Life insurance in a P&C agency… why the big controversy?
Why do so many P&C agencies struggle with the ‘life sale’? Chris Jarvis—best-selling author of 15 books, million-dollar producer, and former P&C actuary—digs deep into the challenges and opportunities facing P&C principals:
- How to avoid the biggest and most common mistakes selling life insurance in your agency.
- The dramatic impact the life sale has on client retention. (You’ll want to do the math on what this means for your agency!)
- Why you want your agency to be their life agent… before someone else is.
If you’re looking for ways to increase income, boost retention, and bypass the threats of reducing commissions and emerging competitors – listen to what this million-dollar producer shares about ‘life success’ in the P&C agency. Learn more at www.TheChrisJarvis.com.
What are other agents & brokers doing to thrive? What are the biggest trends affecting the retail insurance agent & broker? What are the most important strategies and tactics you need to grow faster? Find out here in the Connected Insurance Podcast, where Michael Jans discusses the biggest issues affecting the independent insurance agent and broker with the industry’s leading figures.
Michael: Chris Jarvis, thanks so much for joining us. How are you?
Chris Jarvis: I’m doing great Michael. How about yourself?
Michael: I am good. Thank you. Let’s start with a thumbnail sketch of a little bit about your background and then the unique contributions you’re making in the industry right now.
Chris: Sure. I have the very common background of being a property casualty actuary by training, and someone who has spent a lot of time in marketing and sales.
Michael: [laughs] Okay.
Chris: It’s been that but the combination– I’ve seen the dark side twice. As a mathematician I went for the two negatives makes a positive. I jumped from the PNC side to the life side, and I jumped from the back office, made the rates, and do all the heavy bean counting to the sales and marketing. I have had the pleasure of creating insurance companies and doing filing for insurance companies and product creation. I’ve also sold millions of dollars of life insurance to corporations and wealthy people.
Michael: That’s right. Yes, you were a million dollar producer once upon a time, right?
Chris: Yes, recently last year.
Michael: Not that long ago, okay.
Chris: Yes, not that long ago, it happens when it happens. We’ll probably get into some of the reasons how or ways that it happens, I’m sure, on this podcast.
Michael: All right. A little background. I had a conversation with Matt Masiello, the CEO of SIAA yesterday. One of the things that he talked about was– I think he was a fairly strong advocacy for PNC agencies to start selling life insurance. I thought, “Well, that’s really interesting,” because I’m going to be talking to you today. I really want to circle back to that. That’s a critical element.
I think it’s just important that we face it honestly. PNC agencies have the opportunity to sell life insurance. Typically they don’t. I haven’t seen the number lately, but I remember that at least at one point in time, life and benefits combined for a whopping total of 7% of the average agency income. Maybe it’s higher now, but not much.
Setting benefits aside, the relationship that the PNC agency typically has with life insurance is just often difficult and strained and awkward. I want to dive into that and get your perspective on, what are the best of the best doing in that world? First, I know that you had a bestselling book that came out even less than a year ago. I wanted to get a few of your most interesting insights about it. 6 Secrets To Leveraging Success, name of that book?
Chris: It is.
Michael: It’s available where?
Chris: It’s available on Amazon and Closing retail bookstores everywhere.
Michael: Closing bookstores everywhere. Okay.
Chris: On my website it’s a bunch of different places. Amazon is the easiest, that’s the one that people know how to spell and know how to find, and I’m sure it’s on their account.
Michael: Before we dive into some of that juicy life insurance stuff, what inspired you to write this book?
Chris: A good question. What inspired me? It was a little different. I’ve written more than a dozen books and I’ve had a couple big successes. I’ve spent the majority of my time with the first 80, 90% of those books, I was spending my time trying to generate leads and trying to create clients. I did that to the tune of- more than 10,000, 15,000 doctors and business owners called me over the years as a result of the book. That was very successful.
The last two books I spent time trying to teach people. I was challenged by my mentors, Jack Canfield and Jay Abraham to say, “Why don’t you put together what made you successful and see if you can put it in words in a way that not only explains your story, but also gives some valuable tips to other people as part of your legacy to think about how you can help others.” I said, “Okay, I’ll take that challenge.”
