Strategies for Passing Your CE Exams

passing insurance ce examsDo you often find yourself having to retake your CE exams? Here are some practical tips on how to pass these assessments the first time:

1) Look for generalities. When reviewing your materials in preparation for the test, pay attention to large headings and focus on those first. Most tests emphasize the general first, specific second. In other words, if the course is on Ethics, look at the key points in the course and highlight these. There may be subheadings, such as Honesty in Transactions, Errors and Omissions, or the like. Focus on these general areas and know what they mean, and how they apply in a practical sense.

2) Focus on important details. Most of the CE exams focus on specifics that have to do with the process, law, or ethics of insurance sales careers. Don’t try to memorize everything, only those things which are of great significance. There is a lot of other information in the courses to add meat to the material. But the tests tend to include only the most important points.

3) Apply it to the real world. The purpose of insurance CE is, after all, to teach agents to use what they learn in the real world. There are always some questions which have you apply your knowledge to specific situations. So, know how to use the information in your own practice and this will help you pass the tests.

4) Apply test-taking strategies. Just like in school, it helps to know a few test strategies. For example, most test items are multiple choice. Cross out choices which don’t make sense so you can forget about them, and look for specific words which make a statement false. In addition, if you don’t know a question, skip it and come back to it later. Often, answering the other questions helps you remember the answer for the one you had trouble with, and you can go back to it before you complete the test.

5) Relax and don’t stress. This is easier said than done. But test anxiety can play a role here. Though CE tests are not usually timed, people feel some stress because they know their license depends on their passing. However, just remind yourself that you can take the test over as many times as you need to in order to pass. So it’s not the end of the world if you have to retake it.

In addition to these basic tips and strategies, also try to keep up with the latest laws and trends in the field of insurance. The more you know about what’s happening in your field, the better general and specific knowledge you will have. This will not only help you pass the CE exams, but also help you be a better agent and apply the information to your own insurance career.

Good luck on your next CE exams! You’ll do great!

 

Record-Keeping Tips and Tricks

record keeping for insurance agentsRecord-keeping is an important task in an insurance sales career. Most agents are independent contractors and therefore are responsible for all of their tax information and paperwork. And even those who work for an employer must file required paperwork each time a sale is made. So it is important to make sure that your processes are efficient. Below are some ideas.

1) Choose a day to do all your paperwork and stick to it. Many agents use Monday through Thursday as their selling days, then reserve Friday to catch up on paperwork, do follow ups, and call current customers to see if they need anything. Sticking to a particular day of the week to turn in paperwork will keep you on a set schedule.

2) Keep your office organized. Knowing where everything is and how to find it is a challenge. Have a specific file cabinet or filing system you use for the most important paperwork. Sort files according to the type of action they involve, such as SALES, DOCUMENTATION, CLIENT INFORMATION, REQUIRED PAPERWORK, and others. Using different color folders also sometimes works to separate types of tasks and documentation.

3) Use software such as QuickBooks to organize financial statements and transactions.

4) Use a handheld scanner (such as The Magic Wand) to scan important documents at your client’s location, at your office, or any time. The portability of this neat tool and others like it allows you to scan whatever and whenever you need to without having to remove the documents from the original location. Tools like this will save much time and keep you organized in the long run.

5) Use TurboTax or other tax reporting software at tax time. This will save valuable time and energy when you are trying to keep up with your earnings. As long as you keep your 1099 forms and other important documents, you can enter this information into the software and send it to the IRS and to the state with minimal fuss.

Having some handy tools at your disposal will save time and money in the long run by allowing you to input information or do what you need to do “on the go.” There is a world of technology that is designed specifically to help busy insurance agents as well. Do a search on the internet for insurance sales tools and you are likely to find a number of items to help you make the day-to-day tasks of your job easier.

Using the above tips on getting and staying organized will help you focus less on the organizational tasks and more on making sales and serving your customers.

Making the Most of Leads

how to make insurance sales leads work for youOne of the challenges facing insurance agents is to make the best use of leads. It’s difficult to find a company that can consistently provide effective leads for your business. If your leads program is not working the way it should for you, here are a few tips to make sure it will pay off better in the future:.

1) Check to see if your leads company is focused on the demographic group you are trying to reach, and not other groups that won’t be interested in what you’re selling. For example, if you sell final expense plans, make sure your leads company is not sending you leads from 25-year-olds or people who already have insurance plans. While you might sell to a few people who have previous insurance, you will not have as much success as you would if your leads company targeted older senior citizens without insurance. See if your company can help bring you leads that will work better for you.

