Never Miss Commitments with NextBroker Timelines

Making promises to prospects and client is easy. Keeping them can be harder. Yet following through on commitments you make to clients is critical to sales success. That’s why we’re pleased to introduce Timelines in NextBroker. With Timelines’ personalized, powerful to-do lists, commitments don’t fall through the cracks.

Follow Through is Hard, but Matters

Typically a client calls with a problem and your agency commits to help resolve it. Hopefully, you also promise to provide a progress report on a date certain. Keeping clients informed of what’s happening can relieve anxiety and demonstrates your customer service chops.

Failing to provide that update, however, can make matters worse. Your client initially was concerned about their service problem. Now they’re disappointed your agency failed to follow through. Even when you solve their problem, that disappointment may linger.

Most of us don’t make promises intending not to keep them. (Most of us don’t work in Washington, DC). The problem is you have lots of commitments to fulfill and keeping them is just part of what you do in a day. Keeping track of all the balls you’re juggling can be hard. John Lennon wrote, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” The corollary is that work keeps happening when you’re trying to work.

Yet fulfilling commitments is vital to sales success. That was a (not particularly surprising) finding in research I conducted on what separates successful health insurance brokers from their less accomplished colleagues. In the book that came out of this study, Trailblazed: Proven Paths to Sales Success, I describe this trait as sales professionalism –being worthy of clients’ trust and reliance in your abilities and expertise.

Without this trust, closing sales is harder, renewing cases is difficult, getting referrals is nearly impossible. Prospects and clients are apt to leave when a more trustworthy advisor comes along. Having the trust of your clients matters. Failing to fulfill your commitments undermines trust. It really is that simple.

So how does NextAgency help you keep your clients’ trust? Glad you asked.

NextBroker Introduces Timelines

NextBroker helps you keep your commitments. (As a reminder, NextBroker is the agency management component of NextAgency). One way we do this is through tasks — and tasks in this context is a synonym for promises. Within a task you can set due dates and reminders. You can prioritize them, assign them to others on your team, add files and much more.

With NextBroker you can also export your tasks to your Outlook or Google Calendar. From there the task syncs with your phone. This approach is a big step in keeping commitments out of those proverbial cracks. Deadlines are easy to keep when your reminded of them by your agency management system, desktop calendar and phone.

Now we do more. A few weeks ago, we added Timelines to NextBroker. Timelines are powerful, personalized to-do lists for you and every member of your team. You see all your tasks in one place and can focus on what you need to know. Today’s tasks are a click away. So are tomorrow’s or any date range you specify. Want to see the progress on tasks you assigned to colleagues? Simple. Want to see the tasks your partner assigned to you? Easy.

Client trust is too precious to assign to Post-it notes and scraps of paper. So we made it simple to create Timelines. Just capture your client commitments as tasks within NextBroker. We do the rest for you.

Making promises is easy. With NextBroker Timelines, keeping them just got a whole lot easier.

Attend a NextAgency demonstration to See how NextBroker Timelines can help you keep your commitments. Register today for an upcoming webinar at http://meetme.so/NextAgency.

Agency Management Systems and Sales Success

Some people make decisions based on data; others tap into more emotional factors. Deciding to adopt an agency management system is a big decision. The rewards can be tremendous, but it takes money and time to make it work. (Fortunately, some options, like NextAgency, are more affordable and easy-to-use than others, but that’s for another post). When considering agency management software, considering both objective and subjective perspective can be helpful.

You’ll see some posts from the subjective perspective in this blog soon, but for this article, let’s focus on some objective data.

Several years ago, I led a study of insurance agents called the Trailblazed Sales Project. We surveyed 200 professionals in six states who specialized in individual, small group and senior insurance sales. Our goal was to find out what separated successful producers from their less successful competitors. The results formed the basis of my book, Trailblazed: Proven Paths to Sales Success.

We surveyed health insurance agents for two reasons. First, several large health insurers underwrote the study and wanted data they could use. Second, and more important, health insurance agents make an ideal subject for this kind of study. By law and regulation, every agent in a community sells the same products for the same price – no discounts or games allowed. If a broker closes more sales than others in the same community, it’s the result of what that broker is (or isn’t) doing.