What I started researching was the difference between successful people and super successful people. That was really the idea of leveraging success. There’s a lot of people who are successful, but there are many fewer people, obviously, who are at that higher level. How did I define that? When I thought of writing this it was the election, all the campaigning was going on, and there was a lot of talk about the 1%.
This magical, it’s not mysterious 1% of Americans who make more than $300,000. I started thinking about the 1%, but because I spent a lot of time doing tax claiming as part of my financial planning practice, I was talking to hundreds, if not, thousands of really successful people who wanted to pay taxes. Oddly enough, if you want to pay taxes it’s probably because you’re making a lot of money.
Michael: [laughs] Right.
Chris: If you’re making a lot of money you’re usually doing something really odd. There’s something about your business that makes you super successful. It’s not because you’re a little faster, it’s not because you’re a little more ethical. It’s not because you’re a little cheaper. There’s not a little of something, there’s a lot of something that gets you to that level. The difference between the 1% or the .1%, or the .01%, was pretty amazing. What I found was that the biggest indicator of success to get into the top 1% was education.
If you went to law school or business school, or you had a degree or a couple degrees. Maybe you had a degree and then you had some professional designation, you took the time to get your CPCU, or your CFP, or there was some other training. Those things helped you get to the next level, get into the 1%. What was really interesting was that inside of the 1%, if you got rid of everybody who make less than 300,000 a year, and you looked at the remaining group, the ones who make the most money actually has the least amount of education.
Chris: Education gets you there and then the decision hold you back. [crosstalk] This was really fascinating.
Michael: Is that education holding the rest of the 1% back, or is it just–
Chris: i think it is, because what I found was that you can get to the 1% by working hard, but you can’t get to the .01% by working hard. You have to get to a point where you stop working hard, and those lessons that your parents or your grandparents, or whoever it was that told you to work hard and really put the time in, and whoever your mentors were when you were in your 20s’, who just said, “Hard work is going to get you there. Make the cold call, accept the appointments.”
All that will get there, but if you keep trying to do your work, you do run out of time. You can only feed so many people, you can only serve so many clients. You can only do so much until you start deciding to leverage. The problem is, once you get successful from hard work, the idea of doing something else is a risk that most people won’t take. They won’t take the risk of saying, “Well, I used to do all this work, now I’m going to build a business. Now I’m going to do something very different to get to the next level.”
The risk is I lose this business that’s throwing off 300, 400, $500,000 a year. I don’t want to take the chance. I have something to lose. The people who work hard often won’t make the risk of giving that up to try something else. The people who get to the 1% and make a lot of money, many of them didn’t have that work-hard mentality, they just found a hack, if you will, which seems to be the popular language.
They found a hack to the system which says, “I’m going to build an app,” or, “I’m going to do something that’s going to allow me to make a lot of money, and do something different.” I just find that once you make money from working hard, whether you’re a doctor or you’re a lawyer, or an accountant, an agent broker, once you have a book, the idea of going from working hard and servicing your clients to, “I’m going to run a really big company that I can sell,” it’s a heavy duty shift that most people just won’t make, because it’s going to require them to put something on the line that is a lot to give up.
Michael: Let me first clarify, or at least see whether or not I’m clear. A lot of people get to the– [laughs] Well, one out of 100 get to the 1%, yes?
Chris: That’s right.
Michael: [laughs] Okay. Typically, I mean–
Chris: Yes. That’s the math.
Michael: I did the math right on that. That is so presumably across industry. PNC Life, financial planning, whatever, right? Okay.
Chris: Legal, any of it, sure.
Michael: Your observation is that it was education and hard work that gets a lot of people up to the 1%, but the .01, let’s say 10% of the 1%, or the 1% of the 1%, whichever one you’re measuring, they take a different route. I think you’re saying that risk is a more predominant factor to make that jump?
Chris: I’m saying the hard part, the really hard part is very few people make it– I think the challenge of folks getting to this crystal feeling, and that’s one of the chapters in the book, is cracking the crystal feeling, which is it’s a self-imposed feeling. The glass ceiling is you can’t get to the next level because of the color of your skin, or your gender, or your race, your origin, or something else. The crystal feeling is put in there is something that you can’t even see what’s on the other side because you’re just so busy doing what you’re doing that you can’t– There’s paths to becoming a partner at a law firm. You put the hours in, you bill, you do a little rainmaking and then you get to move up. The crystal feeling is, I don’t even know how to make 1.9 million dollars a year, or to make 4.6. There is no path to getting or a clear stairwell, or a ladder, or whatever.