2) Try more than one leads company at the same time and track the earnings from each. By using two leads programs simultaneously, you will be able to see which one works the best and tweak as needed for the greatest benefit.

3) Ask other agents if they have a leads company that works for them. By comparing what you do to others’ strategies, you will be able to see how what they are doing might also benefit you.

4) Read articles in trade journals about insurance leads issues. Agents are always concerned about making their leads pay off for them. Some insurance publications focus primarily on this area and offer tips on how to effectively budget your leads to pay off the most, as well as maximize the benefits of different leads programs.

5) Track your sales. Just like in any field, the most effective tool you have as an agent to judge how your leads program is doing is to track your sales on a regular basis. There is software which can track sales online, or you can choose to keep track of your earnings yourself. This will go a long way toward helping fine-tune your sales strategies, including your leads program.

As a general rule, you should only spend about 25% of your income on new leads. Otherwise, you are just putting most of your earnings back into your leads program.

Finding a good leads program takes time, but a little effort will go a long way toward making your investment pay off for you in your insurance career.

 

Making Insurance CE More Meaningful

how to make insurance ce more meaningfulContinuing Education is a requirement in order to keep up-to-date on the latest insurance laws and trends, as well as some of the changes in products available to customers. You know it’s important, but how can you find a way to enjoy it? Here are a few tips to get more out of your continuing education requirements while still learning what you need to know.

1) Think about the law and the requirements and what they mean to you. It is important not only to know the law but to know how it applies to the particular kind of insurance you sell in your career. So choose CE courses in Ethics which address this area. Take courses which sound interesting but still address the more important aspects of the law.

2) Think about your future career. What do you hope to do with your insurance career in the future? Take courses that are not only necessary but also highly beneficial to your career as an insurance agent. For example, if you are specializing in property insurance or special lines, make sure to take a course dealing with these topics. The more you are exposed to information and knowledge about your chosen area, the more you will improve the career skills that will propel you forward.

3) Take courses you don’t want to. While this seems contradictory to the title of this post, it actually is more fun sometimes because you are challenging yourself to learn a new area of insurance you didn’t know about before or didn’t like. While it is fine to take courses just on what you want to do in your career, taking courses that stretch your thinking are often the most beneficial in the long run.

4) Think about what your clients want or need. As with any business, in the insurance field you want to try to get information that will help your clients. CE courses are an excellent way to do this. Simply think about the types of questions your clients or prospects usually have about insurance and take courses that will help you answer these questions. If a client wonders about the security of their health insurance information or how they can lower their costs, take courses dealing with HIPAA and health plan information. If they want to add life insurance to their current policy, take courses that deal with insurance riders and add-ons. When you realize how you’re applying what you’re learning to real-world situations, CE course requirements become more interesting.

5) Look for ways to improve your knowledge. After you have taken what is essential, take something you are really interested in that will improve your knowledge base. There is a variety of courses to choose from in Insurance CE. Just browse through the course offerings and think about what you’d like to become an expert in, or simply know more about.

To get more out of your continuing education, reflect on your clients’ concerns as well as your personal goals and take courses that will enhance your learning in these areas. With a little effort you may find yourself enjoying this annual requirement. One note: many states allow you to “roll over” your coursework to the next year if you go over the amount of course hours you need. So, if you feel really ambitious this year, take extra credits. Remember, it’s your career. Be the best you can be and have fun!

The Importance of Follow Up in Insurance Sales

Follow up is crucial in insurance sales.The old saying “service after the sale” is also true in the insurance world. As with any product or service, clients like to know you are aware they exist, even after you have made your commission from them, and that you are there to answer their questions.

Sometimes all that is needed is a quick phone call or email to see if there is anything they need. Doing this only takes a little of your time, and can be done on Fridays, at the end of the week, when you have done your paperwork on new sales, or at any other time you see fit. The important thing is that it is done at least once in awhile (perhaps every 3 months) to let the customer know you are still there for them.

Follow-ups can also include answering questions customers have asked, when you said you would get back to them. There is probably nothing that increases cancellation rates more than an agent who does not call back in answer to questions. My mother once called her annuity agent and accidentally woke his sleeping toddler. The agent’s wife was very rude to my mother, and the agent never called her back. My mother came very close to dropping the policy and would have, had she not had so much money already invested in it. I speak from personal experience on this issue. Follow-up and be courteous. It will cost you if you don’t.

