Insurance Journal’s 101 Sales, Marketing & Agency Management Ideas

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1. Dare to Break the Mold. We tend to hit a sweet spot of what works for us in agency management and stay there, focusing on the “sexier” sales side of the business. It’s fine to keep what works, but always look to evolve your management processes for a competitive edge. — Mary Ann Cook, The Institutes

2. Ask About Cyber. Develop a cyber security questionnaire or checklist that not only helps underwriting but also helps customers identify gaps.

3. Diversify and Cross-Sell. Many personal lines agents won’t write commercial lines and vice versa. You’re missing great opportunities for new business and increased retention. If you don’t diversify and cross-sell for your clients’ benefit, your competition may just do it for you … with your customers! — Juan Adame

4. Use Technology. Utilize better your comparative raters, agency management systems or marketing automation to help your agency be more efficient with repeatable tasks. Track your lead sources. Know exactly where your leads come from. It will help you know which of your marketing dollars are working for you and which you are wasting. — Laird Rixford, ITC

5. Constructive Tension. Adding “constructive tension” to the relationship can indicate the true interest of the prospect. Ask the prospect for something you’ll need later — early on. Continue this with every interaction setting a mutually agreeable “due date” for each of the next steps. A prospect who agrees to a timeline and delivers accordingly is engaged. Avoid “x-date blues” of working hard on an account only to find the prospect won’t take your call on the inception date. — Steve Pearson, ISU Insurance Agency Network

6. Talk Budget. State, verify and confirm the prospect’s budget; do not assume. “People buy emotionally but make decisions intellectually.” Confirm that your prospect is making an intellectual decision or they will face buyer’s remorse. — The Nitsche Group, Giddings, Texas

7. Speak the Language. Learn the language that leads to gaining a Broker of Record/Agent of Record. You’ll make more money faster. — Randy Schwantz, founder, The Wedge Group

8. Maybe. The worst thing you can hear from a prospect isn’t “no.” It’s “maybe.” — Jim Wochele, unit manager, sales performance, MarshBerry

9. What Do YOU Want? A true sales process starts all the way back at building your personal vision for your career. What do you want to achieve? And why? — Nick Kormos, vice president, sales performance, MarshBerry

10. Engage Employees. The best companies are the ones that recognize that every employee and every department has a role and a voice. The bottom line: When you are building any strong brand, you need to ensure that you have employees who are thoroughly engaged (including on social media), connected and committed. If you aren’t doing this you are hindering your brand and ultimately your sales. — Julia Silve, marketing coordinator, Kaplansky Insurance

11. Investigate First. Study your prospects’ industry before you meet with them. — Chris Burand, Burand & Associates LLC

12. Yes or No. Do not use yes or no questions if you can help it. People like to tell their story if they know you care about them. — Michael Brennan, NFP Property & Casualty

13. Listen and Adapt. Not every prospect is the same. Being able to communicate with people that want every detail about the product versus people that just want the cliff notes is vital in being a well-rounded salesperson. If you treat everyone the same and never adapt your presentation or conversation you will miss out on a ton of opportunities and turn a lot of prospects off. — Curt Sieve, senior producer, General LiabilityShop.com

14. Everyone Is Special. Business owners do not make it into their position unless they have done something special. Ask them what makes their company special and why people do business with them. It may not always be the obvious answer like a good product or low price. Once you know why they think they are special you can design your service plan approach to work in conjunction with it. — Michael Brennan, NFP Property & Casualty

15. Forms Matter. Read your forms and do not assume that because you learned something studying ISO forms that the applicable forms read the same. This is where agencies earn their commissions. — Chris Burand, Burand & Associates LLC

16. The 5 Ps. Before you close a sale, you need to ask the prospect what the “5 Ps” are in order to write their account — price, product, program, problems with and politics in their current insurance program. –Catherine Oak, Oak & Associates

