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Seven Traits of Great Employees

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, April 01, 2014
Updated: Friday, March 28, 2014

Seven Traits of Great Employees
By Donna Gray


At this year’s AIMS Society PRO-to-PRO Executive Retreat, The Omnia Group’s Carletta Clyatt helped us explore what it takes to be—and identify and nurture—successful leaders. We learned how to recognize and value the differences within work teams and to manage them appropriately. We looked at how behavior influences management styles and how behavioral insight can help leaders build and maintain cohesive, loyal and productive teams.


A recent Omnia blog post looked at the flip side of that discussion and identified seven traits great employees possess. These are:


1. Curiosity. Great employees are life-long learners who often ask, “Why?” That’s because they have a need to understand how things work. This curiosity causes great employees to ask questions and seek answers when others might not.


2. Passion. Great employees get excited about stuff and they aren’t afraid to feel or express those feelings. In short, great employees care—about quality, excellence and the business. Yes, they want to help the organization meet its goals, too. These employees possess a sense of ownership about their work that can’t be faked or manufactured. That sense of ownership fuels their “get it done” attitude.


3. Courage. Although many leaders might deny it, they’re not always happy with employees who challenge how work is done. Yet, courageous employees who challenge “how we do things around here” encourage innovation. Many organizations resist change, even when it’s desperately needed. Without employees courageous enough to question company processes, procedures, and strategy, how will a firm grow and adapt? It won’t.


4. Humility. Great employees are humble, and this humility keeps them on the lookout for a better way. That’s because they understand that success is never guaranteed; other organizations with similar products and services are always ready to assume the market share of a company too satisfied with past achievements.


5. Diligence. Great employees are diligent. They “sweat the small stuff,” because they know details matter. That said, a concern for detail should not be confused with a tendency to micromanage employees or with a lack of understanding or focus on the “big picture.” Great employees understand the importance of both short- and long-term objectives, and they appreciate both.


6. Decisiveness. Great employees are practically genius at assimilating bits of information quickly, drilling down to the core issues, and using that information to act when action is needed. Great employees know that, often, the best they can do is make decisions with the information they have, until they can secure more or determine that more is unnecessary, and then they act.


7. Honesty. Seriously, who wants to work with someone who can’t be trusted or taken at face value? Great employees don’t provide these dilemmas, because they’re reliable and trustworthy. With very rare exception, they say what they mean and mean what they say. They keep their word or are communicative and apologetic when they can’t. They also accept responsibility for mistakes without making excuses.


Are there any other traits you would add to the list? And what can leaders do to better recognize, reward and nurture these traits in employees?


Donna Gray is executive director of the American Insurance Marketing & Sales (AIMS) Society.

Tags:  Agency Management  AIMS Society  Leadership 

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Digital Marketing: Looking at the Subject

Posted By Chris Paradiso, Paradiso Insurance, Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Updated: Thursday, March 13, 2014

Digital Marketing: Looking at the Subject

By Chris Paradiso, CPIA


Does your agency have the ability to digitally market to customers and prospects using a series of emails? If not, you need to find a provider that offers a system that lets you do so—that lets you reach out frequently with directed messages.


Digital marketing has been around for years; not including it in your agency’s marketing strategy is a major mistake.


Some people argue that there is too much noise in email or that we’re constantly bombarded with emails. That might be true. But the way to break through that noise and to get the reader’s attention is content. And that content starts with the subject line.

This is, perhaps, the most important factor in getting emails opened. You need to treat subject lines like headlines. Just like newspaper or magazine publishers—or bloggers or other content creators—work hard to create engaging headlines, you need to create engaging subject lines if you don’t want your email sent directly to the trash folder. Here are a few tips to consider when putting together your email subject line:

1. Absolutely no trickery. Ever. Your subject line should tell the reader what to expect in the email. When read, the two should align. If you are lucky enough to have someone open an email with a deceptive subject line, expect the reader to unsubscribe. And who loses when that happens? Your agency does.

