It’s a tactic all independent insurance agencies should be using: cross-selling to the consumer. Any agency can repeatedly practice this act as a way to ensure they’re doing their best to offer all the varying services they have to their customers. While many insurance agents may see this as a way to just sell additional policies, we at Barber Insurance view it as an opportunity to sustain lasting connections with our customers.
To successfully cross-sell, or “pivot” as we say, to your customers, you need to know the two main objectives:
• Protect the relationship with your client.
• Make sure you put the needs of your client first. Don’t focus so much on trying to sell additional policies.
Pivoting is a way for you to ease into approaching your customer as you go about offering them a secondary product from your agency. For example, when discussing a homeowner’s policy with the intent to ask a customer about their auto coverage, you can bridge that gap with a single question: Really? What kind of car do you have? This way, as the agent, you’re able to counteract any question or objection your customer may have! By doing this, you’ll then have the confidence to get them the info they need and present them with a better auto policy from you.
Go ahead – test this theory out right now within your own office! Just by having a casual conversation with one of your fellow agents you’ll be able to experience firsthand how this method really works.
I’ve had Allstate Auto Insurance for a while and I’ve been pretty happy with my coverage.
Really? What kind of car do you have?
I’m ok with the payments I’ve been making and am not sure I could find a better price right now.
Really? What kind of car do you have?
I’ve been working with the same, great agent for over 20 years. I wouldn’t want to leave him.
Really? What kind of car do you have?
There are so many driving discounts I already get with my current agency.
Really? What kind of car do you have?
You can see how you’re able to take control of the conversation and steer it toward the services your agency can offer and then show your customer why going with you is the best option for them. Remember: The initial objection (without them coming out and saying it) is around the length of time they imagine it will take for us to shop it. This could have been someone just calling to correct their zip code or something, and we are suddenly asking them for another line of business.
They don’t have their declaration sheets in front of them, and weren’t in that mind set. So by asking that one simple question, they are easily drawn in to the remaining questions, realizing it can be just a few simple questions to start a fairly simple process.
Trying out this technique lets you sustain that relationship with your customer that you wanted to keep all along. You’re not coming off as demanding, nor are you being obvious that all you care about is selling another policy. Playing it this way makes it very clear that you’re interested in the needs of your customer and providing them with the absolute best coverage for whatever kind of policy they could need from your agency.
Who would have thought that such a simple question could help you become a master at cross-selling?
About the Author: Cheryl Fessenden is CFO of Barber Insurance, a California-based insurance agency that offers a number of personal and business insurance solutions to residents throughout Santa Rosa, Sand Francisco, Berkley, Napa, and all of Northern California.Continue Reading »
By David Siekman
No matter what type of company you are managing, the importance of shared goals and teamwork is imperative to success. As an independent insurance agency, Encharter Insurance has worked diligently to embrace technological advances and innovation in way that works well for our team here. However, without communication, shared goals and a sense of comradery amongst our team here, we would not be able to do all of that successfully. Without a focused and charged team, our efforts to serve our customers would be worse off.
How do we work to build that? Annually, we have a company meeting. The purpose is simple: we want to re-focus and re-charge our team. In this day and age, the importance of blending sales and marketing is imperative. Customers are looking online for their insurance, and without a blended strategy, we would be missing the mark on how to best service these consumers.
We spent a day and a half out of the office – our belief is that in order to re-focus, our team should be off-site and away from the daily grind of work. We want people to really get in tune with our purpose for the meeting, and let go of the other stuff.
Here’s what we focus on:
• The direction of the agency and each department: Is everyone on the same page?
• The vision and goals for each department: Do we all understand what everyone else is doing to contribute to the greater direction?
• The process: Are the procedures clear? Do we want to make changes to the process at our agency?
• Team building: An important foundation to working cohesively is trust. Cohesion is what drives success, and we want that at our agency – and so should you!
In addition to that agenda, we also have guest speakers come to the meetings with varying views. It is important to get outside perspectives from different companies. This helps us generate ideas on how to implement innovative strategies for our agency, and continue to do what is best for the customer.
Overall, the point is to get everyone interacting and sharing ideas. Although not everyone interacts on a daily basis, we are all part of a team working towards a goal. It is great for team members to get an understanding and perspective of everyone else’s role in the company and how that works towards our common goals. Holding annual meetings such as this are a great way to build morale and get everyone focused on the mission of your agency. We highly recommend it! Just look at what our team said about it if you don’t believe us!
