Overcoming Call Reluctance

Everyone in marketing faces it at one time or another – referance to pick up the phone and make calls. Logically, it makes no sense to feel that way. We believe in our product or service. We have a script that's either been given to us or one that we've carefully written out. We have…

Everyone in marketing faces it at one time or another – referance to pick up the phone and make calls. Logically, it makes no sense to feel that way. We believe in our product or service. We have a script that's either been given to us or one that we've carefully written out. We have a list of prospects that are at least somewhat targeted. We know that when someone says “No”, it's not directed at us. And still … the phone weighs a ton.

OK. You decide that the pain of being broke is greater than the pain of “cold” calling, so you commit to making calls each and every day. Or at least commit to try. Or try at least some days each week. For a while anyway …

We've all been through all of this before, and guess what? IT DOES NOT WORK! We're still reluctant to make the calls we know we need to. So what's the deal? Are you just “bad” at calling? Is it that calling only works for some but not most of us?

The answer, of course, is that calling can work for any one of us. It's a matter of finding the right “key” (s) to open that door of calling success. We need to address why the typical “cold” call is not effective. We'll start with the obvious issue. Calling strangers causes most people some amount of anxiety. Why does it make us feel so anxious and apprehensive? I've found that there are four reasons that cause people to feel anxious about calling. If any one of them exists, anyone would feel anxious about making a call. Here they are:

1) We feel that we sound like a telemarketer. Somewhat unprofessional and / or insincere.

2) We are not sure how to effectively start the call.

3) We are sure how to effectively steer the conversation.

4) We are not sure how to comfortably and professionally end the conversation.

Let's look at each of these issues separately and find out how to put them behind us.

1) We feel that we sound like a telemarketer

What makes a telemarketer sound like a telemarketer? Think about it for a moment. You know the drill – we've all received telemarketing calls both at home and at work. What is it about that call that marks it as a telemarketing call? There are several factors that make us cringe at these calls. First off, telemarketers are either overly friendly to start with or they sound completely disinterested. Both make the caller sound insincere. Secondly, telemarketers talk and rarely ask. The call is all about their product and service and not about the person who received the call. Thirdly, they usually plow through their script, not allowing us to get a word in edgewise. And fourth, it's always evident that they're reading a script to you rather than speaking to you as a person. Those four factors generally mark the call as a telemarketing call.

How do you keep people from viewing you as a telemarketer? Simple. Do not do those things!

a) When you call, do not be over enthusiastic and do not be disinterested or matter-of-fact in your tone. Speak in an appropriate, natural tone and manner.

b) As you get into your conversation, ask questions. Be consultative. Remember, this is about your prospect, not about you.

c) & d) Practice your script so it is as conversational as possible. I always write out my script so it reads as naturally as possible. It's usually not perfect writing but it is always natural and easy to say.

2) We are not sure how to start the call

The thing that annoys most of us when a telemarketer calls is that they dive right into some sales pitch without even knowing whatever we have the time or interest in hearing about what they have to say. The most effective way to be viewed as a professional is to act like one. As an example, here is the way I start my marketing calls:

“Bob? Good Morning. This is Michael Beck. How are you today? (Pause) Bob, I'm an executive coach (pause – I want to make sure they understand what I just said) and have worked with insurance managers for a number of years. Do you have a few minutes to chat? ”

As simple as the above exchange is, it serves a number of important purposes:

a) In short order, I've told him who I am and what I do.

b) I said his name two times. (People love to hear their own name. Read “How to Win Friends and Influence People”)

c) I began to establish credibility. (“I've worked with insurance managers for a number of years.”)

d) I asked permission to take some of his time.

3) We are not sure how to steer the conversation

We ended the start of our phone call with a question: “Do you have a few minutes to chat?” There can only be three answers to that question – “Yes”, “No”, or “What is this about?”

– If the answer is Yes, you're off and running.

– If the answer is No, you could say you'll call back or ask when a good time to call back would be, but why not use the opportunity to get more information? Since you've already told him who you are and what you do, why not ask: “Would you like me to call back?” The answer will either be Yes or No! Either way you should be happy. Either you'll know not to waste your time trying to reach a disinterested prospect or you'll have a certain pre-qualified prospect on your list!

– If the response is, “What is this about?”, Have a short explanation of why you've called prepared, something like: “I wanted to share some of what I do, find out what your initiatives are, and see if what I do could help you reach your goals faster and easier. ”

Pretty straightforward is not it? …

If you approach the meat of your conversation in a way to see if you can help your prospect, rather than sell them something, it's quite easy to have a stress-free, effective conversation.

