Entries Tagged as 'Agent Tools'

23
Jun

Hiring to Explode Your Revenues – Part 2

Welcome to part II of Hiring to Explode Your Revenues by Mike Stromsoe.  We hope this helps take your company to the next level.  Enjoy!

How much do you want to be involved in the hiring process?  Are you really interested in interviewing 32 people to get the right one, whether it is you or someone on your staff?  If you answered no, I agree with you.  Here’s what our process looks like in a nutshell:

  • The ad is placed.
  • Prospect calls our hot-line telephone number and listens to a 3-4 minute recorded message describing the position we are hiring for.  I personally record this message once.  For this, we use AutomaticResponse.com, but there are many options on the market today.  At the end of the recorded message, prospect is given an email address to send an email to.
  • When they send this email (if they can follow directions, here’s where the autopilot testing begins), an auto responder automatically sends them a detailed email with more specifics about the job along with more directions on how they can get to the first interview.  Yes I said first.  The auto responder email is very candid about their responsibilities, the team organization, compensation, benefits, and more.
  • At the end of the email is the email address where they are to send their resume.  Those directions contain a specific request.  Here is where most fall short:  I ask them to email me their resume and put two things in the SUBJECT LINE – 1) their full name 2) the word "winner".  I am continually amazed that people cannot follow these simple directions, what will they do when they actually work on your team for your clients?  Also, I am looking for certain mindset, hence "winner".  This step really weeds people out.  The best part? I have invested less than 15 minutes at this point.
  • Once the resumes start coming in, time must be invested in reviewing them and beginning to set intitial interviews.
  • For those we want to pursue, we conduct a 10 minute initial face-to-face interview at our office.  The initial interview is six questions.  I am looking for a few things: make sure they are punctual; I want to check their appearance to make sure they fit; I want to look them in the eye.  At the end of the interview, I always know if they are destined for more scrutiny.
  • If the candidate is ready for the next step, we have them perform two different aptitude tests.  We use Kolbe and Selecting Winners.  There are many similar companies on the market, such as Omnia.  Make sure the company you use matches your industry and has a proven track record.  A very important, critical part of the process – have the person take the test AT your office.  I once hired someone and realized in the first two weeks that the person I hired did not appear to have the characteristics of the person in the aptitude test results… from that day, all tests are performed at the office.
  • When the candidate matches your need via all of the above steps, it’s time for the last interview.  This interview is about one hour, involves some 30 questions on all subjects and is conducted by two qualified people, one male and one female owner or manager.  Why?  The different genders just pick up different information the other might not.  All I can tell you it helps and it works.
  • Only after the second interview is an offer of employment and potential compensation made.

I know it seems like a lot of work, but the only time success comes before work is in the dictionary. 

Next time you are out in society, pay close attention to the people working at various employers.  Contemplate what you see and compare it to the kind of people representing your company on a daily basis.

I hope this helps you.  Make a difference and be unstoppable!  If you want to know more about our complete process, please shoot me an email at 411mike.org or comment to this article.  Thanks Mike! – villageChief

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15
Jun

Hire to Explode Your Revenues – Part 1

If you want to remodel your master bath, I’m sure there is a go-to person you have in mind.  That person has experience, loads of ideas, and can help you navigate the pitfalls of a particular project.  Within your agency, Marketing is an ongoing project.  And when the subject of marketing crosses my mind, Mike Stromsoe is at the top of the list.  I had the unique pleasure of meeting Mike in San Antonio at the annual IIAT show.  We pitched ideas back and forth about how to appeal to new clients while at the same time taking care of those clients that keep the lights on.  I’ve invited Mike to chat with us about the subject of Hiring.  Enjoy!

Hire slow and fire fast because if you hire the wrong person, your entire organization can quickly become infected and it will cost you truckloads of money.

When it comes to hiring, how many steps are in your hiring process?  Within these steps, how much involvement of your personal time does it take to exectue each of tese steps?  Who is involved in the process?  Let’s dig in.

