Tales of An Insurance Startup

Have you ever thought of starting a scratch insurance agency? Maybe you are on the edge of doing something, but fearful of taking the leap. Maybe you are an established agency, but could be invigorated by new ideas.

Here’s the story of someone who did it.

Matthew Carroll, began working in the insurance industry 6 years ago as a producer inside an Independent Agency. During that time, he learned a lot about lead generation and structuring follow ups for sales success. After a couple years, a State Farm agency reached out to him to become a producer inside an agency. He jumped at the chance, because it came with the hope of actually owning his own agency one day.

His tenure there was successful, but did not lead him to ownership as quickly as he imagined. So after 3 years of grinding away at production, Matthew took the leap and opened his own shop.

Granted this was no overnight leap in the dark. In fact, we spoke at least 6months before he pulled the trigger. He gathered all the necessary information he needed to make good decisions. He put together one of the best business plans that I had ever seen. Production targets were in place, as well as the marketing activities needed to get there. Then in Jan of 2017, he launched Kentucky Bred Insurance.


Matt came storming out of the gate, and was writing business and following his marketing plan from day one.

After 9 months, his growth has been steady and impressive. However, like any venture it has not been perfect and there have been a couple bumps along the way.

Recently, I sat down with him, and asked him about his first 9 months. Here’s what Matt has learned.

What things about starting and running the agency have been harder than you expected?

MC: The tension between looking at my goals to stay motivated, and remembering to do the day to day activities that will hit the goal. As things get hard, I have to look at the end goal to keep going, but it is really easy for me to fall into daydreaming about success, and forgetting to make my sales calls and marketing contacts. Yet, if I didn’t have those dreams the daily activities would grind on me.

Related to this is sticking to the activities I had set up in my business plan. There are times when the busy working of the agency takes over, and I don’t make time for the activities that will keep my pipeline full of leads.

Also, riding the wave of work/life balance. I’ve gone overboard in both directions.

Knowing where to spend marketing dollars had been really hard. Running quick calculations for return on investment isn’t difficult, but many of the activities I might do won’t have immediate returns. So how do I calculate for that? For example, say I run multiple Facebook ads, and I drives leads to me. That’s easy to calculate, but then 3-6 months later, a couple more leads trickle in from the campaign. I don’t mind spending money on activities that generate business, but because of the slow-acting nature of some marketing, it is really hard to make those decisions.

As I think about the future, and I realize that I need to start making hires. Planning for this has been harder than expected. Knowing which activities, I need someone to do, plus find them is becoming a challenge as I start looking.

What was much easier than you expected?

MC: Generating referrals has been much easier. In my other jobs as a producer, I would talk with family and friends and some would give me a shot at their business, but most wouldn’t. I don’t know what flipped when I started my own business, but I am getting more “yes’s” when I ask. Also I have had more people I know reach out to me to help them. I am not sure if it because they know I am the owner, and this isn’t some short-term job. Maybe my approach has changed because I have more confidence and urgency to sell as an owner.

A big surprise has been the amount of support I have gotten from other independent agents. There are several across the country that I talk with regularly, and they have been incredibly encouraging as well as very open about strategies and tactics inside the agency. My previous experience as a producer inside an agency was that everyone kept things close to the vest, and afraid of giving away their trade secrets.

What would you have done different?

MC: I would have been more aggressive at developing more and deeper relationships with influencers that are sources of business. At this point, I am doing more of that, but I relied so much on the low-hanging fruit of friends and family in the beginning, I didn’t work as hard on getting those lead sources in place.

What didn’t you know that you wish you had?

MC: I had no idea about the power of social media, especially Facebook, and its ability to generate business. Also how important content creation to drive business has surprised me. I am working on changing that and looking to outsource some of those activities.

Last question, what do you wish your companies would have done for you early on?

MC: In the captive world, companies do a much better job launching an agency. In my State Farm experience, there is a lot of marketing money given up front. Sometimes up to 50k, with other dollars trickling in to do marketing. Anything from a marketing side would have been nice. It could have been tents or banners for networking events, or even small amounts to help with lead generation.

Overall, I am happy about my decision, but not there is still a lot to do because I start realizing those daydreams.

