101 Sales, Marketing, and Agency Management Ideas

August 22, 2016
  1. Emotional Connections.Great brands avoid selling products. Great salespeople cultivate emotional connections with customers. —Harvard Business Review, August 2016
  2. How to Increase Sales.Discuss all coverages applicable rather than just the ones the producer/CSR thinks the client will purchase. As an additional bonus, the agency’s E&O exposure decreases. —Chris Burand, Burand & Associates
  3. Walk Away.You can’t satisfy every customer, no matter what you do. Sure, there are those who push you to see how far they can get – even though it’s never enough. Don’t take the bait; it’s time to walk away. —John Graham, GrahamComm
  4. Plan, Plan, Plan.Without knowing the fundamental issues facing your prospect, it will be hard to truly challenge the status quo and induce your clients to embark on a new relationship with you. Identifying their true needs and providing direct solutions will arm you with a competitive edge and a knowledgeable reputation. But always keep in mind that even with the best plan, genuineness, humility, and the ability to gain trust will be the deciding factor. —Yiana Stavrakis, Specialty Program Group, A Division of Hub International
  5. Inspire People. Be a Dreamer.Try to think of things that have never been done before, but can greatly benefit or excite your customers. Then, actually have the guts to try them! Great things start with “what if…?” If you can’t name three things that your agency does that are truly different in the marketplace, you better get to thinking! —Juan Adame, BTIS
  6. KASH.Train agents using the KASH formula, (Knowledge, Attitude, Skills, Habits). Acquire the knowledge, develop the skills, form good work habits, always keep a positive attitude = KASH! —Richard Cartwright
  7. Take Charge.Be proactive instead of reactive to your customers. Don’t wait for the phone to ring with an irate customer asking why their premiums went up. Have the tools to allow you to reach out before they call.
  8. Lunch Time.Save your lunches for prospects or current clients. An hour spent with a prospect can be much more valuable than with a vendor or someone networking you. Meet those people for coffee.
  9. Time Management.Everyone complains about how there’s not enough time in the day. This is because you’re not spending time on managing your time. Plan your time for renewals, meetings, prospecting, suspecting and follow-ups ahead of time. —Nick Kormos, MarshBerry
  10. Respond.One of the most important things you can do for your clients is be responsive. Your prompt return of a call to answer any questions or just to check in speaks volumes about your respect for their time and interest in their business. —Sandy Latta, Aartrijk
  11. Don’t Be Sales-y.Your goal with blogs should not be self-promotion. It should be to help your readers and build trust. —Becky Schroeder, ITC
  12. If You Feel It, Say It.Too often we try too hard to be elegant, politically correct, nice, agreeable and sometimes that leads to disaster. Prospects are tough … so sometimes “if you feel it, say it.” This gets the truth on the table and can really change things to your benefit. You just have to be brave enough to do it. —Randy Schwantz, The Wedge Group
  13. Email Signatures Matter.Utilize the signature block of your email to help improve your email communication automatically. You could include a link to your referral program, a video, or links to your social media sites. Your signature block is valuable real estate; don’t ignore it. —Mike Demko, My Insurance Videos
  14. Thank Customers.Find a way to thank your customers, for things like leaving a positive review, treating a sales rep well, making a large purchase, referring a friend. —Andrei Utkin, Insureon
  15. Phone Books.Retain old residential White Pages and business Yellow Pages because they are a great resource for information about your prospective client such as duration of residency or years in business. —Thomas Camiolo, Greece Agency Inc.
