Ok, I'll come right out and say it, I didn't know anything about insurance sales a few months ago. It's fine. Settle down. I'm not a salesperson. I'm a writer. But my dad was an insurance salesman. He sold it when I was a baby before he and my uncles took over my grandfather's florist, nursery and landscaping business. And then he sold insurance again in my teens after they sold the family business.
I know you're wondering why I sound like Rose from The Golden Girls, spinning a yarn about St. Olaf, Minnesota, but my lead in has a point. I always wondered why my dad would take on what I considered to be a real snoozefest of a career. He and my uncles and their pals had a blast hosting annual Christmas hours with Santa, selling flocked Christmas trees and sitting around DiStefano Gardens drinking Miller Lite after hours with the crew. But in the last few months, I've begun to understand why my dad, and why most of you reading this, have chosen insurance sales as your livelihood.
Here are 5 reasons why I think being in insurance sales kind of rules:
1. DOLLA DOLLA BILLS Y'ALL
Insurance sales can show you the money once you know what you're doing. My dad isn't what anyone would call a polished business man by any stretch of the imagination, but you know what he has loads of - personality. And if you have a personality that you're using properly, you can probably sell just about anything. Take it from the daughter of a guy who could sell a flocked wreath with 2 styrofoam cardinals on it and then turn around and sell a life insurance policy to the same guy. Personality means you can create relationships with your clients and those usually translate into successful selling and sweet commissions.
2. WEIRD FLEX, BUT OK
Whether you're an independent or a captive agent, the 9-5 grind is optional, depending on how you want to run your business. My dad was always at my soccer games in high school because he could schedule his client calls around my sports schedule. This is a huge perk when you consider lots of people are a slave to their cubicle, working under rigid schedules handed down from the man. If you decide to go independent one day, this gives you an even larger scope of what types of insurance you can offer the clients you're already serving - and on your own terms.
3. DOING GOOD
Ok this is the touchy-feely part. As we know, this country's health insurance has been front and center during the last decade, but health isn't the only important thing that people need insured. Being someone who helps give clients real security in order to protect their homes, their cars, and their lives, is no small potatoes, my friend. You can play it down all you want, but at the end of the day, when people find themselves in times of real trouble, you're the one who's made it possible for them to get help they need. You're slinging security, not car stereos. And it's pretty awesome.
4. COME ONE, COME ALL, COME WHENEVER
As is evident by my own father's career arc, you can be anyone and sell insurance. It's a great starter career for the nuts and bolts aspect of it - learning to sell, market, serve customers, set goals and manage budgets. But it's also a career you can segue into at any time, no matter what you did before or plan to do after. You have to hit the books for a bit to get licensed, but after that, you're in the game and you're shooting your shots.
5. MIXING IT UP
Mentioned above, being part of, or even owning, an insurance agency brings layers of opportunity for a business-minded person. You'll get the chance to get your hands into all aspects of what it takes to market and sell insurance. You're getting out of the office. You're meeting with clients. You're creating and closing deals. This means you're not being pigeon-holed into the same daily monotony of other careers where you'd do the same thing, all day, every day.
I hereby officially retract any misconceptions I've had since puberty about selling insurance being a complete snoozefest. I realize now that it offers more for the average Jim (my dad's name) than most careers. From flexibility to financial security, it locks most boxes for go-getters of all ages and it can bring a lot of personal fulfillment at the same time.
On any given work day, your to-do list is probably a few pages long. Cold calls, in-person meetings, networking, prospecting, training, personnel issues, administrative tedium - you know the list goes on and on. It's almost guaranteed that one process will get sidelined for another one when you're in the midst of the daily craziness and bogged down with work. That's just the nature of the game. But there's a very important process you may be bypassing that's costing you something a lot more valuable than time.
The number one misstep most sales people tend to make is in the follow through. Even with your best intentions, with everything else going on, it's an easy step to miss. You make a call, things go well, you assume you're going to hear from them soon, and then poof, forgotten. By both of you most likely. Out of sight, out of mind, onto the next.
There are a laundry list of reasons why following up with clients is so important but the main reason is and will always be customer service. It's a way to show your potential client the way you do business before they even begin doing business with you. It's a gesture that says, "I'm attentive. I'm here for you. This is the service you can expect when you do business with me." And please don't mistake the follow-up to land the client to be more important than the follow-up to keep the client. Staying in regular contact with customers gives them the security of knowing that you're there to answer questions and help with issues long after you've made the sale. This is key to long-term business relationships.
