Insurance producers are so much more than sales people, but how can we train them better? with Jeff McIntosh | Ep. 17

A large percentage of insurance agents and agency owners are near retirement age, and the industry needs new blood. However, the training and education available are not preparing young people correctly for the actual, complex job of selling insurance: filling ACORD forms, dealing with underwriters and carriers. 

Recent surveys show that it costs $100,000 dollars a year to train a commercial producer, and there is a 90% failure rate. Understanding the role and creating better training options is key to the future of the industry, and Jeff’s book insurance genius is a big step in the right direction.

Join me as I discuss how insurance producers are so much more than sales people, but we need to train them better, with  Jeff McIntosh, commercial insurance producer extraordinaire with Energy Insurance and author of Insurance Genius.

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Tony Caldwell:

Hey, everybody. It's Tony Caldwell. Welcome to another episode of Uncaptive Agent where we're talking about the future of insurance distribution, specifically the future for the independent agency, over the next three to five years. As Jeff, my guest today and I are visiting, it's late or early February, I should say, 2021. So our five-year horizon is out to 2026. 

Today I have with me, my guest is  in Lexington, Kentucky. Now, I want to make a couple of comments about Jeff and then by way of introduction and then I'll let him take it off. Jeff is a super successful commercial insurance producer and he has been named for the last two or three years by one of the prominent industry publications, Business Insurance Magazine, as one of the top commercial producers in the United States.

In 2020 or 2019, Jeff you'll correct me, I think you were in the top 65 commercial insurance producers. If for no other reason, I want to talk to Jeff as somebody who's really successful in commercial insurance, been around for a while and plans to be into the future but in addition to that, Jeff has written a very comprehensive and impressive book on the technical side of our business. Really it's a book, Jeff as I understand it, designed to help teach younger producers what they need to know and what they need to gather to do a fabulous job of presenting a risk to an underwriter. So with that, Jeff McIntosh, welcome.

 

Jeff McIntosh:

Thank you. Glad to be here. The book, the short version and there's nothing short about anything I ever do so strap on folks, it's all the things that I wish that someone would have taught me when I started, things that I had to learn on my own that wash out most of the people that come into our business as a producer, especially a commercial producer. There's a whole lot of information and knowledge about policy forms and those sorts of things, but what's lacking is what do you do with that? How do you mass the client with that? How do you put that into force? How do make it effective, the policy, but also how do you get a good quote?

When I started we really thought and there's another gentleman here who's now our president, Mark Kelder, and we used to talk all the time. If we just had carriers, if we just had enough volume with carriers that they would write business for us, they would write more things for us and we were wrong. It wasn't about that. It was about the quality of the applications and the information that we were giving them.

 

Tony Caldwell:

You know, Jeff, not to interrupt... But well, actually I did interrupt. I'm sorry. I was just going to say I was just on a call last week with a bunch of agents on behalf of one of the largest commercial property and casual companies in the country and the question that they wanted to ask was, "What's your biggest challenge in the next five years?" To a person, it was the same answer that they've given on that same call for the last three years at least, which is talent.

It's expected that in this next five year period of time we're going to lose over half the people, if they retire on schedule, in our business. So bringing new talent into this business and then teaching them what you've had to learn the hard way and what I've learned the hard way, rapidly so they can take the place of folks who are leaving is going to be critical. I was interested, when we talked before, as you went looking for resources and even at the local university where you live there in Lexington, you couldn't find any. Tell us a little bit about just the dearth of good information on this topic that you've found.

 

Jeff McIntosh:

Yeah. Well, that's kind of why I wrote the book, really. We have... I mean, listen. I've mentored agents for 25 years and except for one that I have currently that I was able to give the book to, they have every one of them failed. It's not because I don't know what they need to know. There's a few problems. I'm not a teacher. I'm a commercial insurance agent. I don't have the time to put them through a course, nor do they because when we hire them, of course, we put pressure on them immediately.