Another type of follow-up might be helping the customer upgrade something on their policy, or sending them necessary paperwork. Don’t make the customer wait too long before you take care of these things for them. Do the required paperwork as soon as the policy is issued, so the customer gets a copy as soon as possible. Likewise, if for example a beneficiary changed, this is as important to the client as the policy itself, since it designates who the money will go to in the event of their death. Make sure this type of follow-up is done promptly and efficiently, and that you call to check they got their required documentation.

Finally, follow-up can also involve contacting people who formerly cancelled the policy, but who might be interested in coming back on. Perhaps their situation was a financial one, and now their economic situation has changed. You will never know until you ask. A simple five minute call to ask how they’re doing could increase your chances of winning back a sale. Learn to see former clients as your extra leads list.

Summary:

Following up with both former and current clients is necessary in an insurance sales career in order to maintain integrity, check on the status of things, and answer questions customers may have, which may keep them on the policy. If an agent takes an active role in getting in touch with the client on a regular basis, their credibility will increase, and former clients may even opt to come back. Whatever the result, you can rest assured you did the right thing and in insurance sales today, doing the right thing is job one.

Avoiding Insurance Policy Cancellations

Avoiding insurance policy cancellations is about offering excellent service.Cancellations account for a large percentage of lost business in the insurance industry each year, some of which result in charge backs to the agent when he or she is being paid on advanced commissions. Therefore, it is critical to develop some strategies for avoiding cancellations when at all possible, so this withdrawal rate can be minimized to the greatest extent.

Here are some tips to keep in mind to avoid canceled policies:

1) A good customer is a happy customer. Keeping this simple but true rule in mind will help turn the goal of getting and keeping good customers into a reality. If the sale you make is a solid sale, and you have provided all the information the customer needed to feel good about their purchase, they will rarely drop the policy.

One way you can make sure your customer is happy is to ask if there are any other questions they have before you go.

Doing this will not only allow them the opportunity to ask needed questions while you are there, but also increase their confidence in you, and assure them you have their best interests at heart.

2) Follow-up with your clientele. We’ll discuss this in our next post in more detail. Suffice it to say for now that following up to check on clients is just good business. In order to be successful, make a habit of touching base with your current clients at least once every 3 months, to see if they have any questions or if there is anything you can do for them. Customers who were thinking of dropping the policy may reconsider if you offer them personal and courteous service at the right moment.

3) Send birthday cards to clients. This is an old insurance sales technique that a lot of agents have been using for a long time. But it gets results. Some clients will call, thanking you for the gesture. You may not hear anything from others. But something like remembering someone’s birthday is important to that person, even if it does come from their insurance agent.

4) Send new flyers and information on their policy or the company when it is beneficial to your client. Giving them important information may be the key to keeping clients happy and on the policy.

5) Regarding cancellations which happen due to a bank issue: Treat this with kid gloves. Many customers are embarrassed when they are told that their policy lapsed due to non-payment. Just a friendly reminder with a presumptive tone which implies you know it was probably an oversight on their part can save face with the client and keep them on the policy.

Finally, when cancellations do occur, as they sometimes will despite your best efforts, just realize that this is part of the reality of insurance sales. Sometimes people shop around, just as they do with other services, and they have a right to do so. Likewise, remember that you want customers who will pay on time every month, and who are happy with your services. If you sign up solid customers to begin with, make yourself available to them, and help them when needed, the cancellation rate should be kept to a minimum.

Choosing a Leads Service

How do you find a leads service that works?One of the most difficult tasks for a beginning insurance agent is to find a leads service that really works. There are plenty of leads companies out there, but how do you know which one will be the most cost-effective for you, and make the biggest return on your investment? There are 6 basic tips which may prove helpful in determining how to choose a leads program.

1) Decide how much you can afford to spend. Any business has to exist on a budget. It does no good to get leads if you cannot afford the leads program. There are cases when a leads program becomes so costly that it shuts down an agent’s business. Budget a reasonable amount of leads money per month and stick with it, increasing it as you make more sales.

2) Shop around. It’s good to compare leads companies, much like you would when looking for any other service companies that will help your business. Look at the company’s claims on return on your investment and see how they stack up. Also compare cost and see how you can get the most “bang for your buck.”

3) Ask yourself if you even needs a leads company. If you can do this yourself, and your network is big enough, don’t use leads at all. Simply talk to everyone in your network of friends via social media and other means to drum up business. Leave business cards anywhere and everywhere you can. Pass the word. Do your own marketing, and ask for two referrals from every sales call. Doing these things may allow you to operate as an agent without a regular leads service.

4) Track and analyze sales. Decide how many of the sales are coming from the leads you are getting from your leads service. If there is not a direct result from the leads company, shop around for a new company or consider trying something else to generate leads, such as postcard mailers, hiring your own leads generators, or other methods.

