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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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SALE PENDING

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, May 20, 2015

 

It never fails; a couple decides to sell their home and a whirlwind of repairs ensue. That creaky step fixed, broken spout replaced and ding in the wall smoothed over. The home looks better than it has for decades—so some other family can enjoy it.

Why not get your agency ready for sale?

Not to actually sell it, but to make it the standout firm you know it can be.

Sellability, a company which analyzes businesses and what makes them worth more than others, has created 10 Things That Make Your Business More Valuable Than That of Your Peers. As I reviewed their list, it seemed many of their “home improvements” should be standard agency upgrades that need to be in place now, not as owners are headed out the door.

1.  Recurring Revenue—a loyal client base that allows you to weather rough patches. And enough in number that if one leaves, it isn’t catastrophic.

2.  Something Different—what do you do better than anyone else? If you don’t know, identify it. If you can’t identify it, it’s time to create it.

3.  Growth—an obvious necessity.

4.  Caché—are you held up as an example in the industry? Are people talking about what you do?

5.  Location—both the sales region covered as well as the physical location and atmosphere of your offices.

6.  Diversity—it matters, particularly to Millennials and younger.

7.  Predictability—do you have a sales process and an understanding of conversion rates and customer roadblocks? Do you have a process for uncovering that next customer?

8.  Clean Books—no explanation required.

9.  A defined perpetuation plan—who’s in charge tomorrow?

10. Happy customers—find out what they want…and deliver.

 

Don’t wait for a sale pending sign. Make the changes that not only make your agency more valuable, but more enjoyable for you—today.

Tags:  agency sale  agency value  business value  sellability 

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Connections

Posted By Administration, Thursday, May 14, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Last week was the AIMS PRO-to-PRO Executive retreat in Indianapolis. It washttps://scontent-ord.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xft1/v/t1.0-9/11118461_10152877139447986_589220519811598585_n.jpg?oh=1395d168af39e175ab01079459752234&oe=5606480B another great opportunity to share ideas and begin planning for the future of our organization. It also provided us the chance to recognize the latest CPIA designees.

If you have the CPIA designation yourself, your AIMS membership fulfills the required update every two years. But I certainly hope you use your membership for more. As PRO-to-PRO revealed, one of our greatest benefits is the honest exchange of ideas. Through AIMS, you’ll find people who do what you do on a daily basis and understand your industry and your daily challenges. These are also the people who can affirm the value and integral importance of what you do as an insurance professional.

The fact of any association membership is that its ultimate value requires your participation. If you haven’t put your AIMS membership to work for you yet, let now be the time. Immerse yourself in AIMS starting in some small way today. Check out the member benefits like access to Rough Notes. Begin following us on Twitter (@AIMS_Society) and “liking” us on Facebook (AIMS Society/CPIA) to get your daily dose of sales advice and thought-starters.

Need more reasons? How about:

  •  Information libraries and knowledge bases
  •  Industry metrics to benchmark and improve your programs
  •  Industry best practices
  •  Discussions on how your peers chose a standard
  •  Discounts on professional materials
  •  Continuing education opportunities beyond CPIA
  •  Access to vendors
  •  Webinars on current topics
  •  Recognition awards
  •  Job opportunities
  •  An opportunity to give back to the profession

Perhaps most important of all—bring along a friend; introduce them to AIMS and invite them to join.

The crux of our organization relies on membership and our best tool for increasing those numbers is referral from others. That person you involve may eventually become a board member or presenter.

That person may bring a fresh perspective that we need. That person may prove to be our future.

Tags:  Friends  Insurance Education  Networking  Professional Development  PRO-to-PRO 

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No Sweat: Simple Steps to Improve Productivity

Posted By AIMS Society contributors, Tuesday, April 28, 2015

 

In today’s fast paced work world, it’s easy to get behind the eight ball. Hey, stuff happens, right? But that constant race to catch up is not only bad for business, it’s bad for you.