No matter what the goal of your call is, at some point the discussion needs to draw to a close with a “trigger” question. “Can we set up an appointment to go over this in more detail?” Egypt “Here's what we should do next …”

4) We are not sure how to end the conversation

How you handle the end of your conversation will determine you well protect your attitude. We ended the middle of our conversation with a question (see a pattern here?). There can only be three answers to your question – “Yes”, “I need more information”, or “No”

– If the answer is Yes, again you're off and running.

– If the answer is a request for more information, have a simple process ready to provide prospects with additional information and / or credibility-building materials, get a commitment for a follow-up call, and set it up as an appointment in both your calendar and their. Do not leave the follow-up as a vague process. Inotherwords get a phone appointment and avoid endless voicemails and phone tag.

– If the answer is No, my preference is to thank them for their time and candidor, ask them if they'd like me to give them a call back in 6-12 months, and then hang up!

Let me close with a couple of perspectives that have served me and others well over the years.

One perspective is that if you find that any one prospect means a great deal to you, it's a sure sign that you are not finding enough prospects. Put in more effort. Then everything else takes care of itself.

The other perspective that I have found helpful pertains to rejection, and is illustrated in this story:

Imagine you have a recipe for fantastic chocolate chip cookies and bake them to perfection. They're absolutely delicious! You take a tray of these cookies around to people, asking them whether they would like one. The first person takes one and loves it. The next person you offer the cookies to declines – they are full, do not like chocolate, or do not want sweets. Here is the key question: “Does the fact that the second person did not want your cookies affect the quality of the cookies or the skill of the baker?” Clearly the answer is no. Their decision does not have anything to do with the cookies or the baker. Their decision was about what's going on in your life, not yours.

When you create an effective phone process – knowing how to get into and out of conversations – and understand that a “No” really is not about you at all, calling becomes more comfortable and it becomes easier to make many more calls. The result? Financial Success!

Copyright 2006 Exceptional Leadership, Inc.

Stop Selling Insurance!

Whenever I conduct a workshop or give a talk to a group of agents, I ask how many of them are in the business of selling insurance. Inevitably about 25% raise their hands. My response to them is, “If you're in the business of selling insurance you'll have a hard time succeeding because NO ONE…

Whenever I conduct a workshop or give a talk to a group of agents, I ask how many of them are in the business of selling insurance. Inevitably about 25% raise their hands. My response to them is, “If you're in the business of selling insurance you'll have a hard time succeeding because NO ONE WANTS TO BUY INSURANCE!”

No one wants to buy insurance. Not homeowner's, auto, life, health or disability … They only want what the insurance provides. They only want the benefit. Believe me, if people could get the benefits that they wanted in some other way, they would. So, … if you “sell insurance” success will be tough. On the other hand, if you're in the business of helping people it's a different story. Now, you may protest that the distinction is simply a matter of semantics, but there are fundamental differences between having a sales focus and having a helping focus.

This difference affects pretty much everything a person does along with how they do it. If they have a sales focus, their focus is on making the sale! Everything from the initial contact to the presentation to the close to the follow-up is done from a sales perspective. Marketing, contacting, presentation, and follow-up are from a product and / or company perspective. On the other hand, a person who is focused on helping rather than selling will understand that the service they provide (helping) is what matters and the insurance they offer is simply the means to achieve the solution they create.

Let me illustrate what I mean. Here's how a sales-focused person contacts: “Mr. Jones, my name is Bob Smith and I am with the ABC Insurance Company.We have a full line of products to meet your needs. show you our products and explain how they can solve your problems. ” The focus of the entire exchange is on selling their insurance products. In contrast, a person focused on helping, contacts this way: “Ms. Jones, my name is Sue Smith and I help people protect their assets / reduce employee turnover / leverage their financial security. Is that something of interest to you?” They understand that they are a professional offering help, rather than a salesperson selling products.

There are many other distinctions related to taking a professional, helping approach over a selling approach, and they have significant implications. Professionals help rather than sell. They have clients instead of customers / policyholders. They build relationships instead of conducting transactions. They offer solutions instead of sales. They attract clients instead of pursuing customers. People buy from them instead in being sold. They find cooperative opportunities instead of competitive obstacles. Think of the implications from these distinctions. We've always heard that people do business with people like like, and people like people who help. You've heard the term “trusted advisor”? This is what we're talking about. It occurs when you shift from selling to helping. Imagine having clients who are eager to refer others to you.