About the Author: David Siekman runs the Sales & Marketing Departments at Encharter Insurance, an insurance agency with offices in Massachusetts and Connecticut.Continue Reading »
By Wayne Partee
As an independent insurance agency, it should always be a priority to staff your team properly. Having the right salespeople on board is half of the battle! Without a team of strong salespeople, you may be missing out on business left and right. Today, let’s talk about finding the ultimate sales ninja for your agency. Everybody wants one, but they are not the easiest thing to find!
How do you go about finding these ninjas in a sea of applicants? You must ask the RIGHT interview questions and look for the RIGHT answers. Go ahead and outright ask this simple question: “So tell me, why do you think you are the best?” This is a way to challenge a perspective sales person to SELL THEMSELVES to YOU. You may get a couple different answers…
If you get a wishy-washy answer and are not hearing superstar or top producer right off the bat, this candidate may not be the best choice. A ninja sales person will take over the room. Many times, an applicant will not have a commanding presence. If the candidate cannot sell themselves to you, they certainly cannot sell insurance to the public.
On another note, a candidate may seem fairly self assured but when challenged, he or she may back down. The person that you hire HAS to believe that they can bring home the bacon. They HAVE to believe that they are the person who is going to make your agency whole.
If a candidate comes off as indecisive or unassertive, they are most likely NOT a good fit for your agency. You may wonder: How can improve and truly find those who will complete my agency? I have a few books that are MUST READS in the industry.
#1: Selling 101 by Zig Ziglar. Ziglar is one of the best mentors of all time. This is a small book. Make sure you read it!
#2: No BS Ruthless Management for People and Profits by Dan Kennedy. This book addresses one of the many mistakes that we tend to make. We hire people TOO FAST and we fire them TOO SLOW. You cannot make this mistake when you are looking for a ninja producer. If he or she cannot produce and show you that they are the right candidate in a short period of time, you must let them go.
#3: Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes. Strongly recommend you read this book and have your sales ninjas read it, too.
#4: Question Based Selling by Thomas A. Freese. This book is a must read! It touches a variety of issues. For one, if your people are talking too much, they’re not going to make sales. They need to ask questions to find out what the buying points are in the public’s mind.
Grab these books off the shelf or on your Kindle to expand your mind and business!
I hope that you have found these tips helpful and find the sales ninja that you are searching for. Just remember: Unless you challenge candidates or unless they’ll stand up, they are not the person for the job. Best of luck!
About the Author: Wayne Partee is President/CEO of Partee Insurance, an independent insurance agency located in Covina, CA, proudly serving the entire state!Continue Reading »
This week’s insurance sales tips are from Highpoint Insurance Group and Main Street Insurance. If your agency is looking for what works from a sales perspective, check out these videos. These are real-life agencies employing tactics that work.
For Highpoint, the agency has found success having one dedicated person in charge of helping producers stay on course with their lead measures. Lead measures are tasks – either weekly, monthly, or quarterly – that help producers meet their goals by the end of the year. If a producer wants to sell two new accounts per month, for example, his or her lead measure might be making 20 phone calls per week for new business.
The dedicated producer partner encourages and supports the producers in meeting their goals by scheduling any necessary business stops or phone calls. The agency also creates a board that visually displays how well each producer is doing at meeting his or her goal — creating a little healthy competition. Watch the video here!
For Main Street, the agency has found success by setting goals and getting the whole team rallied behind those goals. In their video “Southern Style Sales” they parody the southern way of doing sales. At the end, they share some serious tips that could help any agency get on the path to a more sales-focused culture.
Check out the video here!Continue Reading »
How would you describe your agency? Is it more service focused or more sales focused? The two are dependent on each other, of course. But one of the things we see a lot of agencies struggling with is creating a sales-focused culture. You could create the best online marketing strategy in the world for your agency. Without a sales-focused staff, they may not be able to convert all those new Internet leads you’re generating from your website and social media networking.
So, how do you create a sales-focused culture in your agency? With some tips from real-life agency owners who’ve been successful… In this video series, you’ll hear about real strategies that real insurance agencies are using to change their culture and increase sales.
Tune in next week and the week after for more sales tips directly from agency owners who are out there creating successful sales cultures in their agencies every day!
(Note: click on the Title to see the videos embedded in the blog post.)Continue Reading »
In honor of the holiday season and the end of another astonishing year, the insurance marketing bloggers at Insurance Marketing HQ would like to wish you all Happy Holidays and a Merry Christmas!