Thanks, Matt!  To contact Matt go to his agency site, FB page, or LinkedIn account.

If you’ve done an insurance startup, do you have any advice for Matt? Leave your comments below:

How To Improve the #1 Reason People Buy From You

improve likable

What’s the number #1 reason that customers give for purchasing from someone? 

It’s not price or convenience. 

It’s likability.

Think about your own purchases.  Have you ever seen a car you liked, interacted with a sales person, but couldn’t pull the trigger?  Something about the salesperson was distasteful.  You couldn’t put your finger on it, but you didn’t like him.

Or remember the trip to your local electronic store to buy a new computer or TV.  Some young smarmy guy saunters beside you, spilling product knowledge all over you, but never listening, kind of creeping you out.  You couldn’t do it.  You walked.

I’ve written on creating marketing strategies to drive people into your business, but all the marketing savvy is worthless if your personality turns off the customer when he arrives at your door.

Can you become more likable?


And it doesn’t matter where you are on the likability scale, this is one area where we can constantly improve.  In fact, start this exercise by asking people you trust to be honest where you rank on the likable scale from 1 to 10.  Then you know where to go, and how to improve.

Here are some tips:

1.  Them Not You. Focus on the other person.  Don’t spill out your expertise or knowledge on to them.  Ask questions about them (and not with the intention of them asking the same thing back).  Act interested, and followup with more questions.

2.  Build Rapport.  Rapport is not always easy, but the quickest way to build rapport is to look for commonality.  When you meet someone or go into their home or office, begin looking or asking for areas of commonality.  Look for those pictures of kids, sports team logos, hints about hobbies, anything that you can grab onto.  Maybe you are not interested in some of those things.  They don’t know that, and remember it’s not about you, it’s about them.

3.  Humor.  Laughing with a person creates likability almost instantly.  Sometimes the best thing to laugh at is yourself.  Especially if you find yourself nervous in a social interaction.  If you forget something or misspeak, you can laugh about it, and make the other person laugh as well.  Collecting funny stories or remembering humorous experiences from your life to pepper conversation is one way to improve.

Years ago I walked into an insurance agent’s office, and could tell he was on a difficult call with a customer.  I didn’t know the man well, and was a little nervous about the conversation. He hung up the phone in frustration, and before jumping into my spiel, I asked about the call.  He related the story of a customer misunderstanding something that should have been simple.

I laughed and told him a similar story from my own experience with a funny ending: a customer calling to remove his car from his policy—the blue one (oh, with a gold stripe).

Then we both laughed and the interaction opened up into a positive outcome.

4.  Smile.  This works even on the phone, and has become trite advice these days.  I have even seen mirrors propped next to people’s phone saying “They can hear your smile.”

But it’s true.

The crazy thing about smiling is that it makes you happier, in turn, becoming infectious to the people you encounter.

Many days, I drag myself out of bed, into the shower, into my car, sitting, waiting to walk into my first appointment, forcing myself into a couple goofy smiles in my car rearview mirror, and instantly I feel a little happier and more energetic.

5. Make Them Comfortable.  Sometimes you may notice, that it is not you that is nervous and unsure, but the customer.  Do what you can to make them comfortable.  Give them a cup of coffee, but them in a comfortable seat.  Walk around with them.  Anything.  Give assurances and set expectations, because they may be scared or worried about something.

6.  Know Their Style.  This one takes practice, but it can help immensely.  Have you come to the place in life that you realize not everyone is like you?  Sad, isn’t it.  The world would be such a better place, but probably incredibly boring if that was true.

There are multiple resources out there on social styles, and most group everyone into one of four quadrants such as Drivers, Amiables, Analytics, or Expressives.  Every resource may use different terms but they are similar.

This doesn’t mean everyone can be so easily pigeon-holed, but we all have dominant traits and these labels help understand how we interact with the world.  Knowing these and then trying to match your style to what you determine is another’s can create a deep sense of likability.

Good news:  We are all likable or we wouldn’t have customers, but becoming more likable can help all your interactions and will help you improve every sales encounter.

Be Productive,

Theron Mathis

Have you done anything over your career to become more likeable?  Do you have any humorous stories about unlikable sales-people?

