What’s the key to a good closing ratio? Is it persistence, picking up the lunch tab, knowing when to ask for the order or having a better product, price or personality than the competition?
None of the above. It all boils down to three rules: Three very simple, but profound marketing ideas for insurance agents who take a common sense approach to sales.
- Super-qualify your prospect
- Don’t be a human quote engine
- Know when to walk away.
It’s surprising how many agents allow prospects to treat them like commodity providers, as if they’re selling gravel or potatoes by the pound. If you’re a true professional, act like one. Don’t give out quotes like someone hawking cheese samples at Costco; analyze the situation and offer your services like any other professional would, within a context of understanding your market and based on mutual respect and expectations. It’s a process:
- Start with super-qualified leads. This could mean working a niche market you’re familiar with — and preferably where you’re recognized as an expert, getting referrals from satisfied customers who support you with their testimonials, or having people approach you on the strength of how effectively you’ve demonstrated your professionalism in social media and other venues. A very effective way of developing and nurturing a target market is by sending out an insurance newsletter regularly. Check out which Smarts Publishing newsletter would work best
It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted anything to my insurance agents marketing and sales blog. The reason is I’ve been spending quite a bit of time recording some videos that I’ll be sharing with you. Here’s the first one.
In this video, insurance agents will learn,
- How to work less as you increase profits by as much as 95%
- How to achieve a new business hit ratio of 90%
- How to take price off the table as a new business negotiating strategy
- What it takes to build a strong insurance agency brand
- How to jump-start a plan to put you and your agency top of mind
- And much more…
The video will open in a separate window on your browser, so if you have any questions or comments you’d like to submit to the blog, please do so after you watch. I’d love to hear from you.
Just click here to watch it now. Three Steps to Eliminating the Competition
Last time, I talked about surprised by insurance as a transformational concept that helps customers and prospects reevaluate how they perceive their relationship with their agent. Using tools such as the Internet — but not necessarily just the Internet — I’ve suggested that your goal should be to develop relationships with your customers that transcend their perception of you as merely someone who sells them insurance commodities. Are your customers surprised at the extraordinary things you do to provide service, to connect with them, to strengthen your relationship with them?
I think the epitome of the surprised by insurance concept is expressed in a coaching and training process created by Scott Addis called Beyond Insurance. Scott says the problem with insurance agencies is that if you view the agent to client relationship as you might a doctor to patient relationship, most agents are recommending treatments without doing any diagnosis.
Beyond Insurance recommends that agents step back from the insurance transaction and consider insurance products in the larger context of a comprehensive, holistic view of a client’s complete risk scenario. It’s about providing solutions, not selling insurance. Agents who follow the Beyond Insurance philosophy belong to a group called the Organic Growth Exchange and attend events like the one profiled in this You Tube video where the Beyond Insurance systems are featured.
There are six systems in the program, all designed to help agents avoid the trap of treating insurance as a commodity:
- Stakeholder intimacy and relationship management
- Consultative sales and sales management
- Prospect research and qualification
- Customer loyalty, appreciation and intimacy benchmarking
- Brand and brand management
Scott’s program is not just theory. He has tested his approach in “over 1,500 engagements covering over 50 industries.” It works. Agents who learn his system say remarkable things about how much faster they grow their business and the vast improvement in client loyalty they experience.
And the statistics are impressive. Using the Beyond Insurance Process, participants’ new business “hit ratio” is 90% (vs. a normal agency ratio of 25%), the customer retention rate is 99%, per employee revenue is more than double a normal agency’s ($250,000), carrier loss ratio is 27% (vs. normal agency ratio of 57%) and referrals come in at the rate of 5 per week (vs. 1 per week for a normal agency).
Whether you are a property and casualty or an employee benefit specialist — 30-40% of the agents who participate in the various Beyond Insurance programs are employee benefit specialists — Beyond Insurance addresses the many challenges facing agents today, including premium pressure from eroding commissions, a faltering economy, health insurance uncertainty and commoditization. I encourage you to check out Beyond Insurance.
By the way, several years ago, after I had been an insurance agent for several years, I wrote an article called “How to Position Yourself as a Risk Management Specialist.” I suggested that agents get out of the “insurance commodity trap,” as Scott calls it, by applying to their clients’ businesses the traditional risk management formula: identify risk, avoid or accept it, reduce it and transfer it or finance it, followed by regular analysis and review.