17. Sell the Benefit, Not the Comparison. Anyone can sell a product based on price, but a true advisor sells based on the benefit. It’s more important to provide the correct coverage for a client that will make them whole in the unfortunate event of a loss, than to just provide a lesser product based on a cheaper price. — Nicholas Campbell, Insurance-On-Hudson Agency

18. Who’s Not at the Table? Take a look at your client list. Who’s not at the table but should be? Conversely, who’s at the table but shouldn’t be? Do you have a vision that’s clear enough to guide these decisions? Consider a fit that works best for both you and your clients in the long term. — Mary Ann Cook, The Institutes

19. Two-Way Street. Agents and carriers have a vested interest in working together to ensure that expectations are understood. Ask what you can do to make your carrier/agency partnership successful, and by doing so and following through, you’ll be successful, too. — Richard Coskren, Polestar Performance Programs

20. Experience Is Everything. The number one opportunity for every agent is to focus on the experience the client receives. Commission secret shops each month, where professional shoppers anonymously test the experience. View everything from the eyes of the client and it will be all the marketing you ever need to do. — Billy Wagner, multi unit agency owner, Brightway Insurance

21. Keep It Simple. You may think your job is to give a possible buyer multiple options for planning for long-term care, such as spread sheeting several insurance carriers or comparing standalone and linked products. However, the reality is consumers don’t want this. They want a recommendation with just a few choices. Limit the options they can consider. — Steve Cain, LTCI Partners LLC

22. New Biz. Improving your new business generation makes the rest of the financial numbers that you’re obsessing over far less impactful. — Nick Kormos, vice president, sales performance, MarshBerry

23. Video Quotes. You can use free screen recording software to say a “quick hello” on camera, then review some of the key aspects of the coverages. It’s a simple way to stand out from the crowd and create a deeper connection with your clients/prospects. — Mike Demko, My Insurance Videos

24. Goals and Deadlines. Give yourself and your team firm deadlines and stretch goals.

25. Put Yourself in Your Customers’ Shoes. Consumer buying behavior is a constant change so we must keep up with our buyers’ interest, needs, but most importantly how to properly sell to them. We all know that no one likes to be “sold” so keep the focus on their personality and their tone of speaking. This is key. — Zandra Harvey, Cut-Rate Insurance Agency

26. Give a Workshop. Commercial and personal lines producers or agency principals can put on workshops for local businesses to discuss how to promote business locally by leveraging social media, Yelp, email marketing and other tools. Local chambers and realty groups are always looking for quality content in their meetings. This will help with new business and build referral relationships. — Stuart Ganis, Ganis Consulting Inc.

27. Save the Money. Thinking of joining a chamber of commerce or other trade organization? Unless you send a representative regularly, save your money. You simply will not receive referrals unless people get to know you and trust you. It’s a big commitment and an added expense, so determine if you can dedicate personnel to attend regularly. Don’t expect overnight results. It can take at least a year before you begin to receive meaningful referrals. — Nancy Germond, insurance writer

28. Get Bored. When you give your mind nothing to do is when the greatest of ideas can emerge. — Alicia Frye, NFP

29. Spur Office Sales Competition. Whoever sells the least over a month puts money into a vacation kitty. At the end of the year, the one with the most sales gets the kitty.

30. Use Email Marketing. Everyone has an email address, and many consumers prefer to hear from you via email. Compared to direct mail, it’s cheaper and more effective. Plus, there’s so much you can do with a good email platform and solid strategy such as renewal reminders, cross selling and claims information following a big storm, just to name a few. — Becky Schroeder, ITC

31. Understand the Client. Take the time to really get to know your client and their needs. Understanding the complexities of what stage of life that they are in will help determine how you can best serve them. — Sandy Latta, Aartrijk

32. Overcoming Incumbent Loyalty. Ask prospects one question before you go: “Do you know why people who have a long relationship with their agent still want to talk to me?” We have seen that a long and loyal relationship can lead to: 1) Agent apathy — Agents no longer worry about losing their clients business. 2) “Slow drip premium increases” — each year they are too small to notice but given time-add up 3) “Lack of marketing” — who benefits from a lack of competition? The prospect’s current provider does. — Todd Heller, The Nitsche Group

33. Outside the Zone. Move outside your insurance comfort zone to get new ideas. Read an article from a different industry. Attend a conference or webinar on an unusual topic outside insurance that will expand your knowledge.

