A business is only as healthy as its sales pipeline. Closing a deal is great, but the next one isn’t always guaranteed. For an insurance agency to thrive, it needs a steady stream of prospects in various stages of the sales process.
Many independent insurance agencies struggle with managing their sales pipeline, and for good reason. It’s hard to keep a sales pipeline robust if you don’t consistently gain new, quality leads or fail to follow up; if your engagement channels lack diversity; if your sales team doesn’t have the tools it needs to be effective; or if you don’t have a good strategy for handling objections. These factors will affect the flow of your pipeline and can make the difference between meeting and surpassing goals or sales drying up and your business declining.
This article explains the importance of an effective sales pipeline and discusses best practices and other strategies for managing it.
Why is sales pipeline management important?
For insurance agencies, the stages of the sales pipeline include prospecting, lead generation, qualification, quote/proposal and closing. A sale can be lost at any stage, which is why deliberate sales pipeline management is so critical.
Effective and intentional sales pipeline management can aid in evaluating why business was won or lost, help you determine how to allocate your resources and allow you to forecast the future of your business, among other benefits. Managing your sales pipeline isn’t easy—especially when 60% of customers say “no” four times before saying “yes”1 —but it does pay off. Without diligent sales pipeline management, which includes dogged follow-up, you wouldn’t even get the chance to get to “yes.”
Best practices for sales pipeline management
Luckily, there are techniques and best practices to make the process of managing your sales pipeline easier, including cross-selling to existing clients, following up with prospects and maximizing local partnerships. As a starting point, consider the following key practices:
- Research your prospects—Not all prospects are good prospects. Many of them will never become leads, so it’s important to concentrate on the ones who are ready to engage. The more you know your potential clients and understand their top pain points, the better leverage you’ll have to sell to them.
- Document and review your sales process—Before you do anything, review your current sales process so you have something to compare it to when you need to make adjustments down the line. When you do start modifying your process, start small and record the results (good or bad) before making additional adjustments.
- Track and review metrics—You should be highly aware of how many deals are in your pipeline, how big they are, your win ratio and the full lifetime of the deal. Having that data and setting aside time to review it with your team can guide future actions.
- Provide your prospects with content—Reaching prospects with relevant and engaging information that can help them will earn their trust. Emails and newsletters help push out this information but consider other types of content that might push prospects along the sales journey, such as blogs, videos, infographics, case studies and tutorials.
- Engage technology effectively—There are countless resources available for managing your sales pipeline, such as telematics or customer relationship management (CRM) software. The important thing is that you stay organized.
It’s also important to remember that some leads, even ones that at one point seemed promising, will never pan out. It can be difficult to let someone you’ve been nurturing go, but moving on to a rising opportunity is much wiser.
Follow up with potential customers
As many as 80% of sales require five follow-up calls, but 48% of salespeople fail to follow up even once.1 That’s a sure way to starve a sales pipeline. While some agents may feel like they’re bothering leads by sending another email and don’t want to push them away further, the opposite is usually the case.
Because many salespeople do not follow up, you can actually stand out more by doing so. On average, only 9% of potential customers will reply to your first email, but that percentage jumps to 13% if you follow up just once.2 Even if the lead doesn’t pan out, following up arms you with more data to use in your next attempt. Setting reminders or automating the process by using sales email templates may make the process easier.
Develop marketing materials for the insurance sales process
A good tip for managing your sales pipeline is to offer prospects content throughout the life cycle of the sale. Potential clients need to understand why your product is right for them. Content such as e-books, white papers, blogs and video tutorials play an important role in the insurance sales process, especially as prospects become more engaged and interested in your products.
The use of Nationwide’s co-branded marketing materials can also aid in this process. For appointed agents, Nationwide’s marketing materials for independent agents can support sales with
Take advantage of cross-selling opportunities
One way to keep a lead warm—and boost sales—is to recognize opportunities to recommend additional coverage options. If you’ve built trust with your prospect through the best practices outlined so far in this article, they won’t see it as you upselling them. Instead, the customer may see you as a helpful partner who is looking out for them in more ways than they initially expected.
Cross-selling increases sales efficiency because you’re targeting existing prospects. Of course, it can also be valuable from a revenue perspective. For example, if you sell property and casualty insurance, ask your prospect about their current life insurance protection, or when they have a common life event like a birth or wedding, ask about their long-term life coverage. There are more cross-selling opportunities than you may think, and when done right, they can deepen the relationship with prospects and existing customers.
Utilize insurance automation technology
Insurance carriers are armed with data, which, with the right tools, can be used in your sales pipeline management to make your sales process more efficient and effective.
You can utilize insurance automation tools to prompt actions such as:
- Following up with leads
- Sending automatic emails
- Removing manual, tedious tasks from their day-to-day work
- Fostering product education
- Onboarding, claims and renewal once they’re customers
The sales pipeline flows much better when it’s organized and streamlined through technology. Automation ultimately makes for a better customer experience as well.
CRM software is a case in point, as it’s one of the most valuable tools at agents’ disposal. Many CRM systems unite teams by sharing data in a visually clean way, pulling information from various channels, such as emails and phone calls, and storing it in one place. When everyone is on the same page, the sales pipeline can be automated and has the best chance to run smoothly.
It pays to have a steady sales pipeline
Managing a sales pipeline is a complex task, but if agents have the right information, tools and support, the pipeline can flow unimpeded, leading to a higher quantity of quality sales. Leads are out there, ready to move through the pipeline. Discover more sales tools and marketing resources through Nationwide and take advantage of the support available.