Category Archives: insurance agents

Substance vs. Corporate Jargon

I had a meeting with an agency manager this week and the conversation flowed very smoothly. We both understood one another completely and business was conducted in a very effective manner.  There was real substance to our discussion points.  We got a lot accomplished in an hour.  We understood one another, thanks to the substance.

I was reminded of how real substance in a business discussion makes for conversation that produces results.  I was also reminded of another discussion I held with an agent who is an State Manager for a large, well-known National insurance carrier.  The discussion was going very well and we understood one another for sure.  In the middle of the discussion – over lunch – his manager walked into the restaurant and when my manager friend saw him, of course he invited his boss to sit with us.  ‘The Boss’ was a very nice guy who asked me a lot of good questions about my program.   One of my answers prompted ‘The Boss’ to turn to the State Manager and say a few things – presumably relevant – but in their particular form of corporate jargon – “corporate speak”, if you will.  Then they both started talking and nodding at me.  Their words were intended to relate to their “corporate vision”.  I am all about having clear visions but they need to be expressed in an understandable way.  Apparently I was supposed to see the relevance of the many phrases of visions, to my operations.  I didn’t.  The points that the ‘The Boss’ was attempting to make were flying over my head without stopping-by to sink in.

The next time I meet with my State Manager business acquaintance, I will try my best to make sure his ‘Boss’ – nice guy that he is – will not wander into the same restaurant.  If I ever to meet with ‘The boss’ again, I will ask for their proprietary corporate dictionary.

Maybe it is just me but give me the substance any day.

From Your Thoughts to Your Destiny

Saw this today from Chris Paradiso, an Insurance Agency Principal at Paradiso Insurance – paradisoinsurance.com

Chris is a great “follow” on LinkedIn and other social media networks.

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

P&C Agent: “What Do You Really Want to Do?”

A P&C Agent and I were talking today and discussing his options with regard to the agency network group that might be best for him to consider, based on his particular circumstances.   He asked for my opinion.

I explained that I do not normally recommend one group over another as I want the agents to make their choices based on their own evaluations.  I supply some of the tools and related advice to help them make the most informed decisions but they decide on the final choice.

To help them in the decision-making process, one question that I like to ask is: “What do you really want to do?”  

It sounds simple enough but the agent needs to decide if he or she wants to be inside an office, fielding calls, processing business, supervising other production people, etc. or does the agent want to be free to produce outside the office and not be involved with the day-to-day activities of running an agency.  Of course, there can be a lot of room in the middle of these two scenarios but the answer to the question:  “What do you really want to do?” is often not asked of agents.   The answer is really very helpful in the process as many agency network groups offer variations to their main program models, to accommodate different agents’ needs.

It is too easy to assume that all agents want the same thing in terms of their involvement in the insurance business.  My image is often not their image.

LinkedIn – More Meaningful Connections

Lately, I am making it a point to ask many people I encounter daily in business settings – both formal and informal – if they are on LinkedIn. Most are and I ask them if I can connect with them after meeting them.  It is an easy way to make more meaningful connections.  Just change the automatic invite message wording to a more personal one, possibly referencing your conversation earlier in the day or mentioning something significant or mutually interesting, that you discussed together.  The chances are that this practice will result in stronger business connections for you.  It has worked well for me.

 

Teaching People to Care

Can it be done?   I recently read an article in which the author stated that, as an insurance Agency Principal, he feels that he can teach any employee to do almost any task.  He added that the real issue is to teach people to care.

Maybe he was in a low mood when he stated this but his point is well-taken, as least as “food for thought”.   It might have more to do with creating an atmosphere where “caring” is a key aspect of the workplace culture.

I am not at all sure that “caring” can be taught.

 

George Nordhaus – “A Marketing Man for All Seasons”

My title for this blog could just as well have been “George Nordhaus – A Marketing Man for All Insurance Agencies”.  Most of the agency principals with whom I interact know his name. They will tell me that they remember George’s marketing products, presentations and/or interviews – all developed and presented with the purpose of enhancing the world of insurance marketing, to the benefit of so many agency operations and the industry in general.

Always sincere, enthusiastic and with so much energy in his efforts, George is still “out there” in his marketing ideas laboratory, cooking-up solutions to fit the needs of insurance agencies of all shapes and sizes.

Specifically he employs his unending energy to produce “Monday Morning”, a series of timely interviews with various people in the insurance industry, all who want to spread their messages through the efforts of George Nordhaus. Additionally, he oversees the operations of Agencies-On-Line, LLC – www.agenciesonline.biz and Insurance Hiring System –www.insurancehiringsystem.com.

