14 Baby Steps to Insurance Agency Greatness

Written by John F. Carroll on . Posted in Agency Management, Customer Service, Sales, SEO, Social Media

baby-steps-toward-sales-greatnessBaby steps.

If you’ve seen “What About Bob?” you know what I’m talking about.

It might be just a movie, but I still think Dr. Leo Marvin was on to something. Baby steps are important for anyone trying to make a change, including insurance agents like you.

I’ve seen a lot of agents attempt major improvements in their agency only to fall flat. You and your staff are creatures of habit and when new habits require too much change from current ones – it won’t last.

I give out a LOT of ideas to help agents be more successful, but I know a many agents fall short when they implement new procedures that are too ambitious from the get-go so I wanted give you some “baby steps” for some of the most common improvements I know agents want to make.

Here’s 14 “pie-in-the-sky” aspirations I hear from agents along with a recommended first step to get the ball rolling.

1) I Want To Do Annual Policy Reviews On Every Single Customer

Every agent I know thinks annual policy reviews are great for their customers and business.

I agree – It helps retention and cross-sales, boosts satisfaction, and helps you execute your role as a financial advisor.

And I’m sure you’d love it if you could line up 5 in-person policy reviews every weekday.

But if you’re not currently doing ANY policy reviews in your agency, you need to start small.

Baby Step: Perform one policy review per week over the phone.

Yes, that’s right… start by just doing one a week and don’t even push for an in-person meeting. If you get it done on Monday then take a break until next week.

Tips to make it easy:

  • Make your conversations easy by writing down a list of 6-9 questions to ask.
  • Offer it as a “discount checkup” instead of a protection review because it sounds less “salesy” to the client.
  • Call new customers on their 1 year anniversary so you can say, “it’s time for your annual policy review” and they won’t know this is a new thing for your agency.

After a month, decide if it makes sense to bump up your frequency and/or change the process.

2) I Want Every Customer To Be a Walking Salesman For My Agency

improving-agency-takes-baby-steps-1You’d love to have a booming referral marketing program that inspires thousands of your customers to hand out your cards everywhere they go.

Everybody would love that. But you have to start somewhere.

Baby Step: Decide exactly what people will get when they refer your agency and exactly how you’ll get it to them.  And then explain it all to your staff

Let’s start by making it really easy. Here’s a few ideas of what referring clients could get:

  • A phone call saying thanks
  • A gift card to a local store
  • A handwritten thank you letter
  • Some agency-branded giveaway like a waterbottle or a t-shirt
  • A staff photo signed by everyone in the agency. (that’s a joke, although it would probably be pretty cool)

And then tell your staff what’s going to happen for every single new referral your agency gets. This will force them to take referrals into greater consideration and they’ll be your accountability partner.

Once you’ve done that, check out this article for more ideas to turn up the notch on your referral marketing.

3) I Want Customer Satisfaction To Be an 11 out of 10.

I know you’d love it if every one of your clients was happier than a pig in slop. Every client renewing policies over and over again, touting the virtues of your agency to everyone in town.

Unfortunately a lot of agencies I know are somewhere between Comcast and Walmart on the customer satisfaction spectrum.

Baby Step: Reduce the negative impact of your biggest customer service complaint this week.

I don’t care what you do or how you do it, but figure out some sort of process, workaround, talkpath, or some other idea that reduces the negative effect of whatever your biggest customer service complaint is.

Even if the reduction is tiny.

For example:

  • Customer’s don’t like to wait on hold? Get better hold music.
  • Rates going up?  Make a list of potential discounts/alternatives to ask every upset client about.
  • Customers always lose their ID cards? Get some nice ID card holders and make it part of your process to educate each new client about the importance of storing their ID card in the glove box.

I’m sure your biggest complaints are different, but you get the point – don’t try to eliminate the problem because you will fail, just make it suck a little bit less.

