Beat Online Insurance Quote Sites

In today’s fast-paced, immediate gratification, online insurance quotes world, convincing customers that they still need an agent can be difficult. Why should customers put in any extra time and effort on something that can be accomplished from their smartphone screen without ever interacting with another person? Because you’re more valuable to them. That’s why. Agents like you are often the first call when the unexpected happens, and you have the experience and compassion that trumps a glowing screen any day. Here are three ways to demonstrate your value to potential customers.

Find a niche

You can’t be everything to every customer. That’s okay. Your time is better spent on focusing on a specific customer base. An agent in Texas partners with a large corporation employing hundreds of ex-pats. He was the go-to agent for auto and renters insurance for people brand new to the US. He knew the ins and outs of insuring brand new US drivers and finding all discounts that were available to them. For you, it might mean finding an office space near a car dealership or partnering with an apartment complex to be the go-to person they refer new renters to. Find a niche and be the best at it.

Go above and beyond

Personal touches can make a big difference. What if you sent cookies to your home insurance customers each year around their renewal? Or an air freshener to your auto customers? In our social media-saturated world, those extra efforts can make a big impact. It only takes a few customers sharing on Instagram the delicious chocolate chip cookies you sent, for others to take notice. Their insurance company isn’t doing that, especially if they don’t have an agent. Take that, computer. Don’t underestimate the value of letting your customers market for you. According to Inc., customers are more likely to trust word of mouth than traditional advertising.1

Be an expert

The average customer really doesn’t understand the coverage they need. While an online quote is efficient, it cannot provide personalized expertise. You can, which is precisely why people need agents. When it comes to protecting our lives, families, and assets we need real knowledge and experience. Most people don’t need full coverage on that 1987 Honda Civic, and they need you to explain why. The world is changing by the minute, but faster isn’t always better. With a little effort, you can prove your continued worth in the evolving marketplace. Don’t find yourself locked in a battle of wits with online quote sites. Download our free Business Plan Health Check to help discover opportunities to make your agency stronger. 1https://www.inc.com/nicole-carter/jonah-berger-marketing-word-of-mouth.html

Five Easy Tricks to Keep Your Insurance Game Strong

A long-time customer calls. They’re asking about new discounts. Their policy is about to renew and their premium went up. They’re definitely shopping rates. The strange economy this year is going to cause consumers to hold their wallets more tightly, and you’ve got to be ready for some tough conversations in order to keep your agency healthy. It’s more important than ever for you to be at the top of your game. So if you find yourself losing steam, here are 5 easy tricks to keep yourself going.

1. Start your day with breakfast.

I know, you’ve heard that a million times before. And you know it’s good advice, but who has the time? Figuring out the right on-the-go nutritious breakfast option for yourself is worth the effort. According to Inc.1, studies show that breakfast is good for your mood and your concentration. What better way to deal with cranky customers than starting off your day in a good, focused mood? May it’ll be contagious enough to help you calm them down and keep their business.

2. Take a walk during your lunch break.

First of all, that means you have to actually take a lunch break. This should be a non-negotiable part of your day. Take a few minutes during your lunch break to get outside for a quick walk. If the weather is bad, walk around your office. This isn’t cardio time, this is a quick mental break to refresh and a quick break from sitting at your desk.

3. Leave the office on time.

Set a goal to be home on time at least three days per week. None of us are at our best when we work extended hours, stay late, and eat dinner at 9 pm every day. The work you do in the hours after you were supposed to leave isn’t going to be your best. Studies show you’re more likely to make mistakes after-hours, among a host of other ill effects of working late.2

4. Organize your desk.

Having a clear mind is difficult when you have a cluttered desk. Your organization system doesn’t have to be what works for anyone else. No does it need to be Marie Kondo approved. You shouldn’t toss out files for customers who don’t spark joy in you. (that would be a very bad idea.) What you need is simply something that works for you. Put everything in a place that makes sense for you.

