Are you ready to take your insurance agency to the next level? Are you launching a new office? Do you have the motivation, but lack the right tools? Below is a step-by-step guide to help you get your business off the ground and turn it into a leading insurance agency. Perry Olson spoke at this year's Insurance Agency Academy in Houston Texas, detailing how to build and grow your office into a leading agency.
Build a Killer Team
Every successful "mega-agent" has a support team that keeps the business flowing smoothly every day. Within your team are hand-picked recruits that have a particular role. Your team might look like this:
- Operations Manager. The person in this position ensures that all activities within the agency happen on a consistent level while minimizing issues that might arise. The OM may perform several jobs including customer inquiries, tracking down forms and payments, tracking the sales teams’ progress, and ensuring that all follow-up action is prompt. The OM may also be in charge of multiple agency locations.
- Claims Manager. A claims manager handles the details of every claim that comes into the agency. He or she submits the claim transfers, follows up with the customers, takes photos on-site, handles car rentals, towing, and sets the client up with third-party restoration or mitigation companies. The claims manager supervises the entire claims process from beginning to end.
- Office Manager. Whereas the operations employee is more of an umbrella role, the office manager is more in the trenches. This person will handle inbound calls, process forms, greet those who come into the agency and handle various clerical responsibilities. He or she may also handle customer complaints or correspondence that goes directly to the office owner.
- Accounting. An in-office accountant handles commissions, payroll, time clocks, and all financial matters within the office
- Sales Team. The sales team is the lifeblood of the organization. Each team members is responsible for gaining new business through referrals and leads.
How to Determine Compensation for Your Team
One of the greatest challenges for agents who are starting a business is developing a compensation package for employees. While pay is the primary consideration, you’ll also want to think about benefits such as vacation, insurance, retirement, sick pay, etc. What can your company offer to attract seasoned, talented agents? Is it your compensation plan, however, flexible enough to bring in new agents who are just getting started.
If you pay your agents an hourly, then what will be the determining factor in how much the wage will be coming through the door? Experienced agents with some success under the belt may start out at you the top end of the pay range. New agents who pass the insurance exam and demonstrate measurable progress may fall somewhere in the middle. Struggling agents who work hard and still maintain a desire to achieve, but need strong guidance may fall in the entry-level wage category.
When it comes to a commission, there are several ways you can shuffle the deck. However you pay out commissions, makes sure you have a robust methodology that not only helps your sales team to establish goals that are attainable but keeps them motivated because they’re getting paid appropriately for what they achieve. Make a list of all possible channels of income and then determine how it will be awarded (set rate or commission, etc.). The list may look like this:
- The type of insurance your agency is selling (life health, auto, fire, etc.).
- How much will you pay per application if that is your method?
- What is your market area? How many policies do you expect to write and how will that affect how much you can pay?
- Will you provide bonuses or additional pay on premiums?
Creating a Successful Environment
Now that you have your team in place and you’ve established a solid compensation plan, it’s time to create an environment that breeds success. How will you keep your agents motivated? What will do you to maintain a positive vibe and ongoing energy day in and day out?
- Create Honesty. Empower your team so that each agent can feel free to ask you questions and interact with you in a way that is honest and genuine. Keep your commitments and train your agents to do the same. Help your entire team as needed and as often as possible to earn everyone’s trust.
- Build Relationships. Two key components to building strong working relationships are communication and collaboration. The office dynamic is healthier when everyone learns to do both effectively. Give honest and direct feedback on a regular basis. Employees are more likely to succeed when they know where they are on the measuring stick. Position yourself to be available to your staff when they need you.
- Maximize Talents. Every person working in your agency has a role. Create experts who can fulfill the duties of each position better than anyone else. Establish clear job descriptions that encourage people to collaborate but prohibit them from stepping on each other’s toes. That way, everyone can sharpen their talents within the job description.
- Establish Goals. People achieve when a reward or recognition is in sight. Goals should create excitement instead of intimidation; so set goals that are attainable and keep each agent on the move.
- Set Priorities. Everyone in the office needs to have a clear mandate of daily prioritization. Everyone needs to know their role and responsibility and play their part to get the work done.
- Maintain Reliability. Both your clients and your employees depend on you every day to deliver bottom-line results. Your policyholders depend on your agency to follow through with every transaction without fail.
The Internet Lead Process
The important thing to remember with leads is not how many you get, but rather how efficiently and intelligently they are handled. Below is a step-by-step internet lead process that takes you from the initial contact to conversion.
- Call the lead. Agencies spend a lot of time trying to pinpoint quotes. Much of this period is wasted getting the numbers exactly right. A faster method for establishing a quote is to quickly round up using the information you currently have on a lead. By rounding up, you can immediately give the prospect a number figure and begin the process of gaining commitment by asking for more information. Rounding up also eliminates the possibility of asking ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions on the front end of the conversation.
- Voicemail. If you own a smartphone, then you are probably aware of the voicemail transcription tool on your iPhone or Galaxy. It allows people to quickly read a voicemail verbatim instead of listening to it drag on. Consider the opportunity you now have to leave a highly detailed message that is short and succinct with a call to action (CTA) at the end of the message.
- Email the Lead. When emailing a lead, brevity is paramount. Therefore, the most important item in the email should be in the subject line. For instance, if you are sharing a quote, then put the quote in the subject line. By putting the meat of your message in the subject, your email becomes more personalized and less formatted. You’ll also spend less time writing content the body.
- Mail the lead. Many agents do not bother with snail mail. The reason for this, however, is because they have not mastered the art of sending out quotes or other information in the mail. Whether you’re sending out postcards or envelopes, make sure they stand out. If your company color is red, then use a red envelope. Hand-write all mail correspondence for a personal touch that looks less corporate.
- Two-day task call. The most challenging element to follow-up calls is knowing when to stop calling the same prospect. Every agent has his or her threshold. The best approach is to create an office-wide policy. For instance, everyone is allowed three calls before ceasing any further follow-up.
- Text the Lead. Text-Messaging (SMS) is another element of a sound contact strategy. One of the key aspects to maximizing your SMS strategy is to act with speed. If you’ve just finished meeting with a client, then ask if you can text him or her with follow-up information. Texting allows you to ask for referrals, and it provides additional information in small increments. Texting can be an effective first contact strategy, but studies show that it is far more impactful if you have established trust or rapport with the prospect. Otherwise, it is considered spam.
Conversion rates are more likely to rise if you follow all of the steps in this internet lead process. It's easy for a prospect to commit on the telephone, but then never come into the agency or fill out the paperwork. A follow-up email, hard mail, and phone call can help the agent seal the transaction and get a commitment from the new client.
That wraps our digest on Perry Olson's IAA presentation. Be sure to stay tuned as we release more tactics and strategies to help you build & run your agency. As always, if you would like to learn more about the topic - contact the author.
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