How to Sell More Insurance with John Fear | Ep. 2

Independent insurance agents have been gaining ground and taking a larger market share from captive agents for years now.

To make things more interesting, the current hard market and financial downturn have made it easier than ever for insurance agents to snatch clients who are shopping their insurance and seeking better options.

Join me as I discuss how to sell more insurance and how to succeed in the insurance industry on my podcast Uncaptive Agency: The Future of Insurance with John Fear, former Vice President of Travelers Insurance.






Tony Caldwell:

John Fear, former vice president of Travelers Insurance Company, sales trainer Xtrordinair, agency guru and consultant. Thank you for joining me on Uncaptive Agents. We're talking today about the future of the insurance industry, the future of the insurance agency industry over the next three to five years, lots of things are causing change to speed up. Not the least of which is COVID-19, which has changed agency operations in many respects over the last few months. I just want to pick your brain, get your perspective on what the agency is going to look like in the next three to five years.

Talking with another friend this morning he really makes the point that if you're not a sales organization, you don't have much of a future and that's been your drum beat. If I could say if there's one person that I know in this industry who has really made that point over the last decade, at least it's John Fear. So talk to me a little bit about how you see the agency evolving, but also the roles inside the agency. What do those look like?

John Fear:

I appreciate that. Yeah, it's funny because for years I could never get approved as a continuing education instructor because exactly like you said, I'm always the sales guy and I always tell people, we say that like it's a bad word, but at the end of the day, you have to go back and look at your definition for what sales is. And mine is helping a client identify their unique needs and then offering a product or service to meet those needs.

Now, when you start looking at that, it almost doesn't matter what industry you're in. And so let's take it back to the COVID stuff. Because again, last night, I'm talking with a daughter of a friend of mine who's a teacher, a seventh grade teacher. And she is just beside herself because they've gone back to school. The kids are wearing masks. She's like, "John I'm spending my entire time keeping people six feet away, reminding them to wear their masks, wash their hands." That's not what I got in this for. And so I simply said to her, I said, "Well, what did you get into it for?" And she was like, "What?" And even in your book, Shameless Promotion I think you've been there for the business is you. And that's the whole point.

Like I look at it and this whole thing would COVID. And those of you who don't know me. Tony, you do, and I know your guest this morning does as well. I see the glass as half overflowing because we look at it and we say, wait a minute, we're at a point now where we're not talking about making minor changes or tweaking this in your agency. Oh my God, do I take the risk to do that? We're at a point where you might look at it and say, "I got to rethink the whole entire way that I'm doing things," and it can go all the way to there or if somebody's doing well already, then let's do that.

And I was sharing with her, my friend's daughter the other night. And I said to her, I said, "One of my favorite books I bought because of the title. It's done by Dr. Warren Wiersbe and the title of the book is The Bumps Are What You Climb On." The Bumps Are What You Climb On. Well he starts the whole book with this scenario, as you're walking down life's path, and this could be your business path, I don't care if you've been in business six months or 60 years, and you're going down. And all of a sudden there's an obstacle it's placed in the middle of it. Now he says, we're broken down into three groups that basically decide what we're going to do. Some people just say, you know what? I guess this is as far as I'll go with them, I was planning on going further, but I'll just stop right here and if that rock moves, I'll go ahead and I'll change things.

There is another group though, that looks at it and says, okay, this is the time to make a choice. Do I go left? Do I go right? And they make the proverbial coin flip as to which way they're going to go. And they flip a coin, not understanding and the new path that they're taking, but they're going to take it anyway. And Dr. Wiersbe's point is the people who benefit the greatest are those individuals who say, "You know what? This is an opportunity. This was never here before. If I climb on top of this rock, I can see things that I wouldn't have seen if I just had continued on the path." And that's more of what I look at it from where the opportunity that's wearing right now, everybody wants to return to normal. It's [inaudible 00:04:54] like, okay, well that supposes normal was the best.

Whereas now we can change things. We can do things. In organizations like I said, it's one of those things of sales almost becomes a dirty word. When I go around and consult with different agencies, I have a sheet that I send out ahead of time called the day in the life. And I send it to every person from the receptionist to the owner of the agency. Tell me what a typical day in your life is like. And you know, it has very simplistic questions. What do you do best? What do you need help with? What is your agency known for? What are some things that we can work with? Describe a good day for me? And I tell you the most common response I get on describing a good day, is that the phone doesn't ring?