34. 30-Second Commercials. Incorporate any of the following phrases: concerned about, frustrated with, worried about, upset about, tired of. Remember the message is for their reasons and not yours. — The Nitsche Group, Giddings, Texas

35. TV and Radio. Host your own local radio or cable TV show featuring events and people in your community. Many local cable and radio operators are looking for content.

36. Blog. Being too busy is not an excuse. Blogging is the most important thing you can do for your insurance agency website. Updating your website doesn’t have to take a whole day. Working on making changes an hour a week or a few hours a month. Those small changes can have a big impact. — Laird Rixford, ITC

37. Head Trash or Limiting Beliefs. These can stop you before you even start. You can only rise as high as you believe. Limiting beliefs around money will directly affect your income. How much is a lot of money to you? If your answer is $10,000 you will struggle working with prospects where their premiums are more than that. Remember: Those are your beliefs not the prospects. Do not transfer it to them. — The Nitsche Group, Giddings, Texas

38. Niche It. Niche programs are key to an agent’s ability to thrive in the current marketplace. So many agents try the “shotgun approach” of writing anything and everything they can get their hands on. At the end of the day, that creates a messy, difficult to manage book of business. By focusing on one or two key markets, the agent can begin to develop streamlined processes that will allow them to write a higher volume of accounts with ease. — Jeff Schmidt, Eaton-Provident Group LLC

39. Bust the Incumbent. Insurance buyers do not need two agents … get good at building relationships … get better at busting the incumbent relationship — Randy Schwantz, founder, The Wedge Group

40. Expertise. Nearly all million-dollar producers have three to five well-defined niches. What industries are you an expert in? — Jim Wochele, unit manager, sales performance, MarshBerry

41. Empowerment Marketing. Empower your employees with empowerment marketing. The quality of customer experience is a function of the quality of the employees delivering the experience. Success starts with employees, they are your brand ambassadors. — Julia Silve, marketing coordinator, Kaplansky Insurance

42. Organic Growth Is King. Organic growth only happens with proactive sales activities. How proactive is your agency? — Chris Burand, Burand & Associates LLC

43. Notify. To avoid client doubts creeping in after handing over an account to your account manager, arrange with the account manager to notify you when certain issues arise so you can contact the client. — John Graham of GrahamComm, a marketing and sales strategy consultant and business writer

44. Listen and Learn. Listen emphatically to the commercial client in the initial contact. Follow up with specifically focused questions directed at learning exactly what all of your client’s operations include and exclude. Remember the client may not know what information is useful and relevant, or that they may need a certain type of coverage for an emerging issue in their field. — Nancy Fields, marketing associate, Workers Compensation Shop.com

45. Email Customers. Send customers and prospects regular emails that include: seasonally relevant stories, tips on reducing risks, links to informational videos. — Patrick Wraight, director, Insurance Journal’s Academy of Insurance.

46. Don’t Fear the Word: FREE! The idea behind this is basic yet often overlooked. Give of your time, talent or treasury. Provide free engagements, engage in public speaking, host a charity-a-thon at your location, implement car washes, donate pens or pencils to local organizations (branded of course), and more. — Oyauma Garrison, senior vice president, The Jacobson Group

47. Ask and You Shall Receive … Referrals. It’s not always obvious to customers that they should recommend you. Making that clear will establish a path to new business. — Richard Coskren, Polestar Performance Programs

48. Don’t Set It and Forget It. Understanding how to use

various social media platforms today for sustained engagement with clients and prospects is just as important as attending monthly chamber of commerce meetings. — Mary Ann Cook, The Institutes

49. Contests. Periodically hold a contest related to insurance. This can be on trivia, create a caption for an image, or share best practices. Send this out to existing clients, as well as advertising on social media for new prospects. — Bill Schoeffler, Chrysalis Financial LLC