Sell, sell, sell. "Why aren't you calling people? This is why you're failing. You don't talk to anyone." I also had no resource. I really didn't know exactly what it is they weren't connecting on. We all have amnesia, right? We don't remember how hard it was. We want to forget that as quickly as we can, but also it's kind of a trade secret.

Now, I sincerely wanted them to succeed but many people that become mentors, they don't want to be. I mean, you think about inside an agency, I can compete with any agent out there except agents here. So the more agents that we hire and the more agents that we bring in here, it's competition for me that I can't overcome.

I can't call on their accounts. I can't work on accounts that they're working on. If we're an agency that likes contractors well, now, adding more agents going after contractors is just shrinking my pond but it doesn't work very well but that's what most of us do.

Or we train salespeople and we've done that. We've hired every kind of salesperson in the world, male, female, it doesn't make any difference. They were successful at sales, it doesn't translate over here. We'll talk a little bit later about what I think the future is and some of this InsurTech and those sorts of things and I'll tell you exactly why because it's not the same product.

The insurance product is a very, very, very different product than any other product that's out there. But you're right. I did. I had an epiphany. I said, "We've got a college 30 miles up the road." Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond. It's one of the top five. I think it was 2020 maybe AMs Best, did a review of all the colleges.

Eastern Kentucky was in the top five insurance program. We hired a couple of kids, actually four. Two were producers. They came out and they'd never heard of an ACORD app. They didn't understand rating or classification codes or anything. Smart, bright kids. I mean, absolutely cream of the crop and I didn't have a mechanism to try and teach them that. I knew they needed to learn how to complete an app and I'd try to bring them in my office but I don't have all these hours of the day to do that. They got frustrated and they quit.

So I went back to the dean and I said, "What are you teaching these kids?" You got them for four years and then the first dean that was there, "Well, we have a high placement so you don't know what you're talking about. Thanks. Go ahead and send us a check. We're glad you're supporting the program, thanks. Write us a check." I got introduced to the new dean in September of 2018 and she said, "Well, yeah. I heard you're a sponsor and what do you think of our program?" I said, "Well, you're not teaching them what they need to know." And was sort of rude and I didn't mean it that way but I've kind of had enough of it and she engaged me.

She looked me right in the face and said, "Tell me why." So I followed up with an email. She gave me her email address and I sent her 48 pages of ACORD applications and I said, "This is what they have to know and that's a midsize account. That sounds like a lot. That's not a lot. That's what we do every day." And she said, "I want to meet with you. Let's talk more about this."

So she invited me to lunch and I brought along my POS Manual and my Scopes Manual. I wanted to show her the classifications. I said, "It's not just these apps. You've got to know what to put in them." And she said, "Well, there's a problem, Jeff, with why we don't teach this." Now, she has a PhD in insurance. She's 50 some years old. She's been doing this her whole life. This is her life's work.

I said, "Well, what's the problem?" She said, "Well, there's no book. There's no book that teaches this that talks about these things." I made my fatal error. I said, "Well, I can write that book." Forgetting that I'm dyslexic, forgetting that I'm not an author, forgetting that I barely made it through English. It was a mercy, right, they passed me because they'd just seen enough of me. So it took me 11 months to do it.

I knew the task involved underwriters because that's and it's a training manual for underwriters as well because they have to know everything we know about the application. So I used them as my content editors and there were five different underwriters that reviewed my work and I said, "Well, what's missing? What did I say wrong?" Those sorts of things. So it was a long process.

 

Tony Caldwell:

So Jeff, let's talk for just a minute about so obviously no book. I mean, that's clear from your conversation with the dean but in a global sense and you've had you said, four folks come into your agency and fail because in a large part the training really wasn't there. The information they needed to learn wasn't ready for them to absorb it.

 

Jeff McIntosh:

From the universities.

 

Tony Caldwell:

Yeah, from the universities.

