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Apr 30, 2019


EP 30 - This episode is a follow up conversation to episode 29. If you didn’t listen, I would encourage you to listen to my conversation with Ben Page before listening to this one, so that the concepts will make more sense.

Normally I would offer my thoughts at the end of the episode, but since our conversation was so long, and believe it or not, I edited out about 15 minutes worth, I decided to make it a two part series to be more respectful of your time.

Aside from selling ideas, Ben brought up several topics from social media, online reviews, writing a book and referrals that I think we could explore a little bit. This will be a higher level look at those topics and maybe one day I’ll take a deeper dive into more of them.  

So let’s start with referrals. I love talking about referrals. It’s the core of what I’ve spent the past 20 years doing. Helping professionals see the opportunities that come from a solid referral strategy. I thought I’d elaborate on the process a little here.

It’s important that you get in the habit of telling people that you get most of your business from referrals. Remind people because they will forget. For those clients that you get from referral remind they regularly because they understand the value of doing business through referrals. If someone found you online, educate them on your referral process.

I’m not suggesting that you pay for referrals or have any type of a contest for referrals. Personally I think that’s a little tacky. While there’s nothing wrong with sending a starbucks gift card or something like that when you receive a referral, I like to see that as a surprise, not something that is promoted. You want quality referrals, not just a referral from anyone with a license. The more you educate people on the type of clients you want to work with the more you will see that type of business referred to you.

I also want to be clear about the educating people on referrals component. There’s a sleazy way to do this and a casual professional way to do this. The sleazy way is to ask for 5 names of people you can call. Ugh….I hate that and would never do something like that. I know some of you listening have done this and think it’s ok. It doesn’t work in my world. What I like is to plant the seed. Educate people and remind them, because they forget. Be casual but consistent and you will see referred business.

It’s like I say on this podcast, if you like what you are hearing, please tell a friend or coworker. I’m asking for referrals, in a very subtle way.


In one of the other podcasts I produce called Business In Real Life, I did an episode on strategic partners. If you want to listen to it, I’ll link to it in the show notes, or look for the podcast and go to episode 7. You can also go to my website, and look for it there as well. That episode is about creating a marketing plan for  your strategic partners. For example, making a list of the strategic partners for your industry. As an insurance agent selling business insurance, these would include business bankers, business attorneys, CPA’s that work with businesses and financial advisors that do a lot of 401k type of business. If you are selling personal insurance, you might have realtors, mortgage professionals, financial advisors and and maybe a home builder  as your strategic partners.

Start by making a list of 20 people in each profession. You could have 100 names that you are working with, but that’s ok. You’ll weed some out because they aren’t a good fit or they don’t do enough business to support the type of clients you work with.

Once you’ve made your list, see who else knows them by checking LinkedIn, FB and other social platforms.

Next step start inviting them to coffee. Have a list of questions you want to ask them about how they run their business and find out what types of clients they are looking for.

You need to discover who they refer to , what it would take for them to refer to you and how you can best help them. Maybe you’ll offer a comprehensive review for their clients and have it approved through them before you show the client or maybe you offer to create an event together and invite a few clients to introduce to that strategic partner.

The point is to start the conversation. For some, you might need to have a few, for others, you’ll only have one and for the last group you’ll find an opportunity to do something right away!

The other part about working with strategic partners is tracking. This is the essential component of referral marketing.


That’s a good segaway into talking about CRM’s. Ben brought this up in our conversation and I really think it’s worth elaborating on here. Old school, pre computers, we used 3x5 cards. We had several boxes we stored them in and made notes on them. It took a few minutes to write things out, but it was easy to take them with us, we didn’t need any electricity to make them work and the information didn't get lost in cyberspace somewhere! It was a system and I’m a big believer in systems.

Today, all of that has been streamlined into the computer in the form of a CRM - client relationship management system.  Ben mentioned that a lot of agents are frustrated with the CRM their agency has so they use sticky notes, write things in a book or have an excel spreadsheet. They have several systems because there isn’t a good electronic tool to organize the sales function.

When I first started using computers, I loved a program called ACT. I haven’t really found anything to replace it but their original online version was so bad that I had to move away. I’ve heard they’ve gotten better, but I’ve moved to a different platform today. Everything I do is in the cloud, so I needed something that would be mobile with me!  I’m currently using something called Zoho. I don’t love it, but it’s something I started using about 10 years ago. I went through the process of trying a lot of free programs and I must say, they didn’t have the customizing capability that I wanted.


If you aren’t using a CRM or are thinking about it, I would suggest you start with an excel spreadsheet. Write out all of the data that you regularly collect on prospects. The basics like name, address, company, etc. are standard but what else are you collecting.

Do you have their Date of Birth, spouses and children's names, do you collect their CPA, their financial advisor, their attorney information?

I’d work with a spreadsheet for a few weeks, making sure you have all the information you want, then look for a CRM that allows you to customize the program to match your spreadsheet. A CRM is really just a glorified spreadsheet, but it also has some other features built in that make it more powerful than a spreadsheet.


From an agency principal perspective, having a good CRM is essential. Producers might come and go but having a CRM with a lot of prospect information is invaluable. Requiring your producers to use your CRM keeps all of the information in one location so that anyone can access it. If you have a producer that leaves, you’ll still be able to pursue the prospect because all of the information is in your CRM.

