Chances are that when you first launched your agency one of the first things you did was to create a business plan. Chances are also good that you probably haven’t looked at it again since.
What is true is that every plan—no matter how carefully crafted— needs to be reviewed and adjusted on an ongoing basis to reflect the ever-evolving needs of your business.
It’s time to roll up your sleeves.
The following are five strategies you can employ to boost your agency’s performance in 2017.
Tip #1: Take a hard look at how you’re spending your time
With time being such a limited commodity, it’s important to make sure that you are investing your attention and energy in activities that support your agency’s growth over the long term.
No matter how many hats you find yourself wearing, your highest priority as a business owner is to remain financially afloat—and that means making a profit.
The top three activities that will help you grow your income are:
- Prospecting for new clients
- Closing new accounts
- Servicing your existing accounts
Keep track of how you spend your time for one week. At the end of the week you should have enough information to notice trends or patterns in how you spend your time and how much of that time you actually devote to money-generating activities.
According to the Insurance Journal, “the most successful agents and producers target 50 to 75 percent of their work life to productive (defined as income-generating) activities with the remaining time given to support and administrative roles.”
Determine which administrative tasks you can outsource or delegate to someone else. For example, you might want to consider hiring an assistant to handle data entry or an office manager or bookkeeper to take care of your billing.
Streamline your processes. Stop reinventing the wheel. Every agency has workflows that involve a number of steps. Taking the time to write down these workflows in a logical sequence, or even better, creating a detailed checklist, offers multiple benefits.
For one thing, the less you have to think about the next step to take in a particular process, the more time and energy you can devote to higher level tasks. It also comes in handy when you need to jump in and take over a task that someone else normally handles or when you are delegating a task to a new employee.
Here are a few processes that lend themselves to systematizing:
- Tracking renewals
- Tracking new business
- Handling policy cancellations
- Handling payments and deposits
Tip #2: Invest in professional sales training
Becoming a successful insurance agent requires that you embrace your role as a salesperson.
Contrary to popular opinion, a good salesperson is one that can become a trusted advisor. This is because a good salesperson is not motivated by the desire to manipulate people or to convince a prospect to buy something they don’t need.
Instead they provide information that allows their clients to make educated decisions. For example, as an insurance agent, you are able to educate your clients about how their choice of cars can impact their insurance rates. If you’re lucky, some of your clients might get in the habit of consulting with you before they buy a new car.
Another educational tactic is advising your clients about when (and why) they might want to consider enrolling in higher than normal coverage. Again, the goal is not to pressure your clients, but to share your insights and help them make good choices that make sense for their individual needs.
Learn how to address typical objections. Taking the time to think through how you will handle client objections will keep you from fumbling a sales conversation that was otherwise going well.
Here is a list of typical objections:
- I’m happy with who I work with now.
- Why should I change my existing coverage?
- I’ve just started my research.
- Why is your quote so much higher than others?
Take advantage of sales training opportunities that are offered in your community or through industry associations.
Tip #3: Set clear goals and assess your progress on a regular basis
When you’re busy managing the day-to-day needs of your agency, it’s easy to lose sight of the progress you’re making (or not making) towards your income targets. Setting clear, measurable goals gives you an easy way to see if you’re on track or need to adjust your strategy.
Ditch yearly planning for shorter time spans. The trick with successfully sticking to a planning process is to be both flexible and realistic.
If you’re a long-term planner by nature, then setting goals that are one to five years in the future may be both inspirational and useful. However, if you’re the type of person who struggles with thinking that far ahead, consider creating quarterly plans that you review every month or every week.
Create plans around your actions.Experienced salespeople know that hitting your sales targets and income goals is generally a numbers game. This is particularly true when your agency is relatively new and doesn’t yet have a strong book of business.
So while you can’t control whether or not a prospect signs up with you, you can control the number of calls you make, the number of emails you send out and the number of networking events you attend.
Tip #4: Revamp your marketing
In the real world, a “field of dreams” mentality (build it and they will come) is a recipe for disaster.
Instead, you need a marketing plan that will actively build market awareness and position you as a trusted advisor. But with so many options, it’s hard to know where to focus your efforts. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Exploit digital marketing opportunities. According to Comscore, 71% of shoppers start their search for insurance online. So it only makes sense that you develop a digital marketing strategy that can help you stay competitive. However, given that the online space is quite crowded, standing out can be both challenging and expensive. As such, you might want to consider outsourcing your marketing or leveraging marketplace websites like EverQuote that have knowledgeable experts that specialize in marketing to insurance shoppers and connecting them with agents.
Set up an email drip campaign. An email autoresponder series (or drip campaign) provides an automated, low-key way to stay in touch with all your prospects. By sharing useful information over a period of time, your agency is able to stay in front of the customer and remain top-of-mind when a need for insurance services eventually arises. This marketing tactic has the added benefit of reducing the pressure on you to remember to individually follow-up with your prospects.
Identify local events or groups you want to get involved with. Chances are that your employees already have a favorite charity where they give time or donations. By selecting a charity or major community event that your entire agency can support through volunteering or fundraising helps you build camaraderie and raises your brand recognition within your local community.
Track your marketing metrics to see what's working. You don’t have the luxury of spending time or money on marketing that doesn’t yield solid results. Whether your goal is to increase brand awareness, or to create some buzz and generate tangible new business, you need to know if a specific tactic is working, needs adjustment or needs to be dropped. The ability to provide metrics is one reason for the ongoing appeal of digital marketing.
Tip #5: Upgrade the technology you currently use to run your operations
It’s hard to run a 21st century business while using only old-fashioned marketing tools.
To thrive in today’s hyper competitive space you need to access technologies that make it easy to stay in touch with your prospects and know when they are ready to move from “just browsing” to “I’m ready to write a check.”
Use marketing automation software to stay in touch with your prospects. Marketing automation software such as Get Drip, Contactually, and AgileCRM provide two key benefits.
First, they allow you to engage with your customers by providing valuable information over time in a personalized way that is easy to scale.
Second, they keep track of how your prospects and customers are engaging with your content by assigning specific scores based on their activity. This information allows you to know when a particular lead has become sales ready and should be actively pursued by one of your agency’s sales reps.
Look into a lead management system to maximize conversion rates. Sales automation software like Velocify is designed to boost your revenue by automating routine tasks, freeing your sales reps to close more business.
You can also use insurance software providers like EZLynx or Vertafore to create a custom solution for your agency. EZLynx is a software platform for insurance agencies that provides a comparative rater with an agency management system. In addition to tracking important client documents such quotes and policies, EZLynx makes it easy for you to manage your email marketing needs and keep your accounting up to date. Vertafore is another agency management solution designed to streamline your internal agency processes.