 

Jeff McIntosh:

Well, we've had a lot more than that.

 

Tony Caldwell:

So every agency out there I mean, every agent that's listening to us that's in the agency side of the business they've got the same problem. It's like how do you train folks? So now, there's this resource and obviously there's a tremendous need to train new people coming into the business. So have you been working with folks or had conversations with people about how best to use the resource?

 

Jeff McIntosh:

Some. The final version, I finally got it completed editing and all that was July of 2020. Now, I had some a little harder to read. Not for me because phonetics is great but one gentleman in our office that I worked with that was struggling, I had him going through it and is kind of my test case, right? Okay, you need help and he would come and meet with me once a week and talk about it. He understood it. See, I'm an insurance agent. I wrote what I know how to do and I know how to write commercial insurance policies. If that's what you're interested in learning, that's what I told you. That's what I wrote about.

The interesting thing that he came back and he said, "This has given me a lot of confidence now. When I'm calling people to try and set up appointments I know what I'm doing. I know what I'm talking about now. And when I'm asking them questions and information I'm finding what will separate me." The wedges. You hear of The Wedge Sales Model, well, this is written by a very smart gentleman, a very nice gentleman who's never sold an insurance policy.

 

Tony Caldwell:

Randy Schwantz.

 

Jeff McIntosh:

Yeah, great guy and he'll tell you, "I'm not an insurance guy. That's not what I do." It's not that there's no value there. There is but somebody needs to be talking about what the wedges are but that's what the universities didn't have. We have let them down as an industry. It's not the university's fault.

It's our fault that we didn't come back and say, "Hey, you need to change your curriculum." If you think of people like me, I mean, it's a miracle it occurred to me and I was dumb enough to volunteer to do it. Honestly, I mean, I hated about every moment of it but I said I was going to do it so I did it. That's the only reason I did it. I shot my mouth off and had to pay for it.

 

Tony Caldwell:

So Jeff, I talk to lots of folks about where we're headed as an industry and a couple things are encouraging to me. The first is, I have yet to talk to somebody who doesn't think that the future includes agents. In other words, everybody believes that regardless of how we move along with technology people still want a relationship with somebody they trust and they want a relationship with somebody that knows what he or she is talking about and gives them really good advice and they don't think that can be replaced with artificial intelligence. So it's sort of back to the point of the book, which is you've tried to put in a concentrated place, a place to get that information and really to get people off on the right foot.

I'm curious, you've been in the business since the '80s so a while. You have some experience shall we say. Do you feel like as an industry that we're doing a lesser job than maybe we were a couple of decades ago in preparing people to be successful in commercial insurance or is it just kind of the same old, same old? Define for me the ground that we've got to come from.

 

Jeff McIntosh:

A barren ground I think for the last 10 if not 15 years. We are not training people anymore to be agents. We're training them to be salespeople. I think some of the growth, some of the mega agencies are out there buying. They're basically just stock portfolios have aided in that considerably because the people at the top were never agents and they don't know what the job is.

So they see producer as salesperson and they think, oh, well, we understand sales. This is not sales. I mean, it's hard to say what we get paid to sell something. I get paid to write something. Our product is a legal contract. We negotiate a legal contract between two parties.

It's not a product like a television set or a car or a house or a dress or anything of that nature. It's not priced that way. I mean, it's a product that most of the people buy, hope they never need, never have to use. They're buying it because they're required to buy it and most people that have a policy don't even know what it says.

I mean, people understand value. People buy on value, right? They understand price. They understand quality. With insurance policy, they understand price. They do not understand quality and they can't even take their policy home, read it and know what it means.

 

Tony Caldwell:

So agencies are doing a good job of teaching and training and again, back to the experience I had last week and I hear this a lot actually. Agents are begging insurance companies to do this training for them but to your point, the insurance company sees this whole thing from the small end of the telescope if you will, right? I mean, in other words, they're not really suited very well for teaching agents what you're talking about. Is that right?