Michael: Typically, let’s say if it’s in person or production, that tops out.
Chris: Right, because it is time.
Michael: There’s only so much time.
Michael: What do you think the super successful people do that breaks the bonds of time or other limitations?
Chris: Well, they realize that to get further they have to do something else. It’s the reason why some doctors can have a successful dermatology practice and make 600 $700,000 a year. I have a client who sold his practice for 40 million dollars. How do you do that? It was because he took Fridays off and didn’t see patients, and found a way to work on the business and make sure he understood, “How does the billing and coding work, and how do we build ancillary services?”
I have to invest in building a business that could make money without me. As opposed to, I’m going to see 12 more or 60 more patients and bill again. I had to take a step back to move forward, or I had to actually spend money, whether it’s direct or indirect in paying people or just having somebody else see those patients and say, “I can’t be building and working at the same time.”
Michael: Got it. Okay. I’ve interviewed a number of my own clients on this show, and of course, have plenty that I haven’t interviewed. One of the observations, tell me if this is in alignment with what you’re talking about. Let’s take, for example, a guest that I had on the show Ellie Kaplansky. I’m pretty sure he’s got the largest single privately owned agency in his state. Hasn’t sold an insurance policy for goodness. 25-35 years. His focus very early on became building the business, not making sales personally. Is that the distinction that you see between the 1% and the 0.01%
Chris: I think that’s part of it, for sure. If he started that way early, he was already realizing that, if I might make 10% off the top or 20% whatever his number is, and I only have one employee, or one agent broker working for me, I’m going to make 80% less than if I did the work myself. He was smart enough to say, “I’m playing the long game.” When you think about insurance, a lot of people were thinking, “How much of the case can I capture? How much of the revenue is mine?”
That’s all numerator, when if you think about a fraction, it’s how much you make divided by the time you spend. If you can minimize the amount of time you spend on each case, then as the denominator gets smaller, the value of the fraction goes up. The less time you spend working, the more things you can actually get paid on. He saw that early.
Think about lawyers and a law firm. If you get origination credit versus hours you bill credit, you can only bill so many hours. Then you can insert attorney joke here about people billing more hours than exists. If you get origination credit of 10% of the revenue for bringing in a Coca Cola or a Gatorade, Under Armour, or Nike, or somebody who has a big account.
Bringing it in, you get paid on all the work everybody else does, that’s pretty good because it’s a lot more hours than you could ever work. I find that that origination, how much business can you generate and get paid on is a chance for you to have leverage. [crosstalk] how do you get paid on more hours than you have? Richard Branson’s comment was– I read recently was, “All entrepreneurs I know know that their time is worth more than their money. I can’t buy more time.”
Michael: Your book title is six secrets. I don’t want you to go through all six of them, but is there anything else? It’s a juicy and maybe it was a surprising or really poignant finding for you when you did your research for the book.
Chris: Yes, I have a chapter in there that you have to be psychotic to be successful. What I mean by that is when I talk to my most successful clients, and these are people with nine and 10 figure net worths. It was, every one of them to a person, if you asked, “What was your best idea, what was your biggest home run?” Then they went through and told the story of the biggest home run. You went back and said, “When you first came up with it, can you remember doing that?”
They say, “Of course, I can remember where it was.” Some have interesting stories about backs of Napkins, and some have whiteboards, and sometimes legal pads, and some were drinking somewhere. They may have very interesting stories. Then the next question is, “Do you remember what people said when you shared your idea?” The response is universal. It’s, “Everyone told them that they were crazy. That that’s a terrible idea. It will never work. Nobody will buy it. It’s not going to fit. It’s not good.”