2. Don’t YELL. If you use capital letters in your subject line, customers and prospects will feel screamed at. Do you like it when people scream at you? Your email recipients don’t either. This is another way to get a quick “unsubscribe.”

3. Numbers work. If you notice, many blogs and marketing emails use numbers in the headline or title or subject. People want to know “Seven simple ways to…. “ whatever. It’s proven that such subject lines boost open rates. So remember, numbers work!

4. Choose your words carefully. Some words just don't work. For example, the word “reminder” in a header or subject line often lands the email in the spam folder. Why? Spammers use “reminder” in their emails, and you don’t want to sound like a spammer. Another word (okay, words) you should avoid: “percent off.” Again, this is a popular spam subject; don’t use it. To see what other words that might keep your email from being seen, Google (in quotes) “common spam words” and check out one or two of the lists that appear in the search results.

5. Think like Goldilocks. Subject lines should not be too long or too short. The ideal length should be 50 or so characters, give or take a few. It’s important to remember that some email programs cut characters off. So be careful to not put important words near the end.


6. Tell stories. Approaching your subject line as a story could engage your reader’s curiosity. Good emails—like good stories—evoke emotions like anger, joy, gain, curiosity, humor, fear and so on. Telling stories connects. Doing so also let readers put themselves in the situation.

7. Before you click “send,” make sure your subject line is tested. That goes back to our fourth point. Most digital marketing systems have a feature that lets you test to make sure you’ve not accidentally included any words that will send your email to the spam folder.


AIMS Society Board member Chris Paradiso, CPIA, is owner and president of Paradiso Financial & Insurance Services in Stafford Springs, Conn. He recently wrote an article for the AIMS Society members-only Quik Sales Tip newsletter that explained how to boost digital marketing open rates. To learn more about AIMS Society membership, click here.



Tags:  AIMS Society  insurance marketing and sales  Paradiso Presents 

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Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Blog?

Posted By By Chris Paradiso, CPIA - Owner and President of Paradiso Financial & Insurance Services, Monday, February 24, 2014
Updated: Friday, February 21, 2014

Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Blog?
By Chris Paradiso, CPIA

The whole notion of blogging can, for some people, seem daunting.  But it doesn't need to be.  Blogging is simply sharing thoughts and other information in writing-something you've probably been doing in newsletters or e-mails for years.

A key difference between blogs and what you've been doing all along is the platform or delivery method used to share the info.  Blogs are online (the term, "blog," is short for Web Log) and they're often created using a blog editor on Word Press or a similar platform.

Following are some tips that could help ease some of the worries about blogging and get you started  successfully:

1. Save your posts in a Word document. Saving posts in a document rather than crafting them directly in your blog editor can potentially save time and heartache. If something goes wrong—and it invariably does—Word auto-saves content; blog editors don’t, so you could lose what you’ve written.  Once the Word document is ready—and edited—transfer it to your blog editor, "preview” it and then click "publish.”

2. Back up your blog. No matter how careful you are, a blog can get mistakenly deleted in a flash.  I can’t stress enough how important it is to back up your site.  Most hosting services will have a back-up feature in place; know how it works and make sure it’s functional.

3. Pay attention—and respond—to comments. One of the most valuable features of blogging is the ability connect with people. If you fail to respond to comments left by readers, you don’t connect. Don’t ignore what your audience says. Responding to comments not only increases your connection with others, but when casual visitors see you interact, they’re more apt to subscribe.  Plus, more comments and more activity boost your search engine ranking.

4. Filter responses. Legitimate comments are great. SPAM comments? Not so much. Install an automatic SPAM filter on your blog to keep unwanted comments away. is a free Word Press plugin that filters out spam and lets well-intentioned comments appear. Unfortunately, the more popular your blog becomes, the more SPAM you’ll receive, so it’s important to filter out the bad stuff as quickly as possible. 

5. Leverage your blogs on social platforms. A great part of blogging is connecting with others.  Set up accounts on Facebook, Vine, Instagram, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and LinkedIn—among others—to build your social following and boost traffic to your blog.  Plugins are available that will integrate your social profiles with your blog. 