When you adopt the attitude of a professional and take the focus off the products, guess who the focus falls on? You! You become the service that clients buy. You become valuable. You become a resource. You become an expert. Clients do not look to insurance policies for answers, they look to you! One of the greatest challenges in arriving at this mindset is becoming clear as to what makes you unique so you can communicate it effectively to your prospects and clients. I often work with my clients on clarifying their purpose and identifying their unique strengths so that their marketing and leadership is effective.

An interesting challenge we face is that we tend to downplay our strengths, especially if they come easily to us. We tend to take them for granted and we tend to assume that everyone has the same (or better) abilities. A very revealing exercise I often ask clients to do is to ask five people they know for five experiences that make them excellent at what they do. (My suggestion is to ask people who are not family. Ask clients, friends, and associates.) You may be surprised at the results. I find that the responses fall into three categories. 1) You'll hear things about you that you and everyone else already knew and will thereby get confirmation, 2) You'll hear things that you already knew but did not think anyone else noticed, giving you new insights as to what people notice and value, and 3) You'll hear things that you never knew about yourself; things that never occurred to you to be a trait that others would value.

These hits and insights are the things that set you apart from all the others out there. These are the things that cause people to do business with you. These unique hits will help you be more effective as you contact new prospects, present your ideas, and generate referrals.

I find that when people are not clear about what sets them apart and are not clear about their purpose (In other words, why they do what they do) they end up leading with their products and their company. They rely on the strength and credibility of others instead of leading with themselves. The goal of every professional should be to become credible in their own right. That does not necessitously become the foremost expert in their field, but it does mean becoming excellent at what they do as a professional – helping others. It means finding new ways to help. It may even mean helping in ways other than with insurance. You can become a resource for information or a networking source of contacts within your community. You can offer advice in other areas of business or life (other professionals are more than happy to provide you with article and insights you can pass on).

The whole point of this is to stop selling insurance and start helping people. It's been said that people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care, and it's true. The interesting convergence is that when you take your focus off of selling and place it on helping, you'll attract more clients, generate more referrals, and sell more insurance. Life is good …

Selling Insurance Online – How to Bowl a Strike

I started selling life insurance on the internet in January of 2001. Direct marketing life insurance was a fairly new concept at that time, so gradually I'm becoming a person people go to when they are trying to decide whether to get into this career. Recently, someone went so far as to ask me for…

I started selling life insurance on the internet in January of 2001. Direct marketing life insurance was a fairly new concept at that time, so gradually I'm becoming a person people go to when they are trying to decide whether to get into this career. Recently, someone went so far as to ask me for ten practical steps to establishing a successful internet life insurance business. Ten steps. How does one convey the vision it takes to succeed, in ten steps? How can the steps be practical without becoming drudgery?

I started subbing on a bowling league in January of 2005. Some simple tips offered by my teams helped me discover the thrill of making strikes. Whether those ten pins scatter like buckshot, or trickle down like dominoes, strikes make you feel great. I found myself excited to repeat the steps that enabled me to bowl strikes. And suddenly, my ten-pin / ten-step analogy was born.

Making life insurance sales online feet at least as exciting as making strikes, and has the added bonus of making you money! Having a goal that rewards you emotionally is what will enable you to follow, with enthusiasm, these ten steps to success. So here are ten pins to get down to experience the thrilling achievement of consistently making “strikes” in the direct marketing life insurance business.

1) Understand the game. Selling insurance online is not the same as selling in an office. I have heard many traditional life insurance agents say that the hard part used to getting someone in the door, the easy part was making the sale. The easy part of selling insurance online is getting the client “in the door”; the hard part is making to the end of the process with a check in your pocket.

So what are online leads like? That can depend on how they came to you. If they were using a search engine that led them to a web site where they filled out requests for a quote or application, they are most likely motivated to buy. They are already your customers, and you had best serve them efficiently and expediently, because they will go on to the next web site, if you do not!

Perhaps your leads were prompted to request a quote as the result of reading or hearing an ad. Others are “incentive” leads, which means that they've filled out a quote request form as a hoop to jump through in order to get some type of other reward. You may think that kind of lead is not serious, and some are not. However, most are asked to give enough info that the truly uninterested ones will usually bow out before their form is submitted.

You've got to put yourself in their shoes to understand how to approach them. If you do not answer internet life insurance leads promptly, they may get the feeling the ad or form was insignificant, and blow you off. Some will see the ad or form as a “nudge”; you'll want to insure them that you can easily help them get the coverage they have been putting off. Some incentive leads will hear you out because they know every prize has a price. They may be pleasantly surprised to find that they've received a good insurance price along with their other prize!