 

Jeff McIntosh:

Oh, absolutely. I'm going to give you an example, Hartford. Fantastic company. Actually I served on their Jonathan Trumbull Board in Kentucky many, many years ago. They're great people. I really like the Hartford people. They have a Hartford School of Insurance. We sent four people to that, four different people, not the students, okay? They were there for two weeks for their producer training.

They came back with manuals that would choke a horse. I mean, I could barely handle the damn things. And it's eight hours a day for two weeks and our folks came back and I reviewed the manuals because they came to me and they said, "Look at all this." It's great information and it's things you need to know but there's no way in hell you're going to learn that in two weeks. You're not going to do it.

They also don't talk about completing an application. They didn't know what to do with any of that information. It was way the hell too much information and they came back to me and said, "Okay, can you tell us what we're supposed to be doing?" That's like planting a new tree, putting all the water it's going to need for a year on it in the first two weeks and wondering why in the hell it died.

 

Tony Caldwell:

Yeah, yeah.

 

Jeff McIntosh:

And this is what most of these insurance carrier's programs are. Hartford has a good one except for the fact it's really of no use. It's really of no use.

 

Tony Caldwell:

So the truth is I mean, as you see it, going forward to replace all these people that we need to bring into the business, like it or not, agents are going to have to do it themselves and if you're in a local agency, not a national private equity backed firm to your earlier point, you see that we've got to do it ourself?

 

Jeff McIntosh:

Yes, I have been talking with a company and maybe talking to another about I've been fighting at them and saying, "You need to train your agents." It's not just a nice thing to do, right? When I was writing the book as I mentioned, I used underwriters as my content editors. Well, they gave me a lot of feedback that didn't have anything to do with what I wrote. The main thing and they all came back saying the same, "Jeff, do you know how much my day I spend with applications that are incomplete that I'm chasing information that should have been on here?"

The companies are losing a lot of productive time from very smart people that are getting smaller and smaller and harder to find as well because they're the ones trying to train agents. They're not suited to do it. They don't have a book to do it and it's wasting their time.

 

Tony Caldwell:

On that point, Jeff, I talked... You mentioned Hartford. I had a senior vice president for Hartford commercial lines as an earlier guest on the podcast and talking to him about this fact that insurance companies really have a cost issue they've got to grapple with and I said to him, "How do carriers, how are they going to look at agents in the future? How does that change?"

One of the things that he said is right to your point, which is that the amount of money that an agent costs the carrier to do business with them is going to bear direct relationship even more. So in the past, carriers have said, "Okay, how much business do you produce? What's your retention ratio and what's your profitability with us?"

Those are the three key factors but the fourth and a newer one that's evolving apparently at Hartford and other companies is what does the agent cost to visit with compared to other people? So do the agents in the agency at hand here, are they using the technology the carrier provides as an example?

Another would be, do they waste our time chasing them down for information because they don't know how to fill out apps? If they do, we don't care how much business they give us, we don't want them. So apparently, from the carrier perspective, what you're talking about is really important and is changing how they view agencies increasingly over time.

 

Jeff McIntosh:

Yeah, it's not a new product, problem rather. What's new is, I've actually got a solution. It's start. I'm working with the University of Texas in Dallas and he's going through and he's trying to write classes. So I've segmented the book into so many pages and then identified things to highlight or expand upon.

So it needs a companion. It needs some podcasts, asynchronous courses that people could just kind of watch along with but, yeah. The agency of the future, we need smarter people. We don't need to hire 10 people in order to keep two and that's what we've been doing.

What carriers are chasing is it's coming up when they get their bonuses in April and what's going to happen? A lot of them are leaving as soon as they get paid their bonus they've got another deal waiting on them and they're going to leave. So carriers are having the same problem retaining people.