6. Start learning about HTML. Get at least a basic understanding of hypertext markup language—the main language for creating web pages. This is important because, as we know, Google makes the rules around search results, and its algorithms that drive search placement read and take into account HTML. Proper use of the language, which web browsers actually use to interpret and compose text, helps Google and other search engines find your business online. I often compare it to a fingerprint; it’s identifies you and your business, and nobody else’s. Prepare yourself to spend some time learning and using HTML; it will make your life a whole lot easier!

7. Keep an open mind and never stop learning. If you feel you know it all or that you’ve "arrived,” your blog will become stale and start losing followers and traffic.  Stay interested and keep learning about successful blogging—in web articles, YouTube videos, social networks, discussion forums and more. Your skills will improve and your confidence—and success—will grow.

AIMS Society Board member Chris Paradiso, CPIA, is owner and president of Paradiso Financial & Insurance Services in Stafford Springs, Conn.

Tags:  AIMS Society  Paradiso Presents 

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The Importance of Goals

Posted By Guest Post Bruce Thomas, Friday, January 31, 2014
Updated: Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Importance of Goals

By Bruce Thomas, CPCU, CPIA, CIC, CRIS

The late, great Rodney "I Don’t Get No Respect” Dangerfield once—okay, often—said, "I went to a fight the other night, and a hockey game broke out.” If you’ve ever watched the game, you know what he’s talking about. Sparring and checking are part and parcel of the sport. But let’s leave fighting out of it for now.

If you follow ice hockey, you probably know that each team is made up of five skaters—playing a combination of offense and defense—and a goalie. Imagine, if you will, that someone removed the goals the skaters are trying to score in and the goalies are trying to defend. What would you see? Twelve people skating aimlessly around, with essentially no purpose.

There’s a reason we set goals: To have something to aim at. Or to defend, which may be necessary at times. They prevent us from moving around aimlessly.

I love using the SMART acronym when setting goals. You probably know this from your time in the CPIA Insurance Success Seminars, but as a reminder, the acronym is used to describe goals that are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Here’s an example: "I will prospect five new restaurant accounts with the new program offered by (Company) by the end of this month.” Here’s another: "The next time a marketing representative visits our office, I will make sure I am in on the meeting and will present with him/her what reactions I get in the marketplace, and hear what solutions to such objections they can help us with.”

And here’s one more: "On or around April 22 (Earth Day), I will arrange for the document shredding company we use to bring a truck to our agency’s parking lot and invite the public to bring sensitive documents for shredding. Then, I will follow up with all of my customers, as well as any prospects I meet while helping people shred, the importance of privacy insurance, and how they can see how serious we as an agency are about it.”

Do you set SMART goals? How do they work for you? If you leave one letter out, do you sometimes end up missing the goal, or achieving it less efficiently?

I’ve found another trick to help me achieve my goals, and it’s something you could do, as well. I found it really helps if I a.) write my goals down, b.) share them with at least two people, and c.) place them somewhere that I can see them each and every day.

What other tips do you find useful in helping you reach your goals? And do they help you avoid skating around aimlessly?

CPIA Instructor Bruce Thomas, CPCU, CPIA, CIC, CRIS, is an independent insurance education presenter based in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. He will be teaching three series of CPIA Insurance Success Seminars this year in Massachusetts, which are being offered by our newest Certified Professional Insurance Agent professional designation sponsor, the Massachusetts Association of Insurance Agents ( Bruce is a long-time member of the Society of Insurance Trainers and Educators (SITE) and is a member of the Bay Colonies Chapter of the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD). As a licensed Property & Casualty producer, Bruce maintains a modest book of business.