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How to Create Loyalty with Customers Before You Sell Anything

medium_4638947724Do you know how the best salespeople develop loyalty from the start, before the sale is even closed? 

They find the customer’s pain. 

The customer may not even be consciously aware of it, but in a skillful way, the salesperson digs it out, placing it before their eyes so they need a solution.

We have talked about it as critical to the sales process.  But do you have the investigative skills needed to find it?  Read on for tips from sales experts.

Just in case you are not convinced of the power of customer pain, here are several benefits that make the time digging worth it.

  1.  Overcome objections. Before the bulk of the sales process begins, objections become minimized because the customer realizes they have a problem (beyond price) that needs to be solved, and creating that pain gives an urgency to having it fixed. 
  2. Creates relationship wedge.  Their previous sales person hasn’t found the pain, or they wouldn’t be talking with you.  Immediately you get your foot in the door, and begin questioning the relationship they have with their current sales guy.
  3. Establishes credibility.  You know something others don’t.  You become credible.  You have found something others haven’t.
  4. Expert status.  Before your product is shared, and details are talked about, you begin to be viewed as an expert, just because you know where their current product has failed them.

So how do you find a person’s pain?


Sound’s simple, but we love to talk or we wouldn’t be in sales or customer service.  Yet, the best sales and service people I see everyday listen more than they talk.  They ask questions, and let the customer do the work.

It’s not just any question that gets to the heart of a problem.  Three types are needed the most.

1.  Stay Open.  Don’t ask “yes” and “no” questions, or questions with one word responses.  Ask open-ended questions.

“How long have you been with your current agent?  Why are considering leaving?  What kind of experience have you had with your agent?” 

You may have to ask a one word question, but always follow-up with an open ended?

“Have you had any claims experience?”    “How was it?”  “Can your current agent not help? Why not?”

2.   Tell Me About It.  While not technically a question, nothing gets people talking than this one statement.

Agent: “What’s your relationship with your current agent?”  Customer:  “Good”  Agent: “Tell me about it.”

Before they realize it they expressed a frustration or disappointment, and this is where the gold is.

 3.  Dig with the Why.  This may be the best question you can ask.  Nothing fancy is needed.  Just as why?  Why are shopping?  Why is that important?  Why don’t you like…?  Last question should be “anything else?”.   A great book I picked up on this topic is The Power of Why.

 So, you’ve mined the customer’s problems and frustration, what’s next.

  1. Support it.  If you have found problems and frustrations, and convinced you can solve it, support it with examples in your shop, then start your sales process.
  2. Reject it.  Perhaps, you found someone that you know you can’t satisfy.  He is unreasonable, and you can’t make him any happier than his current situation.  It may be time to walk away.  This is hard, but even if you make a sale, the maintenance of this customer may be greater than you can fulfill.

Spend some time alone thinking through these strategies.  Craft out sample questions, bring them to your next sales meeting.  Get all your sales and service people involved.


Be Productive,

Theron Mathis

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Why Preparation Is The Real Key To Sales Success

iceberg sales preparationThe quickest way to get new salespeople up to speed is continual training on product and sales processes, but for those who have been selling more than 5 years, we often get lazy and rely on habits and abilities acquired early in our career.

One secret of great salespeople is that they never stop practicing.

They never stop preparing for their calls, and that act of preparation propels them to be better than all their competition.

The sales process is like an iceberg.

You’ve heard this before.  As you lazily float through Alaskan waters on your cruise ship, you occasionally see an iceberg or two.  They can be small or massive, but what you see on top of the water is only 10% of the whole, 90% of it floats beneath the surface of the water.

The sale interview and interaction with the customer is that 10% everyone sees, but the strength and power of the process comes from the 90% that no one sees.  And to constantly improve, our focus must be on that act of preparation.

Here are elements I’ve picked up from great sales people on what makes up the best preparation

1.  Customer Knowledge.

Nothing is worse than spending months talking to a person trying to sell your product, and realize you don’t have the decision maker.  The person you have been pouring every ounce of energy into for months has no power or influence to effect change and make a decision.

Not only does knowing your customer help determine the correct person, but gaining knowledge of your potential customer, shows you care about him.

With the internet, knowing your customer is easier than ever.  You can understand their business, get information online about their company and what is important to them.