It takes some conversation to get to know your leads and to build their trust. But you also have to respect their time, because people use the Internet to save time and fuss. Without they have complicated needs, it's best to start by offering the simplest solutions possible. No matter how your leads came to you, they did ask. So you have every right and every chance in the world to make that sale. And you WILL make strikes with internet life insurance leads.

2) Know the rules. You've got to have knowledge of all the products being offered at your fingertips to be successful in internet life insurance sales. Leads often are not willing to wait for answers, so you have to give them as much as you can on the first call. If you need to delay the quote due to needing medical records or having to first obtain a preliminary offer based on their health, it's important to explain that if anyone else is giving them a quote without that step, that quote will most likely be wrong and could end up with a blot on their MIB.

Ordinarily, you will find the best quotes for those with perfect health from about 3-5 competitive carriers (rated at least A by AM Best) that use traditionalwriting. Likewise, the best quotes for those with health problems will come from about 3 impaired risk carriers. You'll want to know which 3 No Exam life insurance carriers offer the best rates for those of good health, and about 3 No Exam life insurance options for those of poor health. Those choices will more than satisfactorily meet almost every need, and anyone can learn the underwriting guidelines, ratings, etc. of a dozen carriers. This also helps you approach your leads from a point of wisdom, building their trust in you and enabling you to serve them most responsibly.

Along with understanding thewriting guidelines, you need to get familiar with how each carrier works, ie whether they require a preliminary offer, whether the app can be filled out online, etc. You also need to know what health conditions are best met by what carriers. This sounds like a lot, but within 6 months, you'll have it down. Knowing the rules of the direct marketing life insurance game will help you get many more strikes.

3) Have good equipment. Good bowlers know they will get more strikes with the right ball, shoes, etc. It is essential to getting sales to have a well equipped office. An all in one fax machine (fax, copier, and scanner) is great for a small office. A phone headset is a must with today's online apps. It's nice to have an auxiliary color printer, but mainly using a black laser printer will save cost. I do not waste one sheet of paper on a lead that is not at least somewhat interested. Therefore, a good computer and some way to organize leads is essential. It's to your advantage if your lead provider offers software designed to manage your leads. If not, My Documents, an online calendar, and / or Mail Merge can help. It's important to get a system set up to systematically keep track of your leads, because it takes lots of leads to make lots of money, and otherwise you'll get overwhelmed.

I would have business cards and stationery printed for the apps you send out by mail, and to include with policies. You have very few chances to make an impression, and your mail is one way to make one. Use a phone with Voice Mail. Have a toll free phone and fax number. Be sure you have Adobe Acrobat Professional. Try to have an email address that identifies you with insurance. Have a web site, if possible. Good equipment is not only practical, but identifies you as professional, and that is a big part of consistently making strikes.

4) Invest in the game. You have to go bowling to get strikes, and you have to work leads to make sales. That means setting aside the time and / or money to work at least several leads per day. It will take at least 2 months before commissions start coming in, and about 6 months until you start getting some good stats. But at that point, you need to start keeping close track of how much time / money you are spending and learning, per lead. You will continuously increase your profits if you commit to increase your lead volume as you are able, increase your average premiums and application placement rates (this will come with experience), and control your expenses.

Most good agents hire assistants after a while, because they see that they can make much more by SELLING more. Assistants free you up to sell. You can get to the point where you do not want to do anything but sell in this business, because your time so literally, is money. However, you've got to be able to follow up on the leads you have, keep track of your responsibilities, fix your computer, pay your bills, and all that other stuff that goes with your own business. So keep your finger on that other stuff, but have someone else do as much as possible, and aim for those strikes.

5) Start off on the right foot. Bowlers disagree as to to approach the lane on the left or right foot, and internet life insurance agents disagree whether to first contact your lead by email or phone! But if an introductory email is sent to your leads as soon as they are assigned to you, there is no doubt that a phone call is the best action to take after that. Your leads are expecting a call, and you become a person to them so much faster by phone than email. You can ask the questions that enable you to give a valid quote, and ideally, you will make the sale on that very first phone call, app and all.

If a lead will not answer the phone within 24 hours, I go ahead and send an email, telling them I tried to call and would like to visit with them to find out their wishes and give them an accurate quote. If there is no response to that email or subsequent phone call attempts, I'll send them a second email with a guess at a quote, based on what info they have wave. That is usually the email that will draw out leads who will only respond by email; they generally will not respond to later emails if they do not respond to that one.

