't know it. They sign contracts, hire employees, manage sensitive data, perform dangerous work, and so much more. Often, they've spent a lifetime growing their business to either sell or pass on to the next generation of owners. They need help identifying new and emerging risks as well as the confidence that the advice they receive is accurate.
Cross-selling and up-selling is servicing. It is about ensuring that all the client has worked to build and grow is protected—and there really is no greater way to do so than to assist a client in protecting what matters most to them.
Susan Toussaint is vice president, Growth Solutions, U.S. with ReSource Pro. For over a decade, Susan has been training, coaching and developing programs to help insurance professionals overcome barriers to organic growth. In 2006, she started Injury Management Partners, and in 2009, she co-founded Oceanus Partners with her partner, Frank Pennachio. Today, she is a full-time trainer and consultant focused on developing products and training that help clients attract, acquire and retain profitable, right-fit business.