  16. Helping Others.Follow up is critical, but also track, monitor and calculate your sales. Push until you get what you want. And be passionate about helping others. If your intention is to help, then you’ll make the right decisions. —Jennifer Baca, Farmers Insurance District 58
  17. Offer Choices.Customers worry about what they buy. They don’t want to make a mistake. So, give them options. This will give them confidence that they’ve made the right choice. Three is the magic number, neither too few, nor too many. —John Graham, GrahamComm
  18. Be Yourself.When you brag, you blow it. —John Graham, GrahamComm
  19. Content Marketing, Defined.It’s “delivering the content your audience is seeking in all the places they are searching for it,” according to Michael Brenner. By another definition, it’s creating and publishing information relevant and interesting to customers, so they find you and your firm and pay attention. —Charles Wasilewski, Aartrijk.com
  20. Stop Using the Word Referral.The definition is simple, to point someone in a direction for aid or help. Lawyers refer other lawyers when they can’t help someone. Sales trainers took this concept and screwed it up. Stop asking for referrals and start asking your client to introduce you. Your client will feel much more comfortable doing it. —Randy Schwantz, The Wedge Group
  21. Be the Customer.The moment you stop thinking of yourself as your customers’ vendor and more like their business partner, the sooner you’ll find yourself better supporting them in preventing and mitigating loss. Think of their failures as your own, and you’re sure to start creating more successes. —Mary Ann Cook, The Institutes
  22. Reason to Come.Don’t forget that to get in the door, one has to give a prospect a reason to first open the door. What reasons are you giving prospects to open the door for you? How many reasons are you giving? How far out are you working (better accounts may require three years of working). —Chris Burand, Burand & Associates
  23. Be Accurate.Exaggerate or misrepresent at your peril. There’s no place to hide; sooner or later customers figure it out and that’s the end. Be scrupulously accurate and back up what you say. —John Graham, GrahamComm
  24. For What or Whom Are You Motivated.As a producer, you may be motivated to grow a million-dollar book. But if asked, “For What are You Motivated or for Whom,” the answer becomes “I want to provide for my family in a special way, that’s why I need a million-dollar book.” The “for what” or “for whom” you are motivated makes it personal and gets to the root cause of your motivation. —Randy Schwantz, The Wedge Group
  25. Using Social Media.It’s important to make sure content is appropriate to the channel. For example, content that might be acceptable and viewed positively on a Facebook post could be deemed unprofessional on a LinkedIn post. Social media is a great tool, but as with any form of communication/marketing, the target market/audience should be kept in mind. —SIAA
  26. Use the ABCs.After 48 years I’ve concluded this is really a simple business. ABC – Always Be Selling! —John Carmody, The Advantage Group LLC
  27. Better Than.In the insurance industry, the majority of prospects are “happy” with their current broker. Good sales professionals have the ability to position themselves as different and better than the competition, so delivering the right message is key. —Sandra Usleman, USI Insurance Services
  28. Know the Client.Understanding the prospect’s business through the identification of issues and challenges they face, aligning those with well thought out solutions, demonstrating how those solutions can provide financial/economic impact with data and analytics, and finally putting it all together with meaningful case studies establishes credibility, which can convert that prospect into a long-term client. —Sandra Usleman, USI Insurance Services
  29. Handwrite It.If you’re going to send a thank you note, the best approach is to send a handwritten, well thought-out thank you note. Believe it or not, I have received a ton of positive feedback from clients, as a handwritten note tends to leave a lasting impression. Several of my clients actually told me they keep the notes posted up on a bulletin board. —Jeremy Hermsmeyer, Networked Insurance Agents LLC
  30. Happy Birthdays.Create a birthday video from your agency, then post it to your friends’ Facebook wall on their birthday. This is a simple way to celebrate your valued clients … and your friends that aren’t yet your clients. The video can be the same. … Just, “From all of us at the Agency, we want to wish you a very Happy Birthday!” It’s free to create the video and free to post. —Mike Demko, My Insurance Videos
  31. Ask the Customer.What worked best for me was to ask my customer: “What do you want this policy to do for you?” Once I knew that answer, I could tailor my conversation to meet their needs. Follow-up with further questions. —Linda Gerke
  32. Missed Opportunity.You miss every opportunity you don’t take, whether you’re asking for referrals or asking for the sale. If you don’t ask for the referral or the order, you are guaranteed not to get it. —Ron Devers, PSI Insurance Agency
  33. Stay in Touch.Not only do customers want to hear from you, staying in touch lets them know you care. If you’re emailing, make sure the content is interesting, helpful, and useful, and not a sales pitch. —John Graham, GrahamComm
  34. Write It Down.Following discussion and enthusiastic consensus from owners and employees, create a written brand strategy for your firm that at least covers mission (what your agency does), vision (why your agency does what it does), and core values (how your employees should behave). Marketing tactics should come after that. —Peter van Aartrijk, Aartrijk.com
  35. Blog.Today, it’s all about connecting with customers and prospects. And sharing your experiences, knowledge and ideas is the best way to do it. Let them know how your knowledge and experience can benefit them. —John Graham, GrahamComm
  36. Omnichannel Marketing.What does that mean for insurance agencies? Create a consistent brand experience for clients and prospects – whether they engage in person, by phone, mobile app, tablet, desktop, website or social media – on their entire journey through research, consideration and purchase phases of that experience. That’s the long version. Simplified: Consistently good experience through any means of communication, from start to finish. —Kim Bellavia, Tompkins Insurance Agencies Inc.