Most winning entrepreneurs know that the people on their gifted team are the absolute key and the core to the success of any organization.  That’s why it’s critically important that each team member is pre-evaluated before they are allowed to work within any thriving organizational team.  Over the years and through much painful experience, we’ve created a hiring process that weeds out any prospects that do not bring forward the absolute best for our exceptional team.  It starts with a story, a quick, one-page story about the kind of person we’re looking for and it details the characteristics of that person that will fit the need of our team.  Below is an example of one of those stories, this is an ad I actually used when I had to replace my assistant:

WANTED!

The Very Best Executive Assistant

The President of Mega Insurance Agency, Mike Stromsoe is seeking a replacement for his executive assistant Susie Smith.  Susie has decided to become an entrepreneur with her husband Jim.  She will be greatly missed and difficult to replace but the show must go on.  Here are some of the characteristics these people possess:  Highly motivated, enthusiastic, very high energy, well-organized, solid administrative skills, technology oriented and computer literate with a do-it-now type attitude.  By the way, all of these are a must.  If you would like to hear a three to four minute overview of this position and what all it entails please dial our 24/7 Toll free information hotline at 1.888.xxx.xxxx ext. xxx.  Only those seriously committed to being a dedicated member of a fast-paced, team oriented, forward thinking culture need apply.

Solid Pay and Possible Benefits 

To Apply confidentially, call 1.888.xxx.xxxx ext. xxx right now.  If you qualify, this will be the best job you have ever had – our team guarantees it!

* All applications WILL remain strictly confidential

So where do you place the ad?  Currently, I immediately distribute the ad to two sources: 1) my own email list, every person.  You never know who knows who.  2)  Craigslist.  I have simply had good luck with Craigslist over the years, but you can place this ad virtually anywhere.

In the past versions of the above ad, I provided my name, address, phone, email address.  Today, I will normally only provide our toll-free hotline number and that’s it.  The amount of contact information provided by you dictates the response but reduces the quality of the candidates.  Stay tuned, I’ll explain why.

Return next Monday for Part2 – Article compliments of Mike Stromsoe, The Unstoppable Profit Producer, Creator of the Stromsoe Profit Producer System.

Here’s what other Agents say about UPP and the effect on their lives:

"You completely changed the direction of my business.  You are an inspiration with timely, real information.  You provide the tools and actually show us how to implement, execute and take action so money instantly fell to the bottom line, just like you promised.  No airy fairy, totally results driven."   – Kathleen McConnell, Roseville, CA

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24
Feb

3 Quick Ways to Reach Critical Mass

Numa Numa – Most have no idea what this means or what this is.  It’s the name of a video on YouTube that’s garnered 26 million hits!  His cost… nothing.  Ok, there may be a little cost like being known as the chubby guy lip-syncing to a German dance club tune.  But his costs were just his time to sit in front of the computer and film himself.  Put this in perspective, Pepsico and GE would each pay top dollar to reach 26 million viewers.  But you don’t have to lip-sync to techno music to be heard.  Here’s three very low-cost ideas to reach out to others in a professional manner on the web.

1.  Facebook - It’s not the kiddos’ network for who’s wearing what today at school.  No, it’s for any professional business man or woman interested in networking with people they know.  If you target a commercial niche or are a general lines producer, you can let any number of people you know what you do.  It’s free, it’s not going away, it’s free-subscriber base is growing daily so make yourself known to as many as you like.  You may learn a few more things about your clients too.

2. Twitter - What in the heck is all this Twitter stuff I keep hearing about?  Well, surprisingly it’s pretty elementary.  Here’s how it works.  The simple question is this, "What are you up to?".  I know, you don’t have time to keep random folks abreast of what you are up to on a daily basis.  So let me ask you this.  If you could provide small industry updates or insurance tips from time to time and attract followers, would it be worth it?  Yes, is the correct answer.   You can follow others as well as create a following of your own over time.   And furthermore, you can have your twitter posts feed directly into Facebook.  Think world wide web here where everything is connected to one another.