50. Shut Up and Sell. Nearly 99 percent of the talking you should do as a sales person should be asking questions. Then shut up and let the prospect/client tell their story. Don’t lead them or try to answer for them. Even if it takes them a while to formulate an answer be patient. — Michael Brennan, NFP Property & Casualty

51. Educate Your Prospects. What I find useful every day in sales is taking the time to educate your prospect on what is going on with their policy. Giving a quick Work Comp 101 goes a long way. Even if I don’t get a sale that day I have had calls a month or a year later from referrals that I have helped or walked through exactly what is going on with their policy. — Melinda Langworthy, senior producer, Insurance Shop LLC

52. Google It. If you quote a prospect and you kill their current rate, this is a great time to search for businesses that are in the same industry in that area. So, pull up Google and start dialing. When you get someone on the phone, lead with: “I’m calling today because I have a carrier that’s very aggressive in your market and wanted to see if you’d like a quote.” — April Melvin, senior producer, Workers Compensation Shop.com

53. Errors and Omissions. E&O happens, but it does not have to happen to you. Don’t be afraid of hiring an E&O auditor to help you improve sales and simultaneously decrease your E&O exposures. — Chris Burand, Burand & Associates LLC

54. No Secret Weapons. There is no secret weapon for hunting larger accounts. Research, persistence, and a clearly articulated value proposition is all you need … But make it different! — Nick Kormos, vice president – Sales Performance, MarshBerry

55. Practice in Off-Time. Everyone needs to develop their skills but if you do it in prime selling time, it will cost you money. Practice early, practice late. — Randy Schwantz, founder, The Wedge Group

56. New Technology Purchases. When deciding to buy technology, be sure to have a plan and process. Understand your need and whether technology is the answer, research, test drive, seek outside opinions, don’t forget training, and ask for more than vendor is offering.

57. Welcome Committee. If your community does not have a service that welcomes newcomers to the neighborhood, then start one.

58. Automate Marketing. If you often forget to follow-up on a lead or you send the same email to prospects every day, try marketing automation. It will automate those tasks for you giving you time for other priorities. — Becky Schroeder, ITC

59. Social Media Best Practices. Deliver social media best practices training to realtors, mortgage brokers and other potential referral sources in your local community. Workshops for small business owners at your agency will go a long way to branding your agency locally and increase quality referrals. — Stuart Ganis, Ganis Insurance

60. You Do You. Reacting to what your competitor has done will put you two steps behind. Know your voice, be the leader — the one others try to mimic — and you’ll stay ahead. — Alicia Frye, NFP

61. Create a Holiday Video. Share the video with your clients. You can “bulk send” this via email to your entire book, and also post it on social media. These types of touches are good way to stay top of mind and can help with retention/referrals. Consider Fourth of July and Thanksgiving videos; these holidays are “less crowded” than Christmas and New Year’s. — Mike Demko, My Insurance Videos

62. Use Stories, not Statistics. Statistics are important for discovering trends and insights, but they are awful when used for discussing long-term care planning. Statistics destroy empathy and emotion. People are way too optimistic about their future and think they will be on the winning side of a statistic. Focus on stories and experience when talking about planning for LTC. — Steve Cain, LTCI Partners LLC

63. Get in Print. Don’t abandon print advertising — target it to make it work for you.

64. Data Analytics. Customer data is king — collect, analyze and protect what you have. Get help if you need it. Use it to properly to understand, educate and serve your customers. Hire a data analyst.

65. Divide and Conquer. Segment your customer and prospect audiences for personalized and targeted communications.

66. Give Time. Give your greatest asset, time, to listen to the customer’s needs. — Patrick Wraight, director, Insurance Journal’s Academy of Insurance.