5. Plan time for yourself.

In our go go go world, finding time for friends and family is hard enough. Finding alone time can be even harder. No matter your personality, some time alone to yourself is healthy and necessary. Keep it simple. Maybe on one of those days, you leave work on time you grab a coffee on the way home and sit in your car for 10 minutes to enjoy it and decompress before going in the house. Taking a little better care for yourself doesn’t have to be hard or time-consuming. Try one or more of these now and see how quickly spending a little more time on yourself helps you focus better at work.

What’s next?

Did you find these tips helpful? If you’re looking for more ways to improve yourself so you can stay strong in business, check out our free Personal Evaluation! Fifteen minutes with the Personal Evaluation will help you make a plan to improve your work, yourself, and your community. Download the Personal Evaluation here!

Back to the Basics- A Real Estate Agent’s Guide to Survival

Is it a buyer’s market? Is it a seller’s market? Should I focus locally? Or maybe look to expand? When you start asking more questions and getting fewer answers, it’s time to get back to the basics. The market may be uncertain but by taking a few steps in the right direction, you can make sure that you are prepared for anything that may come your way.

Start with a business plan

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been in the business for years, hit your first million in sales, or just signed with your first broker-you need a business plan. Check out this real estate Business Plan Health Check from Cole Information. It helps create goals for you no matter where you are or where you want to be. Preparation and forward-thinking will help you develop that ounce of prevention that will get you through any market.

Prospecting

Back to the basics indeed. Stop depending on your current cache of clients and expand your contact list. You may have been able to coast by on who you know, but that list may dry up quicker than you’d like to think. Be prepared. Prospect! Think of all the potential clients out there as the wide part of a funnel. They are swimming around, looking at home listings online, considering a home sale, contemplating breaking into the world of property management, or looking to buy that dream vacation home. Some of those potential clients won’t be ready for months, some will be ready next week, and yet others won’t be ready for another year. However, at some point, one of those clients will be ready. And when they are, they will slide down into the skinny part of the funnel and become your client. Every real estate agent has a funnel and every real estate agent gets to decide how many people are in their funnel. The more people you have in yours, the better chance you have that a steady stream of clients will be headed your way- no matter what the market looks like. So how do you get people into your sales funnel? You guessed it. Prospecting. Think about running a voicemail campaign. You can use your custom lists from Cole Realty Resource with apps like SlyDial to maximize your prospecting time by dropping a pre-recorded message straight to in someone’s voicemail. Buy ads on social media. While others are slashing marketing budgets, be the agent in people’s feeds. Get some new business cards made. There is nothing like having shiny new cards in your pocket or purse that makes you want to hand them out. Leave your card everywhere. On counters, in bowls for drawing, ask to pin them to bulletin boards. You may find that getting back to the basics not only fills up your funnel but re-ignites that sales fire that may have started to flicker out. Harness that newbie, go-get-em energy that used to get you out of bed in the morning and do your business proud. Time may change, but the fundamentals of business stay the same. Build and evaluate your business plan, prospect constantly, and sell real estate, One. Two. Three. Go got this. Download the Free Business Plan Health Check today!

Make a Plan for Post-Quarantine

Spring 2020 isn’t shaping up how anyone anticipated.

What should’ve been the busy season for home services has been the uncertain season. Hopefully, the economic downturn hasn’t affected too many of your customers and you still have a decent amount of work you can do. If that hasn’t been the case, you can still use your time working from home to make a plan and shore up business for the coming seasons. You can do two things to weather this unusual season: figure out how to pivot and create a sales pipeline.

Figure out how to pivot

If you’re in landscaping, use your skills to educate people who are at home. Interest in home gardening is seeing a resurgence.1 You can position yourself as a valuable asset to those who are new to gardening. Share useful tips and tricks on your social media. Give advice on what to grow and how to be successful growing in your area or teach people about composting. Not only can you help your community, develop their green thumbs, so you can help boost the moods during quarantine. And don’t worry, they’ll still need you when this is all over. Most people won’t have time to garden when they return to their normal schedules.