3. LinkedIn - It all started here.  This is one of the first sites to link professionals.  Professionals alike link themselves to one another through past jobs, positions, and current occupations.  Looking to reach out to accountants?  Check out who’s in your LinkedIn network.  You may be surprised to know there’s a couple in our network.  You can also create a group where you have members follow your discussions or posts.  By the way, the cost is free here too. 

These online networking applications are here to stay and will only continue to grow.  How much do they integrate themselves into our everyday business practices and activities remains yet to be seen.  But getting in early and contributing builds your credibility and just may land new business.  – villageChief

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20
Jan

20 Tips to Use at a Networking Event

This is part 2 in a 3 Part series by Mark Hunter. Mark "The Sales Hunter", is a motivational sales speaker and industry expert who addresses thousands each year on how to increase their sales profitability.  For more information on his sales training or to receive a free weekly sales tip via email, contact "The Sales Hunter" at www.thesaleshunter.com.  Enjoy! 

When you arrive at a networking event, avoid gravitating to people you know.  You should initially thank the host and then immediately find someone new to introduce yourself to.  This will help keep you in the right frame of mind as to why you came.

1.  Stop selling and start listening!  When you meet someone for the first time, use it as an opportunity to get to know them.   Don’t try to sell them anything.  Rather, begin to establish a relationship.

2.  Keep your business cards in the breast pocket of your coat, a shirt pocket, or in an outside pocket of your purse so they are easy to access and in good condition.

3.  When giving a person your card, personalize it by hand writing your cell number on it.  This will cause the recipient to feel that they are receiving something special.

4.  When giving or receiving a business card, be especially careful when dealing with people from outside the US as many cultures treat them with very high regard.

5.  When receiving a card from someone, take a moment to write yourself a note on it such as where you met.  If you do this while still talking to the person, it will help convey your sense of personal connection.

6.  During the course of a conversation, use the other person’s first name two or three times.  People always like to hear their own name and it will help you to remember it when the discussion is over.

7.  Rather than telling a new contact all about yourself, spend your time asking them questions.  It’s amazing how much you’ll learn!

8.  After you meet someone for the first time, use the back of their business card to jot a note about something you learned from the conversation and the date and place you met them.  Recording the information will give you something to talk to them about the next time you see them.

9.  Connect with the person you’re talking to by tilting your head ads you listen to them.  It is an effective body language technique which communicates that you’re paying attention to what they’re saying.

10.  When a person is talking to you , be sure to look directly at them.  Giving a person full attention with your eyes will encourage them to share more.

11.  Remember, however, that it’s not a "stare-down" contest.  Give the person 3-5 seconds of eye contact and then look away brielfly before returning your focs to them again. 

12.  The best location to network is by a high-traffic area such as a main door, the bar, or near the food.

13.  Never approach people if they’re walking towards the restroom.  Wait until they have returned to the networking area.

14.  After the person has shared something with you, ask them another question about what they just said.  This shows that you’re paying attention and that you care about what they’re telling you. 

15.  Always keep one hand free to allow yourself to shake hands with people.  This means that you shouldn’t eat and drink at the same time.  But remember, this is a networking event, not a full-course meal.

16.  As a way of demonstrating your networking skills, introduce each new person you meet to at least one other person.

17.  Never try to barge into a group of 4 or more people.  Come along side of the group, but do not attempt to enter into the discussion until you’ve made eye contact with everyone.

18.  Do not approach two people who are talking, as you may be interrupting an important discussion.

19.  It is best to intitiate conversation with someone who is standing by themselves.  They’ll be happy to have someone to talk to them and, as a result, will many times open up with valuable information.

20.  When you meet someone for the first time, you have 72 hours to follow up with them before they will completely forget about meeting you.