67. Annual Reviews. Make sure to conduct annual insurance program reviews with clients. — John Graham of GrahamComm, a marketing and sales strategy consultant and business writer

68. Innovation Will Change How You Sell. Drones are increasingly being used to evaluate structures, reducing the need for onsite visits. Remote monitoring is helping to reduce claim frequency and severity. Technology-driven innovations will change how we sell, how we establish pricing structures, how we manage risk and, ultimately, who professionals market to for business. — Oyauma Garrison, senior vice president, The Jacobson Group

69. Find a Mentor or a Mentee. Either way, encourage mentorship. Creativity, innovation, continuity and results derive from it. — Mary Ann Cook, The Institutes

70. Nurture Your Niche. While the value of focusing on a niche is a recognized and effective sales technique, select a niche or niches that “PAS” this test: Do you have the passion for it, are enough insurer markets available, and does your leadership support it? — Richard Coskren, Polestar Performance Programs

71. Appreciate Customers. Hold an annual customer appreciation day that ties in with a charity fundraiser. Choose one client to highlight at the event and make a donation in their name to a local charity. Include a way for the other attendees to make donations to the same charity. — Bill Schoeffler, Chrysalis Financial LLC

72. Treat People with Respect. Treat people the way you would want to be treated. I believe that successful sales people naturally have this characteristic. Personally, I recognize it or the lack of it when I am interacting with people daily. Treating people with respect creates a great first impression and automatically builds a sense of comfort between the agent and the insured. — Justin Bartmess, senior producer, General Liability Shop.com

73. Help Your Prospects. If you have a great solution immediately available or access to a great solution for a prospect, provide it to the prospect promptly. If you’re not able to help a prospect directly, take the time to point the prospect in one or several directions which are most likely to meet his or her needs. — AJ Schrage, senior producer, Insurance Shop LLC

74. Assume You’re Quoting All Lines. People answer yes or no questions automatically with a no, so stop asking those questions. Instead, ask probing questions about their other policies. What’s their effective date, what limits do they currently have, what are their gross sales, etc. Chances are they’ll just answer, but I’d make them tell me they didn’t want me to quote their other insurance lines. So, assume the quote. — April Melvin, senior producer, Workers Compensation Shop.com

75. Get Professional. Clients need professional advice more than they need you to sell them insurance. What are you doing to improve your knowledge and skills to fill your clients’ needs? — Chris Burand, Burand & Associates LLC

76. Special Treatment. Treat your team as more than just sales people. Show them that you care and take the time to truly acknowledge their accomplishments and milestones (big or small). Then, take it to a next level: acknowledge their accomplishments on your social media channels, share testimonials with the staff, provide notes or small gift cards, maybe even rethink perks and benefits associated with your company. It may take time to get it just right but you will see a huge improvement. — Julia Silve, marketing coordinator, Kaplansky Insurance

77. Future Hires. Hire people for the future, not the present. — Curt Vondrasek, vice president, MarshBerry

78. Office Decor. A new hire candidate will decide if they want to work for you within seven seconds of entering your office. Does your office space say Google or funeral home? — Nick Kormos, vice president, sales performance, MarshBerry

79. Ideal Recipe. The process is more important than the voicemail. There’s not a silver bullet for a perfect voicemail, but there is an ideal recipe of mixing in eight-to-10 attempts on the same prospect to get the conversation started. — Jim Wochele, unit manager, sales performance, MarshBerry

80. Master Story Telling Skills. Story telling engages customers, makes you more interesting and gets your points across. — Randy Schwantz, founder, The Wedge Group

81. Websites. Invest in a great website, and make sure it’s mobile friendly. These days your website says a lot about you to consumers who are researching online. Make sure it has the right message. — Laird Rixford, ITC

82. Listen to Others. Don’t shut out or shut down ideas from someone that’s “not in marketing”. We’re all in marketing. Some of us just have a different job title. — Alicia Frye, NFP

83. Focus on Now Benefits, Not the Future. It’s incredibly hard for people to imagine aging and needing help. Only something like an aging suit can really give people a glimpse of how needing care will affect them and their families. Instead, focus on the “now” benefits of LTC insurance. The now benefits for LTC insurance are harder to quantify, but they can include peace of mind, good health underwriting and locking into a lower premium before a birthday. — Steve Cain, LTCI Partners LLC

84. Department Checklists. Create a quality (as opposed to workflow) checklist for each department and project that captures the standards your organization strives to uphold.