Has any one person done more in the last fifty-plus years to promote insurance industry marketing? It is doubtful.

Under ‘Advice for Contacting George’ on his LinkedIn profile, he states:  “I am totally open to just about anything that concerns marketing”.  That sums it up.  He is open to everyone.

You owe it to yourself to check-out his resources.  Guys like him are few and far between.  In an era with so many different marketing information providers, with his unique and time-tested approaches, George Nordhaus is truly one of a special breed.

Agents: Read & Understand Your Employment Agreements

This week I had an agent tell me that he felt like he was deceived when he tried to leave the agency that had employed him as a producer, for more than five years.   He announced to the employing agency principal that he was leaving to go out on his own, as he had a deal to buy a small, existing agency,  His next question to the employer was how he could transfer the business he had produced for them, for five-plus years.  The agency principal pulled out the agreement that the producer had signed when he was first employed in the agency.  It stated that the first full year of the producer’s employment did not count toward fulfillment of his five year qualification requirement.  It was considered to be “orientation and training”, although the actual training period seemed to last only a few months, before the producer was turned loose to produce.

So, instead of having satisfied the full five years of vesting, the producer still had a year to go to be able to extract the business for his own purposes.  The producer told me that he remembered something about that clause in his agreement but didn’t fully understand the wording and didn’t ask for clarification, before signing the agreement when he was first hired.

He had obviously made a big mistake.  The damage was done and now his plan for his own agency is in real jeopardy.  He said that he might file a law suit to dispute the validity of the terms but he cannot afford to do so at this time.

The “moral of the story” is of course to make sure you not only read your agreements thoroughly but be sure to get a clear understanding of all the terms.  Get a clarifying letter, if you are not sure of any aspect of any agreement.  Better yet, ask for some review and clarification help from a third party.  You cannot afford to make mistakes like this.

Tip:  Some of the State Agent organizations provide contract reviews for their Members.

Websites for Insurance Agents – Designed by Insurance Agents

In my discussions and dealings with agents who are looking to start their own agencies or acquire additional markets and useful services for their existing agencies, I often hear them tell me that their web-designer either does not understand their needs or reacts slowly to their required updates.

I am not saying that all non-insurance web-design entities fail in this area.  However I know that one insurance agent almost always best understands the needs of another in this area.  Agents understand one another’s needs.

Toward that end, at the Florida Insurance Agents (FAIA) Annual Convention in Orlando, I recently met an insurance agent who provides web design and upgrade services to other insurance agents, along with social media marketing services.

If you are interested in exploring her services, She is Amberlee Easterwood and can be reached at : www.simplysocial.com makesenseins@gmail.com

I also discovered that Amber has an Insurance Blog specifically focused on educating consumers about the importance of understanding the need to have adequate coverage. If you need free content of this nature for your social media accounts, feel free to share her blog posts with your clients and prospects!

 

Marketing Plan – “Non-Marketing Fluff”

Too often when I am helping an agent update an existing marketing plan, prepared by someone else, I frequently find that they contain a lot of what I refer to as “non-marketing fluff”.  Simply put it is filler that is often used to make the plan look more impressive.  The opposite effect is usually the result.

It is easy to fall blindly in love with statistics, charts and and demographics when preparing a marketing plan.  The most important guide-point to help avoid overuse of such data is to always remember the following two major purposes of a marketing plan.  They are equally important.

For one, an marketing plan is developed to provide direction for an agency’s operations, especially as relates to revenue enhancement and profitable growth.  It is the agency’s map to guide them through the processes that will most probably ensure success.

Secondly, and just as important, a marketing plan is developed to show both your existing carriers and prospective carriers how you are going to attract and write the profitable business that they want from their agency partners.

No one wants to have to swim through a lot of “marketing fluff” to get to the real-life activities that will get you to achievement of your objectives.

Sale of Your Agency – Examples

Before you join a premium aggregator or agency network group, one of the key questions to ask is:  “What would happen if and when I decide to sell my agency to an agency that is not a member of your network?”   Make sure that you get a very logical and understandable answer, in writing of course.

It is also a good idea to make up a few sample scenarios and present them to the network representative, asking for clear answers to cover each situation.  Again, get the answers “in writing”, email or whatever covers it for you.  Think of a few agency sales or mergers in the area, of which you have some basic knowledge.  Use them as your examples to present to the representatives.