In 9 Practices at Home and Work That Increase Productivity, John Rampton offers some simple suggestions. Many you already know intuitively, but just like “eat less, exercise more,” they bear repeating.  Pick two or three to get started and see how things go.

1. Focus on creating value at work.

Rampton suggests identifying and removing just one action that you do on a daily basis that detracts from your productivity. Do you linger after lunch a bit longer than you should? Replace this habit with something that provides value instead. Use those extra 10 minutes to reply to emails before launching back into work.

2. Beware the afternoon doldrums.

You know they’re coming…eat a light, healthy snack or take a quick walk up and down the office stairs.

3. Say 'no' to distractions.

Shut your door, turn off the blips and bleeps on your phone, and finish that lingering project once and for all. 

4. Good food and adequate sleep.

Enough said. Not only will you be more productive on a daily basis, you’ll likely have fewer sick days too.

5. Start your day the night before.

You may tell your kids to do this, but do you do it yourself? Get that coffee pot ready. Make sure you have enough gas to avoid a morning stop at the station. Know what you’re going to wear and make sure everything is clean and ready. Pack a lunch if you take one (see number 4 above).

6. Schedule the end of the meeting.

Rampton suggests capping meetings at just 15 minutes. If the chit-chat and rambling are removed, it may be completely possible. Try it and see.

7. Seize the morning.

Ben Franklin was right—“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy wealthy and wise.” Early morning hours are typically less distracting (translation: more productive). Try getting up just 30 minutes early. You may come to love the results.

8. Don't be so reactive.

You don’t have to respond to every email instantly. If someone stops by to chat, don’t feel bad telling them you’ll follow up as soon as you’re done with the project you’re already working on.

9. Take a sincere interest in your team.

A happy, content team is more productive naturally. Lead by example and help make their work a source of pride.

Tags:  productivity  time management 

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How Does Your Client See the World?

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, April 21, 2015

How does your client see the world?

One of the tools available to AIMS Society members is personality tests. Understanding each client’s perspective and molding your pitch to their preferences is simply smart selling. Let’s focus on four key personality types which are commonly identified regardless the test used. Keep in mind that while different tests may use different category names, the basic personality types we’re going to discuss are similar. What’s most important is understanding how to sell to each.

  1. Assertive.  These are your goal-oriented, demonstrably competitive clients. They often speak louder than others and have confident body language. They want results; not necessarily friendships. They are decisive and when they have the information they require, they will make a timely decision. Use this quick turnaround to your advantage and close the deal. Don’t forget to bring facts and figures. And be responsive if more details are requested. Make your presentation efficient and avoid “cleverness.” Emphasize problem solution and how you’ll make the company more competitive.
  2. Amiable. Lots of questions, including ones about your personal life, may be an indicator that this is the person you’re meeting. They’re friendly and their work style is less structured. While they may mull a decision longer, don’t let this mislead you—they like the excitement of a new challenge and appreciate the process of developing creative solutions. They tend to choose work associates that they like on a personal level and value trust in a business partnership. Be sure to highlight a vision with these clients and take the time to establish true rapport. If problems arise, they’ll stay in your corner if they trust you.
  3. Expressionists. They too focus on personal relationships, but they’re particularly concerned with how decisions impact others. Others may dismiss them as simple “people-pleasers,” but their strongly held convictions, coupled with a powerful personality, make them particularly good consensus-builders. This is the group that values case studies—it’s a great way to demonstrate how your ideas benefitted others. Emphasize the breadth and depth of client relationships. Include, but don’t dwell on data. Focus instead on the human impact of decisions.
  4. Analytic. This is the person who loves facts and figures. Be ready for their detailed questions and make sure you’ve researched and understand their company and industry before you arrive. A decision may not be quick, but it will be thorough. This may be the quieter person in a meeting, more concerned with facts rather than emotion. They mean business and will be more formal. Include, but don’t linger on introductory material. It’s likely this kind of client already knows the basics, but they want to know you know too. Avoid grandiose claims or effusive compliments.
Many people are a blend of these personality types, but you’ll often find one most dominant. Know your client as well as you know your brand and you’ve laid some great groundwork for success!

