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The AIMS Society blog is designed to provide practical, timely ideas to help insurance agencies improve results from their marketing and sales efforts. Wishing you much success!!! For even more, consider joining the AIMS Society and you'll have access to a powerful network of agents and carrier personnel focused on excellence in sales!


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Be Sales Ready

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Be Sales Ready

You’re not in the market for a new job, but you should still be interview-ready.  Why? Because it keeps you on your toes, able to sell yourself and your client services at any time.  After all, you never know when a sales opportunity will present itself—a friend introduces you to a prospect at one of your kid’s games; a neighbor takes a new position and wants your advice. That leads to possibility…if you’re ready.

In her article,
7 Interview Tips That Will Help You Get the Job. Tips and Advice for Acing a Job Interview, Alison Doyle offers some suggestions that are equally helpful for simply being ready for the sale.

  1. Practice. You know the questions everyone asks. You have the answers, but you need to practice to make sure you provide detail and examples, not just pat responses. At the same time, develop a list of questions you should be asking every interested prospect.
  2. Research. Do your homework on the leaders in your community and the businesses you’d like to pursue. You never know when it will come in handy.
  3. Get Ready. Have the basic facts and figures about your agency in polished presentation form—leave-behinds, brochures, PowerPoint. When you have an opening, you’ll have the visuals already finished. Keep business cards on hand.
  4. Be on time. OK, the author meant for an interview, but it still applies when you’re invited to anything, even informal gatherings. Goes a long way to making you look organized and responsible.
  5. Stay calm. What Doyle says she means with this tip is to relax. Your body language tells its own story. Maintain eye contact. Be an active listener and answer what’s being asked. 
  6. Show what you know. Use examples. Share success stories. Apply learnings from one account to another.
  7. Follow up. Whatever suits the situation of your initial introduction—a text, a call, a personal note. Within 24 hours. Simple. And powerful.

So Doyle was talking about landing a job, but her tips are equally helpful for landing a client.  Do you have any you'd add to the list?

Tags:  AIMS Society  insurance marketing and sales  Leadership  self-improvement  teamwork 

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Chocolate chip cookie perfection

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Chocolate chip cookie perfection


With every New Year comes reflection.  We strive to improve or to give up a vice, often times because the calendar gives us a reminder that the time to improve is slipping away from us.  So we give it the old college try, eager to prove that this will be our year.  More often than not, as the days pass, something—or someone—reminds us that we’re not perfect.

But instead of considering “perfection” to be a concrete accomplishment (leading to a foregone conclusion of failure), why not consider perfection to be a process.  This takes the sharp edges off expectation and gives us all the right to be human, while still striving to improve.  Am I saying your life can be perfect without reaching 100 percent?  Actually, I think I am—much as a vacation or a first date can be described as “perfect.”  Or how a chocolate chip cookie is just, well…perfect.

And—I don’t think perfection should be reserved for the grandiose.  Instead, consider the words of seventeenth century French philosopher Angelique Arnauld:  “Perfection consists not in doing extraordinary things, but in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.”

So, with the intent of making your own daily life more perfect, here’s a list of ideas.  Pick just a few and see if you don’t feel yourself inching toward perfection in some perfectly ordinary ways!
  1. Read
  2. Learn a new foreign word
  3. Work on a hobby
  4. Sign up for a class
  5. Overcome a fear
  6. Learn a new skill
  7. Wake up earlier
  8. Go to bed earlier
  9. Exercise
  10. Contact an old friend
  11. Write a letter
  12. Try a new food
  13. Talk to a neighbor
  14. Create—and use—a to-do list
  15. Clean out your email
  16. Make your bed
  17. Get a massage
  18. Turn off your phone at 7:30
  19. Pet the dog
  20. Start a journal
  21. Have some milk and cookies
  22. Find a mentor
  23. Spend the day without TV
  24. Listen to classical music in the car
  25. Light a candle
  26. Forgive someone
  27. Introduce yourself to someone new
  28. Add 20 more ideas to this list and challenge yourself to accomplish one item on the list each day for a month.
  29. Send us a note and to let us know how perfect that month truly felt.
  30. Do it all over again.

Tags:  AIMS Society  Leadership  self-improvement  teamwork 

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EI, EI, Oh! Is your emotional intelligence on target?

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Updated: Monday, January 12, 2015

EI, EI, Oh!

Is your emotional intelligence on target?


