Some Independent Agents Are Their Own Worst Enemy

By | May 19, 2014

Some independent agents imagine that they are involved in an eternal sales conflict. Their mortal enemies include the large national insurance marketers, area captive agents, plus a wide swath of local, regional, and digital competitors. This battle-vision hardens their resolve and motivates them to market smarter and to sell more. It’s the art of war, insurance-style. However there is another enemy as well, and to borrow a classic line from Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Internal enemies aren’t as clear-cut as external ones. They take on the murky shapes of strategic mistakes and tactical errors. Here are nine such examples.

Book transfers.Internally shifting business between carriers to meet a company’s production requirement, instead of adding accounts organically (or through other means), is a temporary solution at best. At some point, future volume demands cannot be met in this manner, and the agency-company relationship is in jeopardy.

Producer-owners.If each producer in your agency is a shareholder, never allow them to act as maverick “managers.” This can be problematic if they use their stock certificates as their authority to interfere with routine office procedures. Doing so dilutes authority from the actual managers, making it more difficult than necessary to enact and enforce important office policies.

Internal enemies aren't as clear-cut as external ones.

Referrals-only. Some agencies take pride in the fact that they only accept new clients who are referred to them from current insureds. It’s nice to imagine that you can grow in this exclusive manner, but in reality, very few agencies can. Referrals are sweet but they seldom sustain. You also need to attract fresh business from the marketplace at large.

Minimal cross-selling.Every agency executive knows that it’s easier and less costly to sell to existing clients than it is to attract brand new business. Yet, too many fail to methodically cross-sell and upsell. Instead, it is left up to each CSR and producer to account-round on their own, and unfortunately, it’s frequently haphazard.

Mobile missteps.Every agency needs a modern mobile-friendly website (and perhaps an app). If you elect to forgo this basic necessity, your cellphone-centric insureds and prospects will let their fingers tap on over to more mobile-ready providers.

Social dislikes. Like it or not, social media is for real and ever-evolving. It’s a major marketing mistake to forego its amazing capabilities to build your brand.

Endless silence vs. endless noise. How and when an agency communicates with its insureds is more vital than ever. Never communicating with insureds beyond a company-sent bill is only slightly worse than outputting an endless flow of digital missives. Seriously, how many emails, blog posts, e-newsletters, tweets, updates and pins can an insured endure before changing their email address and their insurance agent? The “right answer” is to keep in touch just enough and no more. Of course, what’s adequate varies by the account, external events and the agency itself.

Wrong prospects. Minimize marketing and selling to prospects who don’t value your services. It is a waste of time trying to win them over. Instead focus on folks and firms that appreciate your effort and expertise.

Perpetuation.No one works forever. Agencies that don’t plan ahead for their principal’s retirement are clouding their future. Many carriers reasonably demand a real perpetuation plan before making a new appointment. So if you are unwilling to put together a serious one, you have a grave gap in your short- and long-term strategies.

About Alan L. Shulman

Alan Shulman, CPCU, is the publisher of Agency Ideas® sales and marketing newsletter (free basic subscription at He is also the author of “500 Sales Ideas for Commercial Lines Producers” among many other P&C sales resources. Email: Website: More from Alan L. Shulman

From This Issue

Insurance Journal West May 19, 2014
May 19, 2014
Insurance Journal West Magazine

AAMGA; Salute to Super Regionals; Premium Finance Directory

Latest Comments

  • May 24, 2014 at 8:11 am
    Mary Roth says:
    This article has some valid points. All agents should take heed. The sale of insurance is changing. What type of service can you provide that will make your customers stay?... read more
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