A networking event is not a time to see how many business cards you can acquire.  Rather, it is a time to develop a few relationships that have potential.   -villageChief

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13
Jan

Part 1 – 14 Steps to Successful Cold-Calling

I’ve invited Mark Hunter to be our contributor for a three-part series.  Mark Hunter, "The Sales Hunter", is a motivational sales speaker and industry expert who addresses thousands each year on how to increase their sales profitability.  For more information on his sales training or to receive a free weekly sales tip via email, contact "The Sales Hunter" at www.thesaleshunter.com.  Enjoy!

The vast majority of salespeople do not enjoy cold-calling.   Yet, at the same time, it is an activity that most need to do on a regular basis.  The biggest reason sales professionals are not more successful in this necessary endeavor is the defense that they have other things to do.  However, nothing will overcome this excuse  faster than being held accountable for making a set number of cold calls each day, each week, or each month.

As much as people would like to believe there is a secret formula for being successful at cold-calling, the only valid one is being disciplined enough to do it.  When people avoid cold-calling, they are generally telling themselves that either they don’t know enough about what they’re selling or they don’t believe the outcome will be successful.  For these simple reasons, it is necessary to be confident in yourself and what you are selling. 

The following may be beneficial as you begin to practice this critical discipline.

1.  Have a dedicated time each day to prospect.

2.  Know the reason for calling before you call: customer benefits, not features.

3.  Leave short voice mail messages.

4.  Assume your voice mail messages will never be returned.

5.  Always call on level higher in an organization than you believe is necessary.

6.  Be confident and competent.

7.  Phone calls placed before 8.30am are the most likely to be answered by the person you called.

8.  Respect the gate-keeper by treating them in the same manner you would treat the prospect.

9.  Prospecting calls on Monday mornings and Friday afternoons will have the worst results.

10.  Prospecting on "semi-holidays" and inclement weather days will get a higher response.

11.  Make it your goal to earn the right, privilege and honor to talk to the person again.

12.  Believe in what you’re selling and the benefits that the prospect will receive from your products and services.

13.  Believe in yourself and your professionalism.

14.  Anytime is a good time to make a call; don’t wait for the "perfect" time.

By practicing and presevering, both your skills and confidence will improve.  Furthermore, making yourself accountable will help you turn your excuses into successful sales. – villageChief

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22
Dec

Merry Christmas from the Village!

Reflection is a wonderful thing and it’s also a great teacher.  So logically my 20/20 rear view offers me many things.  A gracious heart for the people and experiences I’ve had over this past year ranks as one of my top three items to reflect upon the most.  Because without my faith, supporting family, tried-and-true friends and clients, and the countless experiences in which I’ve shared with them, I would not be the person I am today.  I’ve taken a little bit from each one of them to help shape my thoughts, beliefs, and attitude.  So please take time during your holiday and from the hustle and bustle to reflect upon your year.  And when you do, be thankful for the folks that helped shape you.

So off to the races!  We’re all on the go this holiday season trying to tie up some loose ends.  I’ve compiled a few websites as resources for you as you go about rushing through your last-minute shopping.

www.6pm.com - Online retailer, great for shoes and accessories.

www.dealdivine.com – This site finds the best deals on the web and offers them at one location.  They also include printable coupons too.

www.topbutton.comFashionistas this is your site!  This site runs deals for designer showrooms, upscale departments stores, designer boutiques, and online fashion merchants.

www.gilt.com - Invitation only access to designer deals for men, women, and children’s apparel.

www.retailmenot.com - THE world’s largest coupon source for more than 20,000 stores.  You’ll also get keywords to enable you to save more at checkout.  (thanks Carmela)

Have a safe and relaxing holiday season.  And have a successful 2009!  -villageChief

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04
Sep

Be Pervasive! Blogging and Social Media for Insurance Agents

For most Americans who lived through WWII and the Korean War, the most popular, iconic graffiti of the day was, "Kilroy was here."  This famous expression is said to have appeared on the Statue of Liberty, on the Marco Polo Bridge in China, inscribed underneath the Arc de Triumph in Paris, and even scribbled in dust on the moon.  To this day the real identity or origin of Kilroy is not known only speculated.  However, as you can imagine Kilroy was genius in his/her marketing efforts.  Today you can do the same with your agency online!