  37. Bring the Pizza.Whether it’s pizza and beer, or sushi and sake, keep thinking of innovative, flexible ways to motivate and encourage your team. Sometimes, even a heartfelt “thank you” at a critical time can make the difference. —Mary Ann Cook, The Institutes
  38. Relationships.Focus on building deep, life-long relationships. Instead of looking at the margin on an individual sale, think about the value of your long-term relationship with that customer. All insurance is local. As we evaluate partner agencies to invest in, we look for strong customer loyalty to the agency and its principals. Nothing beats trusted client relationships for long-term sales success. —Rick Miley, BroadStreet Partners
  39. Use Facebook Live.Facebook will give it preference in their algorithm and it will show higher in the newsfeed. Talk to your clients about drone coverage or just show them how cute bring your dog to the office day is.
  40. Create a Magical Moment.Everyone is focused on customer service – or should be. But what are you doing beyond the established standard to create magic? Try to come up with your own Disney differentiator by creating an experience so special, so memorable that your clients will refer you and never leave you for price alone. —Mary Ann Cook, The Institutes
  41. Little Bits.Incremental commitments can convince prospects to change, which is vital in selling new products or services. —Harvard Business Review, July 2016
  42. Mobile Billboards.In a busy, commuter heavy environment, we have found our wrapped/branded SmartCars catch the eyes of customers – current and potential. Whether parked at a customer location, stuck in traffic, or parked outside the office, they are distinctive and generate conversation. People constantly tell me they saw one of our cars out and about. —Craig Most, Most Insurance
  43. Drip Marketing.The goal of a drip campaign is to drip content to your readers. Don’t go straight for the sale. Your approach should be gradual. Your emails should slowly lead your contacts toward your main goal for the campaign. This means spreading your message throughout several emails over time.
  44. Practice.Great bloggers are not born in a single blog post. It takes time and practice. —Becky Schroeder, ITC
  45. Reverse Engineer Your Goals.Figure out how much money you want to save in order to fund your retirement and the kids then determine how much you need to save every year. In order to save that much, how big does your book need to be. In order to grow a book that big, how much new business do you need to write. That should be your new business commission goal and nothing less. If you care about your family, this will fuel your passion to drive hard when the going gets tough. —Randy Schwantz, The Wedge Group
  46. Traffic.There are two ways you get traffic to your insurance agency website. You either pay for it (advertising), or you earn it (blogging and social media). Both have a cost. —Becky Schroeder, ITC
  47. Communicate with Style.Improve the consistency and quality of your firm’s image in print and digital media by creating a short editorial style guide that specifies: the correct presentation, both formal and informal, of your firm’s name; format for phone number and address; letterhead and document style; a description of your firm’s voice and examples of its tone; and other common choices employees must make when communicating on behalf of your organization. —Ronimarie Acord, Aartrijk.com
  48. Analyze.Look at your analytics on social media. What content had more reach and got more engagement? Start doing more of that type. —Becky Schroeder, ITC
  49. Bring the Specialists Along.Our agents bring the agency’s safety and loss control specialist, John East, and our claims advocate, Trent Phillips, with them on sales calls. They play a big role in our sales process. —Bill Bridges, DFB Insurance Group LLC
  50. Share.For trending articles to share on your own social media pages, regularly check “Most Popular” in the side column at www.insurancejournal.com. —Julie Tinney, Insurance Journal
  51. Double Up.Pair your salesforce with analysts and have them learn from each other. —Andrei Utkin, Insureon
  52. Seek Out and Embrace Objections.If you don’t create an opportunity for the prospect to verbalize objections, you can’t respond to them and the prospect is left to make up the answers themselves. That could leave you out in the cold. —Bruce Cochrane, Renaissance Alliance
  53. Align Compensation with Organizational Goals.So much of a firm’s success is dependent on an effective compensation programs. Are you aligned? —Tommy McDonald, MarshBerry
