Sales & Marketing
Scott Brodbeck, 7/1/2016
Much like other sales-focused professionals, Allstate agents spend a lot of time worrying about arbitrary short-term cutoff dates. Typically, they worry about how many sales they’ll close by the end of the month, the end of the quarter, or by year’s end. What’s so special about these deadlines? In reality, nothing, unless you are a midlevel manager whose bonuses may be based on attaining certain predefined goals. If I ask an agency owner about their sales pipeline, I am often given answers that include short-term timeframes, such as what they think they can accomplish by the “end of the quarter.”
Many agents spend their careers worrying about meeting short-term goals. In my opinion, this is very near-sighted because they spend much of their careers “chasing their tails.” Occasionally, I will ask agents how much business they think they’ll close by the end of a given month, such as November. Typically, they say something like, “I have no idea what next November will bring; I’ll worry about that in October.” That tells me they are not focused on long-term objectives.
Prospect pipelines should be long. Putting prospects into your pipeline today will ensure a long-term repository of leads and help lessen the need for recurring short-range solutions.
I’m a fan of small town newspapers and the plethora of leads that they contain. I’m talking about newspapers that tend to fill their pages with things that are going on in the community. These are great for filling your long-term prospect pipeline. They typically include a lot of lists. When looking at these lists, the first question to ask is: “What can I do with this?” The second question – which is often more important – should be: When can I do something with this?” Ordinarily, these lists don’t represent opportunities for immediate sales, but they are a gold mine for future sales.
Birth, Wedding Announcements and DUIs
Birth and wedding announcements are fantastic opportunities for life insurance sales for obvious reasons. In addition, they are not usually short-term leads. After having a baby, particularly when it’s the first, the parents’ world is turned upside down. They don’t have time to breathe, let alone find time to deal with life insurance on themselves or their newborn child. But once they have settled into their new routine – usually by the time the child reaches its first birthday – they are often much more receptive and can be guided into considering a small life policy that has a guaranteed future purchase privilege rider that can be exercised at certain times throughout their child’s life. The same holds true for recently married couples; their first year of marriage is often filled with new experiences and getting used to one another. By the time their first anniversary approaches, they may be thinking of starting a family or buying their first home. These are life-altering decisions that demand serious attention and require the kind of financial security that only life insurance can provide.
In both instances, I make note of these events and follow up on them a year later. Granted, the commission on a small, permanent life policy on an infant doesn’t pay much, but if you close enough of them, they add up, not to mention help satisfy your IPS requirements. In addition, the premiums are so minimal, they’re easy to sell and can lead to bigger life sales on the parents.
Selling term insurance to young marrieds with the intention of converting them to permanent policies later is another good strategy that will result in consistent new sales, and allow you to sow the seed for future sales by informing the prospect that you will be back in 2-3 years to convert their term policy.
It only takes a few minutes a week to add the names and follow-up dates from these newspaper lists to your long-term pipeline. By regularly updating your pipeline and faithfully carrying out your follow-up strategy, you should easily meet or exceed your life goals.
Back when I owned an independent agency, I had a carrier that specialized in substandard auto. Drivers convicted of DUIs were one of their target markets. The local paper listed those arrested for driving under the influence every week. They not only published the name of the driver, but their full address, which I suppose was their attempt to shame them. When I first saw this list, I immediately started mailing letters to them, explaining that good people sometimes make mistakes and that the resulting consequences could be monumental. I reassured them by saying I had an affordable auto policy for them. Then I sat back and waited for my phone to ring, thinking I had a captive audience who could lose their driving privileges and/ or get dropped from their current insurance company. To my surprise, I received absolutely no responses, even though I faithfully sent out the mailings every week.
Then a friend of mine got a DUI, and through his experience, I learned how the legal process actually works. In my area, it takes about six months – from the time of the arrest to the date the case is disposed of and is considered closed – before the state is notified and takes action.
The vast majority of DUI cases are handled prior to going court through pre-trial dispositions, wherein offenders plead guilty, and in return, are offered an accelerated rehabilitation disposition or ARD, which is eligible for expungement at a later date. When the state is notified, so is their insurance company. A letter to the offender letting them know that they are being dropped by their insurance company is in the mail shortly after this. I had a great target audience, but my timing was way off. By the time they needed new insurance, they had forgotten about the letter I sent them several months earlier.