Create a sales pipeline

Having a healthy sales pipeline is essential right now. Due to uncertainty for everyone, it will take longer to bring new clients on board. Get started now so that when you’re able to get back to work, you’ll have a stream fo customers ready to go. Think creatively about what you can do to generate new leads during this time. Send out special offer postcards to your lists from Cole Neighborhoods to lock  in service requests. Or use that list to create a Facebook ad that specifically targets homeowners in your area. For solar and roofing, lead with cost savings. Many people are evaluating their expenses right now, and this is the right time to remind them how your product saves them money. Just because you’re “stuck” at home doesn’t mean your business has to be stuck. Using your lists from Cole Neighborhoods, you can reach homeowners right from the comfort of your own home. Download our free Business Plan Health Check to make sure your business is in good shape post-quarantine. 1https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2020/04/14/coronavirus-gardening-hobby-and-self-sustainability-create-interest/2923047001/  

How to Navigate a Confusing Real Estate Market

As businesses all around the country are adjusting to and preparing for what the future may hold, you may find yourself looking at the real estate market and feeling confused. Don’t worry too much about that. You’re not the only one. There is a wide variety of thoughts and opinions about how the market will react to this pandemic. Some analysts believe that market will stall and hypothesize that sellers will be apprehensive to list their homes and buyers will not want to make large purchases during unpredictable times. In fact, some markets have seen a 50% decrease in the market when compared to last year’s inventory1. And yet, other markets are showing an increase not only in homes no the market, but in escrow openings and closings2. In these areas, there has been as much as a 36% increase in new listings and a 15% increase in real estate transactions. Still, confused? Again, don’t be. What we are learning from these seemingly conflicting perspectives in what we need to follow the data. Every market, every area, every zip code has the potential to be radically different from its neighbor. Knowing your market, adapting to developing trends, and developing a business plan are all ways you can service your clients and your profits accordingly.

Know Your Market

Keep track of trends in your area. Your clients essentially have a local product to sell so make sure that you know your local market. Is there a flood of low-end buyers? Perhaps a trickle of high-end clients? Maybe a mixture of both? You don’t have to be great with statistics to understand the climate. Dedicate some time every Monday or Friday morning to read about the trends in your area. Make friends with your local mortgage companies and ask about their numbers from the previous week. Utilize those logistics options on your listing services to do the grunt work for you. Keep an eye on the lending rates. Currently, the federal lending rates are historically low3 but what does that mean for someone who is interested in listing their house? You often act as a real estate translator for your clients so be informed. Lenders and escrow companies are usually keen to partner with real estate agents to secure a steady flow of clients. Use that opportunity to expand your resources and knowledge about the market and to develop relationships with people you can dialogue with and discuss local trends.

Adapt

Maintaining awareness of the market helps keep you ready for the twists and turns that the market will inevitably throw your way. Currently, people have been hesitant to go into the homes of strangers or to let strangers into their homes. For some agents, this may be present as a roadblock to the sale- but not for all, and if you adapt, not for you either. More and more agents are offering virtual tours by making videos and posting them on their social media pages or by video calling their clients and walking them through the home remotely1. This helps to dampen anxieties during unsure times which encourages clients to keep their home listed on the market until it sells and not to take it off prematurely in a state of panic. Stay current with evolving technologies and use the real estate market to benefit your business. In climates such as this, larger firms will sometimes buy up smaller ones4. If this happens to you, adapt – don’t react. Use the backing of a larger firm to scratch that consulting itch you’ve always had or to finally dip your toes into property management. Change does not have to be bad. And in a market that seems to always be evolving, let change work for you.

Be Prepared

Finally, be prepared. Have a business plan – a serious business plan. Like, one that is written down. Don’t know where to start? Cole Information’s Business Plan Health Check can help you put your thoughts to paper and encourage you to take a good look, hard look at your business plan. When you have a goal in front of you, you might just take that extra step that will bring you closer to your picture of success. Through all of this change and flux, it has become more obvious than ever there is no way to predict the future. However, if you know your market, are willing to adapt, and the time to prepare a business plan, you can be sure that you are ready for just about anything that may come your way. Download the free Business Plan Health Check today 1https://www.ktvu.com/video/667582 2https://ktvl.com/news/local/how-covid-19-is-impacting-real-estate 3https://www.fool.com/millionacres/real-estate-market/articles/will-the-covid-19-crisis-push-home-values-lower/ 4https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesrealestatecouncil/2020/03/27/the-2020-real-estate-market-correction/#53ab45b62931

Insurance Agents: You Were Made for This

Aiding in crisis is exactly what insurance is about.