This doesn’t just stop once customer contact is made.  Every morsel of information discovered can be gold to the great salespeople.  I’ve known people, who keep files on their prospects containing birthdays, kids names, list of hobbies, etc.  Those prospects begin to believe that this person is not looking for a one shot sale, but a lifetime relationship, and the process moves forward.

2.  Customer Questions.

Spend some time by yourself generating a list of common questions that customers have about your product, ask your staff to do this exercise as well, then compile the list.  From that starting point, craft concise answers, with analogies and stories, that get to the heart of the customer’s questions.

Then practice the answers to these questions, so you will be prepared when they come.  As new people come into your organization, having a file of common questions and answers to customer’s questions and concerns is invaluable training.

3.  Objections.

There aren’t that many objections within the sales process.  They usually revolve around money, time, or need.  You know they are coming eventually.  Script out great responses to the objections, and practice them.  You don’t want to be stumbling around your words and act surprised when you hear something you should have expected.

4.  Closings. 

As mentioned in a previous post, closings are huge.  Not because a crafty close will help seal the deal.  No, it’s because no one does them.

You don’t have to be slick or high pressure to make these work.  Just doing something will set you apart.  Create a list of potential closes and practice, so they become second nature and you won’t forget to ask for the business.

5  Sales Questions.

This element is huge and can be hard for all of us.  We love to tell more than ask.  We love our product, we know all the bells and whistles, and want the customer to know them.

You know what.  They probably don’t care about all the bells and whistles.  You won’t know that unless you ask questions about their motivations and pain points.

What problems have they had in the past?  What is their experience with their current agent?

Not long ago, I did some car shopping.  I am not a car guy.  The sales person can pop the hood and ramble about cylinders and liters and horsepower, and it goes straight over my head.  My wife is the car expert in the family.  In fact, on this day, we were looking for a car for her.

She was with me, but the sales guy wouldn’t talk to her.  I even threw him a hint or two like: “I am not going to drive this, she is.”

He wanted to talk about interior colors he was enamored with, along with the power the car had.

bad sales preparation


It was a minivan, and all my wife cared about was gas mileage, the dvd player, and roominess.  He never asked, he just kept talking, and then was surprised when my wife wanted to leave.

Don’t be that guy.

We all know we have.  Practice asking questions.  Become an investigator or therapist looking for issue that you can solve.

We all need help with this.  A modern resource for this is Spin Selling, and if you are looking for something a little more old school, but is really a must-read find Frank Bettger’s How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling.

6.  Role Playing

Do those words strike dread in your heart.  Announce them at your next sales meetings, and watch faces grow pale as groans issue from the depths of your staff’s soul.

None but the sadistic among us enjoy role-playing.

In a previous job, our company loved role-playing.  It was part of the ongoing training, and even promotions were based on running the gauntlet of role-playing scenarios.  My boss found increasing joy in springing role-playing sessions on us.  I hated it.  In fact, I still dread them today.  But they work.

Any skill set I have in interacting with people was shaped by role-playing exercises.  It’s painful and embarrassing, but effective.

It is much better than reviewing a conversation in your head.  Role-playing creates stress, and the stress is usually worse than anything you might experience in a live scenario, but this is why it works.

Take all the above prep-work and practice in live role-playing scenarios.  Don’t be easy on yourself and others.  Be the worst, most difficult customer.  Try on different personalities and style, and see how you do against each one.

Integrate role-playing in your sales meetings.  Your people will hate you, but everyone’s bottom-line will thank you later.

Every professional at the top of their game never stops preparing.  They never stop practicing.  Think of the pro athlete.  No matter how proficient they become, they continue to prepare, practice and improve.  We are no different.

Be Productive,

Theron Mathis

P.S.  What do you do to prepare for sales encounters?  Do you have a routine?  What do you do with your team to help them improve?


Should You Have Different Strategies for Marketing and Sales?

The best agencies I work with understand something others don’t.  They know the difference between marketing and sales, approaching both very differently, which creates a huge impact to growth and revenue. 

What is that difference?

strategies for marketing and sales

Marketing is what your agency does to get customers to call you.  Sales is what you do once they call.

