I think my dog appreciates me

She does. She can’t say it but she shows it, at least I think she does.  Maybe the world needs a better guide to “working with an insurance agent.”  Here are a few bullet points from 2010.

This is closer to the truth than what I say to myself every day; which is that our customers appreciate us.

Comes on the heels of a bit of a rant between myself and one of our team, in front of a newer member of the team.  In the same stretch where a few customers have left that has been a bit tough to comprehend.  Sure, people leave, it is part of the business.  Even if the 25% rate increase is the cause it is always your fault.  Even with a backlog several weeks long and the ability to be overwhelmed with new people, losses sting.  But, we keep going forward.

The problem with reading a lot and the “current content, content, content,”  and ” please don’t forget me even if I am not worth remembering”the world is sometimes ignorance seeps through and people are writing to be seen not to convey information.  This is somewhere in the middle.

Most people have no clue or interest just how murky it is behind the scenes of auto and home insurance.  I read about a merger last night and my very first thought of the 9 billion dollar merger was “I hope that company can now figure out how to stop mailing EVERY document to us.”   But, as usual, the direction is forward.

The article of the week was two silly insurance companies, one old and one new, spending money on advertising instead of on their customers.  With the old one also using a B-List celebrity and a couple of NBA players to make their “point.”  In quotes because there really wasn’t one of any value.  Just another example of insurance dollars being spent frivolously.  Oh, and there is actually no way an agent, whose primary compensation is commission based, can spend that much time on claims.  Especially if working for a captive carrier.

And, appreciation is not the point.  Built into our system are several procedures to eliminate things.  Namely, even though the losses sting, our flow of new business far exceeds the people leaving.  And, even having this, we have other procedures in place to reduce the lost customers.  Both of these and their sub-elements work and work well.  And, as I said and will continue to say, we need to have enough pride that it stings, momentarily, and then shrug our shoulders and keep going.


Just keep in touch

In the last week, a customer left, no news there, but I have donated to a fundraiser they did and do sort of know them. Yesterday, another customer came in with a gift for me and one of our team.  Actually very tasty olive oil.  The first one checks more “boxes” that most companies look for and spent at least twice as much with us.  The second spends half the amount of money and doesn’t “fit” common profiles of what a company wants.  Below was written May 2014 and has only been updated thanks to Grammarly.

Really, everything a company or a salesperson does seems to be geared towards a sale.  So many places online pitch social media success or “how to drive business  with social…”  Why must everything be about growing your business?  How about strengthening the business?  How about increasing profits?  How about simply using your strengths?  Use social to do all the things that your massive competitors cannot do?  How about realizing that before you spend money to advertise on social or run a contest or promote a post that there are a dozen or so free things that you can do that many of your larger counterparts cannot do.

So I come at this from the side of a developing insurance brokerage.  We tend to work with a pretty select clientele.  There is no advertising done.  So some thoughts;

  1. Before you spend any money, take some time and effort to get to know the people you already have in place.  Seriously, before you head out and get more customers or spend money solidify what you have in place.  Have you LinkedIn with everyone?  Have you shared a Facebook Page with them?  Looked for them on Twitter?
  2. How about recommendations?  Both LinkedIn and Facebook provide excellent opportunities for all these people you already know to say(type) nice things about you.  Just ask.  Start with the ones you think you know best.  While you are at it go and recommend the places you know and the people you have worked with.
  3. How about charity?  In my world, I doubt Geico will ever donate to a local charity and seriously why would your business simply donate to any charity or take out an advertisement in some sort of program just for the heck of it.  Support those that support you.
  4. We know large companies are very good at spamming.  In fairness, small companies can be as well.  Try and ignore the urge.  Seriously, double down on your efforts to keep up with existing customers.
  5. Do the things they do not or cannot; share the posts your friends and customers put up.
  6. Can your large counterparts refer their own customers to each other? Yes, Do they? NO, You can do this.  Connect the web of people you have around you and try and strengthen the weak ties.
  7. Instead of talking about rates be a resource.  Help make logical decisions,  Make an effort to bring them business instead of just taking their money
  8. Cracks me up when I see some sort of “canned” blog article appear on various sites.  I am also thoroughly amused by useless articles on Yahoo Finance and other sites.  Its like they have ten or so articles and simply make an effort to put out useless tips once a week.

