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.

 

Preparing for the Affordable Care Act

Though 2014 may still seem afar off, the remainder of this year will be critical for insurance agents to plan for the changes that will go into effect next year with the Affordable Care Act. As an agent, you will fare better if you understand that this major shift within the industry will require you to educate yourself and your clients and will require a tremendous level of work and preparation leading to January 1, 2014. However, with some estimates saying that as many as 30 million new health insurance customers will seek coverage under the ACA, the work should pay off handsomely.

Over the next three quarters leading to implementation, many agents will be spending tremendous amounts of time educating their clients on how the laws will affect their businesses. A great deal of effort will need to be put forth for Human Resource departments who will be working feverishly this year to determine who is eligible for coverage under the new law. Changes to definitions in eligibility, waiting periods, etc. will most certainly call for today’s insurance salesperson to evolve into a consultant, advising the client of viable options he/she will be able to implement under the new system.

One of the more important suggestions for many companies will entail how the establishment of employee wellness programs will impact the employer’s overall out of pocket expense. Make sure you’re prepared to offer advice on this to the companies you serve. With employers spending about 36% more on healthcare today than they did five years ago, the question of staggering premium payments is a huge concern. However, pre-care programs and screenings are perfect ways for companies to reduce future costs. How to manage costs while still complying with the law is an important challenge for companies. Are you ready to help them meet it?

Under the new law, some companies will be seeking out new benefits with which to attract high-performing employees, since the insurance exchanges will make health much more standardized. Make sure that you’re ready to offer your clients creative solutions, beyond just the obvious addition of dental and vision.

With any change, initial frustration is likely; however, the shifts within this industry will make way for increased opportunity. Savvy health insurance agents will educate themselves, stay abreast of changes and communicate the best ways for their clients to maximize benefits while minimizing their costs. The agents who will work hard now to educate and respond creatively to the changing needs of their current and potential clients will absolutely set themselves apart in the world of health insurance post – ACA.

Selling More Umbrella Policies Can Benefit Your Agency

As an agent, you probably have several current and potential clients who could really benefit from having an umbrella policy, but do not have one. By simply spending a bit more time focusing on educating the consumer and promoting umbrella policies, your agency could begin seeing a significant increase in revenue.

There was once a widespread perception that clients didn’t need umbrella policies unless they were very affluent. However, some who we would consider middle-class could also benefit from these arrangements. Some examples include: rental property owners, parents with teenage children (those who are beginning drivers or who have terrible driving records), owners of luxury cars or those with large mortgage payments. In other words, those who are vulnerable to a loss would appreciate spending a few extra dollars for this peace of mind.

Understand that most consumers want to lower their premiums, so simply offering them another policy to pay for is not the most effective strategy. However, when you educate the consumer about what they may leave themselves exposed to by not having an umbrella,  many will find themselves very open to a cost-manageable solution. For example, an at-fault accident resulting in multi-million dollar litigation can prove itself financially devastating without appropriate coverage.

So, how do you find clients who need an umbrella policy, and how do you convince them of the need? The following are a few simple, yet effective, strategies.

  1. Ask Everybody: Ask every new client if they want an umbrella policy. This will give you an opportunity to share the reasons the policy would be beneficial, including exposing potential risks the client may not have considered before. It sounds too simple to work, but unless you start the discussion, you’ll never know whether the client is open to the idea.
  1. Target Existing Clients: Look through your book of business for every client currently carrying 250/500 limits (300 for homeowners). Reach out to these customers, explaining how an umbrella policy may benefit them. You may be able to easily identify any changes in lifestyle or need through this informal conversation.
  1. Target Rental Property Owners: Landlords are often surprised to find themselves entangled in disputes started by their tenants. For example: a tenant whose pet injures someone may find themselves in “hot water” legally; however, if they do not have insurance, the frustrated litigant may seek damages directly from the property owner. This makes landlords a great target market.
  1. Advertise in Affluent Areas: If your agency is located in or near an affluent area, you will want to educate those consumers regarding their potential need for an umbrella policy. Write an article for the local community newspaper or magazine, write about it in your agency’s monthly newsletter, publish a blog post, and don’t overlook the power of direct mail. After all, we all want the peace of mind that comes with knowing what’s dear to us, including our families, is fully protected.

 

How to Create a Winning Insurance Sales Resume

Today’s competitive job market requires anyone seeking a position (be it a promotion, career change or an initial entry into the world of work) to really set themselves apart. Here are some things you can do to stand out in the crowd.