If you make a small improvement to your customer service issues like this every week in a year you’ll have a lot of improvement. Read this article for more ideas.

4) I want 100% Retention

We all know the deal with the insurance business. If you can’t keep your current clients you won’t grow.

I talk with a lot of agents who will say stuff like, “What can I do to improve retention? I can’t stop everybody from shopping around and I won’t always have the best rate. I’m better off focusing elsewhere”

Sound familiar?

It’s true that you can’t stop everybody from shopping around, but  you absolutely can control your renewal rate just like you control everything else.

Baby Step: Identify the segment of customers most likely to leave and do something nice for them right before renewal

Who is leaving your agency the most?

  • First year customers?
  • Unmarried people?
  • Clients facing the biggest rate hikes?

Figure out which type of customer is most likely to leave (look at your stats, not your intuition) and send them a card, an email, or pickup the phone and give them a call right before that renewal.

It’s really hard to measure improvements in retention and that makes it frustrating if you don’t see results. So pay attention to the retention of just that segment and you should see measurable improvement.

And read this article when you’re ready for more retention ideas to implement.

5) I Want to Build a Team of Master Salespeople

sales-training-practiceYou want your agency staff to be Navy SEALS of insurance sales.

Well… it ain’t going to happen overnight.

Baby Step: Role play sales conversations with each staff member for 20 minutes each week.

Even just practicing sales once a week will remind your staff that it’s an art and a science that can be refined and improved if you take the right approach.

Make it easy for them.

The real value isn’t even in the lessons learned as much as it’s showing your staff member that sales ability is something you can improve if you work on it.

And here’s some more tips about practicing sales with your staff.

6) I Want To Hire Full-Time Salespeople

You’d like to have an agency where everyone specializes and your salespeople aren’t burdened by the mental toll and time it takes to service policies.

Sounds great, but how can you do it without the budget for a new full-time salesperson?

Baby Step: Turn your producers into full-time salespeople for two hour windows each day.

Basically, give all your producers a window of time each day during which they are to FOCUS ON NOTHING BUT SALES.

Make sure everyone knows each other’s “sales time” and respects it by not interrupting with service questions or other distractions.

It’s not effective to keep switching back between service and sales all day long. The more your producers can wear the two different hats at two different times the more effective they’ll be.

7) I Want to Be a Networking God

You want to be the dude who walks into the Chamber of Commerce and people line up to shake your hand and introduce you to their connections.

But instead, you haven’t gone to a networking event in 3 months and nobody at the local chamber knows your name.

Yes?

Baby Step: Commit to one networking event per week. Even if you’re only there for 20 minutes.

When it comes to growing connections and trust with people, it’s all about frequency. Most of the businesspeople who regularly attend networking events won’t really want to get to know you until they see you a lot and know you’re in it for the long haul.

And forcing yourself out of the office once a week is a great start if you’ve been slacking off.

8) I Want To Be a Social Media Marketing Wiz

It sure would be nice to have 1,000 Facebook fans who consistently comment on your posts and share them with friends.

That’s not going to happen overnight.

Baby Step: Follow 20 different local businesses and like, comment on, and share their posts.

Before you start posting your own stuff on social media, follow some other local businesses and see what they’re saying. Develop some good Karma by “liking” their posts and pay attention to what works.

Before long you’ll have a better idea of the kind of stuff people REALLY want to see on Facebook. And trust me, it’s NOT whatever your marketing person told you.

9) I Want The Most Popular Insurance Blog on The Internet

sales-excellence-encouragement

You want an active agency blog with hundreds of regular readers making comments and sharing your articles with their friends and coming back for more.

That’s really not going to happen.

Baby Step: Publish a blog post about another local business and then email the link to them.

Wait… Aren’t I supposed to blog about insurance?

Not if you want anyone to read it.

The bottom line is this:  if nobody reads your blog, you’re not going to keep writing it. Start by writing something you KNOW will be read by at least a few people because it’s about them and let them promote it to their fans.

