The Secret to Selling Multiple Lines
Telling customers about other coverages at the right time, in the right context, is key
BY JON PICOULT
FOR DECADES, diversified insurers have doggedly pursued the Holy Grail: getting customers to purchase from them multiple types of coverage.
Success has been elusive, and a recent
study by LIMRA, a financial-services research
group, offers a surprising explanation why:
Many consumers don’t have a clue their
insurer even offers other products.
Only 48 percent of consumers surveyed
by LIMRA were aware that their multiline
insurer offered life insurance. The study
also found that one in three people who
purchased life insurance from a company
other than their auto insurer did so
because they didn’t even know their auto
carrier sold the product.
Talk about a deflating revelation. For
all these years, could the root of the P&C
industry’s cross-sell struggle be this simple?
Many insurers and their representatives
would probably scoff at this prospect,
arguing that they routinely advise customers
about other available coverages, through
advertising as well as live interactions.
The problem is, insurers and agents may
be talking—but customers aren’t listening.
And so, despite multiline carriers’ best
efforts, their diversified product line ends
up being their best-kept secret.
Consumers are bombarded with
thousands of marketing messages each
day. It’s no wonder if they disregard a life
insurance mailer, or their agent’s passing
reference to disability coverage. If the
relevance of the message isn’t immediately
clear, our brains just tune it out.
instrument, messaging customers based
not on their individual behavior, but their
demographic characteristics. A more surgical,
behavioral approach is far preferable.
Take my experience trading in a Volvo
sedan for a Toyota minivan. Amazingly, my
longtime auto insurer never used the moment
to engage me in a conversation about life
insurance. The minivan purchase was a clear
signal my family was expanding. Yet, other
than an unintelligible policy summary and
premium notice, the insurer was silent.
I ended up purchasing life insurance
from another carrier. My auto insurer,
to whom I had developed great loyalty,
wasn’t even in my consideration set, for all
the wrong reasons.
The allure of cross-selling is
undeniable—lower acquisition costs, better
retention, improved profitability. The
strategy is particularly appealing in today’s
Many point to sophisticated customer
analytics as the ultimate solution to these
industry woes. But while better technology
can help, it’s not the only answer.
You don’t need a computer to tell
you that a renewal package will garner
more attention than a generic mailer. And
a million-dollar system isn’t required to
interpret customer behavior, if you’ve got
empathetic, insightful and well-trained
representatives working with the public.
Insurers need to get smarter about engaging customers in the cross-sell dialogue—and
putting down the megaphone in favor of a
more thoughtful conversation. That means
speaking to customers when they’re more
likely to listen…and listening to customers to
know when it’s time to speak. NU
THE MOMENT, NOT THE MAILER
So how can multiline insurers achieve
relevance, increasing the likelihood that
a customer actually absorbs the cross-sell
message? The answer is they need to focus
on the moment rather than the mailer.
A simple message conveyed in the right
context can have a lot more relevance
and impact than even the most gorgeous
Jon Picoult is the founder of
Watermark Consulting, a cus-tomer-experience advisory firm
specializing in the financial-services industry. Picoult previously
held executive roles at Fortune
100 insurers. Read his blog at