We've got to become agents again. We've got to become insurance professionals again and that comes with education. That comes with understanding. We've also got to adjust to the fact that we need to turn the speed down a little bit. They're not ready for the speed.

Now, I am. I can handle it. I love the innovation because innovation allows me to do even more but we've got people and we're giving them tools and we're moving them so fast I mean, you can't learn my book in a year. I mean, a year is minimum. If you're really going to learn it, really be able to apply it and then you have to build upon it. It's the foundation. It's not everything. It's the foundation. So you got to change this time frame of when people do in a year or 18 months or three years be producing 100 or $150,000 dollars. It's not realistic.

 

Tony Caldwell:

I started my career a long time ago as well maybe not quite as far back as you but I remember saying to people along the way that I didn't really feel like I was a competent Commercial Alliance producer. In other words confident I could answer the client's questions, fill out everything correctly and do the coverage just cold all that kind of stuff for five or six years. So are you saying that you feel like that or using resource like the one you've developed will actually shortcut that cycle and make somebody a confident commercialized producer in two or three years?

 

Jeff McIntosh:

Absolutely but not just that, someone that actually knows what they're doing. What I wrote about is how I write business, how I take it away from other agents. They make mistakes. Going back to the wedge, to the lovely Randy. He's right. There's lots of pain there and if you don't know where to find it and don't know how to discover it you have no shot.

You can get all the appointments in the world. You can smooth-talk your way and it's not easy to do but then you have to perform. If you don't get a good quote from an underwriter, which you can't fool, you have nothing to sell and that's where we've fallen short. That's why 75% or more fail and they fail because they quit. It was too damn hard and we make it hard because it's like a cryptic thing, right? We don't tell them what they really have to do.

 

Tony Caldwell:

So you mentioned 75% failure and I think actually the number's a little higher than that. It obviously varies by agency and maybe even by specialization but still, it's more than half and it's a lot. In the next five as you said, we're going to have to have a lot of new people to take the place of the folks who are going to go call it quits and go play golf full-time.

So what do you think, not just your book but if there were training that was intensive and comprehensive and also practical and by the way, I've read about half your book myself and I would say it's very practical because it's like okay, here's the application, here's why they're asking the questions, here's the information they're looking for and here's how you need to think about answering the questions. That's imminently practical. What can the failure rate be turned down to in your view so that from to 90%, 75% to what?

 

Jeff McIntosh:

Oh, yeah. That's a good question. The agent's role is twofold. You have to be willing to talk, right? You can't be afraid of people. I think if you empowered them with the knowledge and understanding of what they're doing and give them tools that they can make a difference then you'll help with the confidence because a lot of that is just confidence and being confident.

You can kind of learn how to handle objections and those sorts of things. Again, it comes with knowledge and experience. This is where a mentor can really, really be helpful but if we're getting a candidate that's not afraid of people, I would think 75% should make it not fail.

 

Tony Caldwell:

Flip it around, okay.

 

Jeff McIntosh:

Yeah, I think it would be a total flip but again, remember your time frame and you're right on. It took me six years to get to 100,000 in commission volume. So you're right on the money and it wasn't because I wasn't motivated.

 

Tony Caldwell:

Right.

 

Jeff McIntosh:

It wasn't because I didn't want to do it. I was hungry. I was starving. I could have quit many, many times because it's very, very frustrating but I'm just that particular type of person that says, "Well, the harder it is, the harder I'm going to go at it." But it's too long. It's too long.

 

Tony Caldwell:

So one of the big challenges it seems to me for the future, for the next few years in fact in the agency business first of all, agencies are getting bigger and bigger because they're getting gobbled up and that's hollowing out the middle and those big agencies have a lot of money to port resources, which mean that the agencies that are left, the local agencies like yourself, like your agency there in Lexington, have got to generate more profit dollars to pay for capability to compete. Okay, I think that seems to be a given.

