The insurance industry in the United States (and the world) has had to adapt quickly to the COVID-19 crisis: we all had to learn to work remotely instead of face to face, and rediscover how to close insurance sales in this new situation.
Redefining the virtual insurance agency
The first thing I'd like to say about this is a quote from the old sales Coach Og Mandino, who said: “There is nothing new under the sun”. And that is true in spades in the insurance agency business. Currently, independent insurance agents are just using computers to do what we used to do with typewriters... and what we did with pen and paper before that.
In the insurance business, we really haven't done anything really revolutionary or new in the last hundred years: we still work with insurance carriers to sell personal lines, life, and health; we still sell property, casualty, and commercial insurance services the same way we always have. But that's changing rapidly because insurance agencies are now going virtual whether they want to or not.
I'd like to de-mythologize or demystify what ”virtual” means just for a minute. All it really means is that we're using a new set of tools to do what we've always done really, really well.
And that is to serve our clients with our expertise, delivering great customer service, and building personal relationships. And so, if you think about virtual as just a new way to do that, you're going to be way ahead of the game.
Expand your geographical horizons
Over a quarter of a century ago I was building a worker's compensation book of business. And I knew I couldn't just do it in my hometown to be successful because it was a niche business: I was going after restaurant workers’ compensation. Oklahoma has 77 counties, and I sold insurance in 77 counties. I did it using direct mail and the telephone (and by the way, direct mail and the telephone aren't going anywhere!) But today, independent agents like you can do that with Zoom - it’s the same thing, but we call it “being virtual”.
What's really cool about Zoom is that it makes it possible for me to sell workers’ compensation in 50 states instead of 77 counties. And you can too! It will be a huge advantage to you if you use these new technology tools to expand your geography.
The job market has gone virtual
Another great thing about doing virtual insurance business is that you can also hire awesome employees anywhere. Finding really good life insurance sales agents with a life insurance license (or whatever type of insurance you sell) is the biggest struggle, the #1 problem to solve as agency owners. But if you broaden your thinking about what virtual means, it just means having employees work from where they want to work from, and you manage them a little differently. Many good people have set their job alerts for fully remote positions only, so you can have your pick of the best.
So as you see, virtual is not mysterious. It just means using existing technology to do what we've always done, and adding remote work to your toolkit.
Online marketing is a must
Now, there are a couple of differences. One is that COVID has created a situation in which increasing numbers of people are shopping online for everything, including insurance. So this is the time to ramp up and beef up your online marketing activities. You want to be seen by your potential clients, and right now they are all shopping online. Invest in good SEO, make sure your website is working fast and well, and keep pushing for those sales - now via email instead of regular mail.
Being flexible is key
The new way of life that COVID brought on means that increasingly, people are shopping or thinking about business at weird hours. A great number of people are working from home, and many of them are working strange hours because they're also acting as homeschool teachers during the day.
You have to make allowances for that by making sure that people can reach you 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. What's really cool is that old fashioned human beings are available in India or Indiana to do that work for you in service centers, answering inbound calls and requests. It's also the time to make sure that every client in your agency can self-service simple things like security verification cards, or add endorsements to policies - if your website cannot do this, you are not giving the best possible service to your clients.
In summary, this is the time to make sure you're taking all necessary measures to give your clients (self)service, support, and sales opportunities when they want them. That's really all a virtual insurance agency is about.
I've written a book about the rise of virtual agencies, and I would love to talk to you about your specific situation and how we might be able to assist you in virtualizing what you are already doing so well.
Always keen on helping others make their dreams come true, Tony and his team have helped independent agents grow into more than 250 independent agencies. This has made OAA the number one ranked Strategic Master Agency of SIAA for the last 5 years, and one of Oklahoma's 25 Best Companies to Work for.
Tony loves to share his knowledge, insight and wisdom through his bestselling books as well as in free mediums including podcasts and blogs.
Tony and his family are members of Crossings Community Church, and he is very active in community initiatives: he’s chairman of It’s My Community Initiative, Inc., a nonprofit working with disadvantaged people in Oklahoma City; and chairman of the Oklahoma Board of Juvenile Affairs., and he has served through many other organizations including the Salvation Army, Last Frontier Council of the Boy Scouts of America, and the Rotary Club.
In his spare time, Tony enjoys time with his family. He’s also an active outdoorsman and instrument-rated commercial pilot.