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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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Onboarding Techniques for Welcoming New Employees

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Onboarding Techniques for Welcoming New Employees

Your new employees' first day at your firm might look something like this:

  • Meet with HR to finalize any new-hire paperwork and review employee handbook.
  • Tour the building and briefly meet new colleagues.
  • Visit with new manager and/or trainer, and begin orientation
  • Wash, rinse, repeat!

The first weeks of a new job environment set the tone for how comfortably an employee will fit in with your firm's culture and therefore contribute to your organization.

The fancy buzzword for this is onboarding, which essentially recognized that employees need to get adjusted to the social and cultural aspects of a new job in addition to the job duties and skills. Consider taking a fresh approach to making newly hired individuals feel welcome:

  • Workspace welcome. Nothing is a bigger turnoff than arriving to your new job and learning that your new workspace still has some belongings, and dirt, from its last inhabitant.  Spend a few moments cleaning, organizing, and ensuring your new employee has everything they need.  Perhaps even have a small welcome gift of company logo gear awaiting them.  A computer, phone, and anything else needed to do the job should already be in place, sending the message that they can jump right in and be productive immediately. 
  • Buddy up. Mentoring in the workplace is important and has come a long way in recent years.  If you don't have a formal mentoring program in place, rest assured, there is an informal one in place, and it might not be exactly what you have in mind.  So formalize it, enlist your most passionate employees to participate, and let it flourish.
  • Sayonara silos. When getting an employee acclimated, it's easy to think that the best way for them to start is by learning the new job duties.  However, it's incredibly beneficial to give a new employee a 360-degree view of your firm.  Have them spend time in other departments in order to learn how all the different links in the organization's chain form and work together.  And if silos exist, this can be an effective way to encourage more inter-department mingling.

Your new hire wants to feel as if they are contributing to your firm as early as possible, so foster that by setting them up for success from the very first day.

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Tags:  efficiency  Leadership  Professional Development  Risk Management  self-improvement  teamwork 

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Are You Ahead or Behind the Curve?

Posted By AIMS Society, Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Updated: Monday, May 16, 2016

Keeping Your Sales Efforts on Par With Expectations

We have a tendency in the insurance industry to be a bit insular.  We consider only what other agencies are doing and judge our own performance in comparison.  They have new sales materials; we have a better PowerPoint presentation.  But your clients do more that buy insurance.  They interact with a myriad of suppliers.  And their expectations are affected by the service provided to them in their personal lives.  You're selling to people who live in a rapidly changing world.  Are you ahead of the curve or still selling things "the old way"?

Here are some of the top selling trends for 2016:

  • Customer relationship management (CRM) tools.  Using CRM software allows sales teams to work leads, manage clients, track commissions and more.  Yes, those are all things salespeople have always done (or should have), but this software simplifies and streamlines the task.  It makes the difference between "thinking" you followed up with that company three months ago to knowing it was actually six months ago.

  • Big data.  It's one of thing to collect data; it's another to know what to do with it.  Fortunately, there are more and more sales tools to help with analysis.  Here's a list of some of the best.
  • Social media.  Your clients are changing.  The younger ones grew up online.  They've already moved beyond Facebook.  If you're just now getting on Facebook, you're behind the curve.  Social media is a must-have.  No debate required.  Need help managing posts?  Try an online program like HootSuite.

  • Concern for online reputation.  Clients check you out before ever meeting you in person.  What does the internet have to say about you?  Or are there others out there with the same name burying you in the search engines?  What's being said about your company online?  Are you posting enough content to keep negative posts at bay when someone Googles your company name?

  • Acceptance of millennials.  Call them lazy, tech-centered and clueless if you'd like, but millennials will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025 (that's less than a decade folks).  If you refuse to change to serve their needs, your client base will soon shrink.

  • Diversity.  America in 2016 is more diverse than ever.  People like to buy from people they can relate to.  Hire so your office inside looks like the world outside.

Sales is about service.  Service is about meeting needs and exceeding expectations.  Are you capitalizing on any of the trends listed above?  How are you doing?  Are you above or below the curve?  It's never too late to change!

Tags:  Agency Management  efficiency  insurance marketing and sales  Leadership  Networking  productivity  Professional Development  self-improvement  Social Media  Technology 

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How to Beat the Big Guys

Posted By AIMS Society, Tuesday, December 29, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, December 29, 2015

How to Beat the Big Guys

Insurance has been referred to as “an industry completely dependent on selling a product that you can't hear, see, smell, taste or touch.” So said Clara Shih in the Ad Age article, The Original Social Networker? Your Insurance Agent. She went on to highlight the unique characters that have claimed a spot in consumer awareness:  Mayhem the Allstate villain, Flo the Progressive Girl, Snoopy representing MetLife and the GEICO gecko. You’ve seen them—and so has everyone else. On TV, in print, on social media, seemingly everywhere.