Two big ways to get your agency to be prevalent and recognized.

1.  Blogging – The word blog is a morphed word that finds its roots in the word web-log.  Squished together and you have blog.  A web-log is a written discussion short or long, in which others can comment.  How can an agent benefit from this?  Believe it or not you can build a reputation on the internet as a source of knowledge and respect in your particular area(s) of expertise.  And ultimately this may bring you business.

www.iiavillage.com is a blog.  There is fresh content (time-stamped) on the front page and as you scroll down you can see other past articles.  Also you’ll notice a comment link at the end of the article which is a standard blog feature.  You can add your comment or question to the end of each blog.  Others may read your comment or question and respond.

Additionally, if you like an article and want to share it, there are ways to link it to other sites that have many users.  For example, at the end of an article on iiavillage.com you can click on the Facebook icon (fourth icon from left, blue box, white letter ‘f’) to post this article on your facebook page for others to see… instantly!

Remember to think prevalent here.  You’re building your name/image inside the web community just like in your town/city community.  Start to build your reputation by engaging yourself with others in blogs and forums.  Others do want to know what you have to say.  And if you’re known to be a source of help and insight, well you may just have a few new clients.

 2.  Social Media – According to www.wikipedia.org (which is a wonderful resource on the internet compiled by others so be careful on the facts) Social Media is defined as the use of electronic and internet tools for the purpose of sharing and discussing information and experiences with other human beings.  This can be through typed text, video, and pictures.

Social Media can be for any conceivable industry, hobby, interest, or topic.  Here’s a site for the restaurant industry www.fohboh.com.  If you write business in the restaurant industry and would like to grow this niche in your book of business, get involved here!  Chances are another community member is going to bring up insurance and risks.  Another web community that focuses on business in general is www.biznik.com.  Here you can meet business owners and professionals from many different industries.  Join in, it’s usually free, and share your experiences and advice.  After all you are the expert!

"Your agency was here", is what you want to see pervasive in key communities on the web.  So get out there and establish yourself in your niche.  I can’t guarantee you immortal status or an inscription on the National WWII War Memorial in DC like Kilroy, but I can guarantee you, your voice will be heard.  Isn’t that the point?  -villageChief

 

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19
Aug

Insurance Agents – The Internet is Your Friend

"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity." – Albert Einstein

We can’t ignore the efficiencies of technology nor can we live without it.  We engage with technology everyday.  In the independent insurance business it’s just a fact of life now.  Embrace technology or wither on the curb. So if we truly can’t beat ‘em, and we can’t, then let’s join ‘em.  I’m talking about harnessing the power of technology to enhance our business/process flows and communication.

I’ve compiled a short list of websites to help agency producers, CSRs, and principals with business efficiency, customer service, industry news and updates, as well as office organization.

You know your congratulatory card will not make it in time to one of your "A" clients so what do you do?  Try out www.hallmark.com.  And send them an E-Card.  It can be a song card, a card with a joke, or even a card that includes a picture you can upload.  Everyone loves to be remembered on his/her birthday so remind yourself to get something to that client or prospect on time through www.birthdayalarm.com.  Yes, it’s a free reminder so you won’t have to keep up with your best client’s or prospect’s birthday.

One of my all time favorite tools online is the ever-ready www.dictionary.com and http://thesaurus.reference.com/ .  Both of these are quick and pretty self-explanatory.  If you’re compiling a pitch or thanking a client for their business, this is a fast way to enhance your message.  One other site that assists me through the maze of daily techno-jargon is www.webopedia.com.  Not sure what exactly GUI stands for?  Well, this site has the answer.

