How Top Agencies Use IT To Help Boost Business

How can information technology help you increase revenue? Recently I asked leaders of our top agencies how they increase business. In my October article, “Three Simple Steps that Could Increase Your Revenue,” I explained why focus, education, and relationships ranked high on these leaders’ lists of best practices. Here’s a look at how they use IT to boost sales.

Prospecting and training
“Life’s changed. Most people won’t spend time reading books anymore,” explains Dan Rust, Financial Strategies Group. “We have to get our messages out faster and make them understandable in minutes. That’s why having a website is now essential,” he concludes. “It can help educate consumers and assist in recruiting and training new agents, especially if you include videos and podcasts. Then when producers contact prospective clients, they’re more prepared to speak with them because the prospects are more informed.”

While Dan regularly uses digital communication and online tools for training, including email and webinars, he sometimes combines them with other marketing methods—such as flyers on windshields and door hangers on front doors to promote his agency’s services.

Theresa Dilatush, New Course Financial, agrees that having a website is important to attract and inform prospects, although it wasn’t when she started her agency 13 years ago. Theresa, whose clients are mostly small business owners, also works with her local Chamber of Commerce to connect with prospects and is one of a group of eight “core source professionals” who network and work together when needed on cases. The group includes an attorney, CPA, vendor of office supplies, caterer, internet supplier, and other local professionals who provide services to businesses in the community.

Randy Pierson, Gordon Marketing, has seen an uptick in the use of technology by agencies too. He conducts most of his agent recruiting and training efforts via webinars, email, e-newsletters, Skype, text messaging, and YouTube videos, which he also posts on Facebook and LinkedIn. To help ensure viewers watch the videos he keeps them short—three minutes or less. And although he’s been posting videos on YouTube for more than a decade, he says he’s getting much better results now that he can link them to social media sites. To increase interest in his agent training webinars, he keeps them short also—30 minutes or less.

For Ryan Polimeni, Top Rank Advisors, Inc., the internet and specialized online software, including financial planning and social security software, have changed the way his agency communicates and conducts business. Ryan used to market by direct mail, but now uses digital communication because it’s faster and cheaper. And while he still gets referrals to potential producers by word of mouth as well as through online advertising, he says Facebook and LinkedIn are playing a bigger role in his recruitment efforts.

Once agents are on board with him, Ryan, like Chris Shields, Shields Brokerage, Inc., and other agency leaders with whom I spoke, train them via online programs, digital materials and ongoing webinars as well as personal training. “There’s a lack of training in this industry,” admits Ryan. “So we evaluate new agents to determine if they need field and one-on-one training in addition to the more than 30 hours of online training we provide.”

Kevin Kruger, Kevin Kruger Agency, uses social media, particularly LinkedIn, to establish awareness of himself and his agency and to stay relevant. Mike Maloney, Mike Maloney Agency, notes that the networking groups on these sites are a useful way to identify prospective agents, so he often uses them for blast advertising. Once contracted, Mike provides new agents online and one-on-one training several times a week. “You have to teach, coach, and have patience with new producers,” explains Mike, especially since more than half of his new agents have sales and people skills but no prior experience in the financial services industry.

To stay ahead of the tech curve Larry McLean, Your Family Bank®, is always making changes to his agency’s proprietary software and testing new ways to engage producers and prospects with content on different platforms.

For Dan Stephen, Stephen & Associates, access to online information, including the 2018 tax code, has helped his agency provide better customer service and build trust because it gives him fast access to information so he can answer questions from prospects and clients quickly.

Communicating and managing
To stay connected with clients and prospects, and help recruit producers, Barry Slocum, Gryphon Financial & Insurance Services, Inc., finds a CRM system invaluable. “To convert prospects and retain clients you need to be in contact and provide new ideas to them constantly,” explains Barry. “Reviewing their financial goals, the products they own, and their beneficiary designations at least annually helps your clients and can lead to more sales for you. A CRM system can help keep you organized and automate a variety of marketing and management processes, including client and prospect mailings (such as drip email campaigns and monthly e-newsletters) and annual reviews.”

Sam Mikhail, Financial Strategies Group, LLC, agrees that automating communication and management functions is essential for increased efficiency and, potentially, revenue. “It’s not news that the way people get their information continues to change,” says Sam. To keep pace with client and agent expectations in an information-savvy world, his agency, which specializes in college planning, continues to upgrade and revamp its lead management and fulfillment systems. This enables the agency to quickly identify, sort, schedule and assess a family’s profile so employees can efficiently and cost-effectively serve their needs.

“We use state-of-the-art client management software and custom-designed evaluation algorithms to create a positive interactive experience,” explains Sam. “And, because we’ve automated more and more of our work, the results are less dependent on any single person in our agency, so succession planning for our organization is easier. In fact,” Sam jokingly says, “Skynet* is our agency’s succession plan.”

Selling and tracking
Paul Kaplan, Back 9 Insurance, is growing his agency by focusing on technology too, even to the extent of trying to reinvent the way insurance is sold. “The industry has been moving slowly towards applying for insurance digitally, so we offer producers free life insurance software that enables them to quote, apply and e-sign applications for multiple carriers without using any paperwork,” explains Paul. “Once a case has been submitted, producers can manage their cases through our free proprietary CRM system, which tracks cases while they are being processed. It provides everything from the application to download, case information, commissions, and underwriting details, so the producer can see exactly where the case is in the underwriting process.”

Jason Konopik, Partners Advantage, agrees that technology can help agencies improve efficiency and potentially revenue in three essential areas: 1. Prospecting (corresponding and serving prospects and clients); 2. Recruiting (soliciting and training producers); and, 3. Holistic financial planning (risk assessment, as well as planning for retirement, longevity and long-term care).

“Technology has changed the landscape of our business,” admits Javad Darouian, Financial Management Systems. “Now, almost everything is computerized. But while we should use digital communication tools, CRM systems, online programs, proprietary software, social media, videos and more, we need to remember to retain the human touch,” advises Javad. “We aren’t selling products, we’re helping people, and that’s what makes this industry wonderful.”

See the December 2019 issue for tips on partnering with specialists, succession planning and more.

Reference:
*The fictional, net-based conscious group mind and highly advanced artificial intelligence system featured in the Terminator franchise.

Elizabeth Cicchetti, MBA, ACS, FLMI, CLU, joined Mutual Trust Life Insurance Company, A Pan-American Life Insurance Group Stock Company, in 2004, as senior marketing communications specialist. In this position she is responsible for developing communications used by the company’s Sales Development team and distribution partners to increase the visibility and recognition of the company’s brand and expand awareness of sales opportunities.

Prior to joining Mutual Trust, Cicchetti, who has both a master’s degree in English and journalism and an MBA degree with a concentration in marketing from Loyola University, was a marketing communications specialist in the banking and futures and derivatives marketplace.

Cicchetti can be reached by email at cicchettie@mutualtrust.com.