On the flip side, if you end a meeting with a client saying that you're going to reach out and then you fail to, you're telling them they can't count on you from the get go. That's a chance you can't risk taking.
One problem many agents, especially independent agents face, is bandwidth. There just simply isn't time to make the calls because of everything else that needs to get done. Automation software services like Agency Elephant can help you create an entire automated follow up campaign so that important calls (or emails, or text messages) like this don't get overlooked.
If you're a small agency owner who relies on referral marketing for new business, this is crucial. You can't risk losing clients before you've even had a chance to win their business. Your best foot is the only one you have to put forward and that foot comes in the form of following up.
If you're hiring for your agency, you're likely faced with a dilemma of bringing on experience versus potential. Experienced agents are going to be well-versed in the industry, but they may also come with bad habits, selling styles they're accustomed to and they'll probably prefer to do their business the way they like to do their business.
Bringing on young, inexperienced agents where you see potential for them in your agency is a great way to get some fresh blood in the water, but you want always be sure they're equipped with basic DOS and DONTS before you send them out into the selling game. Clients may see a new agent's inexperience as a negative, but if you've trained them to avoid common pitfalls, you should have new producer on your hands in no time.
Here are a few basic tips for getting a new agent on the right track from the word GO.
1. GET THEM OUT THERE
No one gets anywhere in business alone and we all know that from experience. If you have an agent starting from scratch, get them out into the field creating relationships ASAP. They should make it a priority to be at any and all networking events in your area. It'll be awkward at first, but the best way to get wet is to jump right in. Arm them with business cards and a general sense of who they should be looking to speak to and what info they're looking to get, then see what they report back to you in order to see what they need to work on.
2. GIVE THEM A GOOD PARTNER
It's typical to have a current employee train a new one, but pay close attention to who you're choosing to show a true newbie the ropes. Make sure you choose a veteran producer to be sure they can cover the gamete of sales challenges that may arise, while pulling from a lifetime of experience. Send them out to shadow them on calls so your new agents can benefit from seeing what long-term business relationships look like while learning tips on how to sell at the same time.
3. GIVE THEM A SCRIPT
Making calls is hard. Especially if you've never done it and you have no idea what to expect. YBR Insurance Sales Scripts are a great tool to help new agents become comfortable with making sales calls. YBR's software also records calls so that management can keep an eye on a new agent's progress and step in where they think the agent needs help. Also, using a script makes the sales process smoother, easier and more low-pressure for both the agent and the customer.
4. LET THEM FAIL A LITTLE
While you don't want to let a new agent completely bomb out, we all know we learn a lot more from the word NO than we do from the word YES. It'll be more memorable to a new agent if they fail trying than if they fail from someone telling that something doesn't work. If they come to you with an idea that you think may not work, let them try it out and learn from themselves, then you can redirect.
Guiding a new agent and keeping an eye on their progress benefits both the agent and your agency. The more support you give them, the more lucrative it will be for you in the long run. And leaving a new agent unattended could be disastrous for your agency. You want to see how they're selling so you can keep them on the right path for the long haul.
When we were kids we were asked this question all the time. What did we think we wanted to do when we were our parents' ages? Who did we admire and aspire to be like? Our answers were likely pretty standard in line with our scope of the world. Fireman, teacher, doctor, cop.
But as we got a little older and our awareness of the world got bigger, our answers changed. Accountant, veterinarian, graphic designer, financial advisor. After high school, some of us went to college to become what we'd become and then people stopped asking us that question.
When I graduated from high school I went to college to be a writer. I graduated with a B.A. in Writing and then I went directly into a career in publishing in Manhattan for 10 years. I was on the advertising and manufacturing side of the business. Not the editorial side. I had stopped writing. Completely.
I loved my career. It was fast, fun and I made good money. But after I got married and had kids, I needed a change. Once that change came, it was in the form of becoming a stay-at-home parent. I had happiness from being with my children, but I experienced a deep loss of purpose. I had completely abandoned my dream of being a writer. In fact, it was so long forgotten, I fell into a deep depression and my marriage fell apart. In abandoning my purpose, I lost the dream.
People stopped asking me what I wanted to become but even worse, I stopped asking myself.
I believe that doing what you love, even if that changes on the fly, is imperative. If you decide you need to switch your career mid-life because you're finding that you aren't happy, you have to follow that feeling. Too many of us fall down the well of obligation and fear of change, and we end up drowning.