Insurance is a people business. If you doubt it, consider the emotion that rises to the surface during claims. This is where you can lose a customer—or secure one for life. It all hinges on your ability to be empathetic and create a connection. It depends on your emotional intelligence or EI.

Yes, while IQ measures your brain cell book smarts, EI quantifies how well you connect emotionally with others. EI actually encompasses multiple traits or core competencies, including (but certainly not limited to) optimism, transparency, adaptability, innovation, creativity, initiative and self-confidence. Some would argue it’s more important to success than IQ—and if you think about it, wouldn’t you rather partner with someone who “gets you” over someone who is simply a braniac? If interested, you can actually complete an assessment to gain more insight to your own EI, including Daniel Goleman’s Emotional and Social Competence Inventory (ESCI), Reuven Bar-On’s Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i), The Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT), and Dr. Laura Belsten’s Social + Emotional Intelligence Profile (SEIP). 

Good news is that you can improve your EI.  Here’s some suggestions from Harrison Monarth from his article, 5 Steps to Boost the Skills That Will Help You Better Connect to People.

  1. Learn the language. Understand what constitutes a strong EI and choose core skills you believe will be valued in your own organization and in your own life. Look to the links above to get started.
  2. Know thyself: Collect feedback. If your organization provides an anonymous evaluation tool, use it to see how you’re perceived.
  3. Narrow your focus. Don’t work on every EI skill; select one or two depending on your own goals. For example, managers may want to focus on behavioral self-control and empathy, while sales leaders may want to focus on innovation or creativity to help you create new pitches. 
  4. Create your own board of directors. Choose two or three people who don’t compete or work directly with you. Ask for them to keep you accountable.
  5. Become a work in progress. If you’ve progressed in your first areas of focus, move to the next set of competencies. The momentum can generate even greater personal growth.  

Tags:  AIMS Society  Leadership  self-improvement  teamwork 

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Someone Needs You

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, January 06, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Someone Needs You


One of the greatest ways to make an impact professionally is as a mentor. If you haven’t claimed this role for yourself yet, I’d encourage you to try to do so this year.  There’s as much reward for you as there is for the person you mentor. To be successful, here are a few recommendations:

  • Meet frequently, even if informally, to provide suggestions for small adjustments as you go. Not only is it easier to learn this way, you will come across as less imposing and, I’ll say it, less of a know-it-all.
  • Ask questions—that’s you who needs to ask questions, not them. Not only is this the best way to begin understanding what your mentee already knows, it will help establish a dialogue instead of a speech.
  • Share freely – and explain simply.
  • Don’t direct.  Share your experience, but allow the other person to apply that insight to their own situation and personality. They don’t have to do exactly as you do or did.
  • Know that some of the best lessons come from your failures, not your successes.
  • Be proactive – your mentee may not want to impose or may not know what they should do next.
  • It often comes down to who you know. Don’t forget to introduce them to your network and relationships as appropriate.
  • Respect the confidentiality of your relationship. What you think of this individual is not for water cooler comment.
  • Relax, every meeting doesn’t have to contain a lesson. Don’t be afraid to simply shoot the breeze.
  • You gained your know-how over the years. This is an advantage your mentee doesn’t have. Never forget from whence you came.
  • Be a great listener and don’t fail to provide positive reinforcement.

You’ll know you’ve become a valued mentor once your mentee is coming to you with questions instead of waiting for your lead. Being a mentor really can be a great gig.  Give it a try.  And don’t be surprised if you end up learning a thing or two yourself!

Tags:  AIMS Society  Leadership  self-improvement  teamwork 

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Clean Slate

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Clean Slate

In a matter of hours, it will be 2015. As with every New Year, it’s our

opportunity to have a fresh start based solely on a calendar date.


What will you do with your clean slate?

According to an article by Leo Widrich on, fifty percent of all Americans set a New Year’s resolution—and 88 percent of those will fail. I think that is a large reason why many people don’t even try in the first place.

To help change that failure rate, Widrich has what I believe is a pretty sound recommendation: instead of setting a goal, focus on adopting a habit—a tiny one—that may ultimately deliver you to your goal.  Here are his examples:

  • Resolution: Quit smoking vs. Habit: Stop smoking that 1 cigarette you have every morning after breakfast.
  • Resolution: Eat healthy food vs. Habit: Start substituting that 1 daily morning pastry for a banana.
  • Resolution: Lose weight vs. Habit: Every evening after work, go for a 2-3 minute run or walk around the block.
  • Resolution: Manage stress vs. Habit: Meditate for 2-3 minutes every morning after you wake up.

