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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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Summer Casual

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Summer Casual

Summer is definitely the casual season.  Some offices boast summer hours, others institute more casual dress.  Studies show those can be valuable employee perks. 

But be careful that summer casual doesn’t translate into casual selling. 

Of course, no one wants a canned sales script—that went out the door with the sea of blue business jackets—but leaving a sales conversation to chance, without considering the best step-by-step approach for closing the sale is as risky as sitting out on a sunny summer day without sunscreen.  You’ll get burnt.

One training tool to consider is a call-flow document, which can help you or your staff identify the strongest opening statements and list of qualifying questions.  Also useful is generating a list of possible objections and pinpointing the appropriate response for each.  When you consider the possible arguments against your sales message in advance, it provides you the opportunity to brainstorm the right follow up approach.

In the spirit of summer, this process can actually be fun.  I swear.  Have everyone come to the table with their own call-flow document—their best ideas for starting and progressing a sales call—and then do some role playing.  Allow your team to embody the stereotypes of their toughest clients and prospects.  Even if they drift into a bit of silliness, the serious part of the project remains.  It forces people outside their own perspective and this exercise can challenge people to push their messaging up a notch.

Another thing to consider is how the same sales message should evolve based on how it occurs—online, on the phone or in person.  Once you’re comfortable with your personal call-flow document, think about how you might deliver it.  Will it take a series of emails?  Can you combine various communication options—maybe provide background information in an initial email, add some detail on the phone and then save the in-person meeting for the actual close?  Of course, it will vary by client style as well.  Make sure you deliver your message in the format your client prefers, not the one you do. 

The best thing about the call-flow document is that it doesn’t dictate the conversation, but it does force consideration of where the conversation might go based on what the client says in response.  In the end, it allows for a more casual “feel” while leaving less to chance.  And because you’re not left scrambling for a response or meandering to find your strongest benefit, you’re actually freed up to be more yourself.

 

  

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

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Pitching Insurance

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Updated: Monday, May 19, 2014

Pitching Insurance

By Donna Gray

 

When’s the last time you pitched insurance—not a policy, but the industry?

 

We could use your help. 

 

As an article in Leader’s Edge reveals, the average insurance employee is 58 years, and nearly 500,000 professionals will retire in the decade ending in 2018—that’s nearly one fourth of the industry’s workforce!

 

The McKinsey & Company study that notes this impending exodus also warns that replacing this talent will be difficult, saying insurance is saddled with a “poor reputation,” and younger workers don’t know the kind of opportunities available in our field.

 

If you like what you do—and I see the enthusiasm and positive attitude at AIMS events—it’s time to share your story.   Don’t sit silent and let the lawyers and doctors in the neighborhood steal all the bright stars.  You know as well as I that insurance is much more complex and offers more career prospects than many suspect.

 

If you need help getting started, a great resource is The Griffith Insurance Education Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes insurance and risk management education and understanding. The Griffith Foundation is eager to provide learning materials that you can share with your local schools—even as young as elementary age.  Or you can hook up with insurance and risk management students at a nearby college or university.  There’s few agencies that couldn’t benefit from a bit of collegiate enthusiasm or the go-get-‘em work habits of a summer intern.

 

At The AIMS Society, we know that education makes a difference.  It’s what keeps any industry vital.  So while we keep doing what we do, I hope you’ll consider encouraging a young person in your community to learn more about insurance.   Know someone who’s already interested?  Tell them to look into the Foundation for Agency Management Excellence or FAME scholarships. In the current academic year alone, FAME sponsored 46 $5,000 scholarships at universities nationwide. 

 

It’s our industry.  It’s our future. Let’s work together to keep it growing!

 

Donna Gray is executive director of the American Insurance Marketing & Sales (AIMS) Society, which offers the Certified Professional Insurance Agent (CPIA) professional designation.

Tags:  Agency Management  AIMS Society  Leadership  teamwork 

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Three Simple Customer Service Ideas Your Customers Will Love You For

Posted By Guest Post by Chris Paradiso, Paradiso Insurance, Thursday, August 8, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Let’s face it; a customer’s experience is everything. I say that because many insurance professionals believe that people do business with their agencies because we provide great service. My belief on great service stems from the idea that we receive a significant commission by providing great service, so I feel that every single one of my clients should expect to receive outstanding service from my agency and myself.