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Tags:  AIMS Society  insurance marketing and sales  self-improvement 

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Five Steps to Better LinkedIn Marketing: The Proper Approach

Posted By Guest Post Chris Paradiso, Paradiso Insurance, Friday, January 24, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Five Steps to Better LinkedIn Marketing: The Proper Approach

By Chris Paradiso, CPIA

If you’re an insurance agency owner like me who writes a large portion of business in the commercial lines area, then you should be looking at LinkedIn regularly. It can be extremely beneficial when trying to find prospects in the business world. Because of this, you should have a very strategic way in which you present yourself and your insurance agency online through LinkedIn and other social platforms.

Here are five factors that can help you and your agency grow from within by making use of what LinkedIn offers:

1) Let your customers and prospects see your true business side. What does this mean? As you’ve probably heard, we only have six seconds to make a first impression. Let's take full advantage of the photo we put in our profile. The photo should be professional and clean, so that it portrays your image well. If you choose not to portray yourself in the photo, then your agency logo will work well also.

2) When connecting with people on LinkedIn, it's very important to personalize each LinkedIn request. By choosing a generic message, you’re simply saying that it’s really not too important if they choose to accept your connection invitation. Don't send the wrong message to the person with whom you’re trying to create a relationship.

3) Fill your profile with relevant and pertinent information about you. Make sure it’s easy to read and lets people to understand exactly what you do for business. Stay away from repetitive and irrelevant information, because that could only slow down the reader and, perhaps, cause them to pass you by.

4) When asking for endorsements, be sure to ask those who know and understand your work. This is very important, since we all need to get endorsements from our connections that show who we are and what our work etiquette is. We should avoid sending out a message to everyone asking for endorsements. This is especially true for those of us who have a lot of prospects built in to our LinkedIn connections. Asking prospects—who are not actual clients—for endorsements could irritate them and turn them off to you and your business.

It’s also to remember that "endorsements” on LinkedIn is a two-way street. When you endorse people, it lets them know you appreciate and admire their work. Make sure you really do appreciate and admire it, and don’t just endorse everyone in your network.

5) Always treat your recommendations like a reference. Why? Because if someone you’re connected with has a poor reputation, then that could reflect poorly on you. We really need to do our homework before just accepting every recommendation.

Remember, in the social media world, LinkedIn is B2B: business-to-business. Don’t use LinkedIn like you use Facebook, because Facebook is a B2C (business-to-consumer) platform. Be aware of your posts and your connections and remember, you only have six seconds to make a good first impression.

AIMS Society Board member Chris Paradiso, CPIA, is owner and president of Paradiso Financial & Insurance Services in Stafford Springs, Conn.

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Tags:  AIMS Society  insurance marketing and sales  Paradiso Presents 

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Posted By AIMS Society, Friday, January 17, 2014
Updated: Thursday, January 16, 2014

(What I learned about selling in the last 50 years)
by: Kenneth A. Hauck, CIC, ARM, CPIA

When I was a child my Mother often said "Don’t play in the street or you’ll get run over.” That was great advice if you are a child. However, if you are in the business of selling, you must "play in the street” or you’ll never get run over by an opportunity. It is essential to be conducting your selling activity, whatever that may be at the moment, close enough to your target market’s buying activity to literally, be "run over”.

My selling career started in my youth out of necessity. If I wanted a bike, I needed to earn money to buy it. If I wanted a new fishing pole, I needed to earn money to buy it.

The first work I ever did to earn money from someone other than my family was not much different than many kids my age—shoveling snow from a neighbor’s sidewalk. That experience extended to mowing neighbors lawns in the summer months and managing a paper route year ‘round.

As a 12 year old I learned valuable lessons that have applied throughout my selling career:

Lesson 1 – You have to ask for the business in some manner. If you don’t ask for the business, you will only get the business if you are related to them or they feel sorry for you.

Lesson 2 – People do business with people they like. When you sell any product or service, you need to be likeable—even hucksters and shysters need a degree of likeability.

Lesson 3 – Repeat customers are a valuable asset. I remember one lady, the mayor’s wife actually, who signed up for the newspaper every time a contest was in progress (I am fairly certain that she let her subscription lapse so she could help me win another contest in the future).