So, how do you, an independent agent, sell something that’s somewhat intangible that’s also being sold by a charming pseudo salesman? Can you even compete with “the big guys” with the big ad budgets to match?

Absolutely—and here’s how: by being genuine.

In fact, being genuine is the one quality those brand name characters can never, ever claim—and you can own completely. And when it comes to customers choosing who to entrust their safety, security and financial well-being, genuineness is a pretty powerful point of confirmation as to why you’re the right choice.

Of course, “genuine” is more about an approach to partnership than anything else. If you look up the adjective in the dictionary, it includes such descriptors as:

  • possessing the claimed or attributed character, quality, or origin; not counterfeit; authentic; real.
  • free from pretense, affectation, or hypocrisy; sincere: a genuine person.

In the marketingprofs.com article, 6 Reasons People Will Buy from You—Not Your Competitors, the importance of your approach is reinforced. Of particular mention in the article are these three key points that can set you apart—all of which are related to being genuine: 

  1. Their experiences with you. Your prospects will judge your worthiness based on how you make them feel…And always remember you are marketing to people first, so build the human bond by remembering personal details and listening carefully.”
  2. Your trustworthiness and reputation. Protect your good name, and do everything in your power to ensure that your customers, prospects, friends, employees, and colleagues view you as a person of value. Keep in mind that your credibility, plausibility, and truthfulness will also win you far more customers than exaggerated claims and over-the-top promises.”
  3. The value they receive. Although most consumers are price-conscious, the vast majority do not consider price alone when making their buying decisions. Rather, they consider value: the difference between what something costs and its worth to the buyer. What does value look like in the social media world? Answer: great content, expert advice and personal connections.” 

In the end, be yourself to make the sale. If you try to be anything else, it will merely be a matter of time until you can no longer maintain the charade and the partnership will fail. Worry less about the initial signature on the dotted line and more about the fit between you and your customer. If your personalities and approach are genuinely aligned, I’d bet on a long term partnership and mutual success. Now that’s a sale that lasts. 

Tags:  AIMS Society  efficiency  insurance marketing and sales  Networking  Professional Development  self-improvement 

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Winterize Your Business

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Winterize Your Business

Gardeners nationwide are cleaning out their gardens, getting the space ready for winter and the subsequent spring growing season. Homeowners are checking gutters, door seals and windows.

 

Before we know it, the holiday season will be upon us and we’ll be busy with get-togethers, shopping and cards. Now is the time to winterize.

 

Have you considered going through a similar exercise with your business? Before the holiday rush and the New Year craziness, let’s get our business houses in order too.  Some ideas:

  • Clean out your files, email inbox and contact lists. If you can’t bear to part with things, at least move files to a thumb drive or separate hard drive. Once complete, check with IT about having your computer defragmented and scanned for errors too.
  • Unsubscribe from unwanted mailing lists, follows or page likes.
  • Are you still a paper junky? If you need motivation to break the habit, consider not only the impact of all that paper on the environment, but this statistic from Your Office Isn't Big Enough for Clutter and Productivity“It costs nearly $25,000 to fill up a four-drawer filing cabinet. It also costs $2,100 each year to maintain it. That is a lot of lost money just to keep some papers on file.”
  • Read that last bullet one more time. 

Once your computer and paper files are in order, consider these ideas as well:

  • Once your computer and paper files are in order, consider these ideas as well:
  • Schedule annual client risk assessment meetings or simply a coffee together to close out the year.
  • Update your corporate Facebook page with a new photo or two. Double check that your profile is still accurate.
  • Review Linked In and Twitter profiles also.
  • Have a new headshot taken. Get it over with while you still have a glimmer of your summer coloring left.
  • Go through those desk drawers and throw away all the accumulated junk.
  • Consider changing the photos in your office—a new version of your favorite smiling faces is a guaranteed pick-me-up.
  • Add a plant or something fragrant to your office. It will add some perk to gray winter days.
  • Bring in a sweater and hang it on your door. You’ll be happy to have it that first chilly day.

Every task listed is certainly not mandatory—but a clean slate feels pretty remarkable. Just do one thing a week and you’ll be ahead of the game once the holidays hit. Happy Winterization!