I believe there are three major points in a customer’s experience. It doesn’t really matter if I think that I have provided great service or my staff has provided great service. All that matters is the service that my client experienced with our office.

You Can Hear Us Smiling!

First and foremost, this stellar customer service experience begins with how we answer the phone. As we all know, the first impression is everything.  I coach and remind my staff all the time that we need to answer the phone in a positive manner, because it can have a lasting positive effect on our prospect or client’s rest of the day. This is perhaps one of the most important and simple ideas that your agency can practice because there are so many agencies out there that answer the phone as though it’s an inconvenience.

I tell everybody in our office that no one is bothering us because the people that are calling us are the same people who are paying our salaries. A great way to manage how people are answering the phone is to record calls. I would highly recommend that agencies record calls for two reasons:

1) to make sure the customer experience is going well, and

2) no one can truly understand what a customer may be going through when they’re reaching out to our office.

Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say

The second point of our discussion relates to our set of expectations in handling a new prospect or client. If a customer calls for an insurance quote, we set a timeline expectation for when they should hear back from our office.  I personally feel this is extremely important because people need to know in today’s fast paced world when to hear back from our agency. This is so important because I place myself in the same situation as a specific prospect that may be calling for insurance quote, and I personally would like to know when I can expect a phone call back.

As an agency owner, I realize that things occur during the day and sometimes we cannot meet the expectations of what we have originally set, but it’s critical to inform a client that if we say we’ll return your call at 3 o’clock, we will actually call them back at 3 o’clock, even if we do not have their quotes finalized. If this occurs, pick up the phone to reach out to the client and apologize for not being able to complete the quote but explain that you’re reaching out to keep in touch.  It’s all about the communication with the client or prospect.

Don’t "Drop The Ball” at the Buzzer

The third point is the follow-through. Following through with what we have promised and/or have set as expectations is critical. For example, if we have recently quoted a piece of business and the client has suggested that we contact them within two days so that they could have time to review the quote with their spouse, we as an agency need to follow through with the expectations that our clients have set forth. Without the follow-through, you will simply become a professional estimator, and remember professional estimators are not paid very well.

As I write this article, I think of a great friend of mine who is an agency owner in New Jersey named Nick San Filippo, who always reminds me of the importance of how the customer perceives your service to be. Remember, it’s not about us, it’s all about the customer and their experience.


Chris Paradiso is the newest member of the AIMS Society board of directors.  See more from Chris at Paradiso Presents, LLC.

Tags:  AIMS Society  CPIA designation  insurance marketing and sales  Leadership  Paradiso Presents  teamwork 

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Have a plan. Communicate it to the team. And be organized!

Posted By Kitty Ambers, Friday, June 21, 2013

I've always known that you need a vision of where you’re headed if you want to arrive. This is true in insurance agencies and other businesses. It’s true in life in general, as well.

Recently, I had the opportunity to put the concept into action across a multi-state network of resources. Here's the story....

My eldest son, Jordan, was offered a summer internship in Nashville, Tennessee. Of course, that was great news and it represented an incredible opportunity. However, Jordan somehow needed to from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia to the company intern orientation in Cleveland, Ohio and then on to Nashville. Oh, and he needed somewhere to live in Nashville. Not surprisingly, we had a very tight time-frame in which to do everything we needed to do. Pulling it off would require planning, organization, teamwork and communication.

The first challenge was finding an affordable place for Jordan to live for the three-month internship. He and I made a quick trip to Nashville to check out options, and we quickly learned that trying to find short-term accommodations in Nashville during the summer would be no easy task. I called on my network of Nashville insurance friends. Surely, I thought, someone would have a real estate connection. How right I was! As a result of my inquiries and a positive referral from an agent friend, we secured a three-month lease in a perfectly-sized studio apartment in a great location for a college kid.