  54. Total Protection.We want all of our customers to enjoy peace of mind knowing everything they’ve ever worked for and everything they will ever work for is properly protected. To do this, we recommend producers use a form exclusive to Brightway that helps them walk customers through other lines of coverage that they may not have been thinking about but should consider. —Mike Gleghorn, Brightway Insurance
  55. Sales Vehicles.Use your web site as a sales vehicle, as well as an educational hub that attracts your target audience for purchases and information. —Andrei Utkin, Insureon
  56. Stop Avoiding Sales Technology.Just because your agency management system doesn’t have functionality for effective pipeline management, proactive sales management, lead information and marketing automation isn’t an excuse to avoid it all together. Spend the time researching cost-effective sales technology that can support your producers, limit data entry, and help the agency build infrastructure. —Tommy McDonald, MarshBerry
  57. Schedule.Schedule your posts, but don’t forget to engage! If you never engage, your followers will stop paying attention to you. —Becky Schroeder, ITC
  58. Celebrate Your Customers.Tell others their story. Shoot a video and feature them on your site. Celebrate non-customers. Create an award for noteworthy people or businesses in your community or vertical. —Andrei Utkin, Insureon
  59. Built-In Customer Experience.Rather than focusing on the customer experience as one aspect of the job, organizations must make customer experience goals central to their service standards, employee performance plans and internal marketing. Those that do will have a head start not only on what customers want, but also in creating a culture driven by the customer experience that will match the expectations of today’s consumers. —Ona Kolosky, Senior Operations Consultant, ReSource Pro
  60. Gain Insights from Big Data.Understand it, use it, and leverage its benefits for your customers. —Mary Ann Cook, The Institutes
  61. Build Knowledge through Mentoring.Tap and support mentoring as a way to boost staff knowledge and interaction. Mentoring is going on in the workplace, whether agency leaders realize it or not and whether or not it’s formally sanctioned. And mentoring doesn’t go just one way; it works both for the seasoned worker and the newer professional. —Sharon Emek, Ph.D., Work At Home Vintage Experts (WAHVE.com)
  62. Do Your Prospect Meetings Have an Agenda? Start every prospect meeting by discussing the agenda with the prospect, make it clear what you hope to accomplish, and get their ideas. End them with a clear and concise timeline of next steps and what each of your roles are in those next steps. —Nick Kormos, MarshBerry
  63. Don’t Fear the Cyber.Demand for cyber expertise is growing exponentially and has earned a spot at the strategic business risk table. No longer can you ignore it or delegate responsibility elsewhere – and neither can your customers. —Mary Ann Cook, The Institutes
  64. Overinvest in Web and Phone Analytics.Understand why buyers buy and why others don’t. Change your experience to covert new segments of non-purchasers. —Andrei Utkin, Insureon
  65. Build Bridges, Don’t Burn Them.In an industry where mergers and acquisitions (M&A) is racing ahead, “business as usual” means that those who were rivals are now friends and colleagues. Everyone can win in an M&A play. It’s up to you to decide if you’ll be one of them who does. —Mary Ann Cook, The Institutes
  66. Jack of All Trades and Master of None.Specialization creates an organic growth opportunity. It exists within your book, so capitalize on it. —Tommy McDonald, MarshBerry
  67. Back to the Basics.Don’t underestimate the importance of knowing the fundamentals through education and training. —Mary Ann Cook, The Institutes
  68. Start on the Right Foot.Plan carefully, making sure you have the right tools in place and the right resources around you – and always do the prep work to properly manage and mitigate risk for your clients. —Mary Ann Cook, The Institutes
  69. Help Out.Do something that’s unnecessary or unexpected. Even though a customer has a problem unrelated to you, don’t ignore it. See it as an opportunity to offer suggestions. There are also times when making the right referral will be appreciated, so pass it along. —John Graham, GrahamComm
  70. Consider the Niche Play.Find your niche and learn it inside and out. It’s important to understand the bigger context of your market. Becoming a specialist may be the best way to go – and grow. —Mary Ann Cook, The Institutes
  71. Branding Your Agency.Branding is more than advertising. Branding is what you do to communicate your agency brand like advertising and your insurance website. But it also includes how you answer the phone, respond to emails, handle walk-ins, etc. —Becky Schroeder, ITC