Lesson 4 – Fair pricing for you and your client is essential to your long-term success. Sometimes pricing is set for you but almost always salespeople have some wiggle room. Give up too much of your revenue, then you are just "practicing” and charge too much and you will give up repeat customers.

Lesson 5 – If you provide a quality product or service, lessons 1, 2, 3 and 4 are easier to sustain.

As I look back and recall the various products and services I have sold in my career, it is so easy to see how the first four lessons have applied and likewise determined the outcome of that segment of my career. Some of the stepping stones in my career did not encompass all of the first four lessons and as such lesson five was not achievable. Without accomplishing lesson five, you only have a job; if you achieve lesson five, you have a career in selling.

So what have I sold in my lifetime? In my youth it was snow shoveling services, lawn mowing services and managing a paper route. The paper route actually taught me the power of "contests”. I was highly motivated to win a contest for things I never could afford to purchase on my own. In college I sold cookware to young, single women who probably didn’t need the cookware (but it did last forever so I am sure they used it eventually). The most valuable skill acquired in this "job” was developing cold calling skills. After I learned that the worst thing that can happen is "no” and the best thing that can happen is "yes”, I have never feared knocking on a door. That probably also helped me with my dating perseverance—I recall needing a date for a fraternity party in college that required about 15 "no” responses before a "yes”.

My first "job” after college was selling life insurance to college seniors. I learned two valuable skills on this "job”—delivering a professional prepared presentation and the power of referrals. I continued selling life insurance throughout the next three decades, although usually as an additional product rather than as the primary product. In my mid-twenties, I sold cars for a short time. The most valuable skill acquired on this "job” was uncovering a prospects needs and wants and then filling those needs and wants (by the way, wants are usually much more motivating than needs). While I could have easily sold cars for many years in that period of my life I find that today’s "typical” big city style of selling cars does not encourage application of Lessons 3 and 4 and in today’s world that is often driven by the consumer’s style of shopping—the internet has given the power to the consumer.

In my late twenties I finally encountered the opportunity that would shape my entire career.

This opportunity presented itself because I was "playing in the street”. I discovered a variation of Lesson 3 –it also applies in that people want to work with people they like. I was "playing in the street” and I met someone who was also "playing in the street” which led to a "career offer”, although at the time I just thought it was a "job” offer.

In my late twenties I started selling insurance as a career. Over the next 30 years I held many different positions in the insurance industry but at my core, I am a professional insurance salesman.

An interesting twist occurred in the last decade of my career. Again because I was "playing in the street”, I now sell professional services to insurance agents.

Some of the selling steps along my career path did not meet did not meet all of the Lessons well enough to be sustainable and therefore were only "jobs” along the way designed to provide Lessons. Lesson 1 and 2 were almost always under my control and universally applicable, but Lessons 3, 4 and 5 were often more dependent upon my supplier or employer.

If Lesson 3 isn’t available due to existing circumstances, every sale is a new sale and maximizing your income is difficult. If Lesson 4 is unfair for you or the client, then you are doing too much work for too little revenue or the client is paying too much for too little. In either case, long-term success is unsustainable. And it goes without saying that Lesson 5 is the most critical of all because it determines the viability of the other Lessons.

Kenneth Hauck- Capital Premium Financing - Ken is a Certified Professional Insurance Agent (CPIA) course facilitator who has presented more than 3,000 hours of insurance education. As national sales manager for Capital Premium Financing, he is responsible for managing the direction of outside sales, inside sales and independent brokers.

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Tags:  AIMS Society  insurance marketing and sales 

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RETENTION is one key word to GROWTH!

Posted By By Chris Paradiso, CPIA - Owner and President of Paradiso Financial & Insurance Services, Friday, January 10, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, January 07, 2014

What is your agency doing to retain its current business? This is a very valuable question and the answer is even more valuable.

First of all, you always need to be doingsomethingto keep the business that you already have written. Of course, this is easier said than done, as the business climate has changed over last five to six years, moving from a soft market to a more difficult, hard market. Our agency strategy has changed due to this cycle, and we are in the process of changing it once again.