As you can see, YouTube was a hot topic this year for insurance marketers, followed by Search Engine Optimization and linking strategies. We all know how the Google Penguin and Panda updates rocked the internet marketing world, and that’s certainly evident in our top 10.
If you haven’t had time to check out our multi-part series on the importance of leadership in insurance agencies, please check out blog post #3. Start with part one, Leadership’s Role in the Success of the Modern Insurance Agency. This series was written by our very own Tim Sawyer, President and Co-Founder of Astonish. It’s highly insightful and a MUST READ for insurance agencies looking to get results in the digital marketing world.
We look forward to an even more astonishing 2013. In the meantime, we write for you — our audience. If there are any topics you’d like us to cover in 2013, please leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you!
Continue Reading »
This is Part 5, the final part of a multi-part leadership series written by Tim Sawyer, President and Director of Client Services at Astonish. The goal is to give your insurance agency the tools necessary for effective leadership from a man who’s helped thousands of insurance professionals succeed in marketing their insurance agencies to the modern consumer.
6. Manage, Measure, Improve
I have often said that change is highly unlikely unless someone is fired (or at least held extremely accountable) when things go bad, or someone is rewarded when things go well. So the question that must be asked is “who in the agency is ultimately responsible for the growth of the business?” Until this question is answered there is a strong chance that success will remain elusive. In other words, who’s responsible to manage, measure and improve on the numbers? In most traditional agencies this would fall to the agency principal/ producer. But what happens if this person is not a natural or trained leader/manager? There would be a tendency to avoid this important role altogether.
The person responsible for the MMI process should be passionate about Constant Improvement. It’s not enough to know the numbers in the agency, but what the numbers actually mean. Also, how do the numbers compare to industry standards. Modern agencies should be paying attention to key metrics such as revenue per employee, CSR client service count, and conversion rates for new customer acquisitions as well as average additional policies sold per service call. Once the agency has defined what to measure, then it’s time to create a constant improvement process (CIP). For example, if new client acquisition is 15% of quote requests and the industry standard is 30%, then a process has to be put in place to manage and improve the conversion rate to the industry standard. This process would require goal setting, insurance sales training, prioritization and most important, accountability. Agencies that lack the knowledge, skill sets or time to create such a process should look to 3rd parties who can provide these services. Whether outsourced or dealt with internally, someone in the agency must be responsible to manage, measure and improve the numbers.
Practical leadership is critical to the success of the modern agency
Agency principals seeking to grow in the digital age must first start with themselves to provide the necessary leadership and commitment required for lasting success. They must be able to clearly articulate the vision and the goals of the agency as well as the time table involved. They must be prepared for employee pushback from those who are reluctant to change. They must be dedicated to overcome the inevitable roadblocks associated with all major initiatives. As it relates to employee motivation and behavioral change, the modern leader must be consistent in the application of incentives and accountability. Effective practical leadership must include the use of metrics and key performance indicators to keep the agency on track. Someone in the agency must assume be responsible for the MMI and CIP processes.
“No widget, tool or gadget will ever fix or replace a broken leader,” says Adam DeGraide, Founder & CEO of Astonish.
The local agent distribution channel is under attack from direct writers, captive agents, carriers going direct and billions of dollars in advertising. In addition competition is fierce from one local agent to another. Add to the mix the rapidly changing behavior of the modern consumer and you get a distribution channel that must adapt to the reality of this environment. The modern agency leader is confronted with difficult choices. Investment in technology and training can be costly without the proper mix of employee motivation and management oversight. On the flip side of the coin, doing nothing is not a sustainable business model. As I have often said, “hope is not a strategy.”Continue Reading »
This is Part 4 in a multi-part leadership series written by Tim Sawyer, President and Director of Client Services at Astonish. The goal is to give your insurance agency the tools necessary for effective leadership from a man who’s helped thousands of insurance professionals succeed in marketing their insurance agencies to the modern consumer.
Accountability is regarded as one of the most difficult behaviors to introduce into a well established workforce, particularly in those instances where accountability has been lacking for long periods of time. In one extreme case, an agency principal shared with me a strong negative reaction from an existing team member. Upon hearing the agency’s intent to introduce accountability into their new business model the employee commented that if the goal of the agency was to hold her accountable for specific production and retention standards than it (the agency) probably was not a good fit for her. As it turned out it was not and she is no longer with them. In fact, in the case of this agency, staff reductions totaled 25% while in the same three year period production increased from an average of 100 new pieces of business a month, to two hundred.