I sit there and I say, "Yeah, because who's on the other end of that phone anyway." Oh, that's right. It's the person who pays your salary. And the point when I put it in that way, because everybody thinks, well, okay, Tony pays my salary. He's the guy that's the... the signature on the bottom of the check. Tony writes the check, but who put the money in Tony's account? And it is always our clients and it is always making that sale at the end of the day. And I think that that's one of the things that during this time we have to readjust, we have to rethink what we're in this business for. And that is actually to provide, understand our client's need, provide that service or product that meets that need. And so one of the things that we can talk about is, okay, what are the tools that you should implement in doing that?

What's the process. And as you were saying, I'm a sales guy. In my mind I always say I'm all about the sales process though. Here's the things that go on. And I think that we need to do as an organization. And I mean that as an entity of insurance, we need to do a better job of understanding, okay, what is the best way to do this? Because tools aside and let me just kind of have that, because again, I was talking with another agency the other day and he was like, "Oh, I got this too. I got that too. I got that too." And I'm like, 'Okay, how does that help you make more sales?" And it was almost like he was dumbfounded. He goes, "What do you mean more sales?" And I said, "Yeah, I mean, are you experiencing a greater close ratio? Are you getting more leads? How does all that stuff..." then there's like, "Oh, it's a really cool tool, John." And I'm like, "I'm sure it is." But yeah, you understand tools are met and this is what... and it was interesting as I was reading through some of your questions on there. One of the things I always like to tell people is technology. Because everybody wants to be a tech. All I want to be technology. What's the latest, what's the greatest.

And I try to remind people is that you understand that technology is to enhance client interaction, not replace it. It's to enhance it. So when we talk about big data, we talk about artificial intelligence. We even talk about just simple things like email and texting. Well, it enhances that opportunity for you to interact with that client, but you'll see people who want to get a text off and then like, okay, done. I've communicated with the clients. Have you?

Tony Caldwell:

You know, John, I tend to think about technology in the same way you do. To me, it removes the drudgery in the real promise of the new technology that's coming our way is that more and more drudgery gets removed. So you've got one more time on your hands. And so you know, what I would say is what makes a great day is when the phone rings, you get a chance to talk to the person, right?

John Fear:


Tony Caldwell:

Because all the drudgery is gone. And so, there's a choice in the future. People are going to buy, some people are going to buy insurance from an algorithm, right? So if you want the cheapest, if that's your thing, or maybe even want the best at the cheapest price, well, an algorithm can do that for you, but the algorithm doesn't climb inside your body or your soul and your mind, and really think about what keeps you up at night. What worries you that you want to take care of. That's the thing that a human being does. And so, to me, the promise of technology is those of us who love doing that are skilled doing that are going to have more time to focus on that beautiful thing, which is the relationship you're talking about.

John Fear:

I agree. Because it's even within systems like one of the best things that we do. And I think I had shared with Ashley as well is my wife and I went on an Inn up here in the Adirondacks. And it's interesting because I always talk about the balance of high tech, high touch. How do you balance those two things, having that personalized relationship. Now, at our end, you can go ahead and you can look at pictures of our end. You can see our availability, calendar and everything else. You know the one thing you can't do through my website and make a reservation. And we are deliberate about that because you know why? I want to talk to you. I want to understand why you're coming to this area. So, you know what? We can do things like get out trail maps for you, especially in COVID now.

We will get things, brochures from different places. We can even call and make reservations because a lot of things, even that are outdoors, they're going head and requiring reservations ahead of time. When would you like to do that? How do you want to do these things? One of my best examples is we had a and again, think of it. And I think I also told Ashley, I have a continuing education class that's actually been approved for CE credit. It's called the business of insurance. And when I talk about in there is three things. First things is what's your brand. And you have that in your book as well. It's like, okay, why you, what's the whole thing behind you as an agent? Why are you doing this? The second thing is measuring and managing. That's the second part of my presentation.

And the third thing is having extraordinary customer experiences. And here's one of the ones that, sorry, I like to held at those, best it was these two sisters that were coming to visit us. And one of the questions we always ask people is what has you coming to town? Now, again, insurance agencies, here's the tie back in the business of insurance. We write people every single day and we have no idea why they're going ahead and calling us. We don't ask them. We know how they heard about us. We have no idea what's motivating them to call us right now.

