The 3 Most Important Questions

Dave Wells, Agency Development Field Specialist

Typically, in giving someone a personal insurance quote (either auto or home) an agent has to ask numerous questions necessary for rating – questions about cars and drivers, or questions about the home they’re quoting, such as square footage and the number of bathrooms (yes, bathrooms). But the three most important questions are almost never asked because they’re not needed for rating. But these 3 questions can set the stage for either failure or success in selling the policy. What are they, you ask?

1. “When was the last time you had an independent agent work for you?” 

This is the most important question. The vast majority of prospects are already insured with another company, and about 75% of people are insured with a captive agent (such as State Farm, Farm Bureau, Farmers, etc.) or a direct writer (GEICO, USAA, etc.). Only about 25% of consumers have an independent agent. And most consumers don’t know the difference.  

During the quote process, we ask prospects who writes their insurance currently and how long have they been with that company. This is the perfect opportunity to explain what makes an independent agent different! Independent agents don’t technically work for a company; they represent multiple companies but they work to help their clients get the best coverage for the best price with the best company they represent. This gives the independent agent an advantage right at the beginning of the call.

2. “How did you hear about us?” 

This is an often-overlooked question, but it allows an agent to know if the prospect was referred by an existing client, or through a web search, or through targeted advertising.

If the prospect was referred by an existing client, send your policyholder a hand-written thank-you note along with a “referral reward” (for example, a small gift card or coupon from a restaurant you insure). By asking this question, you can also track the results of your search engine optimization as well as social media and advertising efforts. 

3. “Would you like the discounted rate or the standard rate?” 

Most prospects will call asking for a specific type of quote, auto or home. However, companies offer substantial discounts if you bundle or package the policies. These discounts can range between 10-30% or more! 

The prospect may already have a bundled policy with their current agent, so if you’re only quoting one line of business you will be at a disadvantage. However, insurance shoppers will be looking for your best rate, so you can discuss the advantages of writing the entire personal lines account upfront. You can also mention other discounts they could receive, such as paperless, paid-in-full, and auto telematics.

In preparing a personal lines quote, we have to ask many rating and underwriting questions. These are necessary, but so are other open-ended questions that create a conversation and a connection with your prospect. 
Through our Training and Learning Center on, we have a fantastic sales training program that can help you and your staff ask the right questions to help you close the sale. “Fear-less Selling” by John Fear is a dynamic course covering questioning techniques, selling value over price, overcoming objections, and other topics. Sign up today on the TLC, or contact the team at MEAA for more information. Happy $elling!