Marketing is Social Media, Networking, Content Marketing, Referral Generation, Beating the Bushes, Attending Clubs and Chambers, Setting up a booth at a local festival.

Marketing is the bull horn. Sales is the whisper.

Marketing is the lure.  Sales is the hook.

Why do these distinctions matter?

Listen to these example.  I have worked with agencies that have incredible sales people.  I have seen them sell.  When a customer is in front of them or on the phone, it is like magic.

They are likeable; they ask the right questions; they put the customer in a place of comfort and acceptance.  They demonstrate value and ask for the sale. The customer feels like the agent is buying the policy for them.  It’s amazing.

But they can’t get the phone to ring.  They don’t have enough leads.  Their close rates are really high, but can’t seem to talk to enough people.  The pipeline is always sparse.

On the other hand, I have seen some shops with incredible marketing.  Their internet presence is amazing.  Google loves them.  They have great storefront exposure.  The phone is always ringing, but their sales are not great.  They are not all warm and fuzzy, likeability is limited, closing a sale is awkward and difficult.

Both are separate skill sets, and both must be attended to with equal force.

So, what changes can you make to mimic the best agencies approach to marketing and sales?

1.  Create separate strategies & goals. 

Marketing:  Ask: Who is my ideal customer?  What can I do to  reach that person? Then begin molding your current marketing around that target.

Identify what marketing activities you are doing today, then match to your customer target.  For example: Social Media:  Is it hitting that target?  Content marketing: Are you answering the questions your target customer has?  Networking events:  Are you going place where you will find your customer?  Lead Generation: Are the leads you are buying bringing you your target?  Referral Marketing:  Are your referral sources sending you your target customer?

Sales:  Evaluate and Improve.  These examples should help you prime the pump.  What is my close rate?  Have someone evaluate your salespeople.  Work on areas that are weak.  Do role-playing.  If you are a sales manager, have friends do mystery shopping on your people.  Have your best producers, model good sales behavior.  Let customers evaluate you.  What did you do right and wrong in the sales process.

2.  Assign Marketing to a Specific Person.  One secret of larger businesses is that they will separate out these functions to different departments, because the skill set is different.  You can do the same in your agency.

Most agencies have sales people and service people, but very few have at least one marketing person.  The ones I know that do, write a lot more business.

This person is responsible for driving leads, developing referral relationships, social media, customer contests, outside events, etc. 

It works.

3.  Measure.  This is the only way you will know it is working.  This could be a complex spreadsheet of close rates, contacts, marketing projects.  Or it could be a whiteboard with a number of weekly sales and marketing efforts.  You must measure so you know where to improve and possibly where to spend money.

No matter what approach you take, see these two tasks as separate with differing strategies. It will allow you to create separate successful systems, and you will see constant improvement in your bottom line.

Be Productive,

Theron Mathis

Questions:  Does your business have different strategies for marketing and sales?  What are ways your approach differently that has helped drive growth?

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My Biggest Sales Mistakes I Want You To Avoid

sales mistakes to avoidI have been in sales most of my adult life, and have made every rookie mistake.  Unfortunately, I still find myself falling into bad patterns, and often have to slap myself back to reality. 

The great thing about recognizing mistakes is that once you see them, you can avoid them, and work to correct them.

Here is a list of frequent mistakes all salespeople, newbies and seasoned vets, make.

Now this list isn’t comprehensive, just my big bugaboos, tripping me up especially when I started, and hopefully these admissions of failure can help you along the sales journey.

  1. Not asking for the sale

This one is just tragic.  You spend money and time generating leads.  You spend hours cold-calling and finally find someone who will talk with you.  You do all the right things, building rapport, asking questions, finding solutions, having a competitive price, but you never ask to buy.

I’ve done it.  I guess fear causes it.  It seems silly to go through all that work and never ask the person to purchase.  They gave you their time, they answered your questions, they listened to your pitch, but you never asked them to do anything.  You just through up a number, and hoped something would happen.

Don’t feel bad, everyone does it.  In fact, if you master this one element of sales, you are better than 90% of you competition.

Here’s how I know, let me tell you a story.