Tags:  AIMS Society  CPIA designation  insurance marketing and sales  Leadership  PRO-to-PRO  self-improvement  Social Media  Technology 

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A Numbers Game

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Friday, April 17, 2015
Updated: Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Numbers Game

It seems anywhere you look there’s a list—4 easy steps to landing your next job; How to train you pet in 8 simple steps; 50 ways to leave your lover.  You get the point. Sometimes it’s easy to miss the message when confronted with yet another check list.

Yet I read 10 Trending Changes In Customers and Customer Service Expectations that made some observations I thought worth sharing. While the article’s author, Michah Solomon, contends that the basics of customer service are “timeless,” there are some new realities everyone must recognize. 

  1. Fast is becoming faster. Internet time and overnight deliveries have warped everyone’s expectations. If you’re mentioning something like “we respond quickly,” or “all inquiries are replied to within 24 hours,” you better deliver.
  2. Customers expect accuracy. Of course, this is particularly important with insurance. Never rely on cut and paste or spell check to ensure your materials are presentable and professional.
  3. Customers don’t mind “serving themselves.” In our self-serve world, it’s no longer unheard of to provide online access to information so the customer can gather the information they want—when they want it. You can also rely on their help inputting data into forms if you have the proper templates in place.
  4. Business hours are expected to be 24/7. Of course, you’re not expected to be sitting in the office, but there better be plenty of information available online and the ability to post questions when they arise, not just during the standard 9-5.
  5. Customers demand just about everything come with a money back guarantee, implied or explicit. Never hide behind fine print and own your mistakes. The effort displayed counts nearly as much as the actual outcome.
  6. No hidden fees. Free shipping and handling, complementary extras and other add-ons have altered thresholds for unexpected costs. Be transparent from the get-go.
  7. You must deliver in omnichannel. Make sure you offer information in multiple formats and in various platforms so it’s waiting for the customer when they come looking.
  8. Monitor, monitor, monitor. If a person takes the time to post about your company, either a compliment or a complaint, they appreciate a reply…preferably today. Make sure you’re monitoring online and other communication channels such as call centers or feedback cards.
  9. In today’s technology driven world, people still want authenticity. Don’t let a computer get in the way of a conversation. Be the same online as you are in person.
  10. Customers are in control—and they know it. Social media gives them a voice and they’re not afraid to use it. Don’t let this scare you; celebrate the information it delivers to your doorstep.
Consider each point, 1-10. How well are you playing the customer

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

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Does your Linked In profile have cobwebs?

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Wednesday, April 08, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, April 07, 2015

When’s the last time you looked at and updated your Linked In profile? If you’re like most people, it was probably last year or longer. That means it’s time for a spring spruce up on your Linked In profile. Here are some great ideas from Meg Guiseppi, a personal branding strategist and author. Although her ideas are targeted to job searchers, when you’re in sales, your Linked In profile is equally important for closing the next sale.

1.   Pad your name field. It’s unlikely your last name will consume the 40 characters that are allowed. Use the additional space to include certifications—like CPIA! (And if you don’t have that particular certification yet, check the 2015 CPIA seminar schedule here).

2.   Optimize your professional headline. This comes just beneath your name. Many users put their current position here, but Guiseppi recommends taking a more strategic approach. You have 120 available characters, so use this to include words you might use when searching for your particular sales specialty or to explain more specifically what you do, and how you do it. For example: Energetic sales professional with 10 years proven experience offering free risk assessments on request.   

3.   Clarify job titles with keywords. A title rarely captures your exact job duties and a position at one agency might be defined differently at another. To help with this, use the 100 available characters in the job-title field to expand on your talents and responsibilities. Vice president is great, but Vice president of what? Producer is nice, but how about Producer specializing in marine and transportation with 85% client retention rate.