Just embrace the fact that you are small and enjoy the heck out of it.  Why wouldn’t you?

Opening > Closing ?

One of the better things about working with “newer” people is you get to rethink both positive and negative moments.  Analyzing a situation and the steps create a refresher course for me and have even helped open my eyes to missed, unnecessary and better steps that can benefit all of us;

This post on closing vs. opening has continued to come up.  Sometimes it comes out as ” Just go make some new friends and see what happens…”  other times as ” Just see how you can help them..”  or “See if he/she is going to that event and if not invite them”

I get it, closing a sale gets you paid.  Sure it does. It pays you today or whenever your commission comes.  But, haven’t you had the experience when someone is pushing you through a sales script and you catch on a few steps in?  It just feels icky to me.  I’m not sure what the other word is, or even if it is one word, but here are a few things that have come up;

  • A sure sign you have “done your job” which is essentially translating verbal trust to the moment when a payment comes, is when the person is handing you payment information and not exactly sure of the payment amount.
  • A similar moment to this is when you feel them “closing” themselves.  You know you can skip some steps and get to the point.
  • When a long time customer relays a heartfelt message to a co-worker who then transcribes it for you to read.  That right there is as important as a close.  Why? Because it goes beyond the transaction.

When you close a sale, by definition, it means an end.  A process has come to a close.  Is that really what you want?  Do you want this new person to simply be closed?  Do you really think your silly take out a piece of paper and ask them to take out their phone to give you referrals(insert vomiting noise here) is as good on a closed person or better on an open one?  Yes, this forgets your tactic is past its time.

What if you were instead always keeping an eye on what could be next?  What opportunities could be opened by this transaction/interaction/sale/relationship start, etc?


Situational reading

I wrote, “Want to improve your world, start with reading this..” and I suppose I meant it in October 2012.  But, since then I’ve changed quite a bit and so has the world.

Coincidentally, I am in a bit of a reading lull.  My morning reading time is absorbed by writing and a larger project that needs to get done.  I also have several books and magazines backed up.  Fortunately, there is Audible and still a fair amount of driving happening so I am not completely without.

Although I vaguely remember that book, I do not follow either author anymore.  My needs and tastes have evolved.  That book is still likely solid but maybe not “right” for my situation.  What does that mean?

I mean there are a couple of go-to books I have for just about anyone who is new to working with me.

  • Think and Grow Rich
  • The Compound Effect
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People

Really tough to go wrong with any of these for ANYONE in an environment where they will be expected to perform and spend there time engaging with other people.  Beyond that, it can get very specific to what your needs are at the moment.

  • Harvey McKay wrote some excellent books
  • Franklin’s and Hamilton’s biographies are amazing
  • Richard Branson has led a heck of a life
  • Anything by Seth Godin

But, if you dive deeper, you can find some more history and several older books that are no longer published.  Why?  It took a while, but it finally dawned on me that there are all sorts of books and all sorts of “authors.”  That it makes sense to take recommendations from people you admire but it is also a good idea to read books referenced in other books you enjoy.

One of the traps I have fallen into is thinking that reading posts and articles is the same as reading a book.  They are not.  Although reading is important.  Reading for the sake of reading hasn’t done much for me.  If anything, it frustrates me a bit because I read an article, even if only for a few minutes, and then have the same sinking feeling as when I pass the fridge or snack drawer and eat something just because I passed by.

Just because it is there doesn’t mean it is worth reading….or eating.

But, back to reading.  Some basics;

  • Yes, my tastes will not be yours, even if there is some overlap.
  • It’s tough to filter the noise now but since publishing a book is part of a business plan instead of just a way to pass knowledge, be careful.
  • If you have no background in business or sales yet write about business or sales, it is tough to take you seriously
  • I appreciate all the professors hiding in academia that publish books based on research.  Seriously, I do.  Just not nearly as much as those of us in the arena doing the work.
  • Many of your “new” sales books are just repackaging of time-tested themes.  Try going to the source.  Find books pre-1970 or even from the 40’s or earlier.
  • Most of us don’t need another sales book, it is a procrastination crutch.  Might be better off getting slapped in the face by Steven Pressfield’s Do the Work
  • It’s a shame book as a business card was, maybe still is, a thing.  It’s mostly just more noise.
  • Careful!  Bestseller or Best Selling Author meant something very different ten years ago.