At one time, in my career, I worked for Progressive.  If you have any experience with them, they are intensely data driven, measuring everything that moves.  In order to get a better handle on agency impressions of the company, and develop better sales training, we initiated mystery shopping.  We would call out to agencies all over the country and ask for a quote, all the while holding a checklist in our hands, looking for sales elements.

This was a big effort, and we called everyone, all 30,000 agencies, from large professional shops, mom & pop agencies, and your non-standard specialists.

Over and over again, we found one consistent feature, no one asked for the sale.  Only 10% asked.  We weren’t looking for a hard sale either.  Just a “when do you want to do this”, or “how does that sound to you”.

This is a big one, so listen to yourself, make a list of potential closes, practice them, put notes on your computer, your phone, the back of your hand, just don’t let yourself forget it, and you will be better than most.

2.  Making it all about price.

Okay, we know insurance has become a commodity right.  If the price is not there, then forget it.  When I talk and listen to friends in sales in other industries, they all say the same.  Their product has become a commodity, price wins.  No industry escapes this.

It would be foolish to believe price is not an option, but it can also be a hurdle.  Not for the customer, but for us.

I remember walking through the sales interview with a lady, entering all the information about her tI could gather, generating the quote, and almost choking when I saw the final price.

“No one would buy this!” I thought.  That is ridiculously expensive.

But because I was new and needed sales, I reasoned what the heck, let’s throw this price out there and see what happens.

Bucking up, and putting on my most enthusiastic voice, I announced the price, secretly waiting for a “Are you crazy?”, the rejecting sound of a click, or a polite, “I am sorry”, but to my surprise, she said it was good.  I scheduled a time to finish the sale, and did a secret little jig of excitement at my desk.

What did I learn?  What is a good deal to one person, may be entirely different to another.  Think about everything you purchase, do always buy the cheapest?  Even when you buy close to the bottom of price ranges, do you always have the best deal, couldn’t you spend a couple more weeks researching to find a better price?  You don’t.  Once the price hits the range you want, and the other benefits are there, you buy.

Price is important, but don’t let it sabotage you.

3.  Not knowing the game

Depending on your industry, every sales process has a game attached to it.  You just need to know it.  Usually it revolves around the customer pitting you against your competition to get a better price.

Here’s how I fell into this trap.  I was prospecting commercial customers, and got pretty excited, because unlike personal lines, I found most people were willing to give me an ear.  Most readily gave up their dec pages and xdates, hoping I had something better.

And many times, I did, but I didn’t make the sale.  I offered a product that had better coverages, and many times equal to lower price, but nothing happened.  No sale was made.  The customer wouldn’t even call me back.  I couldn’t get them on the phone anymore.

What happened?

They used me.

They took my proposal back to their current agent, and used me to get a better product and price.

This happens in every industry, but once you know the game, it is easier to combat.  It will change your approach on the front end.  You start thinking about your competition differently.  You ask better questions.  You frame your proposals better.

Knowing the game, lead me to correct this last mistake.

4.  Not developing relationships and prequalifying properly

The sales process is a lot of work.  Even in personal lines, when you have a comparative rater, and you have learned to fly through the quoting process, you still don’t want to grind out quote after to quote never to close.

That’s like the old prison torture story.  Today the guards make you dig a hole on this side of the yard.  Tomorrow you fill it in.  The next day you move to the other side to dig, then the following you fill it in.  That’s enough to drive a person mad.

Nothing is worse than useless work serving no purpose than to keep you busy.

Change your approach.  Don’t sale, don’t quote, don’t spend time on a customer, until you spend some time evaluating the situation.

Is their incumbent agent their brother or mother?  Forget it.  You aren’t going to win.  Is the customer a fraternity brother with their current agency’s owner?  Chances are bad for you.  But you won’t know this until you ask questions.

Ask as many questions as you need about their relationship with their current agent.  Look for strengths and weaknesses and find a wedge where you can create a relationship.  Perhaps, you can teach them something they never knew about their business or risk situation.  Maybe you have common friends or interests.  Listen to them, and if there is any crack in their current agent relationship, find ways you can offer value the other can not.

This is my list, and I hope it helps you avoid my traps.

Look at your process, look at what your staff does, and see if you can find each of these elements.  Then work toward eliminating these common mistakes.

Are there other sales sins you have committed? 