Of course, make sure the details are up-to-date on your profile as well, and make sure you add new areas of responsibility or accomplishments that you have added recently as well. Just like a real spring cleaning, you’ll feel better once the work is done, so get busy!

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Smarter than a gecko

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, April 07, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, April 07, 2015

The fact is, insurance is misunderstood. Even savvy business people are often unaware of the layers involved in our industry—producer, underwriter, carrier, P&C, personal lines. To them, we’re just one term—an insurance person.

So, when someone else’s reference for our industry is the Geiko gecko, your chance of getting sound job advice from them is slim.

Yet everyone needs a sounding board; someone to bounce off ideas, worries, new products or techniques. Look no further than PRO-to-PRO, an interactive, thought-provoking conference that will send you home with practical, actionable ideas. PRO-to-PRO, as in professional-to-professional. This is where you’ll find your “Been There; Done That” peers who understand what you do. We’re not talking theory. We’re talking solutions to your day-to-day trials and tribulations. With discussions led by experts, and fueled by people who work at agencies and organizations just like yours. Imagine the insight. Imagine the frank discussions. Imagine what you’ll miss if you don’t attend!

This is PRO-to-PRO’s 28th year, so you know we have to be doing something right. This year, we’ll be in Indianapolis from May 7-8. If you haven’t been to Indy, I think you’ll be impressed. Of course, you know about the race track. Did you also know it’s the 14th largest city in the United States? And it will be all spring green and flowery that time of year too.

If you’ve been to a PRO-to-PRO before, I hope you’ll sign up for a return visit. If you’ve never been, please make this your year. There’s nothing better than talking with a room full of people who already get where you’re coming from.

To learn more about the agenda—things like social media or productive renewal strategies—you can visit AIMSSociety.org. If you have any questions at all, please call us at 877-674-CPIA (2742).

Ready to register? Just pick the PRO-to-PRO heading on the right side of the home page or go directly to this link:  http://www.aimssociety.org/events/event_details.asp?id=600327#.

Hope to see you in Indy!

Tags:  AIMS Society  insurance marketing and sales  Paradiso Presents  PRO-to-PRO  self-improvement  Social Media  teamwork 

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My Bad

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My Bad

The fact that you’re marketing yourself and your agency online is important. (If you’re not, I’d equate that to having a phone ring in your office, with a customer on the other end, and you simply ignoring it).

But
being on line is only the beginning. Design your social media and online marketing tools to simplify, not complicate, the process of getting to know you. Avoid these potential “My bads”:

1.       Irrelevant Marketing:  Are you sending emails about products for which they wouldn’t have any interest? Are your Facebook posts appropriately targeted? Hit them too many times with information they don’t want and you’ll lose them before delivering content that does matter to them.

2.       Making follow up difficult: Be certain you include additional information on your website, on YouTube and all social media sites so they can re-read or find more detail. Be certain that they know who to contact for more information and make sure you offer both email and phone contacts.  And…when they contact you, follow up quickly.

3.       Hiding the humans: How many times have you called a business, only to be directed back to their website? You have to suffer through a list of options before ever getting a human. It’s likely those who are calling have already searched your website. Let them talk to a person, not listen to a long speech by a computer.

4.       Playing coy: Many sites request contact information before providing any information. Of course, some of your content may need protection from prying eyes, but you’ll lose more customers by hiding information than you’ll ever save secrets from competition.

Have friends and family visit your site and tell you what they thought. Check usage numbers, such as Google analytics, to understand what information holds the most interest for visitors. Don’t fight what those numbers tell you. You may think something is more important to highlight—but the customer won’t be listening if that’s how the conversation continues.  

Tags:  AIMS Society  insurance marketing and sales  self-improvement  Social Media 

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Would you rather have your wisdom teeth removed?

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Updated: Monday, February 16, 2015

Would you rather have your wisdom teeth removed?