I’ll use the example of Gordon Logan with Sport Clips. He had gone to MIT and gone to Wharton and was a big Aid accountant. He said, “I’m going to leave the accounting firm to go start a haircutting business for men and boys.” People said, “Gordon, that’s ridiculous.” They called barbershops and there’s tens of thousands of them. Why would you go compete with that? Fast forward 10 years, 15 years he had 2,000 sport clips shops. He sponsors a Joe Gibbs Nascar team. He sponsors a Nascar race.
He has a spectacular classic car collection and he has a great life. He’s just one example of so many people that the great ideas are crazy. In the chapter there’s a fair amount of psychology, not to bring everybody back to college and bore the hell out of them. Maslow’s hierarchy is you need to have food and water to live. Then you need to have safety. Not walk outside your cave and get eaten by a bear. Then the third thing is love and belonging and you need to fit in. I find that the most successful entrepreneurs don’t need to fit in.
If you want to be in the one in 10,000 you can imagine it’s a relatively rare group. The more you want to be like your neighbors and be like the Joneses, if that’s important to you. You won’t get to that level if you want to be like everybody else. If you want to go to the meetings and everybody go, “I’m doing the same thing you’re doing. I’m just like Steve and I’m just like Mary and I’m just like Mike.” Then if you want to be just like them, you can’t be like them and make 10 times as much as they make.
Michael: Probably not going to transform the industry.
Michael: Let’s talk about transforming the industry. What first brought you to my attention was your perspective on life insurance in PNC. Let’s start with the state of the industry right now and then let’s move it along to where you think it needs to go. Currently, when you look at the PNC industry and life insurance, how are we doing? What’s working? What’s not?
Chris: Obviously very mature industries. They’ve been around a long time and decreasing margin I think is a safe assumption and some companies are making more money. Generally, any mature industry is usually in a decreasing margin industry. You’ve got challenges with compliance and regulations. You have a lot of threats from technology coming in. If you read the Mckinsey, or the Ernst and Young, or the Price Waterhouse Cooper’s report on the insurance industry, they tell you it’s a decreasing margin industry.
You have to find alternative distribution channels and you have to find ways to shorten the sales cycle. Amazon does everything overnight. Sometimes even in my city in Dallas, I can get same day delivery if I order something before noon. The insurance analysis part can take a long time. Like underwriting takes a long time. Even doing the risk management assessment of a company to figure out what the right portfolio is can take some time. There’s a lot of pressure. I would say there’s a lot of change coming or at least a lot of threats to change.
Michael: Now, the change or the threat, are you referring to the life insurance industry or to the PNC agency itself?
Chris: I think both. I think both will be subject to technology changes for sure. I think the life side which is just so archaic in so many ways is destined to be changed dramatically. I think the only thing that has kept it from changing sooner is the fact that the regulators have these crazy capitalization requirements. Most of the private equity investors aren’t that interested in parking that much capital for a chance to make money.
You can’t get those really big hits when you have to park a billion dollars in reserves or something else. The high regulation is usually not something that attracts technology investors. That’s probably kept it there, but that doesn’t mean– There was an article, I can’t remember which business magazine published it recently, but it said something like 20% of consumers would buy insurance from Amazon or Google. These were people who had policies with really big name companies. That should scare some folks that people think that Amazon or Google is a better way to buy life insurance than through an agent or broker. Amazon and Google, last I checked have no history of paying claims and being there, and may have actually sold some data. It’s just so interesting that they think that’s a safe and easy place to do something. You know versus 170 year old insurance company that’s been paying claims for a long time.
Michael: Is this a good time for PNC agencies to be more aggressive or assertive with their life sales?
Chris: I think it’s imperative that the PNC folks consider the life sales for the same reason. 10, 20 years ago when I was meeting with investment folks, I was telling them that they should be getting into the life insurance business. Not because they wanted to, but because the life people were going to start selling their products. Some of this is your clients need a whole wide range of services. There’s a whole insurance portfolio that they need.
If you only serve policies from column A and the person who serves policies from column B stays in column B, there’s no threat. As soon as the column B agent starts selling products in column A, now you’ve got a problem because they’re talking to your customers because you don’t provide what they need. You start running into that challenge, and there’s been so much consolidation with private equity firms jumping into the insurance world.