Independent insurance agencies can connect with other agents around the US over any topic at www.insurancegossip.com.  You know sometimes the best information received at conventions or conferences is usually between fellow agents.  At this site they’ve created an open platform to learn and share.  The only drawback I’ve encountered is a slow response rate.  However, here’s another option.  www.mynewmarkets.com is sponsored by the Insurance Journal.  They have a forum as well, but I don’t think it offers as wide a scope of topics.  However, there is quality agent dialog.

Do you have multiple copies of a single spreadsheet or document on your desktop of the same information because it’s been amended by others and now it’s confusing to keep up with the latest revision?  Your answer is with google/documents.  Go to Google.com and type in the search window "google documents".  I share college basketball tickets with two friends.  Google documents allows us to sync everyone’s schedule with what games each one wants to attend on one spreadsheet which eliminates duplicates emailed back and forth.  Post your document or spreadsheet online and you can determine who can only view and who can view and edit.

Bottom line is this.  If you need a service or piece of automation, look to the web first.  There’s a darn good chance something out there exists to fill your need.  Take advantage of the free tools and services on the web.  If you’re willing to learn and adapt, these little technology nuggets can make your job easier.  -village chief

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29
Jul

Peace of Mind, For Sale!

Usually panic and white knuckles appear when computers crash or agency systems go haywire.  I understand the feeling all too well.

So what happens if my laptop is stolen or drenched in coffee or just suddenly crashes?  I smile.  Because I have everything on my computer remotely backed up and I don’t have to click a button.  I recently subscribed to www.carbonite.com.  No paid commmercial here, this is my experience in purchasing peace-of-mind for less than 3 bucks a month.  Three months ago I had a nasty virus on my computer.  Basically it affected everything I did to the point where my computer consutant advised me to wipe out the hard drive and start over.  And he meant it.  He cleaned out the entire hard drive and reloaded my applications.  But the next part was the best.  He opened up my Cabonite icon in my system tray (bottom right) and imported all of my data back into the computer.  It was beautiful and I slept great knowing that all of my crucial data including family pictures, videos, and documents were instantly restored back to my laptop.

This tool is a must-have for indepedent agencies especially if you have agents on the road or at remote (satellite) locations.  Furthermore, this online backup system has to be a serious consideration if your agency is moving towards a paperless environment.

A competitor to Carbonite is Mozy.com.  I’ve never employed them.  However, backupreview.info has basically done the research for you.  Here’s the link.  http://www.backupreview.info/2008/07/01/top-25-for-july-2008/  

I hope this helps and remember to save often and always backup your agency’s precious data.  village chief

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15
Jul

Is anybody home? It’s your customer calling…

We’ve all been in this boat together before.  You have a problem with your big, corporate American company (phone, car, cable tv) and you would prefer to reach someone human to explain your problem in hopes of an answer or a solution.  However, you meet Digital Debbie, your phone-tourguide through the maze of ambiguous extensions and empty teleprompts.  Right there you realize 15 minutes or more of your life has been stolen and it’s irrecoverable.  And that’s if you’re lucky your call wasn’t dropped. 

Enter www.gethuman.com.  This site offers you the map to the maze so that you can ditch Digital Debbie. I’ve tried this method of getting through to a human quickly and it works.  Our AT&T phone lines went down  a few months ago so I went to the Get Human website and it propmpted me to "ignore all of the prompts and just press "0" each time".  I followed these instructions and it worked beautifully.  The kind lady was able to dispatch a rep. to our office to help out.  www.gethuman.com also provided me with a consumer ranking of 1.5 stars out of 5.  I am not sure the of the metrics behind the ranking but it’s nice to have some feedback.  Remember you’re not alone out there on your boat, www.gethuman.com is the time preserver you need!     village chief

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