Happy reading.  Please consider making it part of your daily routine.

Adding value to car claims

Well, I have some relevant experience lately and this post from 2010, updated in 2015, is the same advice I followed and still give out.  But, along the way there where several missed opportunities to add value to an insurance brand.

  • So your car is on its way to the shop or in the shop and you need a rental. Now, my experience with Hertz and Enterprise was as expected; average.  Nothing bad nothing worth noting.  What would I like to see different?
    • There are ALOT of people who cannot or it would hinder them to have to give the $50-$100  hold on their credit card for the rental.  This can be an easy fix
    • I suppose a reasonable amount of empathy from both places.  But, I wonder if they actually understand the insurance claims process enough to empathize?
  • Lots of talk about BMW, Tesla, Volvo, etc. making programs where the car comes with insurance.  There are several affinity programs that exist as well.  But, when I stepped into, as the kids and I called it, The Clown Car.  Really was a Nissan Versa, not a bad ride just “what was available” I was underwhelmed.  Then, accident two happened and I was in a Subaru Impreza sedan.  Ironic but very nice.  That is when it hit if you have a car brand, why are you not working closely with insurance companies as well as rental car companies.  You have a captive audience that can be narrowed down to people who MUST BUY A NEW CAR.  What a missed opportunity.  Sure, there are some people loyal to brands but I bet there are thousands, if not hundreds of thousands who would “try” something either intentionally or because it was an equal option. This could also end up being a place for companies to save money on claims?
    • Look at all the car advertising you see on the internet, in your mail, etc.  Wondering; what is the cost to get someone to buy a car?  What is the average cost of rental cars during a claim?  Well, the coverage typically available is between $900-$1500.  How does that fit with customer acquisition cost?
  • Although I like telematics, adoption will be a challenge in the largest part of the market, the middle.  Why?  Retrofitting older cars?  Well, there is an app for that.  It is more trust that does it.  So I had a new fancy Subaru with all sorts of features my old Scion didn’t have.  This was interesting.  Is this another way to get people used to having things in the car that bring value?
  • I’m not a fan of more advertising, but I am still left wondering why Hertz/Enterprise, again they have a captive audience, didn’t attempt to make me like them?  Both had a nice experience at the counter and I did need to call both and both were ok.  But, again, here is a chance to differentiate.  We travel a few times a year and may need to rent a car.  Who should we choose?  My wife has a corporate program she is a part of, maybe now is the time to really “wow” a family?
    • ” Oh, you are part of the Gold Program, we won’t be putting a hold on your card….”
    • “Oh, I see you have $30 a day, but wait you are part of our Gold program so here is an upgrade……”
  • Maybe you can even go a step further and tell your car renter that, if they need gas during the rental and go to Sunoco(just an example) please scan the card on the keychain for $.10 off a gallon….

Here is to hoping I avoid any more field research with rental cars and claims 🙂

4 updates in 1

Circa October 2010, none of these really need/deserve a full reboot and it looks like I made slight updates in May 2015

Post 1     Post 2   Post 3   Post 4

First, let us take a moment to thank Grammarly.  Like you, I’m busy and miss things.  Old posts had lots of silly, mostly lazy, mistakes.

Your updated disclaimer; I value time more than I did in October 2010 and, as my available time seems to diminish and priorities shift, even more than in May of 2015.  What does this mean?  Well, I am not sure that I held back then and the only stuff I hold back now is proprietary stuff.  Even that is shared with certain audiences.

So you have your “here we go” and a “disclaimer” but what about the “Why I write?”  Still for clarity.  Still to empty the brain that is even more full today than it was.  The ideas are better, The actions are more.  The industry is changing, slower than I thought but still in the right direction.  And, I intend to be at the center of change.