Our clients, just like everyone else’s throughout the country, are experiencing upwards of double-digit increases in their premiums. Furthermore, many of these increases involve clients who have not filed claims. Obviously frustrated, these individuals call and ask why their premium has increased so drastically, even though they haven’t filed a claim.

This question can be answered in several different ways, the first of which involves all of the claims over the past three years from weather patterns that have produced some serious storms and millions of dollars in claims. There are other reasons, as well. Regardless, in most cases, clients find it difficult to accept a double-digit premium increase. They need to remember, however, that over the past ten years, increases overall, if they even occurred, have been in the low single digits.

Getting back to our strategy discussion, though, we believe it is important to look more closely at today’s market. The first strategy I recommend is to reach out and make contact with current clients. In today’s environment, there are several ways of doing this. You can write to them, call them, Facebook message them, tweet to them, text them, communicate with them via YouTube and/or use other digital marketing tools. Each of these ways is great. In fact, I use all of them, because each individual wants to be contacted in a different manner. There is no "right” or "wrong” way, in my book, other than the "wrong” way is a way the customer doesn’t want.

Now, some would argue against this idea—likening it to waking a sleeping giant. I disagree. In today's market, avoidance is a recipe for disaster.

The second part of retention that I would recommend is once we begin to reach out to our current clients, we need to educate them and make sure, as an independent agency, that we are offering other options so they understand exactly what an independent agent can do for them. By offering them a second option, you’re allowing them to understand that they have more options for their insurance, and through sound explanation on our part, they will realize that these options are what is key.

The third action I would recommend is discussing the insurance threshold for a higher deductible. In many cases, I have found homeowners who filed a few claims in the past three years—claims with payouts of $1400 or less—that are costing well-earned income because policies are not being renewed. Additionally, we have found that very few insurance companies are stepping in and writing policies for clients who have had two or more claims in the past three years. These individuals are seeing premiums of three, four, even five times more than the previous year. That's why it’s so critical for independent insurance agencies to, first of all, contact current clients and, secondly, take time to educate them on their coverage and/ or deductibles. They’re seeing the Lizard ads everywhere; reaching out keeps local agents in the clients’ minds.

Retention in manyinsurance agencies is decreasing because of the billions of dollars being spent by direct writers. Direct writers will continue this spending, so it is up to us, independent agents and brokers, to put together and implement a strategy to retain our business. With this, growth will occur. At the same time, we need to continue to fight direct writers with social media marketing, digital marketing and the future of marketing in 2014: mobile aps.

Don't just sit back when it comes to marketing. Be aggressive and invest your agency’s future.

As you think through these issues, remember one thing: don’t rely solely on higher premiums to fuel your growth. When calculating actual growth, make sure to back out the average increase of premiums in your area.

Your agency's future depends on the strategy you put together for retention. Your RETENTION is a big part of your GROWTH engine.

AIMS Society Board member Chris Paradiso, CPIA, is owner and president of Paradiso Financial & Insurance Services in Stafford Springs, Conn.

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Do You Care Enough to Listen?

Posted By by Jim Mansfield, CPIA - President, Mansfield Insurance Agency, Wednesday, January 08, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, December 18, 2013

When I sit down with clients that are coming from another agency, the number one complaint I hear is, "They didn’t seem to listen to me.”

Picture this: you go to Best Buy and tell the person who greets you that you are having trouble with your phone charger, because it doesn’t seem to stay plugged in. Your salesperson is looking at your fancy watch instead of your eyes and when you finish speaking, he takes you over to the phones and tries to sell you a new one. How likely would you be to buy what he is selling?

Listening is about respect.  Customers, clients, all of us want to think that what we have to say is important, and your job is to give your clients your undivided attention when they are speaking.  If you are too busy looking at what you want to sell them or thinking about the sale then you risk having them walk out the door.