In my state, court records are a matter of public record, so you can easily find the current status of any pending court case on the Internet. I started looking up each of these prospects to determine the date of their first real court appearance, after their formal arraignment, and recorded that information in my pipeline. Then, once their plea bargain became official, and their case was considered adjudicated and closed, I waited two weeks and mailed my DUI letter to them.
By investing a few minutes to look up their court appearance, the timing of my marketing letter coincided nicely with the cancellation letter from their insurance company, which in most cases, put them in a panic mode, prompting them to respond to my letter. This simple change effectively moved my DUI leads from short-term status to long-term status and my response rate went from zero to phenomenal! This example shows why timing is critical when you ask yourself, “When can I do something with this?”
New Business Listings and Real Estate Transactions
New business openings are another category of leads that you can typically find in your local newspaper. I am a fan of the expanded market as I’ve discussed in previous articles, not for the commission, which is incredibly low, but because it gives me a tool to get my foot in the door and a chance to write a lot of business in one place. By the time an opening is published, the prospect already has their business insurance, making it too late to do anything in the near term. However, shortly before the first anniversary of their grand opening, they may be sufficiently motivated to shop around, especially if their premium has increased. Once again, a lead that provides no short-term benefit goes into my long-term pipeline. I try to get in front of them about six weeks before their anniversary – right around the time they receive their first policy renewal notice. Armed with the ability to write their business through the expanded market, I leverage it to build rapport so I can quote their personal home and auto. In many instances, I even quoted their group voluntary benefits through Allstate Benefits.
Real estate transfers are among best leads that appear in local newspapers. Once again, by the time a transaction is published, the sale has already been completed and the new owner has purchased property insurance. There’s little opportunity to do anything in the near term because most people aren’t willing to replace a policy that is only two or three months old. However, if you reach out to them six weeks before the first anniversary of their closing – right around the time their policy renewal is being generated and mailed – you’ll have a great opportunity to pick up a new customer. If you use automated quoting software, these are the perfect prospects to include a quote with your letter of introduction.
A Better Way
At this moment, you are likely to be much more concerned about the number of items you’ll close by the end of this month than you are about what you’ll be producing a year from now. But if you really want to get off the deadline treadmill, you’ll need to do things differently.
I’ve seen agents who keep a folder of all their previously purchased internet leads. Every once in a while, one of their producers will pull the folder and make some calls to see if they can revive some interest. Oftentimes, something on the original loss report or MVR made them a poor prospect at the time the lead first came into the office. These leads should go into a long-term pipeline – either six months after originally receiving it, or a week after the incident has fallen off. Suddenly, your price may be a lot more attractive than it was the first time.
Depending on the situation, some of these leads may be in your pipeline for two years or more, as you wait for their record to clear up. I recommend keeping these leads warm by staying in touch with them while you’re waiting for the incident to clear. Calling them out of the blue two years after they filled out a quote request on the Internet is like making a cold call because they are not likely to remember you. Continuing to touch base once or twice a year to let them know that you’re still planning to call as soon as they are eligible is a good idea; it builds rapport and shows that you care.
Old leads can be effectively recycled, but only when they are contacted at the right time, which may be at some point in the future. Maintaining a pipeline that includes a year or two in the future gives you the ability to recycle them.
The good news is that the amount of time that it takes to put this information into your pipeline database is relatively short. Unfortunately, many agents don’t want to be bothered unless there is an opportunity for an immediate payoff.
Year-end will be here before we know it and many agents will be scrambling to hit their objectives. Wouldn’t it be better if you had some leads in your pipeline that you could potentially close that month? Why start populating that pipeline in October when there is so much information available to you at no cost today?
So the next time you see a list, ask yourself what you can do with the information it contains. Chances are, you will eventually be able to do something with it – all you have to do is add the information into your sales pipeline today.
Creating a pipeline that’s fully developed a year or more in advance will not only help you meet your long-term sales goals, but will help alleviate the pressure you put on yourself to meet those short-term production deadlines that drive us crazy.
Scott Brodbeck is a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer and a Master Certified Novell Engineer who is also a former EA and IA. Currently, he develops technical marketing tools and provides marketing consulting services specializing in the profitable growth of insurance agencies. Scott can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Exclusivefocus Summer 2016