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,”
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.”