Remember the hopes and aspirations you had when you began your career as a multiline agent? I certainly do. I was very excited to begin my new career. Like most things, however, it was a lot tougher than I thought. I had to quickly reevaluate my plans in order to achieve my goals.
Similar to many new agents, I looked forward to having, in just a few years of hard work, an established business that would give me the time and financial freedom to enjoy life with my family and friends. Since I knew very little about the insurance industry, it only made sense to seek out examples of how I wanted my business to be operating several years down the road.
I began to look towards insurance professionals who not only had a mature agency, but also had high retention rates, happy clients and lots of referral business, among other things. This gave me the direction I needed to establish the blueprints for building a large and successful agency I hope to be running some day.
The more I researched, the more I saw common elements emerging among some of the heavy hitters in the industry. Sure, no two agencies are exactly the same, but I was amazed at how much they had in common. Let me now share with you some of what I found and some of the things I have begun implementing in my own business.
Rank your clients
Classify your clients into three groups. The first group consists of your top clients. The second group is made up of your average clients, and the third are your below-average clients. There are several ways to rank your clients. You can rank them by earned commission or premium dollars, volume of referrals they send you or even by the number of policies they hold. Only you can identify and sort your own clients because you know them better than anyone else.
Providing exceptional service only to your top clients affords you the ability to do it right and not overextend your resources. This doesn’t mean you neglect your other clients. Actually, you should serve your “C” clients better than most agents serve their best clients. Just sending them something, such as a company newsletter, four times a year should suffice.
Build power partnerships
A power partner is anyone you can work with who can exchange referrals with you on a regular basis. After I joined a couple of leads groups, I was able to find some very key relationships, often indirectly. Try to look beyond the members of these groups as just future clients. The greater, longer-term potential is in establishing a network of power partners for referral exchange.
Implement personal touch service
In today’s competitive marketplace, it is no longer enough to send out a Christmas card or a one-time thank you letter after writing a policy, hoping that your clients will develop an undying loyalty to you. Your top clients should be hearing from you 12 times a year or more.
Cross-sell to existing clients
There are several reasons to cross-sell products to your existing clients. You are in touch with your clients more often and you are serving them better by taking care of all their needs. Your retention rate could increase by as much as 15 percent.
Cross-selling doesn’t just mean selling the products you offer to existing clients. If there is a need, cross-sell your clients to your power partners. This not only shows your concern for your clients; it also builds your relationships with your power partners who will generate more referrals for you.
Leverage computer systems
Today, many multiline agencies are in the process of developing, or have already developed, computer systems that help their agents manage their book of business more efficiently than ever before. These systems also can provide automated marketing and cross-selling opportunities and are worth looking into. If you are an independent agent, there are several software packages that are very affordable and easy to use.
Return client phone calls immediately
Nothing will lose a client faster than treating him as if you don’t care. By not returning a client’s call promptly, you’re basically sending a strong message that he is not important to you.
The ability to delegate tasks and responsibilities is perhaps the single most important reason why most successful agencies are what they are today. These agencies found a way of duplicating their efforts by hiring additional staff. The people they sought were those with a positive attitude and a sincere willingness to go the extra mile. To attract these people, they offered flexibility, top pay, incentives and a chance to work on a winning team in a positive, challenging atmosphere.
I’ve just touched the surface of some of the strategies that are being used by a lot of successful multiline agencies. How many of these strategies are you using? If you answered few to none, start with the end in mind, look to the future and envision what you want your business to look like. Then work backwards by focusing on how you can integrate these strategies today to have an ideal agency tomorrow.
Perry Hillegas is a multiline agent with COUNTRY Insurance & Financial Services. Contact him at 303-649-9203 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.