Calling can go on longer, because you might just keep missing people, and eventually catch them at home. However, you'll want to make a rule of thumb as to how many messages you'll leave, because after that they might see your efforts to contact them as harassment. Getting a hold of your leads by phone within minutes of receiving their contact information is ideal, and the very best approach to getting strikes.

6) Come from a good angle. You get a strike by aiming at the strike pocket. Internet leads have many motivations that can form that pocket. Some are:

a) looking for a competitive price on life insurance

b) looking for a price they can afford

c) being unable to find life insurance anywhere else

d) having some life event that caused them to think about life insurance

e) wanting life insurance but not liking to meet with an agent

f) wanting life insurance but not wanting any hassle (eg exam)

g) wondering if what they have is their best deal (most do this with Term, while ignoring their UL which could be their biggest albatross)

h) hoping their request will convince their spouse / parent / etc to apply

i) curiosity

How do you find that pocket? You will lose them in the first seconds if you do not approach them from the right angle. I ask for the person by first name, introduce myself by my full name, and say that I am responding to their request for a quote for life insurance from our web site. That intro, done in a friendly, conversational tone, almost always opens the door to a response, and that is the first goal, just to get them to respond.

If their response is, “I do not recall filling that out”, I usually ask if maybe their pouse did it for them, and give them a little info about themselves so they know that someone that knew them had to fill out the form (but not their health condition). Any response is good! Any response can lead to a sale. And if their response is no, you can thank them and go on to the next ones who really want your service and products. You have nothing to apologize for in answering their requests with the best there is to offer!

Once they respond, pick up your cues from them in chatting for a little while. If they do not start chatting, I say something like, “I needed a little more information from you in order to find the best quote”. And I start out with something very basic. Eg if they've checked diabetes, I'll say, “I see you marked that you have diabetes. I'll stay on that, being professional but also trying to convey empathy with my tone of voice, until we've covered that (or until they give a sign that they do not want to talk about it any more … you can always go back to it). If no health conditions are checked, I'll usually start out asking how much insurance they would like me to quote, then go on to risk factors. Be sensitive, respectful, yet direct in guiding them to the details you need to know in order to quote them correctly. We do not one a favor by avoiding delicate questions if the application is later declined (or worse, payment of the death benefit is contested) due to our reticence to ask what the carrier wants to know.

In that conversation, you find out their strike pocket, and appeal to that. Hopefully, you can either convince them to wait until you get a preliminary quote back to them, or fill out an app right there on line. You might even find yourself selling life insurance online to a family member.

At the end of the call, I always tell them I'll send them an email with all my contact info, even if I've just made the sale.

7) Follow through. Once you've obtained the application, you need to submit it and follow the carriers' guidelines to issue (your brokerage could be a big help in this). However, you also need to guide your clients through, so you do not lose them in the process. I send emails to my clients with applications inwriting about weekly, just to let them know how things are going. The minute you find out about requirements, use that as an excuse to touch base and let your clients know you are still on top of things (or as an excuse to find out what's going on with them). Following through will ensure that the strike is made!

8) 9) 10) Do not give up strikes for taps. The 8, 9, and 10 balls are the most common “taps” in bowling. A tap is a pin that stays standing even when you hit the strike pocket. Likewise, up to 3 out of every 10 direct marketing life insurance leads you get may not respond affirmatively to you, if at all. You can try to pick them up, but do not give up strikes to do it. You knock down those first 7 pins / tips to selling insurance online, and the strikes will fly!

How Do Agents Get Life Insurance Leads

Life insurance companies are taking advantage of the Internet by having a website where customers can request free quotes. Even though you are shopping for life insurance, this also gives the agents leads that they can follow up on, once you submit a request, the agent that picks it up will send you an email…

Life insurance companies are taking advantage of the Internet by having a website where customers can request free quotes. Even though you are shopping for life insurance, this also gives the agents leads that they can follow up on, once you submit a request, the agent that picks it up will send you an email giving you a quote. He / She may follow up on the lead by making a call to you a few days after you receive the quote.

Making a living in the life insurance business is hard work. Agents have to constantly search for good life insurance leads that will bring them in new customers. They make a commission on each life insurance policy that they sell. They do not usually go door-to-door selling the policies and they can not just sit in their offices waiting for clients to come through the door. They actively pursue all the leads hiring that some of them will pay off. More than probably the quote you receive is the lowest life insurance rate that the company offers.

