This article was produced in partnership with Intact Insurance.
David Saric of Insurance Business sat down with Roberto Rei, vice president, sales and business development, Intact Insurance, Ontario West to discuss the behavioural science behind effective sales.
Sales may be an art, but truly effective sales skills are rooted in a deep understanding of behavioural science. Insurance brokers must manoeuvre predictable irrationality, cognitive biases that try to undermine the decision-making process – and more.
Humans make roughly 35,000 decisions a day. Understanding how and why we make decisions helps salespeople customize experiences and deliver better outcomes for customers.
“We need to know how people think and how they make decisions to deliver that top-notch customer experience,” said Roberto Rei, vice president, sales and business development, Intact Insurance, Ontario West.
That’s why Intact Insurance draws on the expertise of behavioural scientists at Intact Lab to develop research-based sales education that helps brokers close more deals. While the science is complex, applying it to brokering can be boiled down to seven key tips.
Tip 1: Inform & educate
Insurance falls in a tricky psychological zone since brokers are not selling a tangible product, but instead, a promise customers will be taken care of in the future.
It’s imperative to get to the root of a person’s risk appetite and perception. Beginning the conversation with education helps relax even a more wary customer.
For example, when speaking to someone about flood coverage, a savvy broker can use flood mapping and other historical data to educate the customer about their likelihood of falling victim to this costly event.
“When you start the sale by informing and educating, you play a key role and add much needed rationality into the discussion,” Rei said.
Tip 2: Provide transparency
Transparency builds trust and helps reduce cognitive load. To achieve transparency and ease a customer into the sales experience, brokers can practice signposting. This practice also adds valuable structure to a conversation.
Signposting can be done by simply giving a customer an overview of what is to be discussed in the call and to signal when one section ends and the next is about to begin, Rei suggested.
“This helps ensure that your message is not taxing on the individual who is receiving it.”
Tip 3: Translate features into emotional terms
Translating the features and benefits of insurance in a way that reaches a consumer emotionally is important, but it must be done with authenticity and empathy.
Rather than leading a conversation with information that could lead the customer to become anxious and react irrationally, using a more positive approach can give the broker’s sales effectiveness a boost.
“Be positive: practice persuasion and avoid manipulation,” stressed Rei. “Don’t hedge facts or overemphasize unnecessary talking points that might trigger fear in the customer.
Tip 4: Balance usefulness and simplicity
At any given point, a customer generally falls into one of two modes: they may be more intuitive and favour faster transactions or they may be more interested in hearing the rationale behind recommendations and fuller, clear explanations.
Brokers can develop nuanced conversation skills that appeal to either processing style, making sure that relevant information is relayed in a manner that is easy to digest.
“You need to cater the experience to the customer’s expectations and switch your approach as needed as the conversation evolves,” said Rei. “Through it all, stay focused on what matters to the customer.”
Tip 5: Bring objections into the open
People do not like uncertainty or difficult situations. While some may verbalize their objections about a topic, a vast majority will not. Instead, they enter the sale with inherent – and silent – biases.
An effective broker needs to pick up on any hesitancies and bring them out into the open.
Rei noted that this approach often leads to success, allowing brokers to recommend a better opportunity to the customer.
Tip 6: Exceed expectations
Winning someone over isn’t easy. Successful brokers exceed expectations: they’re more knowledgeable, more compassionate and more attentive than the customer expected.
And they demonstrate that high level of attention throughout the entire interaction, making the customer feel like a superstar who feels empowered and validated by their insurance purchase process.
“There is no shortcut – you have to overdeliver,” said Rei. “You want to get people excited. The goal is to make them feel that they have made a positive decision.”
Tip 7: End on a high note
We tend to remember experiences that have a positive outcome on our lives – and we remember how scenarios end most vividly.
Brokers can do this by using the last part of their customer interaction to go over all the wins they have helped the customer achieve. This simple tactic lets the customer leave with a positive impression of how they got from point A to point B. It also often transforms the customer into a fan who may return for more coverage or recommend the broker to their loved ones.
“Happy customers need to have that feeling that they came to you with nothing and left with something meaningful,” Rei suggested.
Bonus: The introvert/extrovert debate
While people often assume that introverts are less adept at sales than extroverts, the best salespeople fall somewhere in between.
Few customers want either a domineering or an overtly passive salesperson — a broker needs to find that sweet spot in the middle and simply be the best version of themselves.
“Having a healthy mix of enthusiasm and knowing when to step back and allow a person to state all of their thoughts and opinions shows someone who is engaged but also receptive,” Rei advised.
Keep on learning
Rei encouraged brokers to continue to refine their sales skills both in every customer interaction and with the many professional development opportunities available to them, including Pathways, Intact’s broker education program, which leverages the Intact Lab’s research to help brokers achieve their career goals faster.
Intact Insurance is Canada’s largest home, auto and business insurance company, the choice of more than four million consumers. Its coast-to-coast presence and its strong relationship with insurance brokers mean the company can provide the outstanding service, comfort and continuity customers deserve. Intact Insurance is a member company of Intact Financial Corporation (TSX: IFC), the largest provider of property and casualty insurance in Canada and a leading provider of specialty insurance in North America.