85. Pets. What

percentage of your customers own dogs or cats? They might welcome advice on training, local regulations, dog parks, not to mention dog bites and liability — or pet insurance, whether you sell it or not.

86. Refer Others. Recommend the services of another trusted professional or vendor to your clients. Chances are the favor will be returned.

87. Google Posts. Check out Google’s new feature for local businesses: Google Posts. It appears right in the results page so you can highlight your latest blog post, an upcoming event or claim information during emergencies. — Becky Schroeder, ITC

88. Risk Management Meetings. Create a local risk manager society. Most small- and medium-sized businesses do not have their own risk managers but they need risk management advice. Create a local organization that meets quarterly to hear experts and discuss risk management topics with no insurance sales pressure. Meetings can be in-person and/or over telecommunications.

89. Problem Solve. Solve a problem, don’t sell a product. — Patrick Wraight, director, Insurance Journal’s Academy of Insurance.

90. Keep Updated. Provide the client with periodic reports on insurance issues. — John Graham of GrahamComm, a marketing and sales strategy consultant and business writer

91. Breaking Sales. No one wants to be sold to; they want to buy. Are you creating a buying environment or a pushy sales environment? Create the right environment that encourages clients to do business with you and not your competitor. Price is not always the final factor. — Oyauma Garrison, senior vice president, The Jacobson Group

92. Honesty Equals Profitability. It’s hard to know exactly how your clients feel. For that reason, it makes sense to ask them — through a third-party source if possible — to describe their experience in working with you. Their answers will give you a framework on which to build success and preempt burgeoning problems. — Richard Coskren, Polestar Performance Programs

93. Take Suggestions. Tap into your customers’ and employees’ creativity and connections — ask them for marketing ideas, stories and photos to share, community events to highlight, etc.

94. Ask the Right Person for Help. When you reach a gatekeeper say, “Hello, I was wondering if you could help me?” People are trained to help people. If you ask for help when you’re trying to reach a decision maker, you’ll have better success. Think about it: When someone asks you for help, aren’t you more likely to try and meet that need? — April Melvin, senior producer, Workers Compensation Shop.com

95. Stop the Stock. This is probably one of my biggest problems with this industry. It’s 2017 … stop with the stock images. That family skipping along the beach or driving in that new convertible car? Chances are, your clients and prospects cannot relate. Still, it seems, stock photos are everywhere. Stock photos are so recognizable, they’re overused and aren’t communicating your brand in any way. — Julia Silve, marketing coordinator, Kaplansky Insurance

96. Prepare for Gen Z. If you are trying to increase sales volume and remain relevant, chances are, you probably already have separate marketing strategy for Millennials but have you even started to think about Gen Z? Your playbook and strategy for Millennials should be thrown out when marketing to this group. Gen Zers aren’t even on the same playing field. — Julia Silve, marketing coordinator, Kaplansky Insurance

97. Don’t Overlook Introverts. Introverts make up roughly one-third to one-half of the average company’s leadership and staff yet their contributions often go unnoticed. Some experts say that’s just not good business. The assumption that extroverts make the best salespeople is incorrect. The power in introverts is demonstrated by some highly successful introverted leaders today, including Warren Buffett, Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg to name just a few.

98. Schedule Prospecting. Treat prospecting time like an appointment on your calendar. — Curt Vondrasek, vice president, MarshBerry

99. Save More Now. You need 22 times your annual living expense in your retirement account when you decide to hang it up. If you live on $100,000 that means you need $2,200,000 in your retirement account. Make more now and save more now. That’s the secret to financial success. — Randy Schwantz, founder, The Wedge Group

100. Trust Your Instincts. Don’t ignore a gut feeling in favor of playing it safe. — Alicia Frye, NFP

101. Safety Tours. Arrange for a risk management/safety tour of an iconic building, stadium or event for customers and prospects.


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