What does it take to be a top multiline agent? Scott Foster, CLU, a State Farm agent and life member of MDRT, knows the answer well. Foster joined State Farm in 1976, starting an agency from scratch. By his second year, he’d made MDRT. By his seventh, he’d become State Farm’s leading producer in life sales.
By contrast, nearly half of all new multiline agents call it quits by their fourth year, and those who remain rarely sell their clients on the importance of life insurance. For example, LIMRA recently found that only 6 percent of 44 million households have auto, homeowner’s and life insurance policies with the same company. Foster, though, has a client base of 5,900 households, and about 30 percent of them have life insurance with him.
His secret? “Focusing on it—that’s the secret,” says Foster, speaking bright and early at 7:30 a.m. from his office in Conyers, Ga. “And believing that you can do it.” By “it,” Foster’s talking about a formula for success that consists of three things: hiring quality support staff, doing frequent client reviews and setting sales goals for all lines of business.
Hire quality support staff. That should be your first step, says Foster. “Someone’s got to service the business you’re writing,” he says, “otherwise you’re going to get bogged down in service.” And if you don’t have the money to hire someone right away, take out a loan, he says.
Next, consider whether you want to hire someone who’s more sales-oriented or service-oriented. The answer, says Foster, will depend on which area—sales or service—you want to focus most of your time. Then, hire accordingly.
Lastly, remember that a solid candidate doesn’t necessarily need an insurance background. A good sales candidate, for example, may have worked at a brokerage house or spent college breaks selling cars. And a good service candidate may have been a church secretary in the past. Foster’s agency has a staff of 20. Fifteen of them are licensed to sell life and health insurance along with property and casualty (P/C) insurance. Three (Foster among them) are also licensed to sell mutual funds.
Do frequent client reviews. “It builds relationships; it builds trust,” says Foster. Often, the trigger to call a client may be when a policy’s anniversary date comes up. In other cases, Foster asks each client how often he’d like to be contacted. Foster recommends sitting down with a client every 18 months to three years. “Not many things change in a year,” he says, “so if you do it too often, they feel like you’re wasting their time and … just trying to sell them something.”
Beyond client reviews, look for other ways to remind clients that they’re “not just a piece of business,” as Foster puts it. He’ll mail birthday cards, and he keeps an eye on the local paper for mention of a client’s community involvement. Other times, Foster comes across a mention in the paper of an upcoming event that might be of interest to a client. For example, he recently sent a horse-loving client a blurb about an upcoming horse show.
Set goals for all lines of business. Focus on each line of business, says Foster. That way you’ll avoid the common mistake of focusing so much on your P/C business that you forget about selling life and health insurance—key products that’ll boost the odds your P/C customers return to you for future financial needs. “It’s real easy to forget that busyness doesn’t necessarily lead to life sales,” says Foster. He advises that you sit down with other members of your team and determine the amount of time that you and your staff will spend on a particular line of business (auto, fire, life and health insurance, for example), and how many clients and prospects you’ll each see a month. Thanks largely to staff who sell P/C products and pivot the talk to life insurance, Foster sees about 60 life insurance prospects a month. He also recommends that a multiline agent devote 30 percent of her time to making life sales.
Finally, Foster offers these words of caution. “There’s a lot of compensation as you build the reoccurring renewals of property and casualty, and a multiline agent is prone to quit growing and working,” he says. “Whereas, to me, if [you] continue to grow and work multiline, it continues to be fun—thus comes the life insurance.”