You don't have to know what you want to be when you grow up when you're 5. You don't have to know what you want to be when you grow up when you're 18. And you don't have to know what you want to be when you grow up when you're 40. You're a living breathing organism and like a plant changes position for the sun, what you're going to be drawn to as you grow is going to move and change.
Always be asking yourself that question and be prepared to give yourself permission to switch it up if you need. Put yourself in the right light. Give yourself enough space to move. Don't succumb to a drought of purpose. What you do is what fuels your self-worth and happiness, and those are the things that alter the quality of your life.
We're coming 'round the bend of a historic year for advertising and marketing. When thousands of brands had to perform a massive PIVOT in their strategies in March, they had to learn quickly what had the most impact on reaching customers amidst a strange, new landscape.
With Facebook on shaky ground, business owners have had to lean into other modes of connecting with customers. The data is in and chatbots, video and email are reported as the top digital trends in 2020.
We've been saying this about Insurance Soup's favorite Chatbot, Tacobot, for years. Bots are unparalleled when it comes to 24-hour customer attention while lowering a business's human resources costs, well, because you're using robot resources. Customers are known to be more responsive to bots than they would be to online calling centers when brand communication is required. They've become one of the most dynamic trends in 2020, bringing customers and brands together in an exciting new way.
For better or for worse, we're living in a time where everyone has a phone (pretty much) in reach at all times and brand studies are showing that we're using them to share video content regularly. From platforms like Instagram and TikTok to YouTube and back, viewers are engaging with brands that utilize short video, live-streaming video and longer-form video more than ever before. Swipe up and clickable features inside video are positively affecting brand conversion rates.
EMAIL? YES, EMAIL.
Long gone are the days of the plain-text based email. Now, chances are, every brand that emails you is sending you what looks like a perfectly stylized web page with flashy buttons and bells and whistles. I get about 475 of these from Old Navy a day, and I'll tell you what, I be clicking. These formats are driving interaction more so than your typical old school email would have. If you're not using emails that marry form and function, it's time to take your email game to the next level.
We're seeing a giant leap toward a highly engaged experience when it comes to the digital market. Customers are requiring immediate attention and entertainment with a side of "sell me something". Your best bet is bringing your brand to the customer and putting it front and center, then throwing on some of the old razzle dazzle to then bring them back to you.
Whether we like it or not, it's a social world we live in now. Everyone is in one social community or another. It's almost hard to fathom not being tuned in to some sort of social network to either stay in touch with friends or to assist us in our daily lives. We're Facebooking, we're Istagramming, we're Googling, we're Zooming, we're DoorDashing, etc. If we're my mom, we're still trying to figure out MySpace on a Commodore 64, but regardless, we're looking for our people.
We know how and why we approach these communities in our personal lives, but if we own our business, an online presence can be an extremely valuable asset. In Career Agent Concepts, we teach you how to tap into those social networks in order to build, manage and profit from your own online community.
Here are a few reasons why you should consider starting one for your business.
CUSTOMER SUPPORT AND SERVICE
One word. ACCESSIBILITY. If you've got a Facebook group, an Instagram page or a Twitter account, chances are, you're engaging and conversing with customers every day. They know you're there behind the keyboard. This means they know they can get to you if they need to. If they have a question, a comment or a concern, they know you're a few clicks or a few taps away. This accessibility creates amazing opportunities for customer retention that wouldn't be available otherwise.
ALL TOGETHER NOW
Having a presence online invites people in and naturally people will begin to converse and create relationships inside the group. What you've got then is an organic space for clients and potential customers to interact and share ideas with one another. For example - Oh, you're a craft brewer? Joe Facebook in your group, his friend runs a fall festival in your area. Maybe they've got tables left for vendors. He's going to send you a link. BOOM. Once you've got people talking about your business and the like in one space, these types of collaborations can take place naturally.
SAVE THAT CASH
The most popular and widely used social platforms are free. You can certainly pay for ads, which is something we teach you in CAC, but starting out and building your tribe takes a lot of content sourcing and sharing of information about you and your business. And that just takes time and energy, but no money. There are more expensive ways of building groups and pages on social media, but if you give it time and do it properly, you can save yourself a ton of money.
If you're looking to create an online presence for your business, tapping into the social media is key. It's where your customers spend their time and share their thoughts. You want to be in their feeds if you want them as your customer.