So we always ask them, we say, "Well, what has you coming to town?" Well, John, actually, our mom died when we were four and six respectively and we just haven't had a chance to come back and really kind of come to the grave. We want to come this year. It's been 50 years, we want to come back and memorialize her. And so I started like, oh, you know I'm very close to my mom, here's an empathetic statements. I'm interacting with them and everything else. And so sure enough, I thought, well, you know what? I should look up and see if they're coming here. They were four and six years old when their mom was buried. Where is she at? And so sure enough, I searched the internet for graveyards in Schroon Lake New York.

And sure enough, doesn't Google return. There's a website out there called Well, I'm from a 1600 person town in the Adirondacks. No way we're going to be on there. And yet we are, and I just came back on the phone and said, "No if it's not too personal then let me know. But what was your mom's name at the time of her passing?" So they gave me the name and everything else. Sure enough. Find her mom's grave stone. Now imagine check-in process. And we do the same thing in insurance, right? Here's your record forms. And he just signed this supplemental. I need you to find this waiver of no flood insurance, blah, blah, blah, sign, all this stuff. It's very sterile.

I have that form too. Here's your down payment. Here's the do's and don'ts while you're here and everything else. However, the next page I flip is, oh, directions from our parking lot to their mom's grave. And they're like, "What?" I said, "Well, you also told us your grandparents owned a little inn up here. So we actually checked with the historical society. They've got some information. There are only open Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10:00 to 2:00, they're expecting you though." I look back at my client during check-in when they're purchasing their policy, if you will, and tears are coming down their eyes.

You look at it and you say, "Okay, there's probably my best example of how do you manage high tech, high touch being a personalized individual." And again, I know technology I'm out there on TripAdvisor, we're ranked number one, we're in the top 10% of the places in the country to stay. And there's where you have it. So you can balance those two things, make that your client's experience. To your point, if you're a little more than an algorithm, good luck because you've already lost that battle.

Tony Caldwell:

Well, I think you're probably giving some encouragement to people who are listening, because I know that many agents are really they're concerned about the future because they may feel that, you know what, if I'm not a ticket expert, if I don't have the best website. If I don't have all those tools, well, then what's my future. But I think really John, if I summarize what you're telling us is the future for the agency, the successful agency is one that has relationship with people on some basis, right?

So let's set that aside for a second and say, all right, you've done work with QQ solutions and other tech companies over the years. And I know you're very skilled at using data and technology and those kinds of things to help agents understand how to run their agencies better. So talk to us a little bit about what are the things that you think again we're on this fast acceleration, because COVID moved... For example, we're doing this conversation today on Zoom, which nobody was using five months ago. And probably Zoom is going to be what we are going to be using in three to five years for this kind of technology is going to be so much better than what we have today because it's going to rapidly evolve.

So we don't know what that looks like, but how do you see technology evolving in the insurance agency business to support the relationship building that you're talking about? How do you see that over the next say three or four years?

John Fear:

Well, and again, I think it really is whether they're not exhume on steroids or it's just, it's using the applicable tools. I think some of the stuff that goes into are a lot of the predictive modeling and so forth. Like Zoom, yes it can be. I was actually sitting here when I'd seen senior questions, I'm thinking boy, but that one there, all I could think of was princess Leia and R2-D2. You ever remember that thing where she was projected as a hologram and everything else that was on there [crosstalk 00:16:04].

Tony Caldwell:

Let me tell you a hologram story. I was at... Just real quick-

John Fear:

Yeah. That's right.

Tony Caldwell:

... at a conference a year before last and Tony Robbins was going to be there and I was pretty excited because I'd never seen Tony Robbins speaking. And and they said that the thing is, he's at another meeting. So he's going to be here by hologram. And I'm literally 50 feet from the stage and he comes out and he's doing his shtick. And I'm like, "They're pulling our leg. He's here. He's really hear." Oh yeah. I mean, he looked a little bit larger than life, but he's a big guy. You know, he's actually one of those people who's bigger in person than you expect. And he's talking and I'm thinking these guys are really pulled the wall on us, you know?

He's not here by hologram. Well, he throws his arms out like this and his hands disappeared and he got outside of the cone. And I mean, for about 15 minutes, I did not know that Tony... I mean, they told us, but I didn't believe them, but he was actually there by hologram. You know, that's happening now. That is a... so are we going to be holograming our way around the country, is that what we're going to be doing?

John Fear:

Well, the thing I was pointing out in that too, is if you think about that, that was the original Star Wars. I'm not a geek in that sort of way at all. But I can remember in 19, was it '77 sitting in a theater, watching that movie. And that's why that was like nothing, any of us had ever seen because it had things like that. But I also remind people, it's like, it's 43 years later. And those types of ideas, those concepts and everything else. But here's the point. I'll go back to my thing, that our tools are simply an enhancement and not a replacement for communication. So yes, Tony Robbins, why Tony Robbins made that impact on you in a hologram is because it was Tony Robbins and he was actually doing that in another space.