Be Productive,

Theron Mathis

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Insurance Retention Strategies: The Customer Communication Plan

In the last post, I listed a number of things that agents use to effectively increase retention.

Very few things impact retention as readily as customer contact.  talk to customers for insurance retention

Your customer gets hundreds if not thousands of Insurance Impressions every day.  I just spent the last month watching the NCAA basketball tournament (Go Cards!), and I can’t begin to count the number of insurance commercials I saw.  It’s not only TV that bombards your customer with these messages; radio, billboards, and direct mail are always reaching into your client’s eyes and ears.  I don’t think a week goes by that I don’t have an insurance solicitation in my mailbox.

So what impressions are leaving your customers if they only hear from your competitors, and not from you?

Studies and best practices say you should reach out to your customers, 3-6 times a year.  This sounds like a lot, and you may be seeing dollar signs with the cost of print ads, newsletters, and postage.  It doesn’t have to bust your budget.

Not everyone needs to hear from you 6 times a year.  In fact, only those customers in the “retention danger zone” need that level of activity.  That danger zone is 1-2 years.  Make sure those young customers get more touches, because after year 3 customers tend to stay much longer.

So what kind of communication do you need to make with them.  Calls are one touch, then you can add birthday cards, thank you cards, seasonal tips, holiday cards, agency newsletters, emails, and social media touches.  If you rely heavily on phone, email, and social media, then print and mail costs are very low.

Let’s focus on the annual customer call.

Agents that do this often try to call customers pre-renewal or at anniversary date.  This can work, but unless you have the automation set up to prompt you to do it, it can be tricky.  Most management systems track anniversary date, and you can easily generate a report on monthly basis of that month’s customers to contact.

One solution is to forget anniversary date, and use the alphabet.  This will help you roll through your book of business throughout the entire year.  In January call A-Bs, in February call C-Ds, in March call E-Fs, and so on.  In agencies that don’t use alpha-splits among their CSRs this is a great solution.

These calls do not have to be complicated.  In fact, you will reach very few people, and will get a lot of answering machines, which is good.  The main point is to let them know you appreciate them, and are looking out for them.  This is a big deal.  Think through all the business relationships  you have, and how many times throughout the year do you get home from work, check your messages, and hear a thank you from those businesses — rarely.

leave a message for insurance retention

Here’s a simple script:

“Mr. or Mrs. ____ this is _______ from the _______ agency.  Everything is okay with your policies, we wanted to call and tell you thank you for doing business with us.  If you have had any changes in your household or have questions, let us know.  Thank you.”

If you do get a customer on the phone, this is a great time to verify email and other contact information.  This is really a courtesy call and it’s not necessary to sell anything.  However, if you uncover something, like another line of business, such as a boat or motorcycle, vacation property, or scheduled items, set a time to get back to them with information on those issues.

You may be thinking, do you really need to call everyone?  It would be great, but feel free to segment.

There are a lot of ways you can segment your customers.  You can rank them based on the revenue they generate to the agency, tenure, centers of influence, etc.  Definitely if it is a customer you would rather get rid of, don’t put them on the list.

Make sure those in that retention danger zone are on the list, as well referral generators and high revenue clients.  Then prioritize from there if you don’t think you can do them all.

Here’s my question for this post.  Do you do customer reviews?  Do you have a communication plan for customers?  What has worked best for you over the years?  Let us know in the comments below. 

Be Productive,

Theron Mathis

Bonus:  What do I do if I don’t have a management system?  Is there an old-school way to automate?  Yes, and it’s simple.  In fact, I use this method even today to prompt me to follow up and remember future to-dos.  It is the simple accordion file made up of 31 days and 12 months.  Or you can create your own 43 folders.  My father taught me this in his agency years ago.

Here’s how it works.  Today is April 12th.  Let’s say you want to follow up with Mr. Jones next week on a quote proposal.  Drop the quote or any other reminder with a couple scribbled notes in slot number 18.  Review your accordion file every morning, and on the 19th you will see your reminder to contact Mr. Jones.  Once you write him as a customer, you know you need to check in with a call in 6 months.  Put a note in your October slot.   At the beginning of each month, clean out the current month folder and place it in the appropriate date for that month.  If you review this every day, this can be a lifesaver to trigger follow-ups and contacts.