Although selected at random, the sales success of our respondents fit nicely into a bell curve. About 25% had seen year-over-year sales growth of 20% or more. Roughly half experienced some annual growth, but less than 20%. And close to 25% saw no growth or their sales declined from the previous year. We categorized the respondents as High Growth, Low Growth or No Growth Producers, then set about seeing what practices, processes and perspectives separated one category from the others.

Marshaling Resources

We identified several drivers of sales success and grouped those into what, in the book, I refer to as paths and trails. This blog isn’t the place to dive deeply into all the attributes that separate High Growth Producers from their less successful colleagues. That’s what the book does. There are, however, a few drivers that brokers considering whether to adopt an agency management system – or any new technology – should consider.

The survey showed, for example, that High Growth Producers are significantly more likely to incorporate technology into their business. This was across virtually every type of technology an agency could deploy. Not surprisingly, No Growth Producers were the least likely to use technology. This finding – part of the Business Acumen path – was closely related to another: High Growth Producers were much more likely to invest in their business than their colleagues.

Successful sales professionals, the study found, marshal resources to drive their businesses forward. It can be difficult to determine which is the cause or effect here. Are brokers successful because they invest in their business? Or are already successful brokers better able to make an investment in their business?

Based on my sales experience, which spans decades in a variety of roles and companies, I believe there is a virtuous circle at play. Investments breed success which enables additional investments. While the study didn’t determine which is egg and which is chicken, at some point every agency had to take a leap of faith and make that first investment. Whichever comes first, what the data shows is clear: success comes to agencies who invest in the tools necessary to be successful. The data shows High Growth Producers use some of these investments to bring technology into their businesses.

These two drivers, taken together, signify that marshaling resources in connection to technology correlates highly with success. High Growth Producers recognize that technology can give them a competitive edge. By simplifying administrative tasks insurance agency software can free up time for brokers and their teams to focus on selling to prospects and servicing clients.

However, this leads to additional questions: How much to invest? In what technologies? From what vendors? My next post will dive into how to determine what to invest – and if any investment is worthwhile. As to what specific technologies, the answer is simple: only that software that can save you time, make you money and gain a competitive edge.

NextAgency: A Sound Investment

However, this leads to additional questions: How much to invest? In what technologies? From what vendors? My next post dives into the whether and how much questions. As to what specific technologies, the answer is simple: invest in software that saves save more time, make you more money and provides a greater competitive edge than you’d have without the investment.

Now, I’m biased here, but I’d like to point out that NextAgency rises to the occasion. No surprise here. We built NextAgency to help brokers save time, money and clients.(In a previous post I wrote about how to determine if investing in agency management software made sense, but let’s talk about NextAgency in particular.)

NextAgency’s agency management system, NextBroker, puts all your forms and documents in one place, so you and your team don’t waste time trying to find it – or worse, discover you left forms at the office you need in your prospect’s office. With NextBroker, all the documents and forms you need are just a few clicks away, wherever you have an internet connection.

Keeping commitments and meeting deadlines lead to more sales. NextBroker makes that easy by keeping notes, tasks and reminders accessible to everyone who needs to see them – and only those who need to see them.

Getting what you have earned gives you the resources needed to invest in technology. That’s why NextBroker includes commission tracking tools to identify missing payments and help create commission statements for employees and outside sub-agents.

Agency management systems should make it easier to obtain quotes, send out proposals and submit enrollment forms. NextBroker does all that.

NextAgency even helps brokers deliver additional value to their prospects and clients. Our employee management software, NextHR, helps your groups manage time and attendance, on-board new employees, track benefits and more. And NextHR is free when you subscribe to NextBroker.

The Trailblazed Sales Project Study shows that one reason High Growth Producers sell more than others is that they do a better job of marshaling their resources. This includes investing in their agency when it’s needed.

To see why NextAgency may be the agency management system your agency needs, please visit NextAgency.com. Better still, see a demonstration of NextBroker and NextHR in action by registering for one of our regular webinars. And see how our agency management system can lead to sales success.

Is Insurance Agency Software Worth the Investment?

You’ve got a lot on your plate: prospecting; service issues; renewals; running your agency; keeping up with the latest legislative and market news; and the list goes on. Then there’s the rest of your life and that needs attention, too. There are only 8,760 hours in a year. Each one is valuable and, once spent, is non-refundable.

Adopting insurance agency software just because it’s there is probably not adequate justification. If that insurance agency technology can save you time, however, well that’s different.