There are a heavy duty acquisitions going on right now, and you and I talked about this in the precall. Gallagher just bought Partners Advantage, which has thousands of agents licensed around the country. Gallagher is obviously a big player. If they are buying and spending nine figures on a life insurance distribution company, or thousands and thousands of agents, why do you think that is? They’ve got to have a plan.
These big company acquisitions haven’t been integrated particularly well in my experience, watching the Hubs and the Gallagher and the BB&T and everybody else do all these acquisitions. I haven’t seen one that’s been spectacular yet, but it’s not stopping them from throwing money at it. I think you have to be mindful of what of your competitors doing, and what’s your plan to make sure that your best customers aren’t getting their life and employee benefits and executive benefits from one of your competitors. That’s a dangerous place.
Michael: Yes. What do you think distinguishes the PNC agency that does this right and the PNC agency that doesn’t. My observation working with thousands of agencies over the past 25 years is that I can try to inspire, cajole, persuade, push, nudge.
Chris: Good luck with that.
Michael: Unless somehow there’s some element of passion or at least understanding and the business systems put in place, it doesn’t work. What do you think distinguishes the ones that work from the ones that don’t?
Chris: The ones that– here what I’ve seen and you can tell me because you have more experiences than I do. What I’ve seen in a lot of these cases is really a half-ass approach at it. I can’t find a better word for that matter. They say, “Okay, we want to do life insurance.” They find one life guy who is a friend of some cronyism, or some friend of one of the guys who works there and they just bring them in and say, “You’re going to sell life insurance to all of our clients.”
Michael: Work our book. Yes.
Chris: Yes. You’re going to work our book. Let’s think about it. If I’m the life guy who comes in and your boss tells you to introduce your clients to me so I can go sell some life insurance to them. How much time did it take and how much effort for you to get one of those clients? It’s a lot of work. The last thing you want to do is hand over your client, one of your best clients or any of your clients to someone you don’t know who has, who is a transactional salesperson in that. If that situation doesn’t go well, that one little bit of disruption to your client relationship could be the reason why that client you spent years developing decides to take up your business somewhere else.
Michael: Let’s say on the agency principal, I’ve got 7,500 clients. I’ve worked really hard to get them, to keep them, to create some level of loyalty. Now you’re going to all them as a life guy and I just don’t want you to destabilize what I’ve got. Is that the resistance?
Chris: I think it is, and for good reason because a lot of life guys are transactional guys.
Michael: Talk about that. Yes. The transactional versus relational kind of selling here that happens like that seems split between the two industries. Talk to me a little bit about that.
Chris: Yes, we’ll think of how people are paid. If you spend years securing a corporate account to come in and bring their entire PNC portfolio over to you, and let’s say, what’s a good account? 100,000 in revenue, 50,000 in revenue, whatever it is, it’s a decent size revenue. You’ve got overhead and expenses and most people probably say that the book becomes profitable after about three years, two years, four years. There’s some period of time that you say, okay, this client is becoming really valuable.
We can’t afford to get people for one year and then have them leave. That’s not a good model for. We want to keep the clients for a couple of years and that usually works for us that that justifies the long cycle of trying to build relationships and rapport and trust with these clients. We get, we want to bring over, you get paid over time and you get the renewal, some lines of renewal is the same as the initial commission sometimes it’s less, but you do get paid for the life of the client.
Where on the life side, many of the commissions, the way that they’re structured is the payouts are huge upfront. You might get 90 to 95% of the compensation in year one. I don’t care what the agent says about the transaction, or how important the relationship is. If you pay somebody the bulk of the money in year one, you would assume you’re going to get the bulk of the service in year one, because that’s where the money is.
If you pay me 100 bucks to show up for the first 10 minutes of work and you pay me a minute for every hour after, I mean how much time do you think I’m going to stay? I think it’s natural that because the traditional compensation in life is to be way upfront and it moves on that you’ve created this weird, diversion or a divergence of kind of attitudes or relationships, where the life guy is making a lot of money up front. The PNC guy, doesn’t make money until you’ve had the client for a few years? I don’t, care what industry, I mean if I’ve got two different people with very different attitudes and I’m a relationship guy, I don’t want somebody who’s all about the curriculum.
Michael: All right. What do we do about it? Okay, because you’ve kind of described life as it is, right, because for the most part, those are the commission schedules in the two industries, so what do we do?