Obviously, Scott’s program for agents goes far beyond this, but like Scott I am also an advocate for helping agents position themselves as professionals, not insurance order-takers. That’s the purpose of SmartsPro Marketing — and this blog: to provide agents with the tools to help them market insurance strategically by creating trust, building relationships and providing solutions for managing risk not selling insurance.
A couple of months ago, in an article I called “Surprised by Insurance,” I advocated using the concept of surprise as a distinguishing feature of your brand. While you might expect surprise to be a distinguishing branding feature in sexier industries like fashion, food or entertainment, it’s a fairly unusual phenomenon to find in the insurance industry. Nevertheless, here are a few more examples to inspire you.
By now, most insurance industry people have probably seen the amazing Rube Goldberg Machine music video version of “This Too Shall Pass” by OK Go, sponsored by State Farm. I’ve embedded it here in case you haven’t seen it, or if you want to see it again.
The sweep and grandeur of its convoluted gadgetry is breathtaking. Surprising, yes, to say the least, but also surprising is the fact that the elaborate rigmarole was sponsored by State Farm, not one of your usual suspects when it comes to funding complete nonsense. And surprising, too, is its low profile attribution for funding the production. State Farm’s only mention is its logo on the little toy truck that gets the whole contraption rolling and the acknowledgement in the credits at the end.
State Farm wants people to associate its brand with awesome music and outrageous fun so you’ll like them. That‘s also why State Farm and other insurance companies have Facebook pages now: so you can “like” them. However, the level of engagement on Facebook pursued by large insurance companies like State Farm that ask questions about who your first roommate was and did you watch that ‘49ers-Giants game seems a little contrived. It’s like they’re not quite sure why they’re there, they only know it’s important to be there.
It’s more convincing — “authentic” is the word used by social media experts — when a niche player like Acuity Insurance posts on its “InGear for Truckers” Facebook site. Posts like “Top 5 Ways Your MCS-150 Can Hurt Your CSA Score,” updates on DOT and FMCSA, trucker tunes and photos of custom big rigs, speak to the audience. Acuity actually seems to be listening instead of trying to serve up content — any content — in hopes of making a connection. That’s surprising.
There’s probably nothing more surprising to consider than the claim made by Peter van Aatrijk and Chris Amrhein, that “Insurance is fun.” These two insurance industry writers and pundits have created a comic book-style website to prove their point. Full of insider insurance jokes and content from their day jobs as columnists for Insurance Journal and Agent & Broker magazines, their real mission is to empower agents with sales, marketing and management tips in the course of having a good time.
They even have a store where they sell “Insurance is Fun” mugs, golf shirts and teddy bears. I think the most surprising thing about their “Insurance is Fun” brand is that they are not being ironic. What they’re saying is that when you really take your insurance career seriously — not because you have to, but because you truly enjoy what you do — it is fun and don’t be ashamed to say so. After all, isn’t the real key to success loving what you do? And what a payoff: Surprising people with your passion and commitment.
Quick response codes (QR codes) are two-dimensional codes capable of holding thousands of alphanumeric characters of information. They are similar to one-dimensional bar codes, except they can hold a lot more information.
By scanning one of these codes with your iPhone, Android or any other camera-enabled smart phone, you can access digital content on the Web, activate an email, IM or other type of message, or connect your mobile device to a web browser. QR readers are standard features now on many smart phones, but there are several free apps if you need to download one.
This technology, developed and popularized in Japan, has been around for about 15 years but is only now becoming popular in the US. Real estate agents are one of the most aggressive early adopters of the technology in the US, placing QR codes on For Sale signs and flyers, for example, to take the viewer on a video walk-through of a property.
Here are few ways insurance agents can use QR codes:
- Put one on your business card. Create a short video about yourself, your agency, your service philosophy or offer to provide a quote … or anything else.
- Use it with direct marketing pieces. Point out the QR code and say, “See how much you can save on auto insurance.” When you use it on a postcard, you can overcome the limited amount of print real estate available by taking viewers to your website, where they can find out more.
- Use it on your next newsletter to send readers to your website for a special announcement, such as an upcoming webinar or a video presentation from the president of the agency. Maybe he wants to announce the agency’s 25th anniversary, announce the acquisition of another agency or let people know that the agency now has someone on staff who specializes in annuities and financial planning.
- Be creative. Put your website’s QR code alongside your logo the next time your print your company t-shirts or mugs.
There are several websites that will create QR codes for you free of charge. Here’s the one I used for the QR code you see here: http://azonmedia.com/qrcode-generator
Try it yourself. It’s fun and people who use QR codes in their advertising claim they get much better than average response.