by Alan Katz | Jul 20, 2019 | Agency Management System, NextAgency
Take any two health insurance agencies. Or life insurance agency. Or Medicare agency. They may look alike to an outsider. However, I guarantee you, they’re not.
Insurance agencies have their own skill sets. They have their own way of doing things. In short, each insurance agency is unique.
This benefits consumers. They can find the insurance agent that is their best fit. Perhaps that’s why life and health agencies thrive in the face of online alternatives, unlike what happened in other industries. Travel agencies, you have our deepest condolences.
Who’s the boss? You or your software?
Which raises an interesting question. Why does insurance agency software treat you like you’re all the same? Too many technology platforms seem to be designed from the top down. The software company decides “This is best practice. It’s our way or the highway.” They demand their users adapt to the software
NextAgency is different. We built NextAgency to, as much as possible, adapt to the way you work. In short, we’re flexible insurance agency software. You know, the kind of software you need.
NextAgency delivers an agency management system with CRM and commission management tools, We built the software specifically for insurance agencies selling and servicing health, life, senior and similar policies. But we know each agency is unique. Generic software requires a lot of customization. NextAgency is built for insurance agencies. There’s no need to configure NextAgency to your business. You can use NextAgency straight out of the box. OK, we’re cloud-based software so there’s no real box. We’re talking metaphors here.
We made NextAgency flexible
We’re saying NextAgency works for benefit agencies as is. However, you can personalize NextAgency to an amazing degree. Yes, we have insurance policy templates. But you can edit them or create your own. You can even create templates for non-insurance products. And sure, we provide a host of fields to capture data about your prospects and clients. Yet you can add custom fields — as many as like. Our commission management tools are considered among the best around. However, feel free to track additional compensation information.
You get the idea. You don’t have to personalize NextAgency. But you can.
A lot of health insurance agencies are looking for software to help them grow. They want to organize client data, keep their commitments, manage their commissions, and, well, work smarter. You may be one of them. If so, ask any software company you consider about their flexibility. Do they offer a one-size fits all solution? Or can you adjust the fit like you can with NextAgency?
Building flexible insurance agency software isn’t easy. But we find it worth the effort. Because the result is an agency management system that doesn’t change the way you do business. Rather, our software helps you do your business your way, just better.
And isn’t that what your software should do?
NextAgency saves insurance agencies time, money and clients with a powerful, modern agency management system. To learn more please visit us at www.NextAgency.com and sign-up for a free demonstration at one of our regular webinars.
by Alan Katz | May 25, 2019 | Agency Management System, NextAgency
Congratulations. You’ve signed-up with NextAgency. (At least, I hope you have. And so should you!). Now you want to get your client data into your new software. Immediately. I don’t blame you. The sooner you start using your new agency management system, the sooner you’ll have a more effective and efficient agency.
Yet, may I suggest you pause first to do a little planning? Thinking about how you want to organize your client data before uploading it will help you get the most out of NextAgency (or any similar software). This post offers a simple way to do that. And the minutes you spend in planning now may save you hours later.
Definitions and Structure
Insurance agents use a lot of terms. Sometimes different words for the same thing. Which can get pretty confusing. So, for the purpose of this post, let’s agree on the following:
Cases are your customers and potential customers. They may be individuals or groups. Active or inactive. Leads, prospects, or clients. These are the people and organizations that buy coverage from you – or who you hope will buy coverage from you.
Market Segments describes whether the policy or product your selling is for individuals or groups. To determine the market segment, ask “Who pays the premium?”
In NextAgency we provide three market segments: individual, small group and large group. For technical reasons, the market segment options are one of the few items that cannot be edited.
Sales Statuses defines your relationship to the case. Is it someone who you already work with or someone you hope to work with? To determine sales status ask “What is this case to my agency?”
In NextAgency we start you off with two sales statuses: prospects and clients. For many agencies this is enough. However, you may add as many other statuses as you want.
For example, some of our agencies sell benefits and other products (like P&C or payroll services). Several have created a sales status for each product line (for example, “Client-Benefits,” “Client-Payroll” and“Client-Multiple”).
Sales Stages describe where the case is in your world. Stages vary depending on a case’s status. For example, you may be trying to reach a prospect for the first time or you may be showing them a proposal. Your clients may be doing fine or they may be having a service problem. To determine sales stages ask, “What is happening with this case?”
You can group stages into processes – sometimes called pipelines. We provide some default pipelines, as identified by the color associated with each stage. Again, however, you can quickly edit these or make your own.
Fine-tuning Statuses and Stages
Knowing the questions to ask enables us to begin shaping how our case data is organized. After all, you know your block of business well enough to anticipating the kind of answers you’ll get to these questions. You can use this knowledge to choose the statuses and stages that work best for your agency. Let’s see how.
Market Segment: Who pays the premium? Either an individual or an organization of some kind. Whether an organization is a “small group” or “large group” is for you to decide. Just be consistent.
Sales Status: What is this case to my agency? If the case is already a client, do you have different kinds of clients? For example, are you a sub-agent of another agency on some cases? Or do ever act as GA? You may want to have separate statuses for each type of client. Or you may want to distinguish between hot and cold prospects. Choose the statuses that make the most sense for your agency.