When you request quotes from at least three life insurance companies, you want to get the lowest rate. When the agents call based on the leads you supply, you can barter with them saying you are not interested because you have a lower quote. If they really want your business, the agent may redo the quote and come back with an even lower rate.

Another way that agents get life insurance leads is through other customers. One customer may tell a friend or family member about the great rate he / she has gotten from a company. Then this person gives the agent a call regarding obtaining life insurance and purchases a policy. It's like a never ending cycle. One person tells another and that person tells someone else and so on.

If you're a life insurance agent then life insurance leads are your lifeblood.

Independent Insurance Agents Unite! Insurance and Financial Discussion Forums are all the Rage

The online discussion forum has emerged as the medium of choice for many Americans. Most recently, forum platforms like vBulletin, Infopop, and Snitz have enabled the novice webmaster to host and moderate their own forum. One of the areas that needs this type of medium the most is the Insurance and Financial Industry. To give…

The online discussion forum has emerged as the medium of choice for many Americans. Most recently, forum platforms like vBulletin, Infopop, and Snitz have enabled the novice webmaster to host and moderate their own forum. One of the areas that needs this type of medium the most is the Insurance and Financial Industry.

To give you a little background, the online discussion forum is an updated version of the old bulletin board of the nineties. Members can join, post, and browse topics at will. Free speech and a candid mood makes it all the more enjoyable. Some discussion forums even allow members to chat amongstst themselves (is it a chick or a pea?) In private areas or send “PMs” (private messages) to each other if they do not want to share it among the other members of the forum . The thing that makes these more modern forums better is the fact that new posts and replies to posts are immediately sent to the subscribers email inbox.

So why is this good for the Insurance and Financial Advisor Industry? Well, there are several reasons. One is the fact that people out there there answers but are often intimidated by Insurance consultants and the like. Clients often do not want to be solicited to as a result of their simple curiosity … but they still need answers to critical and often confusing Insurance and Financial Related topics.

Take the Life Insurance Buyer for instance. Often times, they get on the internet, compare quotes and rates for term life insurance, whole life insurance, or universal life insurance only to get more confused. These clients need a way to communicate on an impartial, and sometimes anonymous basis with a professional who can help. What fuels the fire is the idea that these “window shoppers” may turn into clients for those Industry Professionals who earn that client's business through helpful assistance.

The other half of the public that participates in the forum format is the Insurance Agent or Financial Advisor. These members will answer questions posted at large to the forum and help the client with their questions. Insurance Agents and Financial Advisors (such as Bankers, Investment Brokers, and Mortgage Brokers) can also share information among themselves.

All the while, this online discussion format creates a virtual database of information ranging from investment issues, to health insurance issues, to life insurance issues. The forums are “searchable” and open for all to view and make use of.

Lastly, a benefit of these online discussion forums for insurance and financial advisors is the idea that members (and guests) can advertise their service. Advertising on a forum comes in the forum of “links” to the member's website, hyperlinks to their email address, and paid advertising links and banners that can be prominently placed by the host of the forum.

So if you ever have the need to discuss your insurance, financial, or investing situation, look for an online discussion forum – they're becoming increasingly popular!

How to REALLY Save on Your Insurance – Confessions of an Insurance Agent

I've had it! After 19 years in the business, I'm tired of the lies, the misrepresentations, half-truths and down-right mean people. “Life is too short!” No, I'm not simply talking about the clients and potential clients who have secured me their “clean driving record” or the “I've never had an accident” claims. The distortions come…

I've had it! After 19 years in the business, I'm tired of the lies, the misrepresentations, half-truths and down-right mean people. “Life is too short!” No, I'm not simply talking about the clients and potential clients who have secured me their “clean driving record” or the “I've never had an accident” claims.

The distortions come directly from my industry as well: Credit-scoring has been a fiasco that very few companies will discuss. Insurance companies have been sold a bill of goods by third-party credit agencies, and bought the fish store, hook-link-and sinker. Many companies are more concerned about the bottom line than their clients. Fortunately for all of us, the trend for using credit scoring is slowly eroding – it's costing the companies a ton of money – and they're not seeing the profit results they were promised.

So, I'll make a deal with you. If you're honest with me … I'll be honest with you. I'll share with you the inside-skinny about the insurance companies, agencies, and my industry as well. Okay, sometimes this is not a fair deal for me. I mean, I'm here in Indiana and we'll probably never meet. Just the same, if you agree to be honest with your own agent and insurance company in your state, I'll consider us even.