So the scary one for me, and here comes the enlightened self-interest post and the “good selfish” one as well, is post 4.  Yes, that one is still sadly true.  How is it possible that others are not catching up to what I have been doing and advocating for 8+ years?  What gets a bit worse is watching people, now all over social, use silly absolute type statements that cannot be true.

Seriously!!!  What the F is “right coverage”  or “properly insured” 


Consider starting high and with rare exception walking a little backward.

You better have some non-negotiable coverage in there as well.

Remember, NONE OF US can predict the future let alone a customers. Might as well buy a lotto ticket….but when it comes to insurance, fill as many logical holes as you can and accept that the companies do not care.

DO NOT spend someone else’s money for them.  Seriously, do you honestly think you know what is best for everyone you work with?  Are you seriusly still using some sort of antiquated ideas based on “assets”?

Do better.  Always.  Save your filters for Instagram

Customers. Period

But really, I call them Friends and Acquaintances;

“There are no strangers here, only friends you haven’t met yet”  William Butler Yeats

A bit deep on Friends from 2015 coincides with a training session with some pieces that are a bit off

I’ve never quite fully understood the philosophy of  “A, B and C customers….”  In the sense that I completely understand what is being said; focus your time on energy to produce a better outcome.  Great.  But, on the other hand, when you see in insurance today can partially be attributed to widespread use of this kind of attitude.

Depending on where you learn about it, it essentially says you need to classify your fellow humans by how much money they invest with you or how many policies they have with you, etc.  We humans label each other enough.  Was thinking this(and may expand on it elsewhere) when looking at my car.  The car has a logo.  Shouldn’t that be enough?  Nope, instead, in my case, it also had four separate markings to further clarify the company name, model name, and two features.  A previous owner even put another label on it.  Yes, the brain has a lot to work on each day, I get it.  But do we really need to continue to label things so intensely?

Consider an alternative, stems from a piece of how we work;

  • Neutral or better; essentially, you do not need to love everyone, just like them.  It is ok to be indifferent, as long as they are nice.
  • All of their money is green.  Period.  Shouldn’t that be enough?
  • Not everyone will fit all the boxes you propose for them.  Do they really need to fit all them? NO! Especially if we are neutral or better and their money is green.
  • Look at your whole ecosystem; the fact is we would really like to have an average of 3 policies per household/customer.  Averaging this is possible but it is not reasonable to have three policies in every household.  Period.
  • The actions of some customers actually let you help others.  Is this subsidizing?  Maybe.  But if you look at your customer base as a whole entity, this is healthy.
  • Everyone in the company needs to be willing and able to help everyone that calls.  It doesn’t mean they can or will.  Of course, we have people who specialize in commercial.  We have those that can sort of help with commercial.  We have customers that just prefer one person to another.  All of this is ok. Why?  Because we have things we do that make this ok.

This can go a lot of ways.  I’ve seen this explained in some fairly despicable terms.  I get it.  You have a finite, unmeasurable amount of time on this sphere.  Me to.  But, on the other hand, if you have the ability to help people why aren’t you spending time on that instead of classifying who to help and who not to help?

Not enough

I’ve adapted a fair amount since this September 2014 post  https://theinsurancebill.com/?p=418

But, maybe reinforced my thoughts is a better way of thinking about it.

  • I define winning, no one else
  • I compete against myself, no one else
  • Anyone interested in purely defining me or my company by numbers only isn’t going to get very far with me
  • Context around numbers is really important
  • Many of the metrics, KPI’s, etc. used in insurance are flawed. And generally not going to work for the next decade and beyond

Opportunity; It’s simple, if you are focused on opportunities you’ll find opportunities.  Sometimes, as I’ve learned, this really means you’ll make them.  Or make something or make the situation an opportunity.   **Google Reticular Activating System**

So Hiring and Sales;

HIRING; I’m looking for good people that want to help people buy insurance.  I’m interested in helping make them the best version of themselves possible.  I/We will be as flexible as we reasonably can when it comes to your role/title and is more than open to combining ideas and adapting if we see opportunities that will benefit you.

The industry has, depending on where you read, a large to a massive shortage of humans working in it.  And, it shows.  This will not be solely fixed by technology and certainly not by narrow minds with old standards.