The pandemic may not have your customers filing claims, but maybe they need to hear from you anyway. In uncertain times, one of the most comforting assurances is that others are there for you. Take some time to reach out to all of your clients and as many leads as possible just to check-in and see how they’re doing and see if you can help them in any way. Since resources can be scarce, consider partnering with a church or business that might have relief programs available. Have some resources available for your clients who are in need. Check-in on your clients. Use this targeted approach to reach customers in an effective order rather than going alphabetically.

Start with your elderly customers

Since the elderly are in the highest risk category, they are the most likely to need help right now. Offer to pick up groceries. Or just be a friendly voice in what can be a lonely time.

Check in on families with young kids

Keeping a household running with young children is hard enough during normal circumstances. Under a global crisis, it can be quite chaotic. Consider dropping of sidewalk chalk or bubbles.

Speak with single adults

While adults who live on their own without children do not have the same responsibilities as a family does, they have the added uncertainty of every responsibility falling on them. If they’ve lost a job, there’s no one else in the household to potentially count on. You may not have all the answers for your clients, and that’s okay. Odds are good your network is larger than theirs and maybe you know someone who can help even if you can’t. The time you invest in looking out for your customers when it’s above and beyond the service you’re being paid to do will tell them exactly the kind of person you are. That’s a value they can’t get from an insurance website. And when it comes time to deal with a claim, they’ll be confident that they have you in their corner. Building a healthy business isn’t just about transactions. It’s about relationships, both inside and outside your agency. If you’d like to spend more time working on the health of your business, download the Business Plan Health Check to get started.

Maintaining Personal Balance in an Uncertain Economy

Whether it’s bad weather, or a new baby, or a global pandemic, life is often full of experiences that throw our normal routines off-kilter How do you maintain a work-life balance when everything is out of balance? Here are five helpful tips for navigating uncertain circumstances.

1. Accept that things are different.

Often we try to approach new situations with old methods. Tried-and-true ways are often not applicable in unknown territory. According to Psychology Today, accepting your circumstances is one of the best ways too reduce stress.1 You will have a learning curve, and it may take a few tries to figure out what will work now. And that’s okay! Figuring that out is the first step to successfully handling new circumstances.

2. Allow yourself to be less productive.

Some reasons fo life require our primary efforts to go toward enduring or surviving. In these times your well-being and the well-being of those around you requires more attention than usual. This is okay and necessary. Give yourself space for it. That space will be borrowed from attention you would normally our into work. Allow that to happen for now. Hit the priorities that have to be met on a given day and be okay with addressing lower priority items later.

3. Consider a shorter and/or unconventional work day.

Under normal circumstances you fit life around your work hours. In abnormal circumstances, you will probably find that fitting work around your life is more effective. You may have to work in one or two hour shifts maintaining the household or addressing the needs of those around you. Or, you may start or end work at a different time in order to fit everything you need to.

4. Manage your expectations.

Your plans at the beginning of this year likely didn’t include the words of COVID-19. So you shouldn’t feel tied to goals you made without all the information in mind. Reconfigure your goals by forecasting best and worst case scenarios and making plans for each. Knowing you’re on the new right track will help you regain peace of mind.

5. Be open to a new normal

As your unusual circumstances come to an end, be willing to evaluate what you learned from them. Did you make any adjustments that are worth carrying with you and when things go back to normal? Sometimes disruptions help us grow and find better ways of handling things. Don’t dismiss them in favor of old ways just because they were born out of necessity. Life will find a normal balance again. It may not look exactly how it did before, but the stress and the uncertainty you’re feeling right now won’t always be there. Give yourself time to figure things out. Make a New Plan If you need help figuring out new plans for your work, yourself, and your community, download our free Personal Evaluation  to get a better handle on where you are and where you’re going.