So, what does this little tirade have to do with saving money on your insurance? Honesty. Pure and simple. If you can be honest with your agent, he or she will bend over backwards to get you the best deal. Chances are, they're as tired of the lies as I am. Your honesty will be a refreshing reply in their chaotic day. You will find yourself exactly the type of client they've been seeking their own career. If you can not be honest with your current agent for whatever reason (family, friend, you do not trust them, etc.), find another agent. Because, I've gotta tell you … if they do not trust you , they'll spend their time, money and resources on the clients that they do trust .

Surety Bonds – Little Relief for Homeowners

When it comes to home remodeling or renovation process going on in few portions of your home, normally the first time a homeowner becomes well-known with the term “surety bond” is when problems with the contractor have come up. It's also a time when the homeowner may find that the general contractor has no liability…

When it comes to home remodeling or renovation process going on in few portions of your home, normally the first time a homeowner becomes well-known with the term “surety bond” is when problems with the contractor have come up. It's also a time when the homeowner may find that the general contractor has no liability insurance and now it's the only surety bond to look for help in recovering damages such as shoddy workmanship or desertion of the project. Unfortunately, the news is not good for this process. Moreover, the point that should be considered is a surety bond is not an insurance policy but rather an assurance whereby the surety guarantees that the contractor will carry out the obligation that is stated in the bond. There are a number of bond types present but for the ratione of home remodeling as well as improvements and there are three bonds that would be useful for applying are Contractor Licensing Bonds, Performance Bonds and Payment Bonds.

At first, address both the Payment and Performance bonds, as they are the least exploited by homeowners in their home improvement projects typically and carry out a little more protection for homeowners. Generally, Performance Bonds warranty the completion of the project as per the building plans and specifications as well. If the job is abandoned or the work is offensive, the bonding company has the alternative of hiring another contractor to complete the work or settling for damages. Payment Bonds assures the owner that there is no liens for labor will be filed against the property as payment is guaranteed. In both cases the homeowner pays a percentage of the contract price for acquaining the surety bond and it becomes the obligee of the surety. There are numerous complexities to all these bonds and are not covered here that you would want to know if considering either of these bonds.

The most common surety bond homeowners who get implicated with this process is the Contractor License Bond, typically as a result of the contractor breaching some aspects of the Contractors License Laws. The work of contractors are to post some form of security deposit obligatory with the Contractors State License Board and surety bonds are also used for this purpose typically despite cash or certificate of deposits may get posted in California. Moreover, the amount of the surety bond for general contractors in California is $ 10,000. That's 10K for all the jobs the contractor has undering, and not per project. Very often damages per project go above the whole number of dollar amount of the bond; let it become available to the multitudes on your own.

So once that bond gets depleted, the contractor should renew the particular bond as well as pays back the money lost to the surety in order to keep his or her license. And if a complaint has been filed with the Contractors' State License Board, an independent investigation will be connected by the Board or regulatory agency in addition to the surety company for determining if any violations occurred. Based upon the violations, the contractor may quote and there is a possibility of losing his / her license. However, it's not a speedy process by any means and can be annoying to the harmed homeowners who are not well-known with the process but needing to get on with repairs.

Insurance Agents Effective Succession Planning 7 Top Tips to Ensure Improved Business Results

Many insurance agents are retiring and through succession planning redirecting their clients new agents. These tips may help to ensure a successful transition that leads to improved business results through sustainable business growth. Communicate your retirement earlier. Give your clients enough time to accept the transition and allow another agent time to personally contact your…

Many insurance agents are retiring and through succession planning redirecting their clients new agents. These tips may help to ensure a successful transition that leads to improved business results through sustainable business growth.

  1. Communicate your retirement earlier. Give your clients enough time to accept the transition and allow another agent time to personally contact your clients.
  2. Provide a mechanism to allow clients to stay or to leave to another agent. Since the bottom line is not to lose a client for the insurance carrier, provide a strategy that allows the client to freely change agents within the same insurance company.
  3. Relationships are the key. With all the insurance companies offering similar if not the same products, keeping clients are all about relationships. Working those relationships through individual calls, individual handwriting notes to full color stationery (not black and white form letters) are just examples to building and reinforcing existing relationships.
  4. Support staff are a key to customer loyalty. The support staff within any insurance agency is many times the reason why the clients stay loyal. These front line customer service representatives are the ones who take payments, check policies and perform the necessary day to day business tasks.
  5. Keep policies or procedures consistent. When an agent retires and his or her business is succeeded to another agent, make sure all policies are consistent and again well communicated. Changing policies in mid stream will only confuse, frustrate and potentially irritate existing clients.
  6. Be professional. During the success process, stay professional. Refrain from blaming other agents or individuals for clients not wanting to stay with you.
  7. Relationships are not transferable like pieces of paper. Since relationships are all about people, they are not easily transferred as a car title or deed to a house. Presuming because the insurance carrier has not changed, the current client will follow the new agent is a fatal presumption.