5) Target your audience. Leads do no good if they are directed to a different audience than the one you are trying to sell to. Market only to your primary audience through your leads company, or through other methods you’re using. The main thing is determining that your leads company is targeting your main audience. For example, if you’re selling to seniors, aged 65 and over, make sure the leads that are being generated are 65+ seniors in need of insurance. Some companies say they will deliver on this, then the leads show a 25-year-old with $100,000 worth of coverage. If this happens, call your leads company and have them change the demographics. If they won’t, find another service. It does you no good to pay for leads which do nothing to target the people you need to market and sell to.

6) Don’t share leads. As much as possible, get leads which are only sold to you. If you have to share leads, other agents may beat you to the sale if you are doing something else at the time the lead is generated. Most leads are generated automatically to your email once the person fills out the information. While non-shared leads are typically more expensive, they also pay off more in the long run.

Summary: In conclusion, a leads company doesn’t make you sales. You do that. But a leads company opens the door. Let that door be to a customer who will want to purchase, carefully matched to the demographic audience you are trying to target. Some fine tuning of what your leads company is really offering and what it is really delivering, plus a regular monthly analysis of your sales, will go a long way to getting the most for your dollars and a higher return on your investments.

 

Closing the Sale: The Final Challenge

Closing the sale is a challenging task in the insurance field.One of the most challenging tasks before an insurance agent is the last action they must do to get a commission: closing the sale. Below are five tips to consider when closing a sale, and actions which may increase your sales record if you apply them.

1) Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Instead of thinking like an agent, think like the client. If you were sitting in their place, with the information you laid out for them, would you make the final decision to purchase? Why or why not? Asking yourself this tough question will lead to a needed self-evaluation of your sales technique, which may prove effective in increasing sales.

2) Respond to objections. The most important task in sales of any kind is overcoming objections. This is very true in insurance. People may have a variety of reasons as to why they are hesitant to pay money to the insurance company you represent. The trick is to identify what the objections are, so you will know how to address them. Sometimes the client won’t tell you. If that’s the case, ask them. If they say it’s because they can’t afford it, you can respond with something like, “But Mary, can you really afford not to have insurance in these tough times?” In this example, you have shifted their concern of spending a little money per month to the bigger loss of thousands of dollars if they aren’t covered. You can also remind them, in the case of life insurance, of the consequences to the loved ones who are left behind. Reminding the client of the facts and how things work is important to closing the sale.

3) Be a teacher. As mentioned in the previous tip, one of your jobs is to inform your client of things they may not be aware of, or have forgotten. They depend on you, the insurance expert, to enlighten them if they have the wrong information. This is also critical for legal reasons, so that you don’t get an errors and omissions complaint.

4) Be sensitive to emotional needs. This requires some psychology. Understand that to many people, insurance is an emotional issue. They may have had an insurance company not pay for their grandmother’s funeral expenses or their child’s medical need. Be empathetic and listen to their story, even if the client is making inaccurate generalizations about the whole insurance industry. If you take the time to listen, it may set you apart from other insurance people in their minds. They will feel that you care, and you may win the sale because they trust you.

5) Don’t talk yourself out of a sale! Some sales people don’t know when to quit. When the customer says they have decided to try the policy, don’t feel the need to keep selling. Sometimes they will reconsider if you talk too much. Once you have convinced them, just thank them for their decision and tell them you are sure it will benefit them.

In conclusion, by informing your client, being considerate to their needs, and listening, you will develop a relationship of trust that the client feels comfortable with. Closing the sale is about maintaining that trust to the end. Ethics dictates that we keep our clients’ best interests at heart, and it is the only right way to do business.

 

Tips for Generating Leads

The lifeline of any sales position – insurance sales included – is the availability of high-quality, responsive leads. While many insurance agents view prospecting as a difficult portion of their job, consistently working at generating leads can be a low-cost, high-yield effort that can help you to increase your business for years to come.

