We often seem to state the obvious in these articles. Why? Because the obvious sometimes eludes us as agents and we have to re-focus in order to get our priorities straight.
For instance –
1. When do personal lines insurance buyers want a quote when they call or visit your agency?
2. If we take information from the prospect and promise to call them as soon as we have a quote prepared, what do you think they will do as soon as we hang up the phone?
The answers, of course, are; 1. Immediately. and 2. They will call another insurance entity for a quote!
Unless your agency only writes personal lines as an accommodation to commercial customers, your first priority in your Personal Lines Department is to grow. Of course, that means satisfying the needs and requirements of your current customers. That fact does not bear repeating – but the needs of most existing customers are few. Service workload is a function of a large volume of clients, some of whom need policy changes or answers to billing questions. We know that the average agent loses 10% of their personal lines customers each year and the very good agents lose somewhat less. Regardless, growth in personal lines is the key to profit and comes only if we satisfy more prospects each year.
Our research shows that the most successful agents (and direct writers) are those who can take information over the phone and provide a quote RIGHT NOW!. Of course, the quote will be conditional on the accuracy of the information given. But personal lines is one of the true commodities in our marketplace. Treated as a commodity, all we need are a variety of carriers and tiers to satisfy the needs of 75% of the callers whose rates are in the middle of the competitive range or below. Statistically, this formula of markets, underwriting tiers and rates will permit you to write a fair number of those policies quoted IF your personal lines representatives are trained to SELL, rather than just to quote.
The four requirements to generate a successful personal lines sales organization is:
1. Carriers, products and underwriting tiers that can satisfy the needs of 75% of the prospects reached,
2. Rating structures in the lower half of the competitive marketplace (it is very difficult to sell the highest priced brand in a commodity market without some point of differentiation that we have not seen in the insurance industry),
3. Representatives trained in telephone sales techniques, and
4. Availability of REAL TIME QUOTES.
Success is geometrically tuned to these four conditions. Those agents who plan and implement programs to achieve all four conditions will grow FOUR TIMES as fast as an agent with only one of the conditions met. By the way, having any of these conditions met “some of the time” invalidates that condition.
Most agencies will find that ZERO TIME SERVICE is possible already, but requires a change in mind-set and attitude in the agency beginning with the agency owner. The most impressive quote call we made recently (during one of our surveys) took almost 30 minutes as the representative politely and sequentially asked us all of the questions necessary to underwrite and rate our coverages. They then put us on hold for less than one minute while they confirmed the quote (they entered it to the rating system as we responded to their questions) and provided us the quote with written confirmation. Of course, all was conditional on verification of information, but, presumably, we called for a quote, not for a call-back.
You can bet that the department was staffed with at least one full time PL Sales Representative (paid on incentive) who was trained to hold on to us as a prospect as if we were gold nuggets. Their results were not measured by how many calls were made, but by their “Hit Ratio” of written-to-quoted. That’s why they asked us about all other lines of insurance during our conversation. In the end, we were quoted auto, homeowners and umbrella.
Consider making the commitment to ZERO TIME SERVICE within your personal lines sales department. You will find the result well-substantiate the cost of sales training (yes, training is mandatory to properly train telephone representatives) and the extra time taken with each prospect. Of course, one part of the training will be in call control and identification of serious buyers as opposed to price shoppers. If you tell the prospect that you can handle the entire transaction immediately, but will need 15 minutes to 1/2 hour of their time to gather information and generate a quote, some will refuse – these are the price shoppers. They want the price but are not willing to make the time commitment. If you are willing to commit your time to provide Zero Time Service and the prospect is not, you are not looking at a serious buyer.