These tips have been developed after personally experiencing all of the ways not to ensure a successful insurance agent success. What surprised me is the audit of the new agent expecting the clients from the retiring agent to readily transfer their relationships. This new agent who was a previous regional manager for the same insurance carrier ignored the golden rule in today's marketplace that selling regardless whether it's insurance, manufacturing, professional services, retail or technology is all about relationships.

Insurance Agency Marketing Plan Expectations

The job of marketing is to promote your business and attract prospects. What's done with those prospects is the job of the sales force. When measuring the success of your marketing plan, do not focus on sales figures, but responses, inquiries and name recognition. Here are some tangible ways to measure the success of your…

The job of marketing is to promote your business and attract prospects. What's done with those prospects is the job of the sales force. When measuring the success of your marketing plan, do not focus on sales figures, but responses, inquiries and name recognition.
Here are some tangible ways to measure the success of your marketing program.

1. Effective marketing establishes your unique brand and selling proposition.

It clearly differentiates you from your competition. Effective branding of your unique selling proposition. What makes you different from your competition? What keeps your current customers with you? What would entice new customers in your door?

2. Focus on your current customers first!

Current customers are the most profitable. They can also act as your sales force. Testimonials and referrals from customers are far more powerful than any advertising you can do. Treat them right. Make them feel special. Establish an ongoing, meaningful dialogue with them.

3. Top-of-the-mind awareness is critical.

Customers are constantly bombarded by advertising and messages from every angle. Make sure your name is not forgotten. For, when the decision is ready to be made, they'll go with a company whose name is familiar to them.

4. Know who your prospect customers are, communicate with them regularly to develop a program for lead generation.

This is not an overnight process. Business owners must think long-term. Programs such as direct mail may generate leads, but it will not close the sale.

5. Back up your marketing claims with real action.

Do not make promises you can not deliver on. Make sure your business is set up and ready to handle the business coming in the door in the way you've promised.

6. Think long term.

A special sale or coupon may get bargain-hunters in the door, but for profitable business, you need loyal customers. Make sure your brand is solid, that your employees deliver on the brand, and consistently communicate your unique selling proposition.

7. Stay customer-focused.

It's not what you can do, it's how you can meet your customers' wants and needs. Make sure you understand what they need and want before marketing your services.

Insurance Companies and Telephone Marketing

Have you ever wondered how insurance companies go about marketing their insurance policies? Aside from a company Web site, advertisements in the classifieds, and commercials? Many insurance companies get leads – prospective clients – by telephone marketing. Many insurance companies use what are known as call center phone systems. These systems call prospect clients in…

Have you ever wondered how insurance companies go about marketing their insurance policies? Aside from a company Web site, advertisements in the classifieds, and commercials? Many insurance companies get leads – prospective clients – by telephone marketing.

Many insurance companies use what are known as call center phone systems. These systems call prospect clients in various different ways. There are five basic call center phone systems that insurance companies can use when marketing their insurance policies, but they cover two main ways of marketing to prospective clients. Insurance companies can use auto-dialing systems when an actual insurance agent is calling prospective clients but uses the phone system to dial the client's number. Insurance companies also use broadcast marketing methods, when prospective clients are called but are not addressed by an actual insurance agent; rather, they are play a prerecorded message.

While these telephone calls may sometimes feel like telemarketer harassment, they're really great marketing tools for insurance companies. Using these marketing tools can help insurance companies gather information about people residing in a certain area, ie, demographic information, which will help them better plan their marketing strategies for that region.

These telephone calls can be beneficial to the prospective client, as well. Prospective clients who receive these telephone calls are not being harassed; they're being given the opportunity to find more information about a particular insurance company, more information about how that particular insurance company can help with their insurance needs, and even schedule call backs for the times when they really are interested, but just don 't have the time to talk on the telephone.

So, the next time you get a telephone call from an insurance company, do not be so quick to hang up. Remember, they are simply marketing their product – insurance policies – just as other businesses market their products. If you are not interested, let the insurance agent know; Egypt, if you're in the middle of dinner, schedule a call back.