So one of and if at the same time they have to spend a lot of money training employees and frankly, that's what every agency that's going to be in business is faced with whether it's through CSR or a commercialized producer you can't thrive now and you certainly can't do it in the future just stealing other people's employees doesn't work.

So you've got to train them yourself. I remember going to a Dynamics Sales Management class 25 years ago and in that long ago course, a bunch of really smart people sat around a room and calculated that we thought it cost about $100,000 dollars a year to train a Commercial Alliance producer and there was a 90% failure rate.

So doing the math, that's a huge amount of capital that has to be invested in somebody to get them to the place you are today. So it seems to me and I would just I'm guessing you agree that over the next three to five years one of the biggest challenges for our industry isn't just replacing the people but it's getting them up to speed so they can actually do the work.

 

Jeff McIntosh:

Yeah, that's actually been the problem. Too many people have done the math, figured we've got to bring them up to speed quicker because it's expensive and taking shortcuts and so they fail even more. We have budgeted a half million dollars this year to hire new people, very much against my will.

I would rather we said a half million dollars, hired two people and thought about that as a three or four year expenditure. Try to hire the right people and train them correctly. See what's happening now, 100,000 then, 25 years ago, well, it's 200,000 now, unless they quit sooner but if they quit sooner well, we lose all of it.

 

Tony Caldwell:

Right.

 

Jeff McIntosh:

It's a very, very expensive proposition but it's an investment and it's an important one because without producers there are no agencies whatsoever. So you have to buck up. You have to realize that it's going to cost you money but you also have to realize that the first people that we have to educate are the owners of agencies and the insurance companies and say, "Look, we got to start doing something different."

I really think that we spend and we waste. We lost well over $1,000,000 dollars in the last 10 years hiring people that aren't here anymore that we paid for. If we did spend more money in their education and the planning and given the proper amount of time we may have spent $1,000,000 dollars but we might have five producers here that are now returning on that investment that eventually within seven years we're making money on it.

So the short-term dollars are what people are focused on not the longterm. They're not looking out down the road and have a very good understanding of what the true investment costs are, are necessary let's say. Are necessary.

 

Tony Caldwell:

On that point I mean, you did a lot of research before you wrote your book and you did a lot of thinking about it obviously and I'm curious as you think about this cost issue, this investment as you described it that we've got to make, if we spend $100,000 dollars as an industry compensating a new producer how much should we be spending on training that individual? So is it 20% of the total salary costs? Is it 50%? Is it 100%? Help us come to grips with what the real expense is here or the real investment.

 

Jeff McIntosh:

The training costs are minimal. The book costs $225 dollars.

 

Tony Caldwell:

Okay.

 

Jeff McIntosh:

All right, and you've read it. It's practical. It's readable. I mean, I wrote it for someone that doesn't know anything about insurance. That's why it's over 134,000 words. It's not because I like to talk because I had to type it. Now, if I could talk it, it would be longer but I had to type it and I hate typing. So I mean, I typed every word in there more than once unfortunately. The training cost is only high because it's the salary's included, okay?

 

Tony Caldwell:

Okay.

 

Jeff McIntosh:

If you combine salary and training costs then it's high but it's investment. You take away the salary and then training cost is minimal. It's minimal. I mean, like I said, the book's $225 dollars. If you have people like me and all agencies do. They have competent people well, they can mentor them. There's no cost really to that. So the training cost is honestly it's the salary and the benefits and those sorts of things.

The cost not to teach them the right things, not to buy a $225 dollar book and not spend the time to teach them that, that's the problem. That's the problem. We sent them to Hartford School and I forgot what it was, 2,000, 3,000, $4,000 dollars. Great information, way too much. I mean, that's training costs and that's pissed away, honestly. We have to think about how we're training and what we're training these individuals and not expect too much too soon. That's our biggest problem.