One of the things you can do with the CRM is keep track of conversations. As an insurance agent, that’s essential and it’s also valuable for someone in sales. Your CRM should be able to identify who made the note, the date entered and allow for a follow up date to be set from that conversation. The better CRM’s will sync with your calendar and notify you each day of what tasks you need to complete.

Now lets say you are tracking birthdays to send cards or call on their birthday….set the calendar in the CRM and you’ll be reminded.

The right CRM will allow you to print out the calls and tasks for the day. This will keep the producer on task and not let any opportunities slip through the cracks. It also lets the agency manager see what is in the producers pipeline which can help with projections from a work flow and financial perspective.


A good CRM will have a good email marketing component or will sync with one of the more common email platforms like Constant Contact or AWeber. You can set up ‘drip’ campaigns for prospects to stay in front of them throughout the year if you didn't win their business last time.

I’ve had many people tell me that they use their google or outlook calendar to keep track of to do’s and prospects. That’s good for the individual producer but unless everyone has access to that calendar, a lot of information could get lost, so in the big picture, I don’t think thats the best route for an agency.


Do your research. As I mentioned in episode 29, SalesForce is a great program, but it’s not super easy to learn and can be very expensive. It can be modified to fit your business, but at a cost. HubSpot has a CRM that is free but I’d only consider that if you are a solo agency. It’s also very limited. I haven’t used the paid version so I can’t really comment on it. If you use hubspot, I’d love your feedback on the CRM tool they have available.

Ask your peers what they are using. Take a test drive before you make a solid investment. Give a lot of thought to how you will use your CRM from seeing what’s in the pipeline and where the prospect is in the sales process to keeping track of strategic partners;  track your wins/losses; size of sales; marketing activities to develop the business and how many touches before you actually obtained a meeting. There’s so much data you can get from a good CRM that can help with your sales activities. Having all of this in one location allows the sales manager or the business owner great data or making decisions about managing the sales team and forecasting business.

I think finding the right CRM can take awhile so if you aren’t using one now, just use the spreadsheet and try a few out before you make the big leap. This isn’t something you want to keep switching because it’s time consuming to set up and to learn to use effectively.


Another area Ben mentioned and this was briefly, but I think its essential is online reviews. A simple place to start is Yelp and also GMB also known as Google My Business. If you haven’t set up these two accounts, please do so before the end of the week! Particularly GMB. That’s really an episode in itself. But think about it,  where do most people search….hopefully you said Google. Having your GMB account set up helps people find you easier.

One of my clients is an accountant and she just moved to Delaware and will be working in both MD and Delaware. We had a conversation about GMB and the next week she set up her account in Delaware. She had 3 calls within 30 days for business in Delaware and that is the only type of advertising she did and I wouldn’t really call that advertising…..she just created her account and that’s how she was found.

I would also recommend that you have your clients go to GMB and leave reviews. Unless something happens to Google, they’ll be seen there for awhile!


The last topic I want to talk about is writing a book. Stay with me….this might not be as unrealistic as you think. First of all, while it might seem like everyone is writing a book these days, there is no reason why you can’t be one of them.

I mentioned in my conversation with Ben, that I use my book as a marketing tool. If I have a prospect I want to meet with, I’ll package up the book, and mail it to them with a note. ”Please enjoy and let me know what you think.’ I’ll call them a week later to make sure they received the book and then ask if I could have 5 minutes of their time to introduce myself. 80% of the time they say yes and then we take the conversation further.

I was one of 5 co-authors of my book and we each had a different reason for writing it. Having a few co-authors made it easy to complete. Each of us had different tasks and the cost of production was reduced because there were several of us. So if you like the idea, consider bringing a few people together to write the book.


There’s a whole marketing strategy behind writing a book if you want to get recognized on Amazon and other book publishing platforms. If you use the book as I am, you don’t really need to worry about the marketing strategy but we were #1 Amazon best sellers for a short time!

You can also use the book as a platform to get on other podcasts or as a guest blog post. Publicity is good for your agency!

Wondering what would you write about….well, insurance is fairly boring so you might want to find something a little more exciting. What’s your niche in the business? Are you working with start up business owners? Companies with multiple locations?

What if you wrote a book that talked about sales or marketing strategies for that specific niche? What if you wrote about leadership or HR issues? Risk management isn’t a bad idea either. I know some of this seems boring but so many people don’t know about these things. Don’t write a novel, just a small book maybe 20-50 pages. You could have it look like an ebook or you could make it odd shaped.

I’m not suggesting that a book is going to make you famous, but it’s a unique way to create authority for yourself and deliver a calling card that is different than most of your competitors.


There’s something called Create Space which is an amazon platform and you can self publish there and just order the number of books that you need.

If you want to know more about any of the ideas I’ve mentioned in this episode, let me know. You’ll find people talking about referrals a lot, but CRM’s, online reviews and book publishing aren’t as mainstream!


I’ll wrap up this episode with a thank you for listening. I hope some of the ideas got your attention. If I were to suggest you do one thing from this conversation it’s to make sure your agency has set up its GMB page. It’s simple to do. Just like you post on social media, be sure to post on your GMB page. Update the photo’s regularly too!


This episode of the Business of Insurance is produced and hosted by Debbie DeChambeau, CIC, AAI, CPIA. Debbie is an insurance agent with an extensive business and marketing background. Her focus is helping insurance professionals be more successful. She is the co-author of Renewable Referrals and hosts two other podcasts Business In Real Life and Divorce Exposed. Connect with Debbie on LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram.  Coming soon. Single and Over Sixty and Seniors We Love