So yes, he was not limited by space because of that technology. But if that person had gotten up there and said, "Hallo Tony, thank you for coming today. It's great to see you all." Those are still things that we in communicating what we have. I hate to sound like a broken record, but I was even talking with some of the other day, even in our insurance, our sales process, what are we doing? How are we using the technology that's available today to go ahead and share things? I share with people, like stuff like, well, do you appreciate when people renew with you? Oh, absolutely, John. Oh, can you tell everyone at your renewals? Oh, you don't understand I'm running a big agency. Oh yeah, because you can't possibly tell every one of them because you can't get on YouTube and go ahead and create a video of yourself thanking people for renewals.

Go ahead and then go into your agency management system. See everybody that renewed last week and send them a template plate with a hyperlink to that thing and thank everybody who renewed last week from your... you couldn't possibly do that. Can you? And I look at agents and it's just like, they just gloss over like, "Oh my God, I can do that." Yes you can. Do it today. You can do the things that you should be. You would just have to have that. I wanted to actually look and see what I'm trying to memorize. I should've put it up on the screen. As far as the actual chapter that you had in there, the title of it. When you had you are there foundation or even in chapter four, what kind of agency do you want to start?

And I know people are like, well, what kind of agent? I want to start a profitable one. Okay. But you understand, you have to understand what that is. I had an agent one time called me about that catalyst system. And he says, "Well, John, I am a pro assets fisherman, is what he does, but he's also an insurance agent because after paying his own insurance he figured out, man, I can make some money on this, on this premium on there. And it was so funny because I said, "Well, what's your goal? What do you want to do?"

He says, "In two years, I want to quadruple my current business." Small business. You can do that. And I said, "Okay, but define for me what that agency is." And he goes, "I don't understand what you mean, John." I said, "Okay, you want to quadruple in two years, does that mean you're going to write four times as many boats? Or does that mean you're going to take your current clients and go write their commercial insurance, their home, their auto or the rest of the stuff."

It's because either one of those is going to go ahead and they're going to grow four times in two years. But two years from now, they will be very, very different agency. And so that's the point when you have it, it's like, who do you want to be? I'll get SIA agents. They will call me and I will tell them and say, look, don't forget what it was to be a captive. And they're like, "What are you talking about?" And I said, "Captive." I hate using sports analogies, but I will. I said, "When you've got a client, you either hit a grand slam because you wrote everything or you're struck out because they weren't in your wheelhouse for doing that, right." And they're like, "Absolutely." And I said, "See, that's where independent agents we fail because we're doing high fives and belly bumps." If we write a single line and we think that's the greatest thing in the world, and it's like, wait a minute, you have all of this other stuff. So when you use technology are using technology and CRMs to go look for, with this, not that, are you communicating with clients?

You know, if I'm down in Louisiana right now, or in in the panhandle, am I using my management system to communicate? Here's the top 10 things you should be doing in preparation for this storm, and keep in mind, I'm going to hit prospects. I'm going to hit clients I used to write, I'm going to hit clients I currently write. And I'm going to tell them, here's how you reduce your risk, by the way, stay safe and just fade to black. And you can do that in less time than we've been talking. I see a fraction of the agencies I ever work with using current technology to do that. So I know your question was about where are we going in the future? And I think it's going to be what we have today. Only cooler, better, faster that's actually on there.

Tony Caldwell:

So what do you think though? You just said, a lot of agents won't use the tools they have today. So the likelihood is they're not going to use the tools they have tomorrow.

John Fear:


Tony Caldwell:

But there's increasing competition because first of all the algorithms are taking some of the business away. Direct to consumer is taking some of the business away. So the business and personal insurance is certainly getting tougher, certainly the acquisition of other commercial insurance agencies is making the competition in commercial lines tougher and that's the way the world works. Nothing ever seems to get easier. So what do you think the future is? I mean is there a future let me put it like that. Is there a future for the agent that isn't willing to do the work, to use his tools so he has the time to develop the relationship. Is that going to be tougher and tougher to do? Is it going to become extinct? How does that look to you?

