What the Payroll Protection Program means for insurance agents

 

Congress recently signed the CARES Act to help relieve Americans of the economic impact COVID-19 has had in the US. As part of this stimulus package, there has been a Small Business package included. This $350 billion dollar program is called the Payroll Protection Program (PPP), and independent contractors can begin applying on Friday April 10th!

We put together this video and article to help guide you understand what this program is.

Are you qualified?

Most insurance agents in the US are paid as independent contractors. You’ll know if you are one if you are given a 1099 each year or a W-2. If you were receiving 1099’s, you are an independent contractor and are eligible under this program.

If you are paid by a W-2, your employer, if they have less than 500 employees, can apply and pay you an average of what you earned in commissions over the last 12 months.

Here are the important details of the PPP:

  1. The maximum amount of the loan is 8 weeks of your average previous 12 months earnings (up to 100k), plus expenses for rent, mortgage interest and utility costs – which are no more than 25% of your 8 weeks earnings.
  2. You have to certify that you need the loan due to the impact of the Coronavirus.
  3. The interest rate is 1% and payments are deferred for 6 months.
  4. The loan can be forgiven based on how much you pay yourself plus your actual expenses
  5. There are no personal guarantees or collateral requirements
  6. Whatever isn’t forgiven has to be paid within 2 years

To apply for a PPP loan, you need to contact your bank. Make sure they are a Small Business Association lender, or a SBA lender for short. The SBA is the only association that will be writing the approval for these loans through member banks. The total amount of these loans are limited to $350B, and while that sounds like a lot, it is expected to run out quickly. This means you will want to take advantage of the Payroll Protection Program quickly.

How to Stay on Top of the Market

Commerce (and the market system) is like hunting. You need to stay sharp: know the right places, have the right mindset, and keep your skills up to date. If you want to be top dog, you must bring the right amount of effort. Nobody got to the top by playing it safe.

That being said, you can work smarter instead of harder if you know what to improve. We’ve gathered the best, and trimmed them down to be easily understood.

Research

A newsfeed stocked with helpful articles will keep you up to date. This involves your email list too. Sign up for newsletters and follow top industry professionals to stay sharp and learn new tricks. It may take a bit to curate this list, but that’s one of the beauties of research, you can choose what helps and what doesn’t.

market researcher looking at a full desk with computer
Climbing to the top will take hard work and the ability to learn from your mistakes. Failure is a teacher.

If a blog or website isn’t helping you, cut it loose. Be ruthless in your search for accurate, helpful information. You only have so much attention span in a day, so don’t waste it on fluff when you can spend it improving yourself.

Keywords and search tags are your friends. Think long and hard about relevant topics to your business. For example, a small business owner selling skincare would need to search for skincare trends, best skincare, and weird skincare routines. Use Google trends to find upcoming rivals and hashtags on social media for more information.

If all else fails, go back to school if you have to! A solid understanding of the market is essential to dominating it.

Teamwork/Networking

Together, we make up more than the sum of our parts. This means that we can achieve more working as a team than we could alone. Great marketing is not excluded from this tactic.

If you’re already part of a team, talk with your coworkers and involve them with your tasks. If your business does well, it reflects well on the entire team. Use this as a way to involve everyone.

Collaborating with others is the quickest way to refine ideas. This means doing your part and listening for what works and what doesn’t. If you’ve assigned tasks to others in your team, prioritize the feedback they give. This will help your business grow when you understand what works and what doesn’t.

We live in an interdependent society, which means at some point, we have to deal with other people to survive. Learning to do this well can only help your business. Join a volunteer group, you never know who you’ll meet, or the lesson you could learn.

Engagement

Studies show that people make more purchases with their emotional mind than their rational one. For sales to increase, you must appeal to this “reptile mind.”. So many companies are available selling similar products. With market oversaturation, it makes sense that people will choose to buy from companies that align with their own ideals.

employee using a computer to engage the market
Use the tools we have! Social media is a great way to engage with your community.

Engagements like these come on different fronts. On the lightest level, it’s how you present yourself and your business. This can be your logo, slogan, and the language on your website. Think of your target audience and what they would want to see.

On the other hand, this also means engaging with your rivals. This doesn’t mean to start an altercation with them, simply know who they are and what they’re doing. By studying your rival businesses, you can see what works for them and appropriate their own tactics to increase your marketability.

Social Media

Without a doubt, not using social media is your biggest mistake.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, and all the other giants out there are capturing people’s attention on a monumental scale. Customers use social media every day, if not all day, and most of them are looking for products to buy. If your business seems like a friendly neighbor, then you have already won a major battle. People trust others in their community.

This pairs with engagement. From your laptop, tablet, or mobile device, several platforms exist to help with online outreach. You can post updates about your business, sales, news, and relevant content to display an ideal that attracts customers.

People love stories, and social media brings that love to the forefront. Your company’s story can unfold in front of your prospective customers, and they can engage, merging their story with yours.

These tactics must be tailored to fit each organization. One may work better than the other, and some may not work at all. You must try each one to understand how it works with your business and the market. However, once you get them streamlined, these strategies will take your sales to the next level.