If you do manage to keep the client in the room, you are not only exposing yourself to an E&O issue, but you are possibly losing out on an additional sale. Most importantly, you are missing an opportunity to reflect on what they have told you and show how much you care about them.

Here are some examples of poor listening skills: 

1.       You fake listen, you smile, nod, but haven’t really heard a thing because you are thinking of what you want to say or sell to them.

2.       You talk loudly and over the client when he or she is talking. 

3.       You interrupt them constantly.

4.       You change the subject to be about you or you do more talking than the customer.

How can you practice good listening skills?

1. Concentrate on what is being said.
   Always ask questions or repeat what they have said to make clear that you heard them.  We all occasionally lose our attention to what is being said or shown to us.  We must work hard and concentrate on the speaker, repress other thoughts that pop into your mind, tune out distractions around you and look at who is speaking. 

2. Maintain eye contact.
   Keeping eye contact with your client removes all distractions around you and helps you pick up any body language they may be displaying. They will notice you are paying attention if you make eye contact.  If you need to write a note, tell them what you are doing so they can pause and you do not miss anything they say while you are writing.

3. Keep thorough notes after each meeting.
It’s a little extra step that can go a long way. If Ann told you that her daughter Sarah is applying to colleges, make a note of it in her file and then review that file before she comes in the next time. When she comes in 6 months later and you ask her which college Sarah chose, Ann will feel like you are really listening to her.

If you care about your client, first listen. Then provide them with the proper protection for them based upon what they said to you.

Jim Mansfield, CPIA, is owner and president of Mansfield Insurance Agency, a multi-site agency with offices in Lawrenceburg and Bright, Indiana. Jim is a member of the AIMS Society board of directors and also is a member and past president of Professional Insurance Agents of Indiana board of directors.


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Tags:  AIMS Society  insurance marketing and sales  self-improvement 

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Account review = increased sales = less E&O exposure

Posted By AIMS Society, Friday, December 13, 2013
Updated: Thursday, December 12, 2013

Account review = increased sales = less E&O exposure

by Curtis M. Pearsall, CPCU, AIAF, CPIA

President – Pearsall Associates, Inc.


As we get ready to welcome in a new year, each agency should do a reality check on not only what E&O progress they made in 2013, but also on what new E&O initiatives they should consider for 2014.


In reflecting on the past year or so, certainly the impact of Super Storm Sandy comes to mind. Here are some of the latest numbers:

258,000 vehicle claims - $2.72B

1,129,000 personal claims - $7.11B

193,000 commercial claims – 8.93B

Total 1.58 million claims - $25.85B ($7.1B from NFIP)


Certainly some pretty big numbers. There is no doubt that a significant number of these claims were covered because of the professional job done by independent agents. One can only imagine how many losses were covered by insurance because of the diligence and practice of insurance agencies in providing a review (of some sort) for their customers.


Unfortunately, there have been also been hundreds and hundreds and hundreds (bottom line - a lot) of E&O claims where the customer’s loss was not covered.


Was there a common denominator between what claims were covered and which ones weren’t? When I saw an industry survey that indicated that 70% of the small businesses affected by Sandy did not have any Business Interruption coverage, I could only question "Was this coverage ever discussed?” A quality account review process would certainly have hit on the subject of Business Interruption and its importance.  


For agencies that currently do not perform annual account reviews, how about making this your main 2014 E&O initiative? This is a tremendous tool that accomplishes a number of objectives.


Performing a review is a great way to serve and educate your customers. Doing this allows the agency to interact with each client to get an update on the client’s exposures. Exposures can obviously change and, unfortunately, some changes can result in exposures not being properly insured. Seek to educate the client by discussing the changing exposures and ways to protect those exposures. 


Put yourself in the insurance consumer’s shoes. Would you rather be a client of an agency that took time to make sure you’d encounter no surprises at the time of a loss? Or would you prefer to be with an agency you rarely, if ever, hear from—one that simply renews your policy year after year and leaves it up to you to contact them with any issues?