Sales Stages: What is happening with this case? If everything is going well with a client, everyone on your team should know. Similarly, if a client is having a service issue, your team needs to know that, too. For prospects, your team should know if an appointment has been set or if the case is in the process of enrolling.
About active versus inactive cases: There’s a difference of opinion among NextAgency’s brokers as to whether “active” versus “inactive,” (or “closed” or “termed”) should be a status or a stage. There’s no right answer. By default, NextAgency includes active and closed as stages. However, if you prefer to use them as statuses, it only takes a minute to make that change. Active/Inactive are one of the few items that can go in either category
Keep it Simple
At NextAgency, making it easy to personalize our agency management system is an important part of our design philosophy. Which means we’ve seen a lot of agencies organize their case data in different ways. There’s no single approach that’s right for every health, life or senior insurance agency. And that’s fine.
However, there is one lesson that comes through regardless of how the data is organized: keep it simple. This is especially true with sales statuses. Some agencies tend to get extremely granular with this list. Yet there’s no need.
That’s because there are dozens of built-in fields to help you understand your cases. And you can create as many custom fields as you like. If you want to assign each case a Dewey Decimal System number, go for it. (Although really?) But you don’t have to create dozens of sales statuses. And you probably don’t need dozens.
Keeping it simple means everyone in your agency will understand how your case data is organized. This means everyone will be entering the data consistently. They’ll be able to quickly find what they need. And new hires will find it easier to get up to speed.
Best of all, you can adjust things down the road. The simpler you structure your data in the beginning, however, the faster you’ll get up-and-running. Which means the sooner you’ll be saving time, money and clients.
NextAgency is an agency management system with CRM and commission management tools for health, senior and life agencies. Our goal is to help agents and brokers save time, money and clients. To learn more, please visit www.NextAgency.com.
by Alan Katz | Jan 31, 2018 | Agency Management System, CRM, NextAgency, NextBroker
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 https://meetme.so/NextAgency.
by Alan Katz | Nov 27, 2017 | Agency Management System, NextAgency, NextBroker
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.
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.
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 NextAgency in action by registering for one of our regular webinars. And see how our agency management system can lead to sales success.
by Alan Katz | Sep 6, 2017 | Agency Management System, CRM, NextAgency, NextBroker
If your software is working for you, why would you change it? (Hint, you shouldn’t). Insurance agents have been using technology to gain a competitive advantage since the 1980s. The general agency I started my career at, Multiple Services Inc., used a Radio Shack TRS 80. Yes, the one with eight inch floppy disks. And 64k of memomory. If you’re ever in Boston, check out Science Museum’s computer exhibit. You’ll see one there.
Looking for an Edge
Insurance sales is a competitive business and any edge is a welcome one. Back in the 1990s agents realized that customer relationship management (CRM) software and agency management systems could provide that edge. A lot of those who focused on health insurance gravitated toward Goldmine or ACT. These were all-purpose platforms, but with some customization they worked well for agencies. Over the years insurance specific competitors joined the fray like GBS and Gen4. They all had something to offer and all delivered on their promise: to help brokers organize their business so they could sell and service more effectively and efficiently.
And these were just the more popular ones. There were others. Lots of others. Many failed to gain much of a following, but those who used them were passionate. Some gained prominence only to quickly fade. Many are still around.
If you’re using one of these systems and they’re working for you, there’s little motivation to change. The question is whether software that did the job in 1990 or 2000 is up to the task in 2020 and beyond. If they’ve adapted to changing times that’s great. But ask yourself, is the software accessible from wherever you are? Have they made themselves easier to use? Do they protect your and your clients’ data? Do they integrate with your email system? Do they help you keep your commitments? If not — or if you’re unsure — that should be of concern.
The Times They are a’Changing
Your prospects and clients are more demanding. They expect you to have immediate access to information and forms. You and your colleagues need to collaborate like never before. Your software has to do more and run faster. And it has to be designed well so it can work on your computer, be it Windows or Mac
If you’re using CRM or agency management software, you’re already ahead of the game. If you’re platform of choice looks, acts and behaves like it did five, ten or fifteen years ago, however, maybe it’s time to see what’s new. As you’re reading this post on the NextAgency blog you’re no doubt aware that we’re relatively new. NextAgency is an intuitive, modern agency management system with CRM and commission management tools that saves life and health agencies time, money and clients. It’s just another way we help you add value to the products you sell.
If you’re using an older system there may be no way to know what you’re missing. It’s not like your current vendor will tell you they’ve fallen behind the competition. So see for yourself. NextAgency offers regular demonstrations where you can see what’s new. To register for one, just visit our website at www.NextAgency.com. Then click on the Get Demo button at the top right hand corner of the page. Choose your date for a webinar. You may find your current system has fallen behind the times. Maybe it’s time to catch-up with a modern agency management. You know. Like NextAgency.
by Alan Katz | Sep 6, 2017 | Agency Management System, NextAgency, NextBroker
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. 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 21st 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.