John Fear:

That agent will become extinct. And I've been listening to a lot of politicians lately and it's sort of like, they can talk for 30 minutes and not answer the question. I'm borrowing that agent, your days are numbered, you're gone. And here's why. And again, as you know, I'm also a religion major. So I like to always throw that every once in a while into the mix on there, there's a great verse in the Old Testament and it says, "If you have run with the footmen and they have wearied you, what will you do when the chariots come?"

And you think about that, if you have run with the footmen and they have wearied you, what will you do when the chariots come?" I when I work with agents who are in that way, it's sort of like, I am giving you this simplest of thing. Those are just, this is so easy. It's almost ridiculous. You will become obsolete simply because you didn't use the tools. And that's what you could tell with my passion. That's what frustrates me is this is not difficult stuff that we're talking about. And again, it's, you have organizations like SIAA that have provided these tools to individuals.

It's like seeing somebody who's trying to build something and all the tools are laid out on the table and you know what? I got my hammer, I got my chisel. That's all I need and there's do it. And so, yes, the product may get built, but it will not get built for the taste of the audience that's coming through. It's going to look like, you know, when we were kids and I'll put you in that same, that time, we're doing woodworking and school and I can remember the classic two, what do you call it? Lollipop sticks and a dowel because we could make our parents a thing to pull the toast out of the toaster when you were a kid, remember those things [inaudible 00:25:06].

And it's like, those are the simplest of items and yet I still see agents just shaking the toast out of the toaster when even the simplest tools that are there, because as you develop those, that's where you're going to get better and better. The problem is, I think also in our industry though, is we highlight individuals who are rockstar from a technology standpoint. And what we've done is we've sat there and we've told agents unless your reaching that plateau, just hang it up. I have a different attitude towards that. My point is, if you're doing more tomorrow than you did today, you're on your path. And I think that as leaders in the industry, those are the things, the simplicity of teaching people, how to use Facebook, to communicate with their clients, how to request reviews out on Google and everything else when you're going... you create a template and you go into your templates, hit send after you have a service call.

I think there has to be some real work on our industry that says, okay, stop holding up the rockstars because you know what, that's not going to work. Let's start you off as a paint by numbers. So you can actually start to see, oh, okay when I put that color next to that color, that makes it look different. Oh, that's how you do shading. That's good. Otherwise, we're trying to make people into Picasso's overnight. And I think we're doing a disservice to our industry with that.

Tony Caldwell:

Well, I think it's a good point the independent agent has been a hometown fixture if you will, all across America for over 100 years most agents aren't rockstars, they're solid folks that go to church on Sunday or coach little league or whatever, make a really good living contribute to their communities and make a difference where they live. And my guess is that's going to be the same way in another five years. That's not going to change. It's just that the way they go about some of the tasks they do need to change. So I'm one of those who's very optimistic about the future of our industry. I know some are not, but so many opinion down there. I mean, how do you feel, what's the future of the independent agent let's say five years from now? Is it better than today, worse than today, the same, just with different tools. I mean, how do you see that?

John Fear:

I'll go full consultant on you? It depends. And exactly it's one of those things of just, and here's how, I mean that. It's like what are we going to do today? And what are we going to do tomorrow? What are we going to do in a year? What are we going to do five years from now? And again, I look at it and that's why, and you know I'm a huge proponent of groups like SIAA. And again, there's only one SIAA, but as far as in those groups, because of the exchange of ideas and the availability of those different tools to do that. It's one of the ones where I've talked with groups that, oh, no, we're a cluster. Here's what we do for [inaudible 00:28:25]. You have 10, $100,000 agencies that now believe they're a million dollar when they get together.

What I've always appreciated about your organization is the tools that you provide for your agents to go ahead and actually have tangible growth in that. I think we have to set realistic goals on an agency and an organization and an industry level. And again, for the goals because we keep believing. When I was back at corporate and we merged with a very large bank when the largest banks in the world merged into there, I would hear bank executives coming in and saying, "Agents will be obsolete in five years." That was like 25 years ago. These were some real smart people and what they didn't bank on is the fact that the value that agents add to their communities and to their clients. So when, when you ask where we're going to be in five, it depends. What is the value that you're adding to the product?

I love the fact that we have algorithms, but I also look at it and say, wait a minute, you had lost clients. You know, when they're going to renew, because that's around the time they left you, what else do you need to know about that person? And yes, you can have the buying patterns. You can have that, but you know what, Tony, I can have that conversation with you too. As many people know, I've never really sold commercial insurance, but you know what I do, I pull out a 125 form. And if you had a restaurant and I say, Tony, before I get in and look at his paperwork, I got to fill out before we go ahead and fill this out. So we can go ahead and really understand the risk. I just want to have a conversation with you. Talk to me about where you were when you first started this business, where are you today?