How Much is Your Time Worth?

So just how valuable is each hour? Invaluable and precious beyond measure. However, for the purposes of this post, let’s have some fun with math and put a dollar figure on the value of your work hours.

First, estimate how many hours you work at your insurance agency in a year. Spend 40 hours a week on the job for 50 weeks and your investing 2,000 hours. Adjust this number to reflect your reality — including all that overtime on weekends, evenings and holidays.

Now, calculate how much you earn from all that work. To simplify the math, we’ll assume $100,000 for this example, but check your last pay stub or tax return to get something more accurate. Divide your earnings by the number of hours worked and there’s the value of your work hour. In this case, $50 per hour ($100,000 divided by 2,000 hours). What’s your figure? Take a few minutes and get something close to reality

For purposes of this post, however, we’re going to assume you’re looking at an agency management system. First, because these platforms can save you and your team lots of time. Second, because NextBroker, our agency management software, is at the core of NextAgency. So yes, I’m being self-serving here, but the calculations that follow apply to most any technology you’re considering for your agency.

A Time Journal

Let’s do another exercise. Fair warning, this one is a bit more annoying. For one week, keep a diary of inefficient busy work you do. Don’t count time spent selling or servicing clients. That’s your job. We’re talking wasted time. Spend five minutes chasing down a client file? Write that down. Spend three minutes looking up the phone number of a prospect? Ten minutes tracking down the Post-it with that critical information you need? Write those down.

Work from home only to discover a critical file you need is back at the office? Write down the drive there and back again. Spend hours going back and forth with a prospect to track down the age of the third child of the eighth employee in a thirty-person group you need to wrap up a proposal? Make a note. Spend five minutes trying to recall which client had a billing problem and which had claims issues? Write that down, too.

You get the idea. Any time you’re spending that isn’t directly related to selling or servicing clients is probably wasteful busy-work. Ask your staff to do keep this time journal, too. (Choose a week in which your staff is processing commissions to sub-agents because a) that’s painful; and b) NextBroker greatly simplifies that task so we’re going to look really good in a few paragraphs

Add it Up

Now let’s do the math. Add up all this unproductive minutes you spent in a week and divide by 60. That’s the hours you wasted. Or, put another way, that’s the number of hours you’re investing in being less than efficient.

Multiply this total by your hourly rate and you now have a sense of how much money you’re investing in inefficiency. Spend just an hour a day on this busy work and at our hypothetical rate of $50 per hours and your busy-work is costing you $250 each week. That’s $12,500 per year — if you take two weeks off.

And that’s just what you’re investing. Your staff pays a price for inefficiency, too. Do these calculations for your team and add the result to yours. The time and money adds up fast. Some agencies are wasting tens of thousands of dollars per year.

Is the Investment Worthwhile?

Helping you and your team be more effective and efficient is what agency management systems like NextBroker do. We place client, carrier and agency files are at your fingertips, 24 hours a day wherever you are. The same with contact lists for clients, partners like general agencies and others. If your clients are using NextHR (the employee management software NextAgency enables you to give to your clients for free), that third child’s birthday is already in your system.Time spent tracking it down, let’s see, carry the zero. Yeah, that’s no time wasted.

What unproductive busy-work NextBroker can’t eliminate gets done quicker. Until carriers and your clients all join the 21s century, some paperwork is inevitable. We help you track that paperwork, which saves even more time.

Let’s say NextBroker reduces your wasted hours by half (we think you’ll save more time, but 50% is an easy number to work with). Applying that savings to your previous assumptions, that’s a savings of $6,250 annually; just for you. Add in the savings your team will experience and the savings rapidly multiply.

On the other hand, your investment in NextAgency is surprisingly affordable. To calculate your agency’s licensing fees just go to www.NextAgency.com/pricing. And when you’re calculating your agency’s cost, remember, support staff use NextBroker for free. And NAHU members save 11 percent.

Do the math. Compare the cost of what you’re spending now on inefficiency and compare it to investing in the efficiency NextBroker’s agency management system delivers. And this only takes into account the value of NextBroker. NextAgency does a lot more, as you’ll see by going to NextAgency.com . While you’re there, please sign up for a webinar to see NextAgency in action. We’re confident that’ll be time well spent.

Are You Ready for an Agency Management System?

