You're not just an insurance agent. You're an entrepreneur and a small business owner. You're passionate about two things: rescuing people from future calamities and growing your insurance agency. This post is about the second thing: growing your insurance agency. Actually, it's about more than growing; it's about scaling.There's a difference, and it’s critical.
Growing is linear because you're just doing more of the same thing.
Scaling is a lot smarter than growing. It involves engaging in increasingly valuable activities. For a consulting practice like an insurance agency, scaling is hugely more profitable, but it requires thinking differently.
Let's look at seven smart ways that you can scale your insurance agency.
Tip 1: Optimize Your Policies-to-Households Ratio (P2H™).
P2H is, perhaps, the easiest measurement of the health of your book of business. It's easy to calculate: just divide your total policies by your total households.
The lowest possible P2H is 1.0, which would indicate that every household has 1 policy. In our experience, insurance agencies with P2H above 3.0 are extremely successful and profitable. There is so much momentum built up in their book of business that they have some big advantages:
- They don't have to rely so much on out-of-book prospecting.
- They don't have to come up with a new plan every year.
- They get a lot more referrals.
- They do better on their score cards, especially with life insurance.
- They don't have to compete on price.
- Their clients are better insulated against competitors.
- The agents have better job satisfaction.
Increasing your P2H is the most direct way to scale your business.
Tip 2: Turn Off Conveyor Belts and Plug Leaky Buckets.
Two of the sources of low P2H are leaky buckets and conveyor belts. Both leaky buckets and conveyor belts promote high attrition. They prevent you from scaling because you have to start over with new investments in relationships with new clients.
If you put something on the front of a conveyor belt, it will travel the length of the belt and then fall off the back. Insurance agencies that run like conveyor belts overemphasize (and overspend on) purchasing leads. When these leads convert, it usually means a lower-value sale based on price competition. If nobody is building relationships with those clients, they tend to run up a very high attrition rate. This approach is not scalable.
Leaky buckets are similar. The idea is that if you have a bucket with a hole in it, you keep putting water in, but it never fills. Leaky buckets are the natural outcome of a small insurance agency that is growing. Why? The story usually goes something like this:
When we start our insurance agency, our clients are our gold, and they feel it. As we grow, we have an increasingly difficult time focusing on individual clients. Then we hire people who don't care about our clients as much as we do, and the problem gets worse. Gradually our clients feel our care for them waning, and they become susceptible to competition. Then something tragic happens. We see our growth slowing, and rather than plugging the hole, we start pouring in more water, i.e. we sell more. The more we focus on selling, the more we ignore our relationships with our clients, and the bigger the leak gets.
The solution to both the conveyor belt and leaky bucket problems is to balance lead generation with retention activities and multi-lining clients. The right balance will create sales now as well as a strong pipeline. It will also create more profitable business in the future, which will help you scale.
Tip 3: Commit to a Robust, Consistent Review Appointment Program
Nothing provides as much strategic value to a book of business as clients who expect to meet once every year. Training clients to look forward to a regular review meeting takes time, but the long-term payoff is incredible. Relationships deepen, retention improves, and opportunities to multiline clients abound. Ultimately, your business will scale, rather than just growing.
To make the program robust, you need a few things:
- Objectives—the specific outcomes you want to produce.
- Consistency—how you’ll make sure it always gets done.
- Training—how you’ll get the best results.
- Measuring and tuning—how you’ll ensure continuous improvement.
The work effort you'll need to plan for is based on the calls you'll need to make, which include the following:
- 3-4 appointment-setting calls per client
- 2 reminder calls per appointment
- Reschedule calls as necessary
For a book of business with 2500 households, you'll want to make those calls for 200 clients per month to ensure that you attempt to schedule every client at least once per year.
Tip 4: Solicit referrals and social media endorsements
Every time you get in front of a client, they should feel a sense of value and trust. At that time, you need to invite them to act on it. Either before they leave your office, or in a follow-up courtesy call, you should ask them to refer people to you or to recommend you on social media.
We've never seen an agent who wanted fewer referrals. Training the team and establishing goals is as important for referrals as it is for sales.
For social media endorsements, be sure to make it as simple and convenient as possible. Provide the links and give some instructions.
Growing your book from within your book leverages the thousands of hours that you’ve invested in building relationships of trust and delivering value. When you’re getting business from referrals and building brand recognition via satisfied clients, you’re scaling your business.
Tip 5: Check their temperature after their appointment
A follow-up call to express appreciation and ask about satisfaction is critical for several reasons.
First, some agents have clients who tell us, "I don't want to meet him. He only calls when he wants to sell me something."
Second, if the client had a good experience with your office, you want them to confirm that for themselves, and you want them to know that they're appreciated. That will go a long way toward insulating them for another year.
Third, if your office or your program have blind spots, this is where you'll catch them. Imagine having clients leave your office with complaints or concerns and never knowing about them!
Fourth, as we already mentioned, a highly-satisfied client is likely to give back in the form of referrals or endorsements.
The call should go something like this:
- Express appreciation.
- Measure satisfaction.
- Resolve concerns.
- Ask for referrals.
- Ask for social media endorsements.
- Mention next year's review appointment.
Tip 6: Develop a thriving office culture and robust customer relationships
People want to buy from a company that they feel good about. How your clients feel is as important as the value they receive. At a high level, each client will leave your office either feeling like a person among friends or like a transaction in a database. Which feeling they have depends largely on they office culture that you build and on the way that you cultivate relationships.
A thriving culture is based on values. Not values that are written down and pinned to a wall somewhere, but values that dictate how leaders lead and how employees align. Employees who are empowered by a set of strong, compelling values will work better and take better care of customers. Customers will feel it, and they'll appreciate it. As a result, they'll be more likely to stay with you.
Relationships are also critical because of the feelings that they generate. The most important feeling your clients should experience is trust. Your clients will feel that they can trust you when they experience care and credibility, i.e. when they know that you care about them and they know that you are competent to manage their financial well-being.
Imagine how much more likely your clients will be to want to visit your office if they feel great when they're there! Also, imagine how much more likely they will be to stay on as your clients if they feel a relationship of trust! It takes work, but it's a huge differentiator in winning and keeping clients.
Having a relationship-oriented company with employees who align and thrive is the essence of a culture that can scale.
Tip 7: Decide what your Client Experience will be like
What is it like to be your client? Sometimes we can get so focused on providing a product or a service that we put ourselves at the center of the universe and our clients are orbiting us. Smart businesses focus on the customer experience as the most important deliverable. Over the duration of your relationship with your clients, they will have many opportunities to experience your agency in a variety of ways. Those experiences will determine how long the client stays with you.
You need to be able to answer these questions deliberately:
- What will our client experience look like?
- What will it feel like?
- How will we make the whole agency align to produce it consistently?
- How will we measure the client experience?
- How will we identify opportunities for a better client experience, especially in our blind spots?
- How will we respond to opportunities to improve our client experience?
This requires design. If everything you do is designed to produce a consistent, exceptional client experience, you will keep clients better than the vast majority of insurance agencies. Agencies that keep their clients better don’t just grow—they scale.
Each of these seven tips will provide opportunities to scale, not just to grow. Combining all of them will provide massive scaling our of your existing book of business. It will also future-proof your business and give you tremendous fulfillment.
by Matt Wagner, Vice President of Strategy