Insurance agencies have lots of choices when it comes to technology. Take insurance agency software. These platforms come in all shapes and sizes. Well, not so much shape and sizes given that they’re basically zeros-and-ones. They do, however, come with different functions.
Two types of software available to insurance agencies are easily confused: agency management systems (AMS) and customer relationship management systems (CRM). This isn’t surprising. There’s considerable overlap in the benefits they deliver. Each can help you sell more. Each can help you be more organized. CRM and AMS software are not the same, however. Understanding the differences can help you decide which type of software you need.
This article will focus on CRM and agency management software designed for insurance agents – and, in particular, agencies focusing on benefits, senior and life products. If you’re interested in an AMS system for your realty company, there’s probably a blog out there for you. This is not it.
What is Customer Relationship Management?
There’s a slight difference of opinion concerning what a CRM platform is. Some people claim customer relationship management is a strategy, not a technology. They define CRM as making the customer the center of everything an agency does. Technology may help implement this strategy, but the software is incidental to a customer-centric strategy.
Others focus on the technology involved when discussing CRM. Salesforce defines CRM as “a technology for managing all your company’s relationships and interactions with customers and potential customers.” That Salesforce focuses on the software, rather than the philosophy, is not surprising. They are, after all, one of the world’s largest customer relationship management platforms. That doesn’t make their definition a bad one, however.
These two definitions of CRM are not mutually exclusive. CRM can be a strategy for putting customers first. It can also be the technology that enables this. For purposes of this post, we’ll define CRMs as software that helps agencies manage contacts, track sales, measure productivity, and understand the history of their customer interaction and more.
What is an Agency Management System?
An agency management system is software. Someone somewhere may claim that AMS is a strategy. If so, I can’t find their posts. Agency management systems help you organize your agency. It helps with sales, but goes further. AMS helps you manage information about carriers, general agencies and your own agency. Agency management software helps you deliver better customer service, track your commissions, keep commitments and more.
Agency management systems are a subset of data management software. Techopedia defines data management well. “Data management refers to an organization’s management of information and data for secure and structured access and storage.” When data management software is built for insurance agencies it’s called an agency management system. But at the end of the day, it’s a data management system.
Comparing CRM and Agency Management Systems
Whether an agency management system or CRM software is the better choice for you depends on what you want to accomplish. CRM tools are great if your goal is to dive deep into customer interactions. Agency management systems are better if you’re looking to improve more than just sales issues.
Customer Relationship Management Systems
Strong customer relationship management systems go beyond just tracking client data. They may offer auto dialers and caller ID. They may have built-in text systems. More sophisticated customer relationship management systems can adapt your web site to the status of the visitor. Prospects will see certain content. Clients will see something different.
Because CRMs are fixated on sales, they can seem like one-trick ponies. They aren’t much help beyond selling. Sales are critical. But customer relationship management systems don’t help you run a more efficient agency. Agency management systems do.
Agency Management Systems
AMS software usually include CRM tools. Improving sales results is just a part of what an agency management system should deliver, however. For example, NextAgency helps you track prospects through your sales pipelines. NextAgency also helps you store notes and automatically associate emails related to each prospect and client. NextAgency makes renewing — and cross-selling — your clients easier. Our software makes it simple to implement a drip marketing campaign. The platform also helps you assign policies to specific employees. These are all CRM tools.
NextAgency is an agency management system, however. Which means it does more than help you sell. NextAgency helps you deliver better customer service with service pipelines and benefit portals for your clients. Our software helps you manage your carrier, general agent and vendor relationships. NextAgency helps you keep commitments made to clients and others. NextAgency includes a built-in agency library. This keeps your forms, documents and collateral handy wherever you are. NextAgency helps you manage commissions. NextAgency syncs with your existing email account. Not all agency management systems do everything NextAgency does. Most do not. However, all agency management systems deliver more than just sales tools.
Which is Best for You, an Agency Management System or CRM software?
How to choose between a CRM or an agency management system? The answer depends on what’s most important to you. Customer relationship management software has a narrow focus: sales. Do you need – and will you use – every sales tool available? We all want to improve sales. But buying tools you won’t or can’t use wastes money. If you will use all the sales tools available in a CRM, however, that may be the right choice for you.
Are you looking for software to address more than sales? A strong agency management platform will include CRM tools, just not as many as dedicated customer service software. Agency management software can help you track commissions, manage documents and carrier appointments and so on. If you want to make your agency smarter, more effective and more efficient (while increasing sales), you probably want an agency management system.
A number of agencies have come to NextAgency from CRM systems. They thought they only needed help with sales. These agencies realized that managing their client relationships was critical. However, they realized they needed something more. They found that CRM tools were a part of the solution, just not the entire solution. They needed an agency management system. You know, one like NextAgency.
There’s numerous types of software that can help insurance agencies succeed. For example, social media management tools can optimize marketing processes by having a single, centralized dashboard to manage social media activities. Still, two of the most powerful tools available to these agencies are CRM and agency management systems. Choosing the right one is critical.
Whether you sell benefits, senior or life products, NextAgency can save you time, money and clients. NextAgency is a powerful, modern agency management system (NextBroker) with CRM, marketing and commission management tools. Please visit www.NextAgency.com to learn more. And to see NextAgency in action, please sign-up for a free demonstration at one of our regular webinars.
Change. Whether you’re implementing insurance agency management software for the first time or moving from one software platform to another, you’re engaged in change. And change can be hard.
Change can be uncomfortable. You may realize the need to improve the way you run your health insurance agency. After all, that’s why you’re shopping for a CRM or agency management system. However, you and your team are used to doing business a certain way. And that way is, usually, familiar and comfortable.
