“Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” You’ve probably heard this saying before—and if you’re an agent intent on growing your agency, take it to heart. For most agents, in order to grow your book of business, you will undoubtedly need to venture into uncharted territory to try new things in several areas, including staffing, marketing, sales, and more. We spoke with two top agents with three different carriers–agents John Heep and Perry Olson–to get their best tips on what you can do to grow your agency. Each has a proven track records of success (with multiple sales awards and successful offices) and all are experts on the topic of insurance agency growth strategies. Take a look at the growth strategies they recommend below, and get started implementing them in your own agency today.
1. Set goals.
Goal-setting is the first step toward helping you realize your personal goals as well as your agency growth targets, because if you don't know where you want to go, it's going to be tough to get anywhere. Take a few minutes each day to set and write your daily goals and to check in on your longer term goals. Then, you can evaluate your progress at the 90-day mark, the six-month mark, and beyond.
2. Invest in your staff.
To grow your business, you must invest in your greatest asset: your employees. They are the lifeblood of your agency, so the importance of investing in them initially—and with continued training—cannot be overemphasized.
At the end of the day, you want your employees to represent your agency, and to be its biggest fans. When you compensate your staff well, pay them bonuses, and help them realize how their work impacts the success of the agency as a whole, they'll play an integral role in client retention and referrals.
While monetary investments will motivate employees, investing in staff is so much more than just giving away cash. Consider buying ebooks for staff upon request, paying for seminars and training, and always bring as many people as you can afford to industry/carrier-sponsored training events.
Agent Perry Olsen says: 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. Olsen suggests that your team might be structured as such:
- 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 resolving customer inquiries, tracking down forms and payments, tracking the sales team’s 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 claim transfers, follows up with customers, takes photos on-site, handles car rentals and towing, and sets clients 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 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 member is responsible for gaining new business through referrals and leads.
3. Create a winning environment.
With a trained team in place and an established compensation plan, it’s time to create an environment that breeds success. How will you keep your agents motivated? What will you do to maintain a positive vibe and ongoing energy day in and day out?
- Foster 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 can achieve great things 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.
4. Establish a marketing game plan.
When it comes to insurance agency marketing, you will likely need to engage in some trial and error before you have an overflowing sales funnel. However, one thing is for sure: Passive marketing doesn't work. What is passive marketing, you ask? Let's call it the "if you build it, they will come" strategy. Or, "our products sell themselves" methodology. Unfortunately, you cannot just sit behind your desk and expect insurance business to land in your lap; it's going to take some effort on your part. Some business owners get skittish at the prospect of paying for marketing and leads, but here's a little secret: As long as it's profitable, paid marketing is worth it.
Don't be afraid to try new things. Here are some of the tactics that have helped others succeed:
Own Your Market
To succeed in your community or your natural market, you need to know who you are targeting. What does your typical policyholder look like? Where are they and how do they communicate?
When you have the answers to those questions, you'll need to get your name and face out in the community where your perfect client will see them. Try sponsoring community events like sporting events or festivals; consider print marketing in a local newspaper or other publication. Building a social media presence for your agency online may also help you reach your target customer.
Consider sending out personalized mailers to attract clients, in addition to using custom texting and email automation platforms. John Heep’s team keeps "preferred lists" to call those clients who have policies about to expire, which is a good way to keep loyal customers and slow down churn.
Drive Fresh Leads
Selling insurance takes work; you need to drive new leads consistently. Don't be afraid of buying online insurance leads, either. There are a lot of options out there; you may need to try more than one internet lead company before you find one that consistently provides reliable results.
Heep says, “Build your leads strategy through targeted marketing as you grow. Much how you need to narrow down your lead types as you grow and penetrate your ideal market, the same goes for your messaging strategy.” Take this stage of your scaling as a prime opportunity to practice your upselling skills. You won’t know how to do it unless you do it.
Follow Up With Prospects
It's going to be hard to be successful if you don't have a scalable, repeatable process for following up with your prospects. That process may include some or all of the following:
- Prospect CRM databases to track "touches."
- Be persistent with following up until a prospect says "no!"
- Survey prospects who don’t buy from you to learn why they chose not to.
- Create an automated email campaign. Put your name, face, and thought leadership in front of prospects on a frequent basis.
- Follow up by any means necessary, including mail, email, chat, etc.
5. Understand that making money costs money.
It's cliche, but it's true. In your marketing, you're bound to make some missteps along the way; however, over time, you'll get a feel for what's working well. To ensure the money you’re spending is actually providing a return on investment, track your marketing dollars spent by using "vanity" phone numbers, where each ad or campaign uses a particular, different phone number. Baking in measurement tools to your process can be a major way to zero in on marketing copy and approaches that are working—and those that are not.
6. Hold people accountable to the goals you set.
An insurance agency that doesn't have goals, or doesn't track its production numbers, is not likely to be very successful. When you hold your staff—and yourself—accountable on a daily, weekly, monthly, and annual basis, they will be able to see how their actions can result in greater sales.
Know your agency's numbers, including:
- Average premium per policy and item
- ROI and acquisition cost (CPS/CPA)
- Weekly sales staff productivity reports
- VOIP call volume reports.
Insights that can be accessed during reporting periods and by individual contributors can make or break your agency's strategic moves. Consider defining activity reports per producer, adding weight to calls, emails, texts, etc. Also, consider activating your insights mid-week to improve your sales funnel operation and make it more agile.
Another tip that can be beneficial is to post sales goals on a whiteboard in the office. Have daily huddles and weekly meetings to review progress. If your agency isn't making their targets, why not? What are the obstacles? If a particular agent is doing well, what are they doing? What's working well? Staying on top of your numbers is the best way to see those numbers move in the direction you want them to go.
7. Invest in Yourself.
High-performing entrepreneurs across industries, and across the world, have one thing in common: They invest in themselves. One of the big mistakes that even successful business people can make is resting on their laurels. Sure, you've been a top agent in your area for 10+ years and all the numbers seem to look great, but what are you doing to stay ahead of the curve? Consumers change at the speed of thought, so products, services, and salespeople must change with them.
Don't stop learning; make continuing education a priority. Look out for carrier events, industry seminars & webinars. Consider what areas you would like to focus on improving, find companies that do it well, and then start by reading their blogs. When you invest in yourself, you're investing in the future of your agency and in everyone who works for you. Just as investing in your staff can make all of the difference in their performance, investing in your development can raise your entire agency to new heights.
Building an insurance agency requires a lot of time, effort, and investment—thankfully, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to growth strategies and sales. To learn more tips for growing your agency, make sure to check out our free ebook, 5 Smart Ways To Set Up Your Auto Insurance Agency For Success.