If you're in our Insurance Group on Facebook, you know that we're working on a new feature - an agent referral map - where agents from around the country can locate, refer and review other insurance agents when a client is in need of one. There's a general willingness to help each other succeed in our online community and this should be a way for agents to hook up their clients with someone else they know they can trust based on other agent reviews. But it's got to work both ways because with the good reviews, there's always a chance the bad reviews will come too.
Unfortunately, none of us are immune to a rough day on the job or a client that we can't make happy, no matter how hard we try. We're all going to run into a customer or client we can't please. So because we're in the process of creating a referral mode that could bring you good and bad reviews, we want to make sure you know how to prepare for, and respond to, the latter.
STEP 1. CALMLY RECONNECT. Reading a negative review from an unhappy client or colleague is a punch to the gut. The human reaction is to start running defense but in business, you've got to redirect. Contact the client directly and see if there's a way to better understand their unpleasant experience with you or your business. You may be able to turn their experience around with calm, clear-headed customer service.
Step 2. FIGURE OUT HOW YOU CAN PIVOT? This is not the time for a debate, especially if the review has been left on a public forum. The first and best thing you can do once someone has explained their bad experience to you is find out how you can make it right. Is there a way to readdress their issue so that the outcome can be changed? Can you offer them something in the future? Your best shot at redemption is to calm find a solution that works for them and helps them believe that you care about their interaction with your company.
Step 3. ASK TO START FRESH. If you feel you and your customer have reached an understanding and are able to start over again on the right foot, ask the customer to consider removing the negative review, or at the very least, to update it so that your attempt at remedying the situation can be noted. This alone could mean much more than even a good review. When other potential customers know that you tried to right the wrong situation, you could gain news business on principle.
A bad review can be only temporary if dealt with properly and quickly, and in some cases can be avoided altogether. Things like comment cards and post-phone call surveys are great ways to head these kinds of situations off at the pass. If you're on site, you have the opportunity to identify potential problems that could arise before the escalate to an unpleasant customer experience. When your employees are dealing with customers, try to be within earshot to see how the interactions are going and be sure to step in when something comes up on the fly.
Look at a negative review as a way to improve your business and your customer service protocols and you'll see fewer and fewer of them down the line.
It's likely that there are plenty of insurance agents in your area. It's likely that each of them claim to deliver trustworthy, top notch service to your community. It's also likely that some of them are with larger, captive carriers. Maybe they have big signs out front of their offices and promotional vehicles and one of those giant inflatable dancing guys in the parking lot. Maybe they have larger budgets to pay Google and a call center chock full faceless customer service agents to respond to questions.
OK. Fine. Great. BUT.
Just because they might be bigger doesn't mean you have to lose business to them. You have one very important advantage in this game. You're there. Front and center. You're there to shake hands and kiss babies (I mean, with COVID, no one's ever touching again anyway, so we're adapting but you know what I mean). Being present in the pond gives you a leg up against the bigger fish.
Here are a few tips you can use to stand out in front of the "so-called" bigger guys in your community:
1. BE PART OF THE CHAMBER GANG
Your local Chamber of Commerce offers a ton of opportunity for you to get your face and name out into the community. It may feel like an outdated, old-timey resource, but that couldn't be more untrue. It's the easiest way to stay on top of what's actually happening in your community and to take advantage of the chance to get involved.
2. CHARITY CHARMS
This is such a no-brainer/win-win we feel like it can NOT be overlooked. Find out which charities are active in your community and become active in them. You'll have a chance to meet potential clients while DOING GOOD and getting your face attached to that GOOD DOING. How on earth could you pass that up?
3. SUPPORT ALL THE SMALL BUSINESSES
Supporting small businesses in your area does a few things. It shows business owners that you're FOR their business and you're FOR their town, while you're building relationships at the same time. You're getting out, you're supporting, you're seeing and you're being seen. And you're probably having the best burgers in town while you're at it.
4. HIRE FROM WITHIN
The quickest way you build a reputation is to build your own community within the community and where better to do that than where it's all happening. Your business. Hiring people who live in the town you sell to does that for you automatically. Creating jobs and contributing to the success of the community will pay back big time.
5. CREATE A SMALL LOCAL BUSINESS REWARDS PROGRAM
It sounds difficult, but it's not. Going from business to business asking if they'd like to be involved in a program that offers discounts at the cost of great promotion is seen two ways. You're trying to get people in their doors and at the same time, you're trying to make those people happy once they're through them. This is a great strategy for small towns!