Place Emphasis On Your Sales Ability. Place yourself in the “shoes” of a hiring manager at an insurance firm for a moment. He or she is seeking a salesperson who will fit with the culture of their office. Making anything – and we do mean anything – a greater focal point than your ability to sell is a major faux pas. While knowledge of the industry is wonderful, the ability to sell is a marketable, transferable skill… highlight yours.

Facts Tell, Stories Sell. Quantifiable numbers will always give a much richer picture – and tell your story better – than restating your job description. In other words, terms such as ‘increased profits by 15%’, ‘reduced overall budget by 20%’, ‘ranked Top Salesperson for four consecutive months,’ etc. provide a potential employer better insight into your story. When you can, place these numbers in bold.

Focus Less On Your Objectives and More On Theirs. Recruiters have so many resumes to sort through, the average time their eyes will focus on your resume is about 10 seconds. Therefore, you will always want to position your achievements on the resume so they can be easily, and quickly, noticed. Most job-seekers waste valuable space on a topic recruiters have no interest in – their objective. Instead, employers are seeking to hire someone to increase profits, improve processes, enhance the culture and assist in making the entire operation better. In other words, demonstrate on your resume how your skills, experience and achievements align with this company’s overall objective.

Cover It Well. Gone are the days when overworked and meaningless phrases, cloaked in attractive formatting, are considered acceptable cover letters. Achievers are generally interesting individuals with well-rounded lifestyles, so help the recruiter or employer get a sense of your personality, professional interests and achievements on your cover letter. Volunteer experience and hobbies (especially those demonstrating relevant and transferable skill sets, like creativity and initiative) are great to highlight in this space. Though it may take a little more time, the effort separates your cover letter easily from the generic crowd.

Short And Sweet. Your resume should be no longer than two pages, and ideally only one. Managers simply don’t have the time or interest for more verbiage than that.

Print Your Resume On Nice Stationary. When called for an interview, take the extra step of printing your resume on nice stationary. This might seem like outdated advice, but some people still notice this attention to detail the way they might appreciate well-shined shoes or a follow-up thank you note. It shows an uncommon amount of care.

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.

 

Does Outsourcing Save Time and Money for Insurance Agents?

How to outsource insurance agent help | Insurance CE
You’ve heard all the talk about outsourcing in the media, and perhaps even seen other insurance agencies take advantage of the benefits of using contractors rather than hiring staff, but will it really work out for you? It depends.

Many companies choose outsourcing because of the cost savings that come from not having to pay employee benefits, but another benefit is freeing your remaining staffers from administrative work, enabling them to spend more time doing what they do best. A number of companies have reported greater employee satisfaction and job performance as back-office tasks are turned over to an outside contractor, as well as a sense of enhanced job security and employee value.

Several outsourcing companies deal specifically with the insurance industry. If you need help with back-office processing or analytical tasks, ReSourcePro of New York can farm out the work to overseas facilities, where an English speaking college-degreed professional will be specifically assigned to work directly with you. Users have reported fast turnaround times on work that could have taken their regular employees many weeks to complete. Another option that’s closer to home is WAHVE, LLC, an agency that matches over-55 retired insurance professionals with insurance agencies needing help with customer service, claims, or processing. WHAVE workers can help reduce overhead and other costs via connection to a client agency’s system, while keeping jobs here in the US.

The Downside: A Cautionary Tale

Some companies have been less than happy with their outsourcing experience. Training and supervision of workers may not meet your standards. There can also be time and communication conflicts due to time zone differences, as well as language barriers and security issues – all of which can create extra problems due to contractor mistakes and unforeseen delays. Once functions are turned over to a contractor, you lose direct control over training, risking accountability and customer satisfaction. You have to keep an eye on the cost, too: in the end, for some companies there are no real savings. Be cautious before letting go of employees in favor of unproven contractors: you may wish later that you had them back!

The Last Word

• The trend among many insurance agencies is to hire mainly ‘core’ employees (sales and upper administrative) and outsource support personnel or those temporary positions
that don’t directly generate revenue. As companies continue to slash costs to remain competitive, outsourcing non-core work is fast becoming the norm.

• If considering outsourcing, ask questions designed to cover as many contingencies and hidden costs as possible, including the status of the contractor’s financial health.

• Get everything in writing about what you will get and what services will cost extra.

• Ask for references and be sure to follow up.

• Outsource only some of your tasks initially, to evaluate the servicer’s performance over a period of time, before risking your company’s reputation and goodwill.