8 Ways to Jump Start Listless Agencies in Today’s Economy

By | November 16, 2008

These are the worst worldwide economic times in recent memory. Slow retail and home sales, the horrific stock market, and tight credit, are adversely affecting everyone. But fortunately for our livelihoods, people and businesses need insurance for as long as they have assets to protect. But this is no guarantee for the financial survival of the individual agent and office, only for the industry as a whole. To survive, agencies must do more than just hold on — they still have to grow. To help, this column suggests eight easy activities. Act upon an item or two and plant a few seeds. Actions, even small ones like these, help “listless” managers to get back on the path of growth.

1. List the top commercial insureds who have referred business to the agency. Check the date of each firm’s last known referral. If this date was a while ago, have the account’s producer or CSR investigate. Seek to find out if the lead shutdown was due to a failure to request additional names or if there is a fixable problem that halted additional referrals.

2. List local media contacts known by agency employees. When your staffers know some of the same press people, invite them and their editors to a casual media outreach lunch. Include the local online press as well as print. This simple get together, at a restaurant you insure, helps the invitees to consider your agency whenever there is an important local or larger insurance story to cover.

3. List all fraternal, civic, neighborhood and educational groups to which agency employees belong. Ask staffers to obtain copies of, or online access to, the membership directories for each group. Review the names of all officers, directors, and committee members. Determine how many of these activists the agency currently writes. Target the ones you don’t yet insure. These influential individuals often make outstanding referral sources as they frequently associate with large numbers of people.

4. List all CPAs and attorneys used by agency employees. Determine if your staff uses the same local professionals. If they do, ask these pros to return the favor by referring their employees to you. This new business is helpful far beyond the immediate sale. That’s because when you insure staff-level employees within a professional firm, they’ll often think of your agency first whenever their clients are in need of quality insurance services.

5. List all non-insurance services that you can market to your commercial insureds for a fee. Identify areas where your office has a salable expertise. Examples might include on-premises training on specific software programs, computer network administration, Web site development, sales and marketing, etc. And unlike insurance, your office can set any price that you want. Give your producers something fresh to sell (when legally permitted).

6. List the classes where your carriers are currently the most competitive. Drill down to learn exactly how competitive they are in terms of underwriting, coverage and premium for each class on the list. Learn if your agency is actively soliciting them. If you are not, find out why. If there is no valid reason, and every other local agent isn’t going after the same business, quickly add one or more of these classes to your current marketing plans.

7. List the targets that your producers really want to solicit. Ask agents to create a list of the business types that they would love to go after, regardless if the agency has a viable market. This revealing information helps you to better understand what influences and motivates your field force. And you may discover target areas that you had never previously considered. Also, compare these producer lists to the carrier strengths list [above] for matches.

8. List your fiercest competitors and how they really impact your business. Every policy provider is a rival, but only a handful make a meaningful impact on your sales and retention. So, ask all producers and CSRs to submit the names of the agencies and direct marketers they love to hate. Also ask them to include the reasons why, in addition to price. Use the facts to formulate a response strategy for recovering lost accounts, retaining more business, and making fresh sales.

The creation of these lists provides more than busy work in bad times. The information that they provide hones your survival instincts for the present and the immediate future. Now is the time for real planning and real action. Aggressively use the information that you gather to help accomplish both.

About Alan L. Shulman

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

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