  72. The Five Whys.Don’t ask just one question and stop there. Keep probing. Go deeper. After each response, ask why, again, up to five times, to get to the heart of your clients’ needs. That’s where real enlightenment and insight dwells. —Mary Ann Cook, The Institutes
  73. Network with Neighbors.Curate a “Best Of” list in your area, congratulate the winners personally, and distribute the list to your customers. People love to be complimented, and this grassroots marketing tactic is a useful way to build leads. —Mary Ann Cook, The Institutes
  74. Be Your Customers’ Concierge.Are you your customers’ solution for high-valued coverage needs in their area of personal lines? If so, identify the value-add services and consulting areas your clients will pay for, and then provide them. —Mary Ann Cook, The Institutes
  75. Bring It to Life.Paint a picture of what the purchase can mean to the customer, the difference it will make, and the satisfaction it will give them. In other words, bring it to life so it’s real and compelling. —John Graham, GrahamComm
  76. Always Be Testing.Test every aspect of the value chain. Response to ads, conversion on web sites, repeat purchases, cross-sell: there are ways to improve all of these and testing will reveal how. —Andrei Utkin, Insureon
  77. Be an Emerging Topics Sponge.It’s your business to understand our business – and to be able to discern what’s important to customers and what’s not. Use training tools and webinars like those provided by the CPCU Society to help. —Mary Ann Cook, The Institutes
  78. Don’t Just Create – Curate! When acting socially, don’t focus all efforts on creating original work. Successful content curation shows that your firm is knowledgeable, and is often more cost-effective than original content creation. —Laura Packard, Aartrijk.com
  79. Benefit from Social Media.Focus on LinkedIn and Facebook. Position yourself as an expert, not a salesperson. Offer helpful and timely information, answers questions, and ask for comments. You’ll create confidence and build relationships. —John Graham, GrahamComm
  80. Incentivize.Create incentives for your sales team. Even small awards will generate excitement and energy. —Andrei Utkin, Insureon
  81. Every Brand Needs an Enforcer.Every piece of communication leaving your office, either physically or electronically, leaves an impression on your clients. Ensure your brand’s consistency and integrity by auditing materials routinely, to be certain they align with your brand message. —Laura Packard, Aartrijk.com
  82. Talk Without Talking about Yourself.That’s an approach to social networking and content marketing that can set you and your firm apart. Says Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute: “Most insurance companies really focus on features and benefits over building experiences with customers over time.” Try content marketing: Talk about (via blogs, newsletter, videos, and website) the topics of concern to the firm’s target market. —Charles Wasilewski, Aartrijk.com
  83. Your Website Is Not What You Think It Is.Are you measuring activity on your website and social media and if so, how often? Do you know who is looking at them, when, what they’re looking at and how much time they’re spending? Your website is not be read, it is to be used. —Tom Wetzel, insurance marketer and Insurance Journal columnist
  84. Respond Now.Now, not later. Doing it now makes a powerful impression. Others wait until it’s “convenient,” or they “get around to it” (if they ever do). Does it work? A KIA customer doesn’t stop talking about a dealership service manager who responded to his email in three minutes. Now, that makes a difference. —John Graham, GrahamComm
  85. Look on LinkedIn for Millennials.Put aside the assumption that millennials only engage on sites and mobile applications such as Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram. Consider connecting with them on LinkedIn, which claims 87 million millennials globally with accounts. —Charles Wasilewski, Aartrijk.com
  86. Encouraging Giving; Get a Boost. Volunteering excites workers, lifts company morale and boosts employee performance. Try a website like Catchafire.org to find volunteer opportunities that are in your team members’ wheelhouse. Then reap the satisfaction of your team’s engagement. —Sharon Emek, Ph.D., Work At Home Vintage Experts (WAHVE.com)
  87. 13% Performance Gain.Let workers work wherever they are. “An overwhelming 91 percent of respondents say they’re more productive and believe they ‘get more work done’ when working remotely,” according to a survey from employee engagement firm TINYpulse. The figure is corroborated by a 10-month, 16,000-employee study conducted by Stanford researchers, which reported: “Home working led to a 13 percent performance increase.” —Sharon Emek, Ph.D., Work At Home Vintage Experts (WAHVE.com)