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

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Hard work and no play makes Johnny inefficient

Posted By Administration, Thursday, June 04, 2015

 

You’ve returned to the office after a long holiday weekend. How’d you do? Did you rest and relax? Or did you sneak off to get a little work done? I’m not talking the occasional email check—I get that if you don’t scan through your inbox with some regularity, you arrive to the first morning of the workweek with umpteen-hundred emails demanding attention. I’m talking work, as in sit down at the computer and log an hour or more.

Well, it turns out that a new study from Stanford found that when the work-week exceeds 50 hours, productivity per hour declines sharply. After 55 hours, productivity takes such a nose dive that you might as well stop working. In the end, those that work 70 or more hours a week actually get the same amount accomplished as those who work 55 hours. Consider that statistic again—those working 70 hours a week accomplish no more than those working 55. If you’re the one posting 70 hours, you may argue that things are getting done during those extra 15 hours—but that’s at a substantially reduced rate of efficiency per hour so you really aren’t accomplishing anything at all.

If you’re the work-a-holic type, perhaps it’s time for a reboot. But don’t do it this week. Instead, write down everything you accomplish this week and note the size of each project. Also track the number of hours you work, including those evening rounds with your phone and email.

Then next week, cut your schedule back by 10-20%. At the end of that week, compare your accomplished task list to the week prior. Did it drop off by a commensurate amount? I doubt it will—and you will have just recaptured some new hours you can spend in another way. Unplug, exercise, pursue a passion, visit that restaurant you’ve been meaning to try, take your kid out for ice cream, read, or…just sit.

It shouldn’t take a holiday weekend to make you stop enough to enjoy your life. Give it a try. You’ve got nothing to lose, and potentially 15 hours to gain.

Tags:  efficiency  productivity  Relax  vacation 

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2014 Class of CPIA Designees Raises Total Number of Designations Granted to More Than 5,000

Posted By Administration, Monday, June 01, 2015

New Designees Honored at AIMS Society Event in Indianapolis

RICHMOND, VA (May 14, 2015) — The American Insurance Marketing and Sales (AIMS) Society announced that 533 insurance professionals earned its Certified Professional Insurance Agent (CPIA) professional designation in 2014, bringing the total number of CPIA designations granted to 5,142. A ceremony recognizing new designees took place on Thursday, May 7, during the AIMS Society’s 28th Annual PRO-to-PRO Executive Retreat in Indianapolis.

The Certified Professional Insurance Agent (CPIA) designation is the first-of-its kind, hands-on, how-to training. To earn the CPIA designation, candidates are required to complete a series of three Insurance Success Seminars: Position for Success (CPIA 1); Implement for Success (CPIA 2); and Sustain Success (CPIA 3.) The seminars are designed to enhance the ability of producers, sales support staff and company personnel to efficiently create and distribute effective insurance programs.

During 2014, more than 170 AIMS Society education sessions were held nationwide—up 17 percent from the prior year. Workshop attendance increased by more than 15 percent over 2013. “Agents, brokers and other insurance professionals continue to find value in the Insurance Success Seminars and other education sessions we offer,” explained AIMS Society president, Craig Most, CPIA, CIC. “Record-setting participation is a testament to the strong sponsor and facilitator partnerships we’ve built over the years and the solid and practical training the classes offer.”

New 2014 CPIA designees hailed from 33 states across the country. Massachusetts, where the CPIA professional designation program is sponsored by the Massachusetts Association of Insurance Agents (MAIA), produced the most new designees for the year at 98. “The AIMS Society/MAIA relationship was launched in the last half of 2013 and has generated substantial interest among insurance professionals in the Commonwealth,” Most noted. Other top CPIA states for 2014 were Florida, with 71 new designees, and Michigan, with 68.

This year’s PRO-to-PRO took place at the Marriott Indianapolis East on May 7-8, 2015, in conjunction with the Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) of Indiana annual convention. The event offered insurance agency owners, sales managers, producers, account executives, and company leaders an opportunity to learn and exchange ideas that can help boost sales success and increase revenue. The AIMS Society annual meeting was also held during the two-day event. For more information, visit bit.ly/PTP2015.

About AIMS Society: Founded in 1968 as The Firemark Society, the AIMS Society (www.AIMSSociety.org) is a national, member-driven organization that provides training, information and networking services designed to increase the personal and agency sales production of property and casualty insurance agents. AIMS Society was the first organization to honor property and casualty agents for sales excellence and to establish the industry’s only sales-based insurance designation—the Certified Professional Insurance Agent (CPIA). Completion of the CPIA designation requirements is not necessary to qualify for membership. Lifetime CPIAs are recognized with the initials “CPIAL.”

 

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Tags:  CPIA designation  PRO-to-PRO 

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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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