Chris: Well, some of it’s already been done for you. Life insurance has been purchased in very large numbers in the last 10 years by banks and other corporations. The companies had to come up with institutional products. Some of the BOLI and COLI, and that stands for Bank Owned Life Insurance, or Corporate Owned Life Insurance. Insurance companies started creating products that had high cash, meaning the policies had– that the sort of values were nearly 100% of the premium paid.
The way they did that was by spreading the commissions out over five, seven, eight, 10 years depending on the product and the company. There are products that once upon a time didn’t exist, then they were only available to institutional purchasers or owners of policies, and now they’re available to everybody. You’ve got a lot of policies now that are available that look more like PNC policies. They pay over a long period of time and if you stopped servicing it and the client moves the policy, you won’t get paid.
Some of this the industry has already done for you. When I share this with folks, whether they’re PNC folks, or they’re accountants, or they’re attorneys who are all thinking about life insurance. It’s amazing how few people know that these policies exist. Probably because the agent, a lot of them don’t want people to know that they exist because they liked the upfront, right? You’re getting paid. If you wake up every January one and only 10% of your income comes from renewals, it’s a big change for you to go to.
I’m going to get paid over 10 years on all my products because I I’ve been living on those new policy commissions pay my bills every year. It’s hard to make that transition. It’s easy if you start that way. Like your friends, you mentioned earlier who started early on with, “I’m going to go and build an agency,” but it’s very hard to go from a producer to owning an agency. If you have to hand over your book to somebody else to service and take an 80% cut in your revenue, that’s a hard thing for somebody to swallow.
I think the fact that the products exist owe you to, basically incent somebody to work the way you work. You now have a chance, at least to work with those products. Most clients would be pretty happy with those products that say, “Hey, if you don’t like us, move it somewhere else. You don’t suffer. We suffer if we don’t do a good job.” It aligns everybody’s goals a little better than they were in the past.
Michael: Got it. All right. I think you’re saying that this should become a kind of a critical department. Yes? Life sales.
Chris: Yes, I do.
Michael: At least that agencies should make a should, look at it with open eyes and make a conscious strategic decision about their relationship with life insurance.
Chris: Yes. They have to make a commitment to it in real and just bringing somebody in who’s the old guard– “This guy has sold a lot of insurance, so it will be great if I sell a lot of insurance.” Well, if it pisses off all your brokers and agents to the point where they don’t want to work with the person and they’re not going to make the introduction, then it doesn’t– 20% of zero is zero. That doesn’t, that doesn’t help anybody.
I think, making a commitment to doing it and finding someone who is willing to work in that, work in that capacity, which once upon a time it was going to hire people for commission only because you said there was no risk. The risk here is actually that they upset your clients and you lose them. There’s isn’t any no risk situation with a traditional model.
I believe you make a commitment and hire some folks who want to work, you know, for a little different structure. A little more like the PNC agent and you’d get them a draw and say, “Hey, we’re happy to give you–” take some of the risk out, “but this is how we want to do it. These are the kind of policies we want to use. Let’s try and structure something a little differently so we can give our clients what they want, without disrupting our existing model or you know, the culture we have in our company.”
Michael: Got it. All right. Let me, ask you another question about how to make this work in the operations in a PNC agency. To some extent, I think we’ve been talking about some of the bigger cases, big corporate client or something. Let’s say, we’ve got a listener on the line right now with 5,000 customers and they’re a mix of personal and small commercial lines and maybe a few middle market accounts. Boom. That’s a really good main street agency.
In that case, so typically like a lot of cross sales are made a couple of ways. One, somebody makes an inbound call, customer makes an inbound call. The CSR pops their records up on the agency management systems and says, “Chris, I’m concerned about something. I know that we protect your automobile, but you and I, we’ve never talked about homeowners insurance. I’m just nervous that you’re not properly protected.” Whatever, blah, blah. Next thing you know, they get permission to quote and they make a sale.