Your Home Service Business Needs a Plan

What happens when you wake and the world is completely different?

Do you crawl into a hole and wait for things to go back to “normal?” No. Stay-at-home orders, shelter-in-place decree, and businesses closing up shop make it difficult to be successful with your usual arsenal of marketing techniques. You need to be unusual. You need to develop a plan.

Develop a Plan

Take a moment to consider where you want to be three weeks from now. Three months from now. A year from now? What would you have done differently three months ago if you knew that you would wake up to the world as it is today? Before these thoughts float out of your head, take a moment to write them down on a worksheet like this Business Plan Health Check from us here at Cole Information. Evaluate your business approach and take the opportunity to think differently. What worked yesterday, might not work today so don’t be afraid to try something new. Pivot your sales pitch. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and pretend to sell to yourself.

Prepare for a Longer Sales Cycle

In the face of uncertainty, people may be holding tighter to their wallets. They want to be sure that they will see a return on their investment. Follow-up initial contacts with postcards, voicemails, and fliers. Be a kind, helpful advocate for your field and be diligent. An initial “no” is not necessarily the end of the sales cycles. Give your clients time to develop trust. Showcase yourself as the expert that you are and develop the relationship that will lead to the sale. Be patient, don’t give up.

Try Something New

Take a moment to examine your product. What can you offer that separates you from the competition and gets you an early yes from your clients? It’s cheaper to sell to an existing customer and so by getting an early yes with an  inexpensive product, you pave the way for an easier sell of a higher ticket item. See if you can package some of your services together in a way that lets you lower the price but maintain your profit. Offer roof inspection, maintenance, or gutter cleaning in lieu of roof repair or replacement. Develop their trust and work your way into the bigger services. Begin lawn maintenance with a simple cut and edge package and then as the seasons allow, upsell fertilizer or complete garden care. Partner with other home services. Put your heads together to come up with a combined package or offer discounted referral services for each other’s companies.

Get the Team Together

Your workers are people too. They aren’t immune to the uncertainty that came with the pandemic. Take an afternoon to go over the Business Plan Health Check with them. If your workers know where the business is going, they’ll be more likely to work toward those goals and be more confident in your businesses’ future. Take the time today to develop a plan, try something new, and get the team together so that when you wake up tomorrow, despite what is going on in the world, you can win the day. Download the free Business Plan Health Check today!  

Grow Your Insurance Agency From Home

If you’re like most insurance agents social distancing has put a cramp in your selling style.

It’s hard to meet with new customers if you can’t…you know… meet with new customers. Never fear. Working from home doesn’t have to mean losing business from home. Capturing multi-lines is one of the easiest ways to grow your business, especially when it’s hard to reach new customers. Not only that, but it’s also an essential tool in keeping customers. If you are the go-to person for all of their policies, people are less likely to leave. Working from home gives you time to reach out to current abut their insurance needs across auto, home, life, etc… In fact, you can save your customers some money during this time, they’ll be even more grateful. Set a goal for yourself for the number of policies you’d ideally like to carry out for each household. Let’s say we set five as the goal. You want to create a targeted approach to increase your likelihood of success. If you start with customers who only have renters insurance with you, your chances of selling them boat insurance probably aren’t going to be that high. Generate early successes to create momentum. You can and should quote additional policies for renters only customers later.

Start with your home insurance only customers.

Multi-line discounts are important here, so take some time to figure out why you only carry their home and see what you can do to change that. The obvious go-to  is auto, umbrella, and life. That gets you potentially to four. To hit or exceed those five goals consider flood, pet, motorcycle, and recreational vehicles. Offering flood insurance should be a habit with all of your home insurance customers. The last several years have brought record flooding to many areas. The economic value for flood insurance for those outside of the flood plain cannot be overstated. During Houston’s Hurricane Harvey in 2017, nearly 75% of houses that flooded were outside of the 100-year flood plain.1

Next, move onto your auto only customers who live in apartments.

