Lies, Statistics and Improved Agency Sales

Very early in the history of TrustedChoice.com, Chip Bacciocco, our CEO, asked me to call one of our subscribers. An Advantage subscriber agent had reported he had received four referrals from TrustedChoice.com, and had written three of them and was awaiting a final decision on the fourth.

After a bit of research, we could only find record of a single consumer which we had delivered to this agent’s agency. This was early in the life of TrustedChoice.com, so we weren’t capable of tracking our visitors as accurately as we can now.

Now this agent and I go back aways, so I called him up and said in my most polite tone “We appreciate the support, but I think you may have been stretching the truth a bit here.”

If you believe that, I’ve got a Bridge-to-Nowhere* to sell you.

The actual conversation is a bit too graphic to recount for our family-oriented blog here on Agency Nation. Suffice it to say that my language was colorful. And as should have been the case, his response was just as bawdy.

My friend proceeded to tell me chapter and verse on how he had better data than we did on consumers that we were sending to his agency. As it turned out, his numbers were better than ours.

Yes, four customers had found his agency via TrustedChoice.com and he had written three, with the fourth awaiting disposition.

That is a 75% Hit Ratio

This conversation was our first exposure we at TrustedChoice.com had to a phenonmena we still struggle to track; we call these insurance consumers turnstile jumping.

Jumpers and Jumping

Less urban (but certainly no less urbane) readers may not have much experience with mass transit.

In many large cities, upon entry to the mass transit system, you must pay for a ticket before you get to the point where you can board the trains.

Since there are no conductors (those rail or subway employees who check tickets), once you are in the system you are free to ride to your heart’s content.

As the systems evolved, ticket tellers were eliminated and mechanical systems called turnstiles were introduced. Pay one fare, and the turnstile allows one person to enter the system.

The initial versions of these turnstiles were pretty primitive, and it didn’t take much effort or athleticism to figure out how to avoid the mechanism entirely and ride for free.

Turnstile jumping is the term that came to signify the act of cheating the system.

Jumping the Turnstile at TrustedChoice.com

At it simplest, TrustedChoice.com is a resource that connects an insurance buyer with the best possible independent agency and company.

We do that by employing a sophisticated match system we call the Appetite Engine (TM) that gathers information about the consumer and then matches that consumer to agency/carrier combinations.

When the consumer decides that they have found a match, we help them contact the agency (Click here to learn more about TrustedChoice.com Advantage Subscription).

  • They can use our email form to ask the agency a question or provide more information.
  • They can phone the agency using an agency specific tracking phone number.

We put these features in place so that we would be able to provide agencies with reports that quantify the numbers of, and data about the inbound referrals that we send their way.

But we know that sometimes consumers are ‘jumping’ our contact systems and reaching out to the agency directly.

How does this happen?

In multiple ways, but here are a couple:

  1. A consumer may research an agency and realize that they are “right on the way home” or “down the block from daycare”. And they just stop into the agency when the time is right and they are nearby.
  2. Consumers click on the link in the agency profile to go to the agency website or Facebook page, make a decision to reach out and use the contact form or phone number on those properties instead of the TrustedChoice.com connection methods.
  3. The consumer might get interrupted during the investigative phase. They’ve decided to contact the Smith Agency, but are interrupted. Once back on task, they find the Smith Agency via Google rather than TrustedChoice.com.

So why do we care?

Clearly, since getting consumers to independent agencies is our mission, haven’t we been successful whether they jump the turnstile or not?

Certainly.

And while TrustedChoice.com turnstile jumping isn’t the crime of the century, it does diminish the value of an Advantage subscription in the eyes of the subscriber, because it is one referral to the agency that we don’t get credit for.

Except for agencies like my friend’s. How did he know that he had three turnstile jumpers?

Improving Agency Sales the Inexpensive Way

It is actually very simple. And for the most part, FREE.

My agent friend has a very simple method of figuring out where the agency’s opportunities are coming from. He ASKS the customer.

For years one of the knocks on agency management systems has been that they haven’t done a great job in providing sales & marketing automation and management.

Until recently, this was legit. Remember, management systems were first built for accounting, and then as databases for policy information for clients.

In the last few years, many of the mainstream management vendors have been adding sales management modules, either by bundling them in with the management system or as optional add ons. Some are even making the products mobile friendly so that they work for active, on-the-road producers.

While these purpose built systems have features and benefits that are worth the expense, perhaps budgets are tight.

Whether or not you are an Advantage subscriber on TrustedChoice.com, one of the most effective changes you can make to your sales process is by tracking your source-to-sale data.

And the beauty of this is that you can literally do it with nothing more than a pen and a sheet of paper. OK, maybe you want to use a spreadsheet for a bit more flexibility.

Why does source-to-sale data matter so much?

No less an expert than Peter Drucker says that “What gets measured, gets managed.

It should be a requirement that every inbound call to your agency is asked how they found you.  And don’t just ask the question to ‘check the box’. Think like a detective and really get the answer.

As you begin to look at the data, you might begin to draw some inferences:

  • Customer A is really an advocate, and is referring a lot of new prospects your way.
  • That postcard mailer on umbrella that you did a month ago is starting to generate some customers.
  • Your agency logo on the centerfield fence at the high school is paying off.

What this information tells you is that you should be doing more of this, and less of that. Maybe Bill does better with completely cold opportunities, but Mary is better with a warm referral.

Measure, Analyze, Tweak.

CASE STUDY: The Curious Case of Tracking New Business – Joe Leahy Case Study

Long Story Short

Here at TrustedChoice.com, we’ve got lots of data. But data in and of itself doesn’t get you anywhere. You’ve got to examine and dissect the data in order to turn it into information. If you are making decisions based upon ‘what you know’ rather than cold hard information, you aren’t making the best decisions possible.

Many agencies say that they write all or most of their business through referrals and solid prospecting.

Certainly some business is written via those methods. But unless the agency is physically tracking the source and disposition of each and every opportunity it is hard to know how accurate that statement is.

If you are an agency principal, you should require every person, whether receptionist, policy services or producer to consciously record each opportunity.

If you are a producer in an agency that isn’t doing source-to sale tracking, do this for yourself. This level of information will improve your sales effectiveness and take you to the next level.

Here are the minimum items you should be tracking in your source-to-sale document:

  • Source of business (real source)
    • If “From the Web”, what key word did they use?
    • Did they find your website, or find you on another (YP.com, Manta, TrustedChoice.com)?
    • Which social property did they read (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook)?
  • What coverages are they looking for?
  • Which agency salesperson worked the account?
  • Disposition:
    • Agency/Carrier Rejected
    • Customer Declination Reason
    • Written & Total Premium

As was said many centuries ago in the Quin dynasty, “A powerful memory can’t compare with pale ink”. Using this data, you can move from making decisions based upon gut feel and intuition to reasoned decisions based upon facts and information.

Once you get in the habit of using source-to-sale, you’ll wonder why you ever did it any other way. The best part is, you can start for free!

Good Selling,

Marty Agather

P.S. Agency Nation University is now open! Get in now with discount code “z2spioneer.” Click here to learn more.

*If you can follow the logic of that statement and link, you might need professional counseling. I do, and that logic makes perfect sense in my twisted mind.

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