Where do you plan to be in five years? Quiet. If I listen to people, I'm going to get year first start. I'm going to talk about how [inaudible 00:30:18] you talked about your seasonality. So I can start thinking of, oh, worker's comp, I can have a page as you go, workers' comp, here's the different things. You can assess. We are walking, talking algorithms that we'll just get out of our own way and we will actually make it about the other person. We can be outstanding business people, and you have this. It's like, I always love when people ask, oh, do you have a portal on your agency management system? So my clients can quote their own business. And I know there's some of those things from a convenience stake, that's wonderful that you can quote your own business. You can get your own certificates and everything else, a little different perspective on it.

And I said this to one person who had come over from a sales management position at Geico restarted her father's old agency asked me that question, didn't buy the system I had, because it doesn't do that. And all I said to her, I said, now answer one question for me, if your clients can quote their own business, what do they need you for? And that's the point. If there's no value added to what you do, if I can let people book my rooms online and they just show up and walk in, what did I create? What kind of relationship do I have? The lower, the relationship that I have, the less of a brand that I have the quicker it is that I'm going to go out of business, regardless of what your business is.

Tony Caldwell:

So talking to many people in the industry about the future I'd have to say that your viewpoint on this is it's not only unique, but almost in a minority. I mean, I do think that people are in love with technology. They're in love with algorithms as a shortcut for that. And maybe losing a little bit of sight on this relationship thing. And so it's not that you're a throwback at all. It's just, you reminder me, you may be-

John Fear:

my wife. I just might be.

Tony Caldwell:

... I think you're reminding all of us who are listening, that this is always going to be a relationship business. So with that in mind, again, I want to think about the future because if relationships stay important and I would agree with you, they're going to and you're encouraged because of that, because we're still going to be human beings dealing with human beings in five years, and I'm encouraged by that as well. But there's still things that people need to do to get ready for things being different. So for example, we're having this conversation on Zoom, do you see agents maybe broadening their geographic reach with technology so they can have relationships with more people or more efficiently? Is that important? Does it matter? Is it going to happen? What does that look like in your mind?

John Fear:

It's a great question because that's one of the ones that when I was kind of putting some notes together. I have this thing what I referred to as target markets. And again, got the bullseye right in the middle of the screen. And when I say that one there, it's like, basically you are here because yes, you pointed out before agents are in their communities. They're a part of it. They look at, oh, that's Tony, my agent, when you're sitting in the bleachers at the games or something on there, and they know you, and they have that relationship, that's that bullseye.

And that becomes where your business is located, what you do in your community and so forth. Then what I do is I draw a circle around that bullseye and say, okay, now this is your reputation. So in other words, that travels, somebody never met you, but you know, they're something like that, or they're working with another contractor or at a restaurant convention hall, you should have my agent, Tony, here's his information.

And they will go through that. And that's your reputation, that second circle. And then I draw one other circle on the outside. And again, you can draw other ones that go into there, but here's the other one is that's your e-market. And on the outside of that, that can be something where you're not limited to it. I keep saying, I'm going to find out, I try to remember who this guy was, but we were doing workshops back at Travelers. And we had this one agent that came and his thing was, he had cornered the market on hair salon, stylists, not the person who owned the building, but you understand, they rent the chairs. They have to have a general liability policy. And his thing was this, independent agents don't want to go after that, right? Because a $200 policy, 18% commission.

And it's like, not worth my time. Here's what he did. He looked at it and said, yeah, 18% commission on $200, only about $36 per policy. And the surface is, zero. The money's all paid in full. I take credit card payments for that thing. I can immediately issue a certificate of liability. I literally don't have to talk to the person afterwards. I get $36. Now, 36 times one, not much money, 36 times, 10,000. He's a good living. He set up a website, you would go to the hair salon clinics or whatever, or the trade shows that they would have and everything else. And it was just, he was cleaning up. And that was his e-market that he had. So it depends on the kind of business that you want to write. Where do you want to go? If you want to keep pressing that level out on there.

I think that's where people are really going to use. The further you get out, the more you need technology that's on there. And then now obviously Zoom, all that stuff has created that on steroids where yes, you can have these conversations. Zoom is the visual e-signature right? Because we didn't want to e-sign stuff printed out, got to put an envelope send it. Now we've got to wait for somebody to send it back. It's like, hey, Tony, I'm really sorry. It wasn't able to make it over there today. However, let me pull up on my screen. Here's the policy. Let me highlight a couple of things. Let's go over this. If that's all good. Tell you what, let me send you the e-sign. Hey, have a great time at your kid's baseball game tonight [inaudible 00:36:26].