Annual reviews offer benefits beyond eliminating surprises. They can help you grow your business. Let me ask you: What is the average number of policies your agency writes for each personal lines customer? Use that number as a baseline to measure your growth in 2014. Some industry surveys have indicated that insurance agencies write, on average, 1.8 policies per account. This certainly appears to indicate that there are some real solid opportunities to write more business by "rounding out” your accounts. There is no doubt that performing an annual review will increase that number. Offer a review to every client and, if a client does not want the review, that should be the client’s decision.


There is a good chance that not every customer is going to want this review. But at a minimum, make the offer as this "offer” would certainly be part of the agency’s defense if an Errors & Omissions claim were to develop and the customer "blamed your agency” for an uninsured exposure. Some agencies actually require an annual review be done and will not take on a prospect as a client unless the account agrees to go through the review process.


While it would be ideal to sit down with each customer every year, this is probably not realistic or logistically possible for many agencies. Another approach – and probably a more realistic one – involves sending the customer a form which provides a host of questions for the customer to consider, such as:

-          Do you have any collectibles, fine arts, stamps, coins, etc.?

-          Do you have a business in your home?

-          Have you installed a home fire or security alarm?

-          Do you have flood / earthquake insurance?


The questionnaire should be structured to encourage the customer to call your agency based on the answers to specific questions. Some questions should focus on loss control areas that could result in the customer receiving discounts on current coverage. Other questions should look to uncover exposures where the current policy – for example, a Homeowners policy – may not be sufficient to provide the necessary coverage. Many of the various exposure analysis checklists (such as the Rough Notes Producer Online product) contain these questionnaires, which can be easily combined with a cover letter or e-mail and sent out.


If you truly want to help your customers protect their assets, an account review is a great tool. There is no doubt that sales will grow. That by itself is "a win”. In addition, this account review will also minimize your E&O exposure. An interesting phenomenon – the more active your agency is in minimizing your E&O exposure, the more business you will write. Sounds like a "win-win”!




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Tags:  AIMS Society  insurance marketing and sales 

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Leverage to Level the Field

Posted By AIMS Society, Friday, September 13, 2013
Updated: Friday, September 13, 2013

Watch TV and you see a constant stream of TV ads from direct writers and others competing for your clients’ business. Social platforms and others sites showcase a big-budget barrage of ads and content from these very same sources. Frustrated independent agents and brokers might worry that their limited budget keeps them from competing.

In a sense, that may be true for paid advertising. But when it comes to content, independent agents and brokers don’t need to be at a budget-based disadvantage. In our members-only Quik Sales Tips newsletters, we’ve regularly share sources of content that can help agents and brokers engage with prospects and clients better and, who knows, maybe even sell more insurance as a result.

In just the past couple of months, we’ve discussed more than a half-dozen sources of topical information and shared nearly 20 direct links to sites where agents and brokers can find content they can use at no charge. The sources we’ve included are tied to broad, national awareness campaigns that can be leveraged locally with very little effort—and with even less money.

They range from FEMA’s national preparedness campaign to initiatives around campus safety, baby safety and child passenger safety. At nearly any time of year, some organization is running an awareness campaign, complete with content your agency or brokerage can leverage to connect with customers and prospects in your own communities.

A major initiative underway this month is LIFE Foundation’s Life Insurance Awareness Month. For many P&C agencies, life insurance does not get the same attention as do other products. However, there’s good reason to include life in the marketing mix. Cross-selling and account rounding, of course, can increase agency revenue. They also can boost retention. The more policies folks have with your agency, the less likely they are to leave. Offering life insurance expands your possible touch points and can easily boost revenue and retention.

If you’ve not already done so, check out the Life Insurance Awareness agent and broker website. See what resources you can leverage to help you engage more with prospects and clients, and then sell more. If you’re an AIMS Society member, look back at recent QST newsletters and see what other resources you might be able to use. And if you have other content sources that you’ve found to be valuable, tell us about them in the comment section below. Your fellow independent agents and brokers would love to know.

Tags:  AIMS Society  insurance marketing and sales 

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