The agency principal must uphold and support the desire to create a culture of accountability in the agency. It begins with the principal themselves. They must be willing to hold themselves accountable to specific process and growth benchmarks. Leading by example may seem cliché, but it remains a powerful tool to changing behavior. The leader should actively participate in the process and be willing to step in when necessary to hold team members accountable for their role in the implementation process.
5. Benchmarking- establish and monitor key metrics
There is an old saying that every great initiative must begin with the end in mind. When launching large initiatives the agency leader should establish exactly what they are trying to accomplish. For example, if growth is part of the equation than growth must be defined in specific measurements including total premium (how much and by when), revenue, profit sharing bonuses, revenue per employee and profitability. The more specific the principal can be, the higher the likelihood for a successful outcome. Once benchmarks have been established they should be tied to a clearly defined timeline. In other words, what are we trying to accomplish and by when? Creating a visual timeline with predetermined benchmarks will make it easier for everyone in the agency to get on board. Also, a very effective way to improve the odds of success is to tie your initiative to a specific theme. For example, Stand Together or Consistent and Superior. Lastly, in addition to benchmarks, timelines and a theme your leadership of the initiative will require metrics. Modern agency leaders will use metrics to run their business like a math problem. For example, in the case where an agency is trying to transition from a service culture to a sales driven culture, key metrics would include the conversion rate of those team members responsible for new customer acquisition. The simple formula applied would be the number of sales opportunities divided by the number of accounts acquired. This would allow the agency to gauge success in a very mathematical way.Continue Reading »
This is Part 3 in a multi-part leadership series written by Tim Sawyer, President and Director of Client Services at Astonish. The goal is to give your insurance agency the tools necessary for effective leadership from a man who’s helped thousands of insurance professionals succeed in marketing their insurance agencies to the modern consumer.
3. Clear expectations of the process and the time table involved
The successful launch of a large initiative with in an agency can be directly tied to the leader’s ability to articulate what the launch process will look like in addition to a reasonable expectation of the amount of time required to achieve a successful outcome. Leaders can expect team members to want to know exactly how this will affect them in very real and practical terms. In addition, leaders can expect team members to be asking themselves what’s in it for them.
The natural tendency of the leader may be to minimize the impact on individual team members. This may have the short term effect of reducing pushback but in the long run may undermine sustainable acceptance and execution.
Better to be realistic. This will require the leader to make the case for the purpose of the initiative. This must include the benefits to the agency, the team and to customers. Also, the leader should clearly define the phases of the process and how each phase will affect the team. There must be timelines established for each phase and a process to gauge progress.
Be prepared for pushback. It is inevitable that some team members will be reluctant to embrace the initiative. Most agencies have well established work forces not accustomed to change. Change can be threatening and in many cases met with total resistance. Modern agency leaders must resist the temptation to placate reluctant team members by suggesting that participation in the initiative is optional. If the initiative is vital to the long term success of the agency than its success supersedes the concerns of any one individual. This must be made clear to everyone. The leader must be unwavering in their commitment.
Find a respected champion within the agency. A team member who is passionate about the success of the initiative. Partner with this team member in meetings and presentations. Have them update the rest of the team on your progress and report back to you.
Lastly make it fun. Recently an agency principal in Ohio remarked to me about how he had an appointed a Fun Director in the agency. Her responsibility is to lighten the mood in the agency and make the workplace a desirable and “fun” place to spend time. Since then, according to the agency principal, innovation has improved in addition to a significant increase in new business.Continue Reading »
As an insurance agent in the age of evolving technology, you rely on many tools to help you stay organized. One of the main methods you most likely use to communicate besides the telephone is email. Email can be your best friend or worst enemy when it comes to communicating with your clients. Sending a quick message out is an easy way to create reminders, update clients, check in with them, and strengthen your insurance marketing strategy. However, email can also be a time-consuming burden for leaders.
Has your inbox reached hundreds of emails or more before? This can be a huge stress on you, especially if you miss out on a very important email. The key to dealing with your emails is trying your best to stay on top of them as they come in. The following is some insights on how you can control your email account and stay organized:
Taking these tips into account, you can strengthen the communication you have with your community as well as your insurance marketing strategy. Sending out friendly reminders or goings on in your agency will keep everyone in the loop. Taking control of your email account will help you feel more organized and closer to your customers than ever before!Continue Reading »