December 2008

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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16
Dec

Conversion – One of the Most Feared Words in Insurance

"Seriously", you’re asking, "did you really have to bring up the C-word during a season of cheer and celebration?"  Of course I did.  Because within this monumental task, for any agency, bears the promise of better service to your customers, better reporting for the agency, better accounting records, and the hope for more efficiency for your employees.  But let’s not kid ourselves with the reality that this project demands.  It’s going to take a fully executed plan by your agency like no other.  And communication like most projects is key!  It doesn’t matter what platform you’re coming from or what agency management platform you’re going too, have a plan.  So I’ve taken the liberty to ask an office manager of a large agency in Texas for her perspective on conversion a year after initiation.  

6 Questions to Understand Conversion Better:

Question:  What is the most challenging part of the process?

No doubt it is understanding just what you have purchased and how to use it in daily activities.  If conversion does not go smoothly…. then everything else, daily tasks and strategic office projects, gets pushed back. The day to day use and system efficiency suffers due to clean up from a bad conversion.  Our conversion was bad because client records were transported improperly  from the old system to the new one.

Question:  Would you add more help and hands to the conversion process?  If so how?

The more eyes that look at the process and contribute the better you will be. We implemented a conversion team which represented one point person from each department, life/health, commercial, personal, etc..  Each department uses the system in a different manner.  Get them involved from the time you start prospecting a new system.  We had lunch-and-learn sessions offsite purposely to get them away from the office to focus on how the new system might impact their department.

Question:  How did you include and update the different departments of an agency?

At the beginning we had one-on-one sessions with departments and staff.  Then bi-weekly meetings and monthly learning lunches.  We pulled on-going reports and monitored data entry as needed.  And then we quickly responded to users who had data entry errors.

Question:  How should an agency about to start the conversion process manage their expectations?

Well in our case we were advised that if we were using 30% of the system after one year we would be doing good.  We had much loftier goals.  In the end, they were right on target.  We also expected that by spending more on an extensive system, we would be able to reduce or maintain staff.  We did just the opposite, we added staff after conversion due in large part to a bad conversion.  Temper your expectations due to new terminology and record transfers.

Question:  What are the top 3 pitfalls for converting from one agency platform to another?

1.  Data Converted Properly – Bad data or misplaced data will nulify any accurate reporting.  2.  Terminology – Learn the new platform’s terms compared to the old system, this can be very confusing.  3.  Reporting Functions – Learn how to generate the reports you want with the new system. 

Question:  To do over, how would you approach the process of conversion?

Manual conversion only!  No custom conversions here.  Custom conversion equals nightmares!  The entire process will go smoother if you enter all of the data manually.  I know this sounds like a laborious task because it is.  However, not only will the data be entered correctly; you learn the system up close and personal real quick.

- villageChief

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08
Dec

No Groan Selling

Our guest columnist today is Maura Schreier-Fleming.  She is president of Best@Selling, www.bestatselling.com.  She works with business and sales professionals who want to sell more and be more productive at work.  She is the author of Real-World Selling for Out-of-this-World Results, Sales Quotes and writes several business columns including "Customer Connections" for the Dallas, Austin, and Houston Business Journals.  She writes the Real Deal: Success for Women in Business blog for Allbusiness.com.  She’s been quoted in the New York Times, Sellng Power and Entrepreneur.  She was Mobil Oil’s first female lubrication engineer in the US..  Maura has her MS from Georgia Institute of Technology and a BS from Cornell University.  Enjoy!

No Groan Selling

Was buying a car a good experience for you?  For most people a root canal is more desirable than buying a car.  Sorry to break it to you, but buying insurance may not even rate the root canal.  Selling insurance is a challenging career.  As independent agents, it’s even harder for you to sell.  Independent agents don’t have the luxury of being associated with one big brand.  Yet, its’ still your job to do everything you can to encourage customers to want to do business with you.  I was thinking about what great salespeople do to make themselves successful.  Its what independent agents have to do.

I remember working with my customers in the oil business.  Even though my customers bought products from a major oil company, I always considered that they bought from me.  What did that mean?  It meant that I worked for my customers.  I looked out for my customers’ interests.  My customers didn’t have time to become experts on industrial lubricants.  That was my job.  You get to help them make great buying decisions that improve the quality of their businesses and their lives.  You probably know this already.  But do your customers?

I find the great salespeople let their customers know what they’re doing and why it’s in the customer’s interest.  After all, customers don’t know what they don’t know.  Your job as an independent agent is to show your customers how your independence leads to their getting the best products that meet their needs.  You need to tell your customers everything you’re doing for them so they can truly appreciate and value what you’ve done for them.

Here’s where it gets interesting.  I want you to brag about your work.  Think you can’t do that?  You can.  What I mean by bragging is to document what you’ve done for your customers.  Have you put together a safety program that lowers a company’s risk and gets them better rates?  Put that in a customer letter of report.  Have you done a thorough job of presenting a customer’s situation so you can accurately represent their lower risk?  That’s value to a customer.  Has an education program you recommended resulted in changes in customer behavior that reduce their risk?  Take credit for it and document what you’ve saved.  How are customers going to know the good you’ve done if you haven’t told them?  If this makes you uncomfortable, just remember that it’s not bragging if it’s true.

What you do for customers needs to go in writing.  It makes it real to a customer and makes you far less vulnerable to competition.  Sure it’s work.  But the letter and reports are well worth the time in customer retention.

The next time you help a customer reduce a cost, save a cost or add to their revenue, take credit for it.  You just might find out that you are creating great buying experiences for your customers and you’ve made a root canal the farthest thing from their minds.   -villageChief

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