Tony Caldwell:

Are you talking to your clients about using things like Zoom, like all the time, every day. I wonder why anybody, if they had a choice would have a phone conversation anymore because you get the voice, you get the tonality of the voice on the phone, but you don't have the expression. You don't have the connection. So I mean the CSR in the office or the salesperson or whatever, I mean, why would you not do FaceTime or zoom or something like that with everybody all the time?

John Fear:

I don't know. I don't know. And that's what it is. So the answer is absolutely. Because before GoToMeeting with some sort of corporate thing? I don't even know where to GoToMeeting went. It's gone obviously. Zoom has become the Google of interaction and you're right. You know, in classes that I teach, I talk about non-verbals that are around there. Like if you're there and you're talking and I'm going around, it's like, oh yeah, great point, Tony. I really appreciated that. It's like, no, I didn't even hear you. Those are the kinds of things that you want to be looking for in those meetings. And you can look at it and say, "Oh wow, I see you've got little plant there on the back. What is that? A plane on your desk or whatever on there." And I know you like to fly because I've flown with you.

So there's different things that are around there. And they're just like, okay, I get to know you as a person. And we have that. That's why I say some of the old school, the things that are important in face-to-face in the way we do business, they don't become any less important because of the medium that we have used has changed. I'm going to be as effective if you will, in that type of communication. Because I can't keep my hand up on the screen on there. It's one of the things I'm going to be as effective. Do I prefer in person? Absolutely. But is this a viable method? Yes.

Tony Caldwell:

A business coach of mine says that Zoom is not a communications technology. It's a transportation technology.

John Fear:

I would agree with that.

Tony Caldwell:

And so there's another thing. So you're an agent. And if you can do Zoom calls with people instead of driving all over town, if you live in a place bigger than where you live, of course, I mean, you can get across town in 30 seconds, but-

John Fear:

On my bicycle.

Tony Caldwell:

... for many large communities, I mean, it's a 30, 45 minute commitment each direction to go see somebody, you eliminate all that. So one of the things that I think is really exciting about this transportation technology that we're using is not only can we broaden our market if we want to, but we just get a whole lot more efficient with our time.

John Fear:


Tony Caldwell:

And so we can help more people and grow our revenues. You couldn't do that six months ago. I mean, you could do it, but the other person wasn't equipped, right? So now everybody's equipped. So anyway, I just wonder, but there's agents out there who are not using this really easy to use technology, right?

John Fear:

Again, I think you have to go through with the industry. And one of the things I had a great mentor back at Travelers, I think you may have met him Skip Daigle. And it was interesting because one of the most important lessons that Skip taught me when I was in his area, he said, "John, every time you speak to a crowd, break it into thirds." I'm like, "Okay, Skip what's that." And he said, 'Okay, because there's going to be a third of the people that before you open your mouth, they think that you're the stupidest person they've ever heard. And this is the biggest waste of time they've ever had in their professional career. And that they don't listen to you." He says, "Now there's another third that is kind of listening or looking around to see how other people are reacting. They're considering what you're saying and everything else. And they're not jumping right into it, but you know what you give me something to think about."

And he said, "There's another third, who, by the end of your first paragraph, they're like, 'thank you, Lord. Somebody gets it. Here's what's happening on here.'" And so I think when we think about our industry, we have to look at that as well. Is that, so when we talk about the industry in a whole, are there going to be some early adopters? Are they going to be people out there? Yes. There's some people that are at the forefront of it. And the only caution I give to them is saying, "Technology is not a replacement, but rather an enhancement for client communication."

There's that second third that's in the middle. That's what I say, our responsibility as industry leaders with the tools is to say, okay, Tony, let me walk you through this and stop holding up these ideals and get people that are on there. The other third, they're not going to listen anyway. So I don't care if they don't hear me, to be honest with you, because I'm going to focus as Skip said, focus on the two-thirds. And I think setting those type of mental goals is the same thing. I tell people, setting physical goals. We want to have in our agency, we want to set goals. Hey, here's where we're going to go. And here's your stretch goal. And stretch goal is twice what you're ever going to make. So it's like, but we feel good about setting it.