A friend took her daughter to see an oral surgeon on a Thursday for a consultation regarding wisdom teeth that needed to be removed. After the doctor left the room, the 16 year old (who has a marked fear of needles and all things painful) turned and asked, “Think I could have them taken out tomorrow?”  Thanks to a last minute cancellation, those wisdom teeth came out just 18 hours later on Friday. 

 

That teen was in no way looking forward to having four teeth extracted, but rather than wait and ruminate, she jumped in with gusto. When’s the last time you forged on despite a fear?

 

Perhaps it’s fear of failure that is holding you back at work. But here’s a fact: everyone fails. That’s the reality of every job—every. single. job.—even your boss’s.

 

So, knowing you can’t eliminate all failure, what’s left to do?

 

  1. Change your mindset.  Accept that sometimes things won’t work out. Instead of letting that paralyze you, be prepared mentally. Don’t beat yourself up (unless you knowingly let things slide), but take each failure as an opportunity to learn. “Hmm, that’s interesting…what happened and what should I change next time?” Move on, recognizing how you just got smarter.
  2. Say “yes” when you’re scared. Embrace a new challenge. Raise your hand. Give yourself permission to succeed. Bet you’re more capable than you give yourself credit.
  3. Say “no” when you think you’re not allowed. No can be a particularly hard word to say. Turning down a request can be intimidating, but sometimes it’s the smartest move you can make.
  4. Ask for help. This is a big one. Asking for help doesn’t make you look less competent. As they say, the smartest people know what they don’t know. Seeking help provides you insight and makes the person asked feel valued. Now that’s the proverbial win-win.

 

What fears are holding you back at work? Most aren’t going to disappear, so take a lesson from that chipmunk-cheeked teen and do it anyway!

Tags:  self-improvement 

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They said no. Now what.

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, February 10, 2015
They said no. Now what.

Your competition won. Your prospect chose another firm.

What…a…waste…of...time.

Only if you walk away.

Instead, what you actually need to do is invest more time.  Why?  Because, as Albert Einstein (a wickedly intelligent guy) said: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

You lost the sale. Why?

You have to ask the question to fix it.

So, a brief follow up with that prospect is a good place to start. “I’d like to understand what we could do better…”  It’s a non-threatening question and certainly leaves the door open to future opportunity as well.  Based on what you hear, you can figure out if your approach needs a few tweaks—or a total overhaul.

In addition, take the time to review your sales message and see if you were guilty of any of these common sales killers:

  • You forgot to ease the pain of the switch.  Most people hate change. They dread the process of switching partners. Address their fears.
  • The prospect sees risk.  I’m not talking about the risk that insurance addresses, I’m talking about the personal risk someone feels when making a decision for their company. Make sure you understand what the company uses to assess partnerships and show how you’ll deliver.
  • Lack of proof.  Don’t just make claims; back them up with examples and details.
  • Out of sight, out of mind.  Utilize a memorable leave-behind. Follow up with a written note. Forward an article about something totally unrelated to the sale, but on a topic you know the prospect might appreciate. This will also help you establish a friendlier connection.  After all, people hire people, not brochures.
  • Failing to solve problems on an individual level.  Yes, your ideas may save the company money, but what will you also be doing to solve daily headaches for the person you are selling.
  • You focused exclusively on price.  Prove your value not just your sticker price.
  • You failed to create time parameters.  Try to limit the sales cycle and providing an opportunity for additional competition by building in timelines to your proposal.
  • The proposal wasn’t tailored to the client.  Everyone wants to see how you’ll help them specifically, not how you do things “in general.”
  • You talked too much about yourself.  Yes, you’re a lovely person, but did you say “we” and “our” more often than “you” and “your”?
  • It was all about the sale.  Did you provide more than a sales message—did you provide some genuine education and insight about the prospect’s industry, potential risks, market trends?


Losing a sale stinks. Truly. But if it gets you ready for the next big win, that’s the next best thing. Never forget that selling is a process. Live and learn.



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