 

Tony Caldwell:

That's interesting. Not expect too much, too soon. So the average producer validates in about three years and validation I think everybody listening probably knows but just to define our terms, validation happens when the producers... The commission and the producer who's working in the business equals their salary. It doesn't mean you're making money on them yet, it just means you broke, you crossed the Rubicon.

 

Jeff McIntosh:

You're not losing money anymore.

 

Tony Caldwell:

That's right, you've crossed the Rubicon. So it's a three-year process and so three years puts us right in th middle of our forecasted period of time, we're looking at three to five years out and we know that there's going to be fewer agencies because of acquisitions and so forth.

You're competing in your market with all kinds of other producers, both good and bad and you're paying a lot of attention to the future because you just wrote a book on how to help somebody get into this business and succeed. I am curious, do you think we're going to have fewer commercial producers in five years than we do today? Are we going to have the same number? And if we have fewer does that imply that more producers are going to have to handle bigger books of business and therefore be even sharper than they are now?

 

Jeff McIntosh:

Well, that's a great question. I wish you'd have mailed that to me beforehand and I could have thought about it some more. Well, I would think that we will have fewer producers because I can handle a much larger book and I have a much larger book because of the technological advances. They enable me. See, when I started right, and I'm not that old. I can't handle this gray but 58 this month so I'm not ready to die, okay?

 

Tony Caldwell:

You're in the middle of your career.

 

Jeff McIntosh:

Yeah, I'm hitting my stride, right? When I started out, I had to drive to see people. We didn't have fax machines. We didn't have emails. I had to go meet them face-to-face, pick up their policies if they let me. Some of them would say, "Well, there's a copier." If they had one. I'd make hand notes.

I can write a policy without the policy. I know what questions to ask them because we had to do that. Fax machines and emails and all this it changed the pace and it quickened it, and quickened it, and quickened it, which for me was good because I knew what to do with it. I knew how to take advantage of it.

Some people starting out, they had all this information. It was all there but they didn't know what to do with it. So in the future as these things continue, people think that insurance companies are stodgy and we don't change. Bullshit. I've been here for 34 years. We do a lot of changing.

I mean, all the time. We love technology. We love information. We love doing things faster and cutting our overhead and our costs. So yes, it can be done with fewer people but they got to be smart. They got to know what they're doing. They have to be more educated. We probably have 25 to 30% of deadwood now.

The other thing you have to think about is, is that a lot of producers could get to the level I am but they won't because they stop themselves because they get comfortable because they don't want to work any harder. They don't want to learn anymore. They're at that threshold that this when is this enough?

Okay, well, I think I'll coast a little while. Oh, hell, I lost an account so now I got to go sell. They get comfortable. Now, you'll always have some of that but I think we just got too many people in the mix that aren't quite cutting it that are just hanging on by a thread or two and it's not that they don't want to, it's just we haven't shown them how.

 

Tony Caldwell:

Right.

 

Jeff McIntosh:

I think that's going to change. That's what I've done to try and help the future. This book is my legacy. This is my effort to give back something to an industry that has been very good to me. I'll fall short of saying I love it because half the day I want to pull all my damn hair out, right? It makes you crazy. I mean, it's just craziness but I did want to give something back and so yes.

I think we'll have fewer people but they've got to be better and they've got to be smarter because we can see more clients now. We don't have to drive and see them. We can Zoom. Oh, my God, 2020 has been great. I mean, I never did any of this, wouldn't even think about doing any of this and it's really been pretty wildly embraced.

 

Tony Caldwell:

Just curious but on that topic, are you planning to increase your geographic radius with Zoom? I mean, are you going to be able to see people further away and grow your book that way?

 

Jeff McIntosh:

No. Probably not for that resource. Now, I talked with an insurance carrier and they had me up last year and it was an interesting conversation because they actually put us in front of all the underwriters and said, "Okay, what's it like being an agent?" And I almost fell on the floor.