How to Follow-Up the Right Way

We live in a time of information overload. Let’s face it–your email may just be glanced over if not sent directly to the spam bin. If you want to convert your spam to sale, you have to write follow-up emails that work.

Repetitive language and email templates aren’t going to get you any closer to success, especially if you’re using phrases like “just seeing how you’re doing.” Language like this is overused like the words “very” or “good.”

Now, there’s nothing wrong with these words; but there’s a time and place. Starting an email with “I’m very excited. Have you seen this very good discount?” is going to send anyone into snoresville.

Enough about the wrong ways, let’s go over how you can send a follow-up the right way. Just keep these ideas in mind: Define, Clarify, and Time.

Define

Like starting a road trip, you won’t get far if you just hop in the car with no destination in mind. If you’re writing a follow-up email, you have to understand what your purpose is. This is one of the biggest mistakes people make.

man sending a follow-up email at his desk
Defining your email is the best place to start. Make sure you know why you’re sending the message in the first place.

The point of defining your follow-up is like setting your GPS. These are the most common types:

  • Reminder- Prompting someone to respond to an earlier email.
  • Thank You- Showing appreciation for a sale or otherwise.
  • Request- Asking for more information or another sales push

Knowing which one you’re writing is going to give you the parameters for your call-to-action. A reminder follow-up has a completely different tone than a thank-you.

Define clearly what your objective is for your email. We’ll take the reminder as an example. You’ve spoken with a client, and the conversation went well. It’s been longer than necessary for a callback, so you decide to reach out and send a follow-up email.

Your needs are not to congratulate them or request anything; you simply need to remind them about your earlier conversation. Your call-to-action is similar to what you’ve spoken about before. Now that you understand this, it’s time to clarify.

Clarify

The immediate message your client takes from your email shouldn’t be “hey, you forgot about me trying to sell you this.” It has to be something human. It’s difficult, but you have to catch their eye with something emotional, something that makes them want to read more.

Your opening line can be the same as your subject line. It has to hook the reader, make them feel something about your connection (or make them regret not connecting earlier). This can involve some homework.

Involve information from the last time you spoke. You can open with “Remember [topic] we spoke about last week?” or “Congrats on [achievement].” Remember to keep these openers professional. While humor is a good way to connect with people, maintaining a professional air during written correspondence is always in style.

After the opening paragraph (and their hook for caring), you must deliver a clear purpose. Be as straightforward as possible without coming off as rude. For example, instead of stating “I’d like to call you sometime this week,” write “I’d love to chat with you about [topic] we covered last time. How does Wednesday afternoon sound?”

The more concrete you sound, the better. People respond well to clear, concise phrasing, especially if it concerns their finances. No one wants to be confused when it comes to their money.

sending a follow-up email with a cell phone
Bonus tip: if you’re sending emails with your phone, make sure they’re still formatted correctly!

Time

So, now that you’ve defined what your follow-up is for, including the call-to-action, and you’ve drafted an email with a clear purpose, there is one last thing to consider. Before you hit the send button, make sure you have the email timed correctly.

This means to be mindful of the situation you’re responding to. For example, if your purpose is to prompt another conversation, like an interview, you’d likely wait a week or so. Nothing irritates a prospective employer more than constant proddings.

However, if it’s a thank-you note or something similar, that is perfectly acceptable within a 24-hour period. The point is to make sure the email’s purpose aligns with how much time it takes up. If someone just needs to read it quickly and can continue with their day, then a shorter time frame is fine. If your email has more of a time commitment attached (like a new meeting or more tasks), then wait longer to send.

Follow-up emails have major power for your business. If you’re looking to drive up conversion rates, nothing works faster than proper communication. People will not only respect you as a reliable source, but they’ll also trust you with their business, valuing your relationship.

What Methods Do You Use to Get Your Products Exposed to Existing/Prospective Clients?

There are so many ways to communicate these days, in fact sometimes there may be just too many to be effective when it comes to allocating a campaign budget. What do you do? The short answer is choose what you “know” to be an effective method of communication – one that has in the past produced results.

Yes, you could certainly use Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, blogging, Messenger, email campaigns, direct mail campaigns and so forth, but at some point the diversity is just too much to keep up with financially. And let’s face it – too much diversity can also result in diluting the message. So, if you kept notes, or studied your analytics for each platform you tried, you’ll know right away which was the most effective purveyor of your message. Once you know that – follow up along the same lines (but not actually duplicating the good ad) and get your message packaged in a way that is going to get read.

There are new and old ways of communicating – a fact you’ve no doubt found out by experimenting with different platforms. The secret? Typically it is what is trending – but – keep in mind your audience demographics. You may need more than just one method, per platform, to get your message across to existing and potential clients. The latest method? Short, snappy videos with real people with a message that resonates with many. Try it. You may get a seriously good response and if you do not know how to create a great video, get a pro to help you. It’s worth investing marketing dollars into how you communicate about who you are and what you sell.