The Magic of Marketing Group Personal Lines Insurance

Group Personal Lines?  Is that possible?  Yes, but you have to be creative.

One of the best ways to cross-sell to your commercial and benefit accounts is through group personal line sales.


As we move into the uncertainty around the new healthcare arrangements  I have spoken with many agents nervous about their benefits departments.  They are not nervous because their products will suddenly vanish.  They are nervous because everything may become individual products, which could drop revenue through decreasing return on investment.

On the commercial side, agencies have just come out of a time when rates got soft and businesses contracted leading to dramatic drops in commercial commission income.

Group Personal Lines is a way of diversifying your revenue sources with leads you already have within your agency.

The trouble with marketing in Personal Lines is that you tend to market to one customer at a time.  Ultimately the sale comes down to person to person, but marketing one to one inhibits growth.  It does not scale.  You only have the capacity for so many marketing pitches.

Group Personal Lines allows you to market to a mass of people rather than one at a time.


What are the options?

Many carriers especially within the IA channel have special PL program for small businesses, associations, credit unions, banks, etc.

Once you start asking you will find multiple variations.  Some companies will discount every line of business for the groups, some will only discount auto, some offer payroll deduct, others give discounts on billing fees.  You will also find a multitude of different marketing options such as brochures, posters, payslips, letters, email templates.

The beauty of this as an Independent Agent is that you are not necessarily tied to the Insurance Carrier that provides the program.  Not all customers will fit, and pricing may not be competitive even with discounts, but don’t worry, you have a portfolio of company options.

It’s not about the discounts and special features.  It’s about lead generation.  It’s about getting your foot into the door to talk to 25, 50, 100 people about their personal insurance in one fell swoop.

Even if you don’t have carriers with special “group” programs, you can still do this.  Create your own special group program, because remember it’s not about the price or the features.  It’s about you and the value you create for customers.

You can design your own marketing toward that group.  You can create your own special features: annual reviews, email updates, dedicated claims people.

How do you do it?

1.  Think through groups where you already have current relationships.  These could be commercial or benefit customers, associations, or businesses you know.

2.  Make sure they are big enough.  I would always shoot for 50+ people.  If you go smaller, the numbers in the beginning will be frustrating, and you will be tempted to quit.

3.  Think through the demographics of the employees or members.  Do they match up with your ideal customer?  Are they people you have had good risk experience writing?

4.  You have your list.  Approach your carriers, and see if you can find any special deals.  Don’t get hung up here.  If there is nothing or little available, it is not a big deal, you can create your own.  Pricing is not the issue.

5.  Create a sales sheet to use to pitch to the group.  This is a one-pager that will be the start of your marketing efforts.  Don’t go further than this.  If they don’t buy, you haven’t spent too much time developing adwork.  Again ask your companies.  They may not have exactly what you need, but it can be a launching pad to developing your own.  They may have templates to use.

6.  Present to the group.

7.  If they are ready to go, get them to commit up front to the types of marketing you can do with them.  Create a checklist of options, and have them choose what fits in their group.  For example, access to employee email addresses, ability to call at work, regular meetings, promotions, break room or lunch room access, payslip stuffers, employee newsletters, etc.  Also get them to commit to how often you can visit.  Personally I don’t think you need to physically be there monthly, but you do need to have some type of monthly communication touch points

8.  Launch.  Make sure this is as big as you can make it.  Bring in food, have your marketing ready to hand out, have them bring dec pages and insurance questions.  If you leave with commitments, make sure you follow up quickly.

9.  Follow up.  Be consistent with your communication plan.  Schedule it on the calendar, and make sure you review consistently, and be patient.

10.  Repeat with another group.  Remember this is not magic and requires work, but the payoff can be big in time.

Theron Mathis

Bonus: Depending on how tech savvy you are you can make yourself look much bigger than you really are, and make them feel incredibly special by developing an internet landing page that captures customer emails and quote details.  This is much easier than you could imagine.  Your teenager can figure this out for you.  You can do the same with Facebook as well.  Email newsletters work as well.

Have you had experience selling PL to groups?  Any other thoughts or tips?