Using proposals to help you make the sale–part 1
Sam walked into the prospect’s office feeling really good about the insurance program he’d put together for this prospect’s account. The price was right where it needed to be and the coverages filled in a number of gaps Sam discovered in the current policies. Sam left the prospect’s office frustrated and angry because he didn’t get the sale he thought he deserved.
What was the problem? Sam had prepared a proposal for this prospect that consisted of a couple of pieces of paper with the coverage limits and premium listed and stapled at the top of the form. It even had typos in it! It just didn’t project a professional, quality image to this prospect.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Marketing proposals do not sell insurance. People sell insurance. If proposals sold insurance, then we all could just mail our proposals to our clients and prospects and wait for the checks to come in the mail!
Proposals, however, do provide prospects with one of the few ways they can get an impression of you and your agency. And proposals do provide information that is critical to the success of your long-term relationship. They help you communicate important terms and coverage information so your prospect knows what he is buying and what you are selling. And successful long-term relationships with your clients mean more profit to you.
When you design and use marketing proposals you must do so in a way that will give your prospects information that is important to them in a way that is going to enhance the professional image of you and your agency. People can’t see, touch, taste or smell what we sell. In essence we sell a promise on a piece of paper, so anything we can to do make that piece of paper look great can only serve to help us in the sales process.
To boilerplate or not
One frequently asked question is whether you should use boilerplate proposals. My answer is yes, but you have to be smart about how you use them. Insurance is just too complicated and there are too many variables not to use some form of standard document in presenting this information to your prospects. The key, though, is to use the boilerplate as a template to create a customized version of the proposal for each prospect, modified to fit the prospect’s specific situation. This is where good word processing software will give you the flexibility you need to create these custom versions of your boilerplate proposals.
Can you afford the time to do all of these individual proposals? Here’s what John Graham said in his book Magnet Marketing: “Of course, it takes a lot more time to prepare a custom proposal for each customer or client. But that’s what the customer expects-personal attention. If you can’t give custom service when you’re trying to make the sale, the customer will conclude that you won’t give personal service after the sale. In other words, your proposal can be an important way to separate yourself from the competition.”
Here’s what your proposal should contain as a minimum. Part 1 should describe your agency. Detail your history, perhaps include a list some of the accounts you currently handle, and make sure your mission statement is prominently displayed. (You do have a mission statement, don’t you?)
Next are the service standards the prospect should expect your agency to provide. We call this a customer service agreement and it is customized for each prospect. It lists the services we provide and the standards by which the prospect can measure whether we have met their service expectations. We also provide a “customer service team” page describing each member of the team that will provide the service and support for the account. This includes the producer, the CSR assigned, the person who will handle any claims, and the accounting contact for any invoice and billing questions.
These beginning pieces help to position you as providing more than just a quote for insurance. You are providing a comprehensive insurance program that will address all the needs of the prospect. (Call InsurFax system at the number given at the end of this article and request document #680 to receive a sample of the pages we use.)
The main section provides a summary of the specific coverages, policy limits, glossary of terms and definitions, and of course the price. In this section the software can really help reduce the amount of time it takes to create a customized proposal.
Most agency management systems along with a couple of stand alone software products give you the ability to design and use boilerplate proposals. The advantage in using these programs is that the specific coverage data is added to or “merged” into the proposal template from the prospect information contained in the computer system. Let me give you an example of how this works.
A time consuming task in creating a proposal is listing the vehicles covered on an auto policy. We always list the year, make, model, VIN, and garage location. For some of our larger fleet schedules this takes some time. The merge function takes the information stored as part of the ACORD business auto vehicle schedule and automatically moves this to the correct spots in the word processing file that contains the proposal template. (This works in the DOS versions of these programs as well as the Windows version.) After the merge processing is completed the vehicle list is displayed formatted and ready to print.
There is an advantage to using the Windows version of either an agency management system or one of the stand alone programs. Windows programs (just because they’re using Windows’ capability) inherently provide more control over how your document looks. You can easily use simple desktop publishing layout features to make your proposal look very good. Every agency management system that I know of that has a Windows version uses Microsoft Word as the word processing program they integrate with. These programs already have boilerplate proposals in Word that you can modify to fit your particular agency’s needs.
In this month’s column we have dealt with the basic elements of a quality, professional marketing proposal and how to easily create customized proposals from boilerplate templates. In our next column we will explore the various technologies that are currently available to “jazz” up your proposals to make them stand out from the crowd.
Steve Anderson is a producer at Cadenhead Shreffler Insurance in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. He also heads American Insurance Consultants (AIC) which provides consulting services on how to maximize profits using common sense technology. He is a member of the TAAR network and can be reached at 800-657-6181 or by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright Rough Notes Co., Inc. Jun 1996
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