6. BE THE FACE AT EVERY TOWN EVENT
Ok, maybe selling insurance doesn't make you Pitbull, but you can certainly be the Mr. Worldwide of local 5Ks and town carnivals. At the end of the day, if you're a friendly person and you're doing good business, it's going to add up. It doesn't matter what you're selling.
This is a true instance of quality over quantity. Doing business with someone you know and feel comfortable with, and who you see as someone who has helped you in some way already, will always beat out a faceless name from a distance. A more personalized sense of service will win every time.
I thought we’d switch up the blog today and do a Q&A with one of the founders of Insurance Soup. If you’re in Soup with us, you know Michael McCormick as one of the creators, crafter of fine content and head moderators in the group. His constant quest to give real-life, helpful advice on how to do insurance is something I get to see behind the scenes every day, but today, we’re giving you a peek behind the curtain. Enjoy!
There you have it folks! I hope you enjoyed a deeper look at what goes on in one of the minds behind the scenes of Insurance Soup. If you, or agents you know, are looking for a community of insurance professionals, happy helpers and goofballs to share your experiences in the industry with, we’d love to have you with us in Insurance Soup!
Stop me if you've heard this one.
- Knock, knock.
- Who's there?
- It's 2020.
- It's 2020 who?
- It's 2020. We have cars that drive themselves and houses we can have conversations with. Why are you still using dusty, old sales tactics?
We're in the future, you guys. It's happening all around us and it's changing every aspect of our lives, both personal and professional. Our parents are Zooming. Our kids and our slightly more adventurous friends are Tikking and Tokking. Our dogs have cameras with speakers so we can talk to them when we're not home. The future is everywhere and it's time to make sure you're bringing it into your sales game.
That means abandoning the sales techniques of the Mad Men. Your father's and your grandfather's tried and true sales tactics worked for them in their time and place, which means you've got to have your own strategies for the here and now. Here are 6 sales tactics that we suggest leaving in the past if you want your business to stay relevant.
1. GET IN LOSERS, WE'RE GOING VIRTUAL
The days of knocking on doors and shaking hands to make first contact are gone. Of course there's nothing wrong with that personal connection, in fact, every client demands and deserves personal connection, but we've taken sales calls to the virtual level, and it's not just because of COVID. Making virtual first contact with a potential clients eliminates the cost and time constraints of travel and gives you endless opportunities that face-to-face meetings could never compete with.
2. ONE SIZE FITS ALL SALES APPROACH
Customization sells. PERIOD. Clients want a sales approach specific to their business and their brand. Back in the day, most companies had a hard and fast pitch that they wouldn't stray from. And we get it. Your business and your products are amazing, but make sure when you're pitching, you're highlighting exactly why they'd be amazing for each specific client. Prospects can smell a canned pitch from a mile away now. You need to work every call to fit the clients brand or you're out.
3. SEE BEYOND LANDING THE CLIENT
You want to pay individualized attention to each client, but don't underestimate the power of the network because your reputation is your calling card and it lasts for a long time. Every client becomes a contact, with contacts. This means you're continually bringing your A game because a sale can lead to more sales. Each client should be treated like a delicate seed, who, when planted and growing, can give you fruit to eat from for the long term.
4. LISTEN TO ME, DON'T TELL ME
You can't roll in to a boardroom ready to tell people what to think and feel anymore. That's the quickest way to dry up a sale. People want you to let them make their own decision about you and your product. So instead of going in like a wrecking ball and f*cking sh*t up, you need to float in like a sponge and soak up your clients questions, needs, comments and concerns in order to really seal the deal.
5. SOCIAL ONLY WORKS WHEN YOU DO
Up until the last decade or so, people weren't using social media as a way to do business and although it's proven to be an incredibly effective way to market, you have to be really be in it to win it. You have to do more than just exist on your platforms. Simply having a profile with your website link isn't going to get you anywhere. You need to stay on the pulse of what's happening and continually create relevant content that brings added value to your followers or you may as well go back to MySpace.
6. THINKING AN OLD DOG CAN'T LEARN NEW TRICKS
The future is scary. Technology is overwhelming. We're right there with you on this one. But if you want to ride the wave, you need a board. You can't stay on top if you're using outdated processes and services that can no longer compete with what's dominating the industry. Like Career Agent Concepts teaches insurance agents how to target market their agency to get leads on social media, there are tons of other platforms available to keep you up on your board and riding that wave to shore.
The world is changing and so are the people in it. There is plenty to be said for the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mode of selling. But you have to be willing to adapt to the changes and advances surrounding sales opportunities if you're going to be able to compete with the masses.