Agent To Agent Advice

Self-reflection and resolutions are synonymous with the turning of a new year. When considering the ever-changing insurance industry, we are reminded of the need to develop successful strategies to thrive in the challenging economic environment of 2009-2010.

How do independent insurance agents address elusive online consumers, uncertain retention numbers, and aging customers on their books? After an in depth conversation with agent Mike Barr of Barr Insurance Agency, this seasoned agent offered some agent-to-agent advice to provide insight into what has brought his team success in these areas.

Apparently, you don’t need a fancy office, a large CSR team, or even the best rates in the land to successfully sell insurance these days…”At Barr Insurance, we feel that customers choose successful independent agents because the agent responds immediately with competitive rates and natural enthusiasm. I can literally be anywhere in the world as long as I can receive a phone call and respond to my customers as soon as possible.” Barr and his team are positioned to receive calls on their cell phones to get the job done. Many consumers are not aware of the difference between buying a policy from a carrier, captive agent or an independent agent. Barr and his team have immediate access to EZLynx, and keep their carrier logins current so that consumers receive instant live quotes from their agency’s CPLive! (EZLynx website integration)

“Where’s the service?” asks Barr. His agency is structured around sales, service, and retention.
The Barr Insurance team makes sure this shines through with each and every new business opportunity and policy holder call. “We spend whatever time necessary to effectively assist the consumer and we rarely miss a call.” Barr’s advertising budget cannot compete with agencies we all hear on the radio or see on television, but he wins his customers over by providing them a great experience and prompt service.

Barr is licensed to sell insurance in Georgia, but has no problem responding to consumer inquiries whether he’s traveling to New York, California, or even Argentina. He also doesn’t mind answering calls from consumers all across the state of Georgia. He boldly sees every lead as an opportunity to serve a future long-term customer.

Barr sees his role as a provider of a service and feels physical distance between the consumer and the agent is no longer a concern in the mind of a consumer. As long as the agent has the desire to help that consumer with their insurance buying experience, distance should not be an issue. Some agents tend to get in their own way, which hinders them from selling more insurance. If a carrier does not require photos of a property or need additional documentation, why is there a need for in depth investigation? “Do you think Geico® goes out to take a picture of each car?” “Fear and paranoia are part of sales dysfunction,”
explains Barr.

He enjoys his profession and believes an agent and the agency must have passion for what they do in order to be productive and happy. He has seen many consolidations, mergers, acquisitions, and policy changes in the insurance world. He takes everything in stride by creating a business philosophy that continues to motivate his team to produce and perform at a high level.

Online consumers are in need of instant gratification, which is evident in the way direct writers are gobbling up portions of the insurance market. With a straight forward approach to online consumers, Barr’s team has excelled in maximizing the use of EZLynx’ ICQ (Integrated Carrier Questions) and CPLive features to quickly respond to consumers. Their expert salesmanship and service complete the phenomenal package.

Barr says, “A web lead is like the phone ringing. You’ve got to follow up in minutes! These consumers want insurance now.” Because the majority of agents do not have online binding ability, service strategies adopted by Barr are becoming common to capture the attention of online consumers while the lead is hot. Barr unselfishly offers advice to his fellow colleagues with the hope that it inspires them to see and renew their joy for selling insurance this year. He believes that all customers want is for someone to help them with their insurance needs. Consumers may search for insurance online these days, but the value of the independent agent remains the same. “This is the best gig I can find in the world,” Barr says proudly. “I look forward to Monday morning.”


Texas Agent Touts ROI Due to EZLynx

Flower Mound, TX, November 17, 2009 – When you’ve been in the business for more than three decades, it could be difficult to make the adjustment to today’s drastic industry changes. Customers know enough about insurance to be dangerous, and instead of looking for insurance in the phone book, they search endlessly online. Independent agencies are being outspent in advertising by companies with deep pockets as well. How do you grow your business, maintain a website, advertise, retain current customers, and find an hour or two to hit the green? An agent has priorities!

Tommy Thompson, President of Southwest Insurance Marketing Group, feels confident his agency has the formula down to a science. “We don’t wait for the business to come to us,” says Thompson. Southwest spent time building name recognition in their community and surrounding areas through multiple channels. After several months of creating their website, the agency strategically added their website link to the bottom of their email signatures to be included with each new email. It didn’t matter if the email was directed to a customer, family member, or friend. Every email was an opportunity to expose the Southwest website and attract new business. “Our website is the path of least resistance. Customers these days are not always eager to talk to you on the phone. They can check out the agency website and receive a quote (CPLive®) without feeling like they are being sold to,” explained Thompson. “If they are really interested, the applicant will respond to the email or phone call when we follow up with their quote request.”

Although it took months to set up the agency website, Thompson takes pride in this investment. Southwest easily spent $10,000 a year on print yellow page ads before creating their site, and have already seen valuable return. “People think it comes down to spending money, but it is really important to have a strategy that will work in the current market,” Thompson advises.

Southwest will not work with certain independent companies that write direct to consumers because it believes they will take business from independent agents. Thompson did not mention them by name, but says, “This is a tough business.” There are other companies out there that are driving independent agents out of business. It is hard to develop a sense of community when independent agents are essentially competing amongst themselves for new customers. Understanding the complexities of the insurance industry helps the agency make informed decisions about managing their business.

“We are out of the order-taking business. We used to spend a great deal of time running multiple quotes for customers who were not really ready to purchase a policy. My team and I can now focus on interested applicants while other consumers can use my CPLive® (on the website) to generate quotes.” With updated tools to efficiently manage his business, the Southwest team spends most of its time utilizing their expertise of insurance consultation and providing excellent customer service to his clients. For Thompson, the reward of being an agent is being able to educate the consumer on the value of protecting their family through effective coverage. “The agent is a critical piece of the puzzle when purchasing a policy. How can an agent focus on addressing customer needs when they are chasing down customers who are just shopping for insurance?”

Southwest proudly touts its 90% customer retention, refined website, and search engine optimization plan. “Competitive companies with great technology tend to last much longer than those who don’t adapt to new technology tools.” Thompson experienced the transition from 1970’s to the new millennium, when agents went door to door to sell policies and the extensive time spent on the phone trying to make a sale. “Technology has evolved and I understand the huge role that insurance software and automation has played in our agency.” He feels that utilizing EZLynx® and its live quoting feature for agency websites (CPLive®) makes an agent’s life easier. The independent insurance agent market has gone down in Texas and Thompson attributes his success to maximizing the best insurance software tools available to make his business run smoothly. He has done something right; not just once, but many times over the last thirty eight years. You won’t see him left in cyber dust.

EZLynx Product Family Chart

About Webcetera, L.P.
Webcetera is a leading provider of real-time quoting and insurance software solutions for independent insurance agents and carriers. Its flagship product EZLynx® delivers accurate real-time rate quotes to independent insurance agencies across the United States. As an insurance software provider, Webcetera has focused on empowering both independent agencies, wholesales/MGAs, and insurance companies with the technology they need to grow and compete. Webcetera is a privately-held company. For more information, visit https://www.ezlynx.com or call us toll free at 877-932-2382.