And I always, the scenario I give with that, it's sort of like, let's say you're a high school track person in high school and your personal best is six feet. While you're running down the thing or whatever. And you do a high jump and you hit your personal best of six feet. And you're like, holy cow, my first run, I've got two more attempts or whatever on this, you go back to the starting blocks. You turn back and they raised the bar to seven feet.

Now what's going on in your mind? You're like, that bar is going to hurt when I hit it. You know, there's no way I'm doing it. You're already defeatist. But let's say I get you back to the starting blocks. You're already feeling great about six feet. I raised it to 6'1". You're thinking, you know what? I did not get that good. A start last time. Now raise it to 6'2". Oh, better start, If I really pumped my arms, 6'3". Oh, good start arm pump, arch my back a little bit more already mentally you're jumping 6'3" where you would have been content to stop at it. And so I think part of it is we have to be careful as leaders, what we present out there as attainable and achievable goals to adopting technology. And the other thing I'll say on that one there too is I always tell people, you can run a successful business if you remember one principle, revenue must exceed expenses.

And I know it's like, yeah, okay, John, you're a genius, right? But, here's the point. And why I say that is you have to look at, I'm asking you to have an expenditure. Like e-signature, let's just say, and some people like, "Oh, John, I'm really on a budget." And I'm like, "Wait a minute. How long does it take you to print something?" Highlight the little plates, put those little sticky things, throw in an envelope that by the way you had to buy, and you had to buy the paper and you had to buy the ink and put it in the thing. Now wait, five days, put a reminder on something. If that costs you more than 80 cents a business day, you're wasting money because you can get InsureSign or a DocuSign for about $15 a user license for the month on there and send them unlimited.

And I think it's always, if these really are business people that we're talking about, which insurance agents should be, I think we have to do a better job positioning the revenue to expense ratio of some of this technology, not like, oh, technology is cool and everybody should have it. Here's what happened. So that's just my two cents worth on that aspect.

Tony Caldwell:

So if I could kind of summarize our conversation, here's what I'm really coming through. And you know, one is there's a future for the agent. It's about relationships. It's about providing value and running a good business. And it's about rooting technology in perspective as a tool, not a be all and end all. I mean, I'm not really hearing that. So let me ask you this, if you could wrap all this up for our listeners out there. So, I'm a typical agent overwhelmed with my day thinking about the future, wanting to be ready for it. Not sure exactly what I need to do to make sure that I'm going to be one of those survivors that we talk about. If there was one thing that I could do today that would help me down the path, what would that one thing be?

John Fear:

Use your management system? And I'm not saying this because I wrote, because I haven't even said the management system. Use your management system as I always refer to it as your maypole around which everything rotates. Management systems today, if you can use that instead of as just, oh, that's my accounting or that's where my downloads come into. If you use the management system that nearly every agent has as your primary client communication device, you start there and it expands out whether or not you're using a CRM.

If you're asking people to like you out on Facebook or review you on Google or anything like that, it starts in that middle and then it will expand based on as you saying in your book or whatever, it's about your brand, what is your agency? People don't even... they have all, here's my physical location. I love that because that's just been thrown right to the wind, whether or not you're getting appointments and everything else. I'd always ask agents, really how many walk-in clients do you have? I'm sorry, what? Oh, so nobody comes into that building, but that's a good idea to rent it and pay the expenses and everything else, but that's not where you sell anything. So it's like, remind me again, why you have it. And I think that those are the things, but I can't... anytime I ever hear that there's an agency who does not have a management system and does not plan on one, my most common question after that is what's your hobby.

Tony Caldwell:

Yeah. Change the subject.

John Fear:

Yeah, exactly. Because your business is not long for this. So if you haven't decided what hobby you're going to take up in retirement, that is in an impending, I guarantee you because you... and I always like to make that. The industry's not making you obsolete, you are making a conscious choice to be obsolete.

Tony Caldwell:

Right. Good. Well, John, I really appreciate you joining me for a few minutes today. And I think the practical along with the inspirational has been an awesome combination in our conversation today. So I really appreciate that. I want to make sure that anybody that's listening that wants to get ahold of you learn more from John Fear knows how to do it. So is one of your websites for your consulting business, And if they want to hear more practical wisdom, your blog is available on And so really appreciate you being with me. And thank you so much. Look forward to seeing you in person when we can actually do something besides Zooming.

John Fear:

I will look forward to that, Tony, and thank you very much for inviting me to be a part of this and really appreciate it and wish you and the Mrs and stay happy and healthy.

Tony Caldwell:

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

32 minute read

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