Adding renters insurance should be an easy win here. With the multi-line discount, you’ll almost certainly be saving them money. You may struggle to capture five policies with renters, but pet, life and umbrella insurance for these customers. Also, be sure to let renters know that you’ll be there to help if they decide to buy a house in the future. Once you’ve gotten some of those easier wins, look to your customers who already have several policies with you. Is there anything you can add? Do they all have life and umbrella with you?

Finally, look at your random one policy customers.

You know which ones. Do you only carry their boat insurance? See if you can bring their home and auto. You’ll probably find that these customers either have had additional policies with you previously, or they found one policy cheaper with you. Either way, there’s room for a bigger relationship with them. You have many options for capturing multi-lines with your existing customers. Once you’ve worked all of those, move onto your leads. They might have only reached out for auto, but you can do more for them. Growing your agency from home is not only possible, but it might just give you the time and space to pick up more policies from current customers. Looking for more ways to improve the health of your business while working from home? Download the business plan health check. 1https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/article/In-Harvey-s-deluge-most-damaged-homes-were-12794820.php

Dear Real Estate Brokers, Inspire Your Team

Brokers-

Times they are changing. But then again, the real estate market has never been immune to the upswings and downfalls of the economic universe As a broker, you have navigated the hot and the cold, the good, the bad, and the ugly. And while you may be a seasoned veteran to weather any storm, how do you inspire your team of agents to do the same?

 

Host a business plan party

Make it fun! Sometimes the thought of creating a business plan can be daunting or feel overwhelming, especially while juggling clients. As a result, some of your agents may be unprepared for a challenging market. Take an afternoon to help them feel empowered, motivated, and in charge of their own success. Before you meet with your team, fill out this Business Plan Health Check from Cole Information. Instead of filling it out for your brokerage, complete the business plan lens of your “perfect agent”. What would you like your team to look like? What kinds of goals would you like them to set for themselves? This will be the example you share with all of your agents. If you have a team that can come together and meet in person, buy them all lunch and makes them feel like the stars of the show because, let’s be honest, they are! If you have to host an internet meeting, encourage everyone to share their cameras and their microphones so you can all feel like a part of the party. Before the meeting, text, or email a gift card for a food delivery app so they feel taken care of and let them know that you value their time. During the meeting empower your team to succeed. Praise those agents who make those cold calls and seek out new opportunities. Address those marketing myths that may be making your team apprehensive. One of the most pervasive myths is that in uncertain times, you should decrease your advertising budget. If your agents fall prey to this, you both lose money. Remind them that if they stop advertising, they lose potential clients. When they lose potential clients they lose money. When they lose money, they’ll have to decrease their budgets which means less advertising. Less advertising means losing potential clients and… well… they’ll get the picture. When you demonstrate your myth-busting power, you show your authority over real estate and you reinforce your position as a meticulous provider. Then show them your business plan evaluation form. Break each section down bit by bit. Take away the fear. Take away the anxiety. Show them that they have the power to direct their own plan.

Encourage a shared experience

Some people can harness the power of the big picture. Others pay special attention to the details. When you get these people together to share their thoughts about business planning, they can learn on each section individually and then come back together as a team about what they wrote.  This helps your team create a winning real estate business plan. And when your team wins, you win.  If you have a break room or a coffee closet in the office, make copies of their plans and put them on display. Take note of the timeliness they set for themselves and check in with them appropriately. Reward their goal achievement. Take them out to lunch or send them flowers. Let them know that you see their hard work.  As an agent, especially in times such as these, you can easily feel isolated and alone. Some people feel anxious and are scared to step out on their own. Others default to the lack of accountability and will coast on the status quo.  By individualizing the business plan but incorporating a shared experience, you create a natural path you can use to check in with your agents. When everyone is aware of each other’s goals, those who may have felt isolated may instead feel comforted. Those who may be inclined to coast may instead rise above the waves if they know someone is going to check in with them and praise them for meeting their goals.  In an ever-changing market, it can be easy to walk away from what’s difficult and to avoid the unknown. Instead, use this time and this evaluation plan to encourage team building, promote accountability, and to help your agents grab hold of their futures. Motivated, informed, and determined agents not only sell more for themselves, but they sell more for you. So even though times are changing, everyone can still win.