Doesn’t seem quite as intimidating to set a New Year’s resolution when you boil it down to a simple habit, does it?  There’s certainly no harm in trying. The greater risk is in doing nothing at all.  After all, mistakes are going to happen. So with that in mind, I leave you with a passage from Neil Gaiman:

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.

So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever. 

Tags:  AIMS Society  Leadership  self-improvement  teamwork 

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No room for rude

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, December 23, 2014

No room for rude

Digital communication and etiquette seem to be bumping heads.  

You send an email.  And then you wait for a reply.

If you’re the recipient of said email, how soon should you send a response? At the very least to let the other person know you’ve received and read their message.  If you’re the sender, how soon is too soon to send a follow up message?—“Hey, did you get this?” (a nice way to ask what you really want to know: “Are you going to reply?”)

According to the New York Times article, Disruptions: Digital Era Redefining Etiquette, “This is by no means the first conundrum with a new communication technology. In the late 1870s, when the telephone was invented, people didn’t know how to greet a caller. Often, there was just silence. Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor, suggested that people say ‘Ahoy!’ Others proposed, ‘What is wanted?’ Eventually ‘Hello’ won out, and it hastened its use in face-to-face communications.”

It seems each time new technology is adopted, we make the transition tougher than it needs to be. If we simply follow basic etiquette, we’d be fine. One problem area I’ve noticed? Timely replies. In effect, lack of response is like greeting the digital “hellos” that an email represents with complete silence. How rude.

This failure to respond seems particularly problematic during the holidays. Everyone is busy, of course, but the amount of time wasted following up on messages already sent has been a real time killer for me lately. I imagine it has been for everyone. The solution is simple: even when you don’t have a complete answer or the information requested ready to go, a simple “I got this and am working on it” kind of reply is simply considerate. Adding in when you’ll be back to them with a full answer is even better and takes it off their immediate to-do list. Even when your complete response is going to take longer than originally anticipated, it’s amazing what being in the loop buys you in terms of goodwill.

So, while you’re busy sharing holiday cheer, don’t forget to respect your customers’ and business partners’ time enough to let them know it may not be until after the new year that they receive exactly what they’re looking for from you. Helping them manage their own task list is one of the nicest gifts you can give them.


Tags:  AIMS Society  self-improvement  Technology 

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Sweet Reward

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sweet Reward

A friend recently posted pictures from her first ever cookie exchange. If you’ve never been to one, the “rules” are simple.  Make a certain number of the same cookie—this group chose four dozen for each attendee—and swap out two individual cookies with every other attendee. With just 25 people participating, as was the case at my friend’s event, that’s 1,200 cookies! And 1,200 of the “best” cookies—the one favorite variety from everyone’s recipe box. As a result, every person in attendance went home a rock star, with delighted faces greeting them, ready to rip into the goods.

At the same time, the event gave opportunity for pause, a moment to enjoy each other’s company, catch up on everyone’s latest activities and plans, and even leave with a follow up coffee or lunch already scheduled. It was so simple. All it took was cookies.

This got me thinking. First, I need to schedule my own cookie exchange! Second, there are some real parallels to AIMS Society events, particularly the PRO to PRO Executive Retreat. These gatherings really are opportunities to share something so seemingly simple—the professional expertise we each collect gradually over a lifetime, so gradually that we often fail to see the magic in what we have. My friend said she made molasses cookies. Her kids weren’t terribly impressed, they’ve already had dozens over the years, but calls have already come in for the recipe. She was thrilled to hear she had a winner on her hands after all. Such is the case with our own professional insight—sometimes you forget or don’t realize what you’ve got till you give it away.

So if you haven’t been to an AIMS Society event recently, I encourage you to get one onto your calendar in 2015. The more in attendance, the more delightful the takeaway.  You share your recipe for success and head home with a potential boxful in return.

How sweet is that!

Tags:  AIMS Society  insurance marketing and sales  PRO-to-PRO  self-improvement 

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Meet Oscar

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Meet Oscar


Keep an eye on Oscar. Not the guy, the insurance company. Billing itself as a “new kind of health insurance company,” Oscar is turning a back on old habits, and whether you deal with benefits or not, the company’s ideas may impact the entire insurance industry sooner rather than later. Oscar plans are only available in New Jersey and New York right now, but its ideas may cross state lines quickly.

