Insurance and financial services companies are doing a smart thing: They are reaching out to their "orphan" clients more aggressively than ever. Any person who has a policy or financial product with a company is being actively pursued to create a new relationship with a new advisor.
This makes a lot of sense. It doesn't take expensive research to figure out that someone who bought from you before is (hopefully) in a favorable frame of mind about you. In addition, the do-not-call law allows us to call people who are current with their premiums. It is a lot easier to call an orphaned client than to find a new one.
The problem in implementing these programs is that everyone gets frustrated when it comes to making the phone calls. In cases where the information is not correct and we can neither reach the client by phone nor by mail, it's going to take another level of research. (Try the Internet?)
I'd like to address the frustration after the associate gets the orphaned client on the phone but cannot secure an appointment. This speaks directly to what the advisor is actually saying to the client. Let me first tell you my thoughts on some approaches I've heard.
I am not a proponent of mea culpas. It's important to recognize that "neglected" clients should be called but it's not necessary to say "Haven't we been awful? We haven't called you in 5, 10, 20 years!"
I am not in favor of sharing the "big news" on all the new products and services we've developed since the client bought a policy in 1975. Most often, this approach meets with "I'm not interested," followed by the click of the phone.
I don't think it makes us look good to say that we need to "update our files." In addition to appearing totally incompetent on an administrative level, it doesn't defend our position of wanting a face-to-face appointment with the client. Sometimes they'll say: "So what information do you want to update?"
In the last 7 or so years, I've found that the word "review" is meeting with a lot of resistance from new prospects, orphaned clients and "neglected clients" (i.e., the C and D clients that are growing mold in someone's files). There is an inherent fear that if you "review" something, there must be something wrong. Eliminating that word from your appointment-setting scripts is a good idea. For orphaned clients, in particular, I'd recommend other wording.
I've been training advisors to take a completely different approach and it often works better than other scripts. (See the script on this page.)
Let me share why I think the script I'm proposing works.
1. It doesn't ask anything of the client-not for information nor a commitment to review their policy. (Just a week ago, an orphan stated to an advisor that since her policy hadn't been reviewed for so many years, it seemed just fine to her!)
2. It puts the advisor and the client in the same boat. It starts off the relationship on the same foot. They have, essentially, been "thrown together" and so they have to make the best of it.
3. It uses humor to disarm the orphaned client-"we've inherited each other!" Often, the client will laugh and not really know what you mean. But the script goes on to explain that.
4. It shows that the new agent takes the relationship seriously and needs to know who the client is without insisting on something in return. One can offer to buy a cup of coffee as well. The orphaned clients respect the fact that this professional person needs to know them and there are less argumentative responses and more agreement to the appointment.
5. The agent may have more fun with this script if they can "own it" and make it sound like a conversation.
If your current orphan calling program is frustrating and, in your own view, unsuccessful, it might be time for a change in the message to the client. Remembering the definition of insanity might convince you to try my idea.
Gail B. Goodman is president of ConsulTel, a Bedford Hills, N.Y.-based firm that offers specialized telephone skills training to the financial services industry. You can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.