Agent to Agent: Building a Cross-selling Machine: Revenue From the Sale of Life Insurance

Tim Gilder Photo Cropped 161x200.jpgBy Tim Gilder, CLU, ALMI

Cross-selling life insurance to your current customers is a great idea. In fact, it is such a great idea that I bet you have been told to do it at least fifty times in the last five years. So? Go do it! What’s stopping you? Tell every single one of your agents and CSRs that the next time they are on the phone with someone all they have to say is, “Do you need any life insurance?” and money will start falling from the sky. That is all that there is to cross-selling life insurance, right?

Obviously, it is not that easy. In fact, I would argue that successfully cross-selling life insurance is extremely difficult. Unless you get some help you will be disappointed with the results and will not look to do it very often.

Well, help is here. We have a blueprint for building the successful cross-selling machine. The steps involve training your staff, identifying the opportunity, learning what to say, and partnering with an independent brokerage agency.

Train Your People

The cross-selling opportunity will fall apart if your people don’t have a process in place that helps them collect the necessary data and get it to the right people. Identify the sales people or CSRs to specifically handle the life insurance leads internally. This usually only involves a few tweaks and not an overhaul of your existing process.

Identify the Opportunity

The most valuable information in any agency is the customer data. The data will help you identify and focus your marketing opportunities. Consider the following:

  • Personal Lines – Home and auto policy holders between the ages of 25-55 probably have a mortgage and a need for life insurance. This is an easy one, sell it to them.
  • Commercial Lines – The small business owner needs help protecting the business continuity. Life insurance can fund the buy-sell agreement. Life insurance can also help the small business owner save for retirement. The income tax-free nature of withdrawals and loans from life insurance cash values can be a powerful tool.
  • Employee Benefits – The conversation for two years in this market certainly has been dominated by Healthcare Reform. A common strategy in this market involves the sale of two policies: key person life protection for the business and a personal policy to protect the family.
  • Niche Market Examples – Private equity/mergers & acquisitions usually require life insurance as collateral right in the agreement. And your high net worth clients are good prospects for a conversation about protecting their wealth for future generations.

Knowing What to Say

I am a big believer in having scripts or sales talking points available so that regardless of the direction that the conversation may go, a cross-selling conversation may occur. We have adopted a sales training process that involves taking a single idea and breaking it down to a one line “hook,” followed by three talking points, each supported by three support points. We sum up each message and offer up three objections and responses (yes, we’re big on threes). Each idea ends up as a one page sales aid that anyone in the agency can use with a client.

Some examples and hooks that I can put actual sales revenue next to would be:

  • Key Person Life Insurance – “Would your business suffer a financial hardship if a key employee died?”
  • Life Insurance in Retirement Planning – “Would you be interested in income tax-free retirement income?”
  • Legacy Planning With Affluent Clients – “Research has shown that 70% of family money is lost by the end of the second generation; would you be interested in building walls around your family wealth to protect that legacy?”

If you receive an affirmative response to any one of these questions, the follow up is simply, “Let’s talk about life insurance planning to address that need.” Try it yourself with one of your clients and see what happens.

Partnering for Success

Developing a successful life insurance cross-selling machine is not easy, it takes some help. Look to partner with an independent life insurance brokerage agency and build a process together. The brokerage agency offers a perspective that comes from processing thousands of policies every year from hundreds of different agencies. Think of the life brokerage agency as being on your staff, but not on your payroll, and leverage the expertise.

Know Where the Leads Are Going

Regardless of your decision on how you want to handle the life insurance sales in your agency, do not lose track of them. If you allow your agents to refer leads outside of the agency make sure you know what you are getting in return. In my experience, the referral of leads outside of the agency ultimately ends up in a murky place trying to remember just whose client this actually was. It is better to keep your leads in-house. Build that cross-selling machine and switch it on to generate more revenue.

Tim Gilder, CLU, ALMI, is co-owner of Comprehensive Planning, Inc., a life insurance brokerage general agency. Comprehensive Planning, a LifeMark Partner agency and MIPIA member, is an independently owned, family business, founded in 1981. Gilder entered the insurance industry in 1998 and works with independent insurance agents to grow their revenue from the sale of life insurance products. Contact him at or 248-457-2312 x 333.

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