Agency management systems like NextAgency’s Next Broker can help insurance brokers run their shops more effectively and efficiently. This means you spent more time selling and servicing clients and less time looking through files, Post-It notes, a mishmash of spreadsheets and the like.

When agency management systems deliver commission tracking, as NextBroker does, your bookkeeper spends less time generating checks for sub-agents and finding cases you weren’t paid on, so can spend more time doing … whatever it is bookkeepers do.

Agency management systems help you track prospects through the sales cycle and keep track of the status of clients. They keep all your agency, carrier and client documents available to everyone on your team who needs them (and accessible only to those who need them) 24 hours a day wherever they are — at the office, home or on the road.

Agency management systems keeps contacts close at hand. They help you and your team keep on top of quotes, proposals and enrollments. In short, agency management systems save you and your team time. As time is money, this means you have more resources to devote to acquiring new clients and keeping in touch with those you already have.

In other words, agency management systems like NextBroker can help you grow your business – if you’re ready to embrace the technology. And that is the key question: Are you ready for an agency management system?

When evaluating any technology it’s a good idea to know where you are on the technology adoption curve. This graph was popularized by Geoffrey Moore in his book Crossing the Chasm. He described five groups, each with its own attitude toward new technologies.

Technology Adoption Curve

Innovators, according to Moore “pursue new technologies products aggressively.” They’re often technologists, comfortable with tweaking and hacking their way through something new. If it doesn’t work, at least they had fun.

Early Adopters understand, appreciate and embrace what new technologies can do, but they’re not technologists. They look before they leap, but are eager to embrace what’s new and exciting. They seize value before most of their competitors.

Early Majority consumers also perceive the value of new tools, but they’re a bit more practical than the first two groups. They want to avoid fads. They wait a bit longer to make sure a new technology is on solid footing. They rarely buy technology that doesn’t last.

Whereas Early Majority consumers are comfortable using technology, Late Majority folks are not. They’ll wait until a given technology has become standardized, simplified and strongly supported. They want safe technology and. adverse to  any bleeding, avoid the cutting edge.

Then there’s the Laggards, people who want nothing to do with technology. They prefer their innovations baked in and invisible. They bought cordless phones only after they couldn’t find those with cords.

There’s nothing judgemental about being at any of these five stages. In fact, most people are all over the curve depending on the technology. An individual may be an Early Adopter when it comes to agency management systems, but a Late Majority when it comes to using electronic payments like Apple Pay. What matters is where you are on the bell curve in relation to any particular technology, in this case agency management systems.

Those on the left side of the bell curve are willing to embrace new technologies early in their development. They know there will be gaps in functions and maybe even bugs. They’re confident issues will get fixed. They value what the technology delivers today and can see that it will get better over time. They tolerate the occasional hiccup.

Those on the right side of the graph need a much more polished experience. They don’t want any bumps. The technology needs to do everything right and do it right out-of-the box. They value a hassle-free experience over the value a technology delivers.

Knowing where you are on the curve will help you avoid investing time and money in technology that you won’t use. If you’re a Laggard that uses technology only if there’s no alternative, you’re not going to be interested in something new and different, even if it’s objectively better. If your system of 3×5 cards is working, why change to an agency management system?

Be aware of where you are on the curve, but don’t be too cautious. In a study I did of over 200 insurance sales professionals (described in my book Trailblazed: Proven Paths to Sales Success) there was a high-correlation of high-growth producers embracing technology sooner rather than later. Brokers experiencing strong year-over-year sales growth tended to be either Innovators, Early Adopters or Early Majorities.

A strong agency management system can help most any insurance team sell more, service better and grow quicker, but only if it’s used. We designed NextBroker to be easy to adopt and easy to use. (Join us for a demonstration at one of our regular webinars by visiting NextAgency.com). But that doesn’t mean we’re the right solution for everyone. We’re new and, we think, better. But if you’re adverse to moving your client, carrier and agency information online or getting in the habit of entering notes so everyone on your team knows what’s happening with every client, then you’re probably no agency management systems is going to be right for you.

The best technology in the world won’t help your business if you don’t use it. To know whether you’ll use it before you buy it, know where you sit on the adoption curve in relation to that particular technology. So if a tool that helps you grow your business by freeing up time for more selling and service sounds interesting to you, then please do check us out at www.NextAgency.com.