There is also that pesky “change takes time” thing. You’re in the insurance business, not the software business. You have prospects and clients to attend to. You have insurance carrier reps to talk to. Products to learn. Employees to train. When it comes to priorities, learning new software will rarely be at the top of your list.
So, how do you make change?
For an insightful, in-depth dive into the subject, you may want to read Switch: Making Change When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Health. It’s entertaining, helpful and well worth your time.
In the meantime, however, here’s three lessons I’ve learned in the past 30 years of developing and implementing sales software. During that time I’ve engaged in new technologies at health insurance agencies, general agencies, health insurance carriers, and insurtech start-ups (like NextAgency). Given that this is a NextAgency blog, I’m focusing on implementing insurance agency management software. But the lessons apply to any change — buying new equipment, entering new markets, selling a new product and so on.
Lesson 1: Appoint a Champion
Implementing new software requires everyone in your insurance agency to be involved. Your entire team needs to make time for training. They need to use the new agency management system so that the data is current and stays relevant. However, you can make things easier for everyone by appointing a change champion. This individual is on point, leading the effort to implement your new software. Others can procrastinate (a bit), but not your champion. Your champion works with the software vendor’s success team (like our NextConcierge group). Your champion schedules training, helps other find training videos and helpful articles. They offer encouragement to others and pay attention to progress. They’re the go-to person in your agency others talk to when they have questions.
Without a champion, everyone has plenty of excuses. “I have other things to do.” “This isn’t my job.” “I haven’t been trained.” Change champions, however, cuts through the excuses. She answers questions. She provides an example. She gets things done. Whether you are implementing new agency management software or adding a new product line, someone needs to lead the charge. And as the agency owner, it’s your obligation to appoint — and support — that champion.
Lesson 2: Embrace Frustration
Even bad habits can feel familiar and secure. By definition change — and change — forces people out of their comfort zone. Change demands a learning curve. The status quo does not. The learning process can be frustrating simply because it’s different. “Why is that button blue? In our old system it was orange.” “Why is search field on the right instead of the left?” “Why do I have to enter my notes in the software instead of on a Post-it?” You get the idea.
This frustration is natural — and even helpful. It shows your team is thinking about what they’re doing. It’s part of the process of developing new habits. And it’s very human. Does it matter whether a button is blue or orange? Probably not. But you’re moving your team out of their comfort zone and they’re annoyed. Expect frustration and know it will pass. In a few weeks, the change becomes the status quo.
Lesson 3: Choose Flexibility
Some change is needed. Some is not. If you’re successful enough to consider insurance agency management software, you’re doing something right. So why would you change what’s working? Learning new software is one thing. Abandoning what’s made you successful is another thing altogether.
Instead, choose software (or hardware) that helps you do what you do — just in a more effective and efficient way. You know, software like NextAgency. We designed NextAgency for health and life insurance agencies. We know, however, that every agency is different. Which is why we made NextAgency flexible. So you can personalize the platform for your agency.
Change is Inevitable
In today’s reality, change is inevitable. Laws change. Products change. Client expectations and needs change. Insurance agencies who pretend the status quo is permanent will lose. This is why agency management systems more agencies are adopting software like NextAgency every month.
Given that insurance agencies like yours — you know, the ones that will be around for the long-term — will adapt, make the change process easier. You can do that by 1) appointing a champion; 2) embracing frustration; and 3) choosing flexibility.
NextAgency saves health and life insurance agencies time, money and clients with a powerful, modern agency management system featuring CRM and commission management tools. Please visit www.NextAgency.com to learn more. And to see NextAgency in action, please sign-up for a free demonstration at one of our regular webinars.
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.
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.
Let’s call her Jane, but we could call her Tom, Dick or Mary. There’s a lot of health insurance agents like Jane. She’s successful, yet dealing with all too many, all too common problems.
Commissions are falling so she needs more clients just to stay whole. With all the news and regulatory changes coming out of Washington, those clients need more service than ever. Jane already works hard. She knows working harder isn’t the answer. She needs to work smarter.
Meanwhile, information is flowing in from everywhere. Getting the right person (whether a colleague, client or carrier) the right information at the right time is a Herculean task. She has the information … somewhere. Maybe on that Post-it or in that folder? Maybe it’s in a spreadsheet, but which one? Or is it on that scrap of paper on her assistant’s desk?
There are days Jane feels like she and her team spend more time tracking down data than they do selling to prospects and servicing clients.
Worse, time spent tracking down information is time spent away from her clients. Which means too often they only hear from her is when they call with a problem or at renewal. You know, when Jane is dealing with bad news. Jane knows this is no way to build client loyalty — and that she needs that loyalty. Her world is full of competitors seeking to pry her business away.
What Jane needs is a simple, affordable solution that allows her to better manage her agency while reminding her clients of the value she delivers to them every day.
Fortunately, that’s exactly what we built NextAgency to do.
NextAgency Solves Problems
NextAgency provides Jane with NextBroker, a powerful yet intuitive agency management system that keeps all the information her agency needs in one place, accessible from anywhere there’s an Internet connection. This means all the forms and notices, quotes and notes related to every prospect and client is organized and close-at-hand. NextBroker even helps Jane track commissions and pay her sub-agents. All of which is good news for Jane’s agency, but bad news for the Post-it people.
We built NextAgency for health insurance agents Jane – for agents like you. If you’re looking to build a more effective and efficient agency and a way to provide your clients with consistent and appreciated value, you need to see NextAgency in action.
That’s easy to do. Just register for one of our regular webinars. And visit our web site to see how affordable NextAgency is … especially with the 50% off we’re offering through the end of the year. We’ll even get your agency data uploaded into NextAgency – also for free through the end of 2017.
NextAgency saves brokers time, money and clients. If that’s something you’re interesting in doing, we look forward to talking with you soon.
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.