10) I Want My Agency To Be The Awesomest Place Ever

It’d be awesome if your agency had the fun-filled atmosphere of a carnival. Customers would love coming to pay their bills and your employees would be ecstatic to drive to work every morning.

Unfortunately, you can’t snap your fingers and turn a morgue into a dance party.

Baby Step: Pick one thing from this article and do it today.

And then next week pick another one.

11) I Want to Be Organized With Every Minute of My Day

Tired of putting out one fire after another? Wouldn’t it feel great to have a day at the agency where you could plan what you wanted to do and follow through?

You can try to take control of your time, but inevitably there will always be fires to put out and it’s easy to lose focus.

Baby Step: Spend the first 20 minutes of your day doing something proactive with no interruptions.

Forget about the emails, the phone calls, the obligations, and everything else that pulls you away from working on your business to working in it for 20 minutes.

Tell your staff they need to wait.

You might find life goes on and you can stretch it even longer… to 25 minutes!

12) I Want to Hold Inspiring Sales Meetings Every Week

I think every agency should have a sales meeting once a week. A formal time to talk about product changes, sales techniques, new approaches, ideas, inspiration etc.

But if you haven’t brought your team together for something like that since the Christmas party last year it’s hard to jump into a weekly sales meeting.

Baby Step: Once a month bring everyone together and ask everyone to share a sales tip.

Call it the “Monthly Tips Meeting” or something stupid like that so it has an air of formality.

You’ll be surprised how much conversation will occur just from doing this and it’ll remind your staff members that they’re here to sell and they can always get better at it.

Make sure you bring your own tip and be the first one to share it to set the right example. Read this if you need ideas

13) I Want to Cross-Sell Every Single Client

Most agents agree that it’s easier to sell more insurance to someone who already buys from you than to a stranger. And every agent I know wants to cross-sell every client in the agency.

Unfortunately, it’s a lot easier said than done!

Baby Step: Create an “Everything We Sell” sheet with a list of all the products you sell.

Ask your producers to hang it on their desk and put a pile of them on the front desk for clients to see.

Ask your producers to show it to every client they meet with in person and especially new customers.

And check out this article for more ideas on cross-selling.

14) I Want to Rank #1 on Google for Every Insurance Term

new-things-to-try-to-insurance-sellYes it’s true that ranking high on Google is a pretty valuable thing for your business. If you ranked #1 you’d probably have all the leads you’d need.

But it’s not that easy. Not even close.

And it’s not even a matter of just hiring the right company (unless you hire me) because if you don’t understand how Google works you’ll spend thousands of dollars on the wrong stuff.

Baby Step: Learn The Factors Google Uses to Rank Insurance Agencies.

There’s a lot of misinformation about about SEO and if you don’t have a good foundation of understanding you’re not going to have success. There is one source for local SEO information that is far more comprehensive and trusted than anything else I’ve seen out there.

Read this list of the most important ranking factors according to industry experts and try to understand everything it’s talking about before you seek information elsewhere or hire an SEO company.

Conclusion

I hope you found a few baby steps in this article to take action on, but that’s not really why I wrote it.

The more important takeaway is the simple concept of making positive and lasting change by taking the small manageable first steps.

Aspirations are great because they provide direction, but if you don’t take that first step and have patience, you’ll never get anywhere.

If you found an idea or two in this article, please click the Like button and/or share it with another agent you know who is having trouble making big changes in their agency.

Hope this helps,
John

 

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John F. Carroll

John F. Carroll is the founder and CEO of InsuranceSplash. For years, John has consulted insurance agencies with internet marketing and sales strategy and he is dedicated to making insurance marketing easy and effective for all insurance agents. If you're an agent, connect with John on LinkedIn, he wants to connect with you!

Comments (2)

  • Veronica Wright

    |

    Thank you for providing such valuable information for agents and agency growth you inspire many

    Reply

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