I was like, "Why are we just now having this conversation? And of course, I want to know, well, what's it like to be an underwriter?" We're not opposites. We're not in competition. We're supposed to be partners. It was a great conversation but one of the things I told them, I said, "Stop coming to see me. I want you in your office. We got to be moving."

Well, this scenario makes because they're in Indianapolis or they're in Cincinnati or they have to get in the car and there's four or five dead hours coming and going where they could be working. Well, we can do this instead. With my clients and I have a lot of them so I'm referral only. I'm not hunting anymore, well, I am. I can't give that up. I mean, once you hunt, you hunt but I'm more interested in how I can do things better not necessarily more. I'm solidifying things and that's one of the other tough parts about being an agent.

You cannot get the time with the client that you need to discover everything. So you have to figure out pretty quick what you have to know and use an economy, if you will, of their time because their time is not about writing insurance policies. Their time is about building a bridge, manufacturing a widget, whatever it is that they may do.

So if you do it right, you'll perfect the policy over three, four, five years where you can have those little conversations at different parts and it's difficult to do. So more quality honestly at this point for me. There's many people that got to get some quantity before they can worry too much about that.

 

Tony Caldwell:

Well, and it's clear that in the next few years we're going to have a lot of people turning over, a lot of turmoil in the industry, lots of new folks coming in and you mentioned mentoring and I'm sure you're going to be involved in more of that as you go along just like every other successful agent has been. So just as we wrap up, quickly any last thought on the future of our business where we're headed the next three or four years you want to share?

 

Jeff McIntosh:

Well, there will be agents. Like I said, I did a little research before I came on because I knew I'm going to talk about insurance and InsurTech and all that and so I looked online. I was curious to see how much retail sales, just all products were sold eCommerce. I found a site and I'll make this fun. How much do you think of the U.S. retail is sold over the internet? What percentage?

 

Tony Caldwell:

27.

 

Jeff McIntosh:

Okay. Until last year, it was running about 9.9%. With COVID in the last quarter, the third quarter rather. They didn't have the last quarter. So we'll do fresh. It was 14.9%. There was another statistic on there and they asked Gen Z, right? These are the people that we've trained from go to be on their phone.

All right, and they asked them what they thought and it was about 83%. They said we want to do 83% of our sales and business. We just hired an intern to help us with our Facebook stuff and all that crap and I asked her. She's a senior in college and she said, well, she thought 80% of sales. And I asked her, "Well, what do you buy? Do you buy dresses? Do you buy... What do you go out?"

Well, no, it wasn't 80%. So the thought is it's much, much higher but in actuality it's much, much lower even for consumer goods, right, things that are nowhere near as complicated as an insurance policy. Again, it's legal contract. I like the attorney's saying, "The person that represents themselves in court has a fool for an attorney."

Well, it's the same thing. So I don't believe that tech's going to take over. I think it's going to do the same things it's been doing for the last 30 years in just enhancing what we do and give us more tools and hopefully help educate our clients a little bit but honestly, they don't want to know.

 

Tony Caldwell:

Yeah.

 

Jeff McIntosh:

They don't want to know what their policy says and God forbid, read it.

 

Well, I think that's an optimistic note on which to finish up, which is the same thing that I hear across the industry, which is we need agents. We've always needed agents and we still need agents in the future. The trick's going to be getting enough agents trained up quickly enough and so Jeff, thank you for writing the book.

 

Tony Caldwell:

I think it's a great contribution to the industry. I would encourage anyone who is listening to pick up a copy and see how it can help you in your agency and help develop more super producers like Jeff McIntosh from Lexington, Kentucky. Jeff, thanks for being with me today.

 

Jeff McIntosh:

Thanks for having me.

 

Tony Caldwell:

You bet. I'm talking to independent agency owners about this all the time. If you'd like to have a more personalized conversation click on the button or the link in the description and we'll make that happen. You can also reach out to me at tonycaldell.net/contact.

26 minute read

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