Your Primary Marketing Goal is Customer Loyalty

It is a fact that many businesses churn new customers and spend large dollars doing it, while not always taking care of the regular customers. However, remember to cater more to existing customers to retain them. Regulars are the lifeblood of marketing and can make or break you insurance agency business by staying, referring or leaving and telling all their friends they were ignored. We all know how powerful word-of-mouth advertising can be.

So once again, we are back at what you emphasize in marketing your insurance business – hands up for the value of building relationships by adding value with your customer relationship marketing strategy that does more than sell. It might take time to get into that mindset, but once you accomplish the brain switch, good things can happen. Remember, the loyal customers are your foundation.

All Customers Are Not Created Equal

Unfortunately you cannot build a relationship with all your customers. Nor should you realistically expect to. Instead, aim for the best ever connection with the regular customers that come back year-after-year and consistently buy insurance from you. Call them your core users. It is the core users that need to be nurtured in the fashion best known to relationship marketing — great customer service above and beyond the call of duty. Pull out the stops and do it all for the core users and they shall stay.

This does not mean you do not attempt to cultivate new users and customers. It just means that your rightful focus really needs to be the core customers first to keep them. Only after you establish core users, then you bring new customers into the fold.

Slightly different marketing approaches but the fit together quite well. Break out your sales figures at the end of the year and see where the largest customer gains occur. Chances are it is from the loyal, always there customers.

Are You on the Lookout For Leads?

Are you always on the alert for leads during your day? Being alert to possible customers is one of the best ways to find new customers for your product. No one says you need to go out and stalk customers, but if you happen to be in a location and the subject of insurance comes up that is your chance to chime in and change the narrative.

Perhaps the man in line at the grocery store is saying that he feels he got ripped off with his new health insurance policy and does not understand what it covers and what it does not cover because the agent never explained it. This could be an opportunity to get involved in that conversation and offer up your card. It is important for all agents to carry with them updated business cards. While you may not get a sale right away, it is possible that the man will remember you and will tell others how you helped him. Word of mouth is a powerful form of marketing.

Be alert no matter where you are. There are chances around every corner to find leads. Remember to carry your business cards with you. All sales start with you.

Do You Have All the Training You Need?

While you may think you have all the training you need, the real question is do you still keep on training continuously to keep up with trends and changes in the industry? If the answer is no, then you may need to examine your approach to sales and marketing. Sales and marketing are not static fields. Often technology will dictate changes in marketing. Sales will change, as the audience changes. Staying aware of these changes will serve you and your agency well.

Moreover, the insurance field is constantly changing and developing. All insurance agents need to stay on top of all changes in insurance policy rules. If an agent is not aware of the latest changes and trends in the insurance agency, how well is the customer going to be served? While they may know about pricing changes, would they know that a particular clause or provision was changed or revoked, which may change the way a policy needs to be sold? Would they know the latest information and dates for registering for Medicare?

An agent really never has all the training they need because the industry changes so much, so quickly. However, this does not mean you can give up and stop learning. Always stay on top of the latest information – your business success relies on that.

Communication Skills are Key for Developing Your Agency

You may be thinking, you are a good communicator. You call leads, make appointments, talk to walk-ins, talk to staff, help with training and do well in sales. Those are certainly examples of communicating, but talking is not the same as having developed communication skills.

As an insurance agent, marketing and sales involve developed communication skills. To start with, you should examine who is your audience. Who will respond to your agency’s insurance policies best? Knowing your audience will allow you to develop an effective marketing strategy. However, to do that you will need to know how to communicate to your prospective clients what they need in an insurance policy. This is marketing and it is sales.

As an agent, however, you cannot rely on your website to do it all. You will need to interact with leads and get them to buy policies from you. This will require you to sell yourself and your product. You need to be selling you. Without you there is typically no sale, even if someone walked in off the street and said they wanted a Medicare policy. They would first want to get a sense of the selling agent before actually buying.

Do you seem fair? Honest? Know your product? Help potential buyers by giving them thorough information? Do you take your time and get to know the person before doing a sales pitch? Do you enjoy speaking to others? If so, then that means you have developed your communication skills. However, do not stop learning.

Does Your Insurance Agency Send Out Newsletters?

Newsletter are agents’ best friend. This form of marketing is easy and effective. Newsletters will allow your agency to keep in contact with current clients and subscribers. Newsletters will also serve as a way to attract new leads to your agency.

To create a newsletter, you will need to compose a list of all your current and past customers, as well as all subscribers. If you want to be promoting your agency, your services and your policies, you need to have the list of leads ready to go and not spend time hunting for them.

Newsletters can prove to be a useful tool for attracting new leads to your agency. The easiest way to do this, is to have a call to action on your website. When a user enters your site, they should be prompted to sign up for the newsletter or an ebook. In order to receive an ebook, the newsletter or any other promotional information, users should be prompted to provide their emails. This way, you will have an easy to access list of potential leads.

One marketing saying describes this type of situation as: “The money is in the list.” While this may be true and the sales from the newsletter list will increase your bottom line financially, there are other benefits. The value in your newsletter list is the relationships made with those on the list. Without rapport with people, they do not really know who you are and whether they can trust you. Take the time to build that trust and sell you, in no time that newsletter-marketing list will attract new leads.

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