  88. Practice Your Skills.What are you doing, methodically, to practice your sales and/or communication skills weekly? —Chris Burand, Burand & Associates
  89. Look for the Demons and Dreams.Be alert to a customer’s hopes and fears – what they want to gain and what they don’t want to lose. That’s what they care about, not a sales pitch. —John Graham, GrahamComm
  90. Prospecting Best Practices.Whether making a cold call, reaching out to a strategic relationship or planning a meeting with your largest client, stick to these best practices: Separate research from prospecting; Eliminate noise; Turn off your email; Set your cell phone and offices phones to Do Not Disturb; Shut your office door; Block off the time in your calendar (No less than 1.5 hours and no more than 4 hours); Have a game plan! —Jim Wochele, MarshBerry
  91. Embrace Your Inner Tech Geek.You may not ever be the one to write code, but to win today’s data wars, you should know the language of analytics. Learn how to leverage data, interpret it, and use it both in your business and to help your customers. If you don’t, someone else will. —Mary Ann Cook, The Institutes
  92. Keep It Simple.It’s easy to lose sales by using jargon and trying to impress customers with your knowledge. Although it takes work, pros make their sales messages simple, clear, and easy to grasp. —John Graham, GrahamComm
  93. Look in the Mirror.How does your website compare with those of your competitors? Do they all look the same? If a prospect did not know you, what would make them look at your website first and not a competitor? —Tom Wetzel, insurance marketer and Insurance Journal columnist
  94. Millennial Retention.Keep more detailed CRM data for each account to gain the upper hand on millennial retention. Staying up-to-date on financial information such as auto lienholders and third party interests at apartment complexes can serve value at the time of a claim or during renewal. —Kevin Michael Patterson, American Family Insurance
  95. Stay Current.Whether it’s technology, sales skills, or product knowledge, it doesn’t take long for salespeople to fall behind and get out of sync with their company and their customers – and it shows. —John Graham, GrahamComm
  96. Personal Lines Client Service.Most agencies use some form of an alpha split to divide up the work between the various account reps. Rather than an alpha split, we have used a carrier split in some of our larger offices where there are five or more account reps. By dividing the work by the carrier, the account rep gets to know their assigned carriers better and develops a stronger relationship with the carrier underwriter. —Jeff Foy, Foy Insurance
  97. Good Understanding.Understanding the prospects business through the identification of issues and challenges they face, aligning those with well thought out solutions, demonstrating how those solutions can provide financial/economic impact with data and analytics, and finally putting it all together with meaningful case studies establishes credibility, which can convert that prospect into a long-term client. —Sandra Usleman, USI Insurance Services
  98. How Does Your Agency Originate Business? Relying solely on producer driven new business opportunity limits the firm’s ability to maximize growth. Build a business development strategy that expands past the Yellow Pages and a phone. —Tommy McDonald, MarshBerry
  99. The Bench Matters.The best firms in the industry have the best service staff. Sales and organic growth performance starts with a strong sales staff but ends with a team that support the growth machine. Look around your non-production staff and ask yourself this question, “Can they visit a large customer without the producer in the room?” —Tommy McDonald, MarshBerry
  100. Celebrate Your Wins.Learn From Your Losses. Knowing the reasons behind customer decisions, even when they go against you, is crucial to your sales process. You need to provide your prospects a deep insight as to why others have worked with your firm. —Nick Kormos, MarshBerry
  101. Right Places.Cities are where 91 percent of global consumption will take place over the next 15 years – the trick will be knowing which cities, and even which neighborhoods within cities will house the highest-spending consumers. —Harvard Business Review, July 2016

From This Issue

Insurance Journal West August 22, 2016
August 22, 2016
Insurance Journal West Magazine

101 Sales, Marketing & Agency Management Ideas; Technology Risks; Corporate Profiles

Latest Comments

  • September 2, 2016 at 3:46 pm
    John Hoskins says:
    What a fun list of quick-hit tips and techniques. Now I just have to keep it front and center and try to practice one every few days. Thanks
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