SALES; Consider the phrase, which for us is a way of working ” Manufacturing a Market.”  In brief, it is willing to let sales develop over time because you know how to develop sales over time.  It is how you work with people who buy versus having to sell people.  It’s not crazy, just different.  If you have enough companies that will accommodate enough situations BUT you also have a core operating idea that keeps the process within certain guidelines, you’ll never be without.

Nothing wrong with working in a niche.  I get it and admire your willingness.  The world needs more than that from me.

Just Help Me MORE

The  big difference between this in 2012 and today is the level is higher

Don’t sell me……….Help me buy

I’m not about to say “selling is dead” or something silly like that.  What I am saying is being a resource beats being a salesperson.  Do you know things that can help the person buy today?  YOU BETTER.  How about so things look better in 6,12, 18 months and beyond?  I REALLY HOPE SO.  Are you willing to let them go now because your sale today actually doesn’t help the person you are taking money from?  YES

Don’t build to a close………build a relationship

I’ve had a few people working with me for a bit now.  Over the last few weeks I’ve been warning them that how we do business will have a positive but also some negative impacts in the rest of their lives.  What does that mean?  Essentially that they know how we like to to treat people.  When you recognize this in others you get excited.  But, most of the times you’ll recognize their sales flow and that you are just another sale.  I’m used to it but it doesn’t mean I like it.  Every interaction is a chance to make a new acquaintance who can become a friend and beyond.  Making a sale is nice, almost easy.  Making a sale and a friend at the same time is much nicer and just as easy.

Don’t “Ben Franklin” close me?………help me by showing the why

Most sales techniques and tactics are rooted in some very basic human psychology.  It is what it is.  Two or more humans are engaging and our DNA  is wired a certain way. Consider just having a conversation.  We prefer to act like the licensed professionals we are, not “producers.”  A problem is presented and we fix the known and the unknown.  Sure, you can list them out but, at least in insurance, this time and effort is better spent elsewhere.

No fear of loss…….stick to why you are a good person to buy from 

This can be a tricky one.  It is a conversation I have with one of our team once a week.  We have a perpetual machine that steadily drips more people to work with. We also have tools and ways to continually find more people to work with.  Knowing you have this, takes a lot of the “pressure” off selling everyone you are talking to.  But, some of the philosophy and lines that go with this are in conflict;  ” We don’t need you….”  “Sure, we’d be happy to work with you….” But you know you have a backlog of people that may be easier to work with  Knowing that there is no person/business/account that can make your business but some can really hinder things.  It’s more of a “If you want to work with us, great.  If not, no big deal.  Keep in touch…..”

Don’t close me………..make me open to a new relationship

ALWAYS.  Sure, technically getting the yes and taking a payment can and is “a close” but if that is all you are after, that is all you’ll get.  That is not a good use of my time and I do not view it as a good use of my team’s time either.  On the other hand, helping someone buy  insurance, helping them feel good about the transaction, giving them reasons to want to share me/us with others, etc.  That is a much better use of time

Buying should be easy

Period. Full Stop.  “buying is the new black” or whatever clever line you can insert.  The original post is here  https://theinsurancebill.com/?p=197

You can insert your own example of my microwave/hood combo.  This week it was a charitable thing that has yet to put an easy PayPal link on their website.  I’m not against paying you, but I need a way to do it and YOU NEED TO ASK.

It has been six years and I have yet to hear anyone say ” Please sell me insurance…” yet unfortunately many are still trying to do it, still.  Sad, but on the other hand, those of us that are helping people buy are likely as busy as us.

Here’s the thing, the world and most lives are busy. “Easy” is able to be bought “hard” needs to be sold.  I’ll take easy.  Yes, I know we and others can certainly be better.  But, regardless of what we come up with someone still needs to ask for the money and taking it needs to be easy.  Some things that maybe you can help with;

  • We have very few companies that will take ALL brands of credit cards
  • When margins are tight and shrinking, who should absorb the fee
  • PayPal is making HUGE strides, but I am not quite connecting the dots yet.  Has anyone in insurance?