The following are some tips on how to generate a low-cost sales prospecting funnel:

  1. Partner With Other Professionals. Certain industries require, or strongly recommend, insurance for the products they sell. For example, new and used automobile salespeople routinely interact with individuals who have to have a policy before they can leave the showroom with their new ride. Further, apartment leasing agents regularly recommend renter’s insurance to new residents. Real estate agents will also interact with clients needing homeowner’s insurance coverage (or to purchase additional coverage). Establishing a great working relationship with individuals in these and other professions can provide you a steady stream of new clients for minimal outlay.
  2. Purchase Low-Cost Ads in Electronic Newsletters or Relevant Blogs: Establishing your own blog is a terrific idea (which we will discuss in a moment); however, an established newsletter or blog with an established readership can provide you with relevant leads for not much initial cost. The advantage of utilizing a medium like this is newsletters and blogs are generally niched, and the ones with a high number of routine visitors have established a trust factor you can take advantage of. Think of it as an implied endorsement, of sorts.
  3. Establishing Yourself Within Your Industry/Area: As mentioned earlier, your own blog or website gives you the opportunity to find relevant surveys, statistics or other helpful information and publish it to your readers. You can give recommendations or advice on insurance-related topics, making you likeable and credible within your marketplace. New and established customers will come to see you as a trusted figure within the industry and seek you first for their insurance needs (as well as recommending you easily to others).
  4. Word Of Mouth Referrals: As overlooked as this is, word of mouth is still the best and most-effective way to get new business. The oft-used adage, Your referrals are my highest compliment, is as true today as it was when the phrase was first coined, as a satisfied customer will convey a message to those in their sphere of influence you will never, ever be able to relay as convincingly.
  5. Mine Your Database. A no always means not now, so if it has been awhile since you’ve reached out to your current database, or if you have prospects who didn’t convert the first time, begin to contact them again. You might also look through to determine upsell opportunities, as those who have bought from you before (and who remain satisfied) are likely to choose you first when their needs change or increase.
  6. Contribute To Relevant Seminars/Workshops: Home buying and estate planning are frequent topics which draw potential customers, so if you can contact an organizer to contribute to these and other types of seminars which would appeal to qualified customers, it can be a great use of your time. Again, opportunities like this help establish you as the go-to expert in your field.

Marketing Your Insurance Agency Using Pinterest

Business professionals have turned to social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to promote significant events and immediately attend to customer problems. But these aren’t your only marketing possibilities when it comes to social media. You have a wide range of tools to choose from, and one of the most interesting is Pinterest.

If you’ve somehow managed not to come across all the news and attention Pinterest has gotten in the past year, here’s a quick primer. Pinterest is an online “bulletin board” where users choose images to “pin” to their boards, along with a brief description. Just as with Facebook and Twitter, people can “follow” the boards of others.

How Can Pinterest be Used to Brand My Insurance Company?

Pinterest is known for content that relates to highly visual topics like crafts, decorating, and cooking and food. People post gorgeous pictures of the things that they love. At first glance, it may seem to be useless for insurance agents. Agents don’t sell something that’s visible, and most people consider insurance to be a boring necessity that doesn’t merit much enthusiasm. But like all salespeople, insurance agents need to build relationships. When used strategically and with sensitivity to what users of the site find appealing, Pinterest can be one more way for you to connect with potential clients and create positive PR for your business.

A few ideas for using Pinterest effectively:

Create original content. If you have an artistic streak or access to someone who does, think about what images might appeal to your target audience and create them. You can also create images that creatively display the title of an article on your company’s blog that would be of interest to potential customers. Find a way to subtly add your company’s name and website to the image, so that you can be sure people can still find you as your image gets shared.

Make it personal. To help establish your brand you’ll want to use your business logo as your user icon, but beyond that forget selling policies and be human. If there are a few people who work at your agency, assign just one person to manage Pinterest, and make it clear that there’s a real person behind your account. This will help your business build relationships on the site, as people are less likely to feel that they’re dealing with some faceless company.

Consider Pinterest’s demographic. This is not a site where you’re likely to find older baby boomer males looking to purchase long term care insurance. More than 70% of Pinterest users are in the 25-34 age range and female. This means that you want to make sure that your board targets these clients and their particular insurance needs. For example, you may select wedding-related photos that link to a page on your website about your life and home insurance offerings.

Repinned Images Build Upon Your Company’s Brand

One of the biggest advantages offered by Pinterest is the ability to repin an image. If someone sees an image on your board that they like, that image can be repinned on another board of their choice. The more your images are repinned the better. The effect this can have on building a stronger brand is much the same as a YouTube video. The more viewers watch and comment on that video, the more it spreads and becomes viral. The process works similarly on Pinterest.

A Word of Caution About Using Images on Pinterest

A potential problem that anyone pinning images on Pinterest must be made aware of is that legally, you need to obtain permission from the owner of that image before you use it. Of course, many casual, personal users ignore this formality, but businesses are more likely to come under scrutiny and should abide by the law so as to not leave the company vulnerable. Either make sure an image is in the public domain or reach out to obtain permission.