Selling the notion that “Better care starts with technology,” Oscar allows online sharing of symptoms, an ability to review and choose physicians—or even talk immediately online with a doctor. Oscar tracks office visits, prescriptions and lab work for users and even puts it into an intuitive timeline, which not only helps with recordkeeping, but may uncover particular health patterns. Oscar promotes preventative care as well, with free checkups, flu shots, generic drugs, and other well care.

And the company’s newest innovation? Paying customers to stay fit. Using a complimentary
Misfit Flash fit tracker, individuals earn $1 each time a daily steps-taken goal (based on initial health assessment) is reached, up to $240 a year.

Can something so simple actually work? Depending on the resource you check, it’s estimated that for every dollar invested in corporate wellness programs, companies can expect a two-five dollar return, so it seems that Oscar is onto something.

Of course, good agents already know that proactive risk management is part of any comprehensive insurance program. It’s a trend that I believe will only intensify. There’s already trackers for automobiles to help Progressive customers lower premiums based on driving habits. Fireman’s Fund actively works with customers to reduce wildfire risk. What I find most novel about Oscar is its overall approach and how it embraces technology, simplifies insurance and presents a friendly, approachable brand personality. Take a few minutes yourself and visit Let me know what you think!


Tags:  AIMS Society  Risk Management  Technology 

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Online Matters. How social media has changed hiring practices

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, December 02, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Online Matters. How social media has changed hiring practices

You’re just one post away from losing your next job opportunity.

Fact is, your personal brand and your social media profile matters. According to Head in the Sand with Your Personal Brand? author Gerry Moran,  a job candidate can anticipate just about all recruiters and hiring companies to review their online profile. In fact, 93 percent of recruiters do so before making hiring decisions.  In addition, over half of companies reconsidered their hiring decisions after checking a candidate’s social media posts, and in 61 percent of those situations, no job offer was tendered.  What are social media red flags? Recruiters look down on profanity (63 percent), poor spelling and grammar (66 percent), and indications of drug use (83 percent).

If you’re on the other side of the hiring table, there are some definite things you need to consider.  In Employer Social Networking Checks: Guidelines for Employer Social Networking Checks, 
Alison Doyle recommends being consistent.  If you screen one, screen all. She also believes it is wise to tell applicants in advance. Also important: designate a “neutral” party as the screener for all applicants. They can provide a non-biased overview of findings without additional influence caused by preferences for a certain candidate.  Doyle also suggests that a company identify specific information being sought before going online. This prevents the screener from an endless, meandering search that loses relevance. Also, if a candidate has privacy screens in place, do not use dishonest or deceptive means to gain access to a user’s posts. Doyle’s final recommendation is to “consider the accuracy and validity of the information before making a decision.”

So the changes created by social media continue. Used wisely, it can be a great way to learn more about a potential employee. Used without regard, it can be a great way to lose a new opportunity. Whichever side of the hiring equation you land, never forget the power of online communication.

Tags:  AIMS Society  insurance marketing and sales  Leadership  self-improvement 

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A Simple Thank You

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Simple Thank You

It’s the week of Thanksgiving, the holiday one friend told me is his favorite because it’s the most inclusive American holiday—not claimed by any religion, no gifts required…and of course, delicious food. What’s not to love?

But how about the other 364 days of the year? It’s those days that lead to the real payoff of Thanksgiving: a moment to reflect and be thankful. For health, family, friends, the beauty found in the world, financial security, hobbies that enrich. Regardless the situation, there’s always something for which to give thanks. So until Thanksgiving 2015, I challenge every member of AIMS to adopt an attitude of thanks throughout the year. The negatives of daily life, will never go away, but in every situation, there is a way to turn perspective. My gas bill is high, but I am thankful for a home that is warm and secure. My commute this morning was a beast, but I am thankful for a car that is reliable and safe. My kids were unbearably loud this morning, but I am thankful for their robust health.

If I have failed myself to mention lately, I am thankful for everyone involved with the AIMS Society. For your participation, input and energy—and even your criticisms, for it means you are passionate about our mission. I wish you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving, some bargains on Black Friday and games to remember for your favorite football team. Whether you head out to see family and friends, welcome them to your home, or enjoy a moment of private reflection, I wish you a day of grateful celebration.

And I leave you with a few thoughts from others more eloquent:

  • “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” – Albert Einstein
  • “Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot.” – The Hausa of Nigeria
  • “For each new morning with its light,
    For rest and shelter of the night,
    For health and food, for love and friends,
    For everything Thy goodness sends.”  - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tags:  AIMS Society  self-improvement  teamwork 

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