The next challenge would be to furnish the place. Because of the short-term nature of the assignment, and Jordan's need to travel between his college condo and his Nashville studio apartment, we didn't want to totally relocate all of this stuff for the summer. This is where having a basic plan and communicating it to the "team" came into play! I texted friends and family a list of what we needed and, low and behold, we gathered a nice collection of chairs, tables, dishes, a bed, a dresser, area rugs and more from across several states. Then, my dear Dad and Mom took a small "detour" from Baltimore to Southern Delaware and over to Richmond, to bring their furniture contributions in their enclosed trailer, which we would use to make the move. All of this took place on a Thursday afternoon.

Jordan - All settled in!The final challenge was the move itself. Mandatory "orientation" for interns took place in Cleveland and the assignment in Nashville was to start three days later. While Jordan was driving from Virginia Tech to Cleveland and back, we were packing things up in Richmond. On Saturday, my husband and I travelled from Richmond to Blacksburg to meet up with Jordan, his clothes and his golf clubs, for the trip to Nashville. By Saturday night, we had him moved in and had a final short list of errands ready for Sunday morning!

While all of this sounds crazy, having a game plan that our entire "team" was aware of allowed everyone to play their position. Best of all, the game had a successful outcome! We totally enjoyed our trip and our time with Jordan in his new place. We were able to have a relaxing Sunday with him, touring the city and enjoying some great BBQ!

The lesson is simple: have a plan, communicate it and be organized in the execution! This lesson applies to both business and life.

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

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Win from Within

Posted By Kitty Ambers, Friday, June 14, 2013
Updated: Friday, June 14, 2013

You may have seen the commercial. One of the NBA’s leading scorers, Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma Thunder, is having a classic dream. The game is on the line in the final seconds and he has the opportunity to make the winning shot. Instead of making that shot, Miami Heat all-time leading scorer, Dwayne Wade, appears out of nowhere and in a showing of tremendous strength, blocks Durant's winning opportunity.

Durant wakes with a start. His glorious dream has turned into a nightmare because he was outplayed. Durant immediately jumps out of bed and hits the street running. He's then shown lifting weights, training and practicing hard in an empty gym. The commercial is for Gatorade products, featured as the fuel that makes the hard work pay off.

The final scene of the commercial shows Durant with the opportunity to tie the game. This time, he rises above his opponent - D. Wade - and makes the shot. The tables have turned and Wade is now living the nightmare! The message: "Win from Within".

Have you ever had a similar dream-turn-nightmare scenario about your business? If so, here are three ideas addressed during CPIA 1 - Position for Success that can help you and your team win from within.

(1) Know Yourself – Take time to look in the mirror. What are the strengths and experiences that you bring to the playing field? Are you maximizing them? What are your weaknesses and what potential threats do they create? What habits do you have that may be sabotaging your success? What fuels you to work hard to improve in some way every day? Assess your personal capabilities and honestly consider areas for improvement. Have each member of your team do the same.

(2) Know the Organization You Represent – Most firms have a catchy tag line or mission statement. Go beyond that. What is the organization all about? Specifically, talk with your team about things like:

· What do we do well?

· Where do we have unique experience or expertise?

· How diligent are we at collectively building relationships through our communication and problem-solving abilities?

· Where do we – collectively – need to improve?

Involve everyone in the organization in this effort. The viewpoints from the positions your team members play can provide tremendous insight.

(3) Take Action – Like Durant jumped out of bed and hit the street to begin training harder, adopt a sense of urgency. Based on what you have gleaned from your assessment of yourself and your organization, get to work! Make a plan that leverages strengths and minimizes weaknesses – both personally and as a team. Determine who plays which position(s) best, develop a disciplined and consistent approach to training, keep score, communicate lessons learned from wins and losses, and keep practicing!

"Most people have the will to win, few have the will to prepare to win," says Bobby Knight. Be among those who are diligent about preparation and watch your team Win from Within.

When you're ready to get to work, we hope you'll include the AIMS Society and our CPIA Seminar series as your training partner! Visit www.aimssociety.org for more information and a schedule of upcoming events.

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

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