Or, the agency is proactive enough to, perhaps reach out to all of the customers for whom they have home, no auto. They do, maybe it’s some marketing campaign, can be an email marketing campaign. Boom. It stimulates some of them to call and says, “Okay, it makes sense what you said. Yes. Tell, me what you could do for me.” Or they email and they say, “All right, tell me, what you can do.” Whether it’s passive or proactive, a lot of those cross sales are simply made by whoever the closer is, whether CSR and inside producers, something like that. How, how do you see that happening with life insurance?
Chris: Teaching the old dog new tricks is nothing that I came up with, that it’s difficult to take somebody who’s been doing something a long time. I teach sales training and client development and all that good stuff routinely to insurance folks. One of the most important takeaways for many of the programs that I do, and I even built an online curriculum called the 12 day turnaround, which you may or may not talk about.
One of the really important lessons of things to do, the 10 or 12 things to do to change your practice is to survey your clients. Every year, survey them. You want to survey them about your service and all that it’s pretty important. Surveying the clients on what their biggest events are going to be for the next year. Asking that question, whether it’s something you do on the phone, or it’s something you send them, we survey clients.
The results are pretty amazing. When you ask them, “What is your biggest goal for this year, or do you plan to take on a new partner?” If they plan to take on a new partner or sell off part of their practice, they probably need to change their buy-sell agreement. They probably need some buy-sell insurance. They probably need something. Surveying them, tells you what they have coming up for big events.
Let’s say if you ask them, “Do you plan to try and sell your company, or to acquire another company this year?” Then as soon as that happens, you can start bringing in the business valuation people, you can get involved earlier before you find out from your client they merged, and the other person– or you brought their agent in, then you’ve lost a very big case when you could have acquired a really big new client.
Asking those questions and surveying, those are things that aren’t difficult to send when you send them either with a bill, or with a statement. One way to get people to come out is offer them a gift, or some kind of a thing to do that. I’ve seen some clients send out to their large base, we want to have– they basically said, “We’re going to do some educated–” Because you’ve asked us or many of our customers have asked us to give them some educational, some training or seminars or webinars or materials. These are some of the things that came up, which ones are you most interested in?”
“We will let you know when we have some materials for you.” It could be how to sell or how do you, how to leave a business to a future generation or whatever it might be. People start checking boxes and sending back. The survey should happen before anything else because you don’t want to build a giant business valuation by sell consulting and insurance shop until you hear from 50 of those 5,000 clients you have.
Yes, we all plan to sell our businesses or transfer them to our kids. Well, then you know who those 50 people are. I think the survey is the most valuable thing that you can, you can put out to find out what’s coming up up before it comes up and surprises the hell out of you. You don’t want to meet new clients, you go over the annual review and say, “Hey, how was your year?” “I sold my company.”
Michael: [laughs] Lost opportunity.
Chris: Lost opportunity. Right.
Michael: Yes. Okay. Got it. Alright, there is one last thing that I want to say about life insurance and PNC agency, and I’m calling on some research that was done in, I think it was in the mid-’90 Goes back a ways, but I’m sure the principal is as solid as it’s ever been. This is research that was done. It was done for State Farm. Again, my audience are going to be largely independent insurance agencies, but the principle is solid and here’s what they discovered.
Is that, they knew exactly what their 10 year retention was. For all of their customers they had one policy, all of their customers that had two policies and all of their customers that had three policies. The difference between one and two was spectacular and the difference between two and three was mind boggling. Okay. The tenure retention, not one year, 10 year on one policy was 10%. Not bad. Okay. State farm’s got a lot going for in terms of promotion and customer nurturing.
Not bad that they could keep a 10 out of 100 customers for 10 years on one policy. Two policies it was 38%. Boom, we go from 10 to 38, that’s a four fold jump. How did we do that? We’ve got two policies. When they went from two to three– and that was home and auto. Typically they went from auto home and auto and then boom, add that third policy, a life policy, the tenure retention was 90%, which is absent to me. Absolutely mind boggling.
That’s not a one year retention, 10 years later they’d have nine out of 10 customers if they had those three policies. A successful introduction of that third policy is, it’s a game changer in regards to relationship. I think we all intuitively, the more policies our customers have, the higher the retention is a statistically absolutely true. I did have somebody share, it was a, a life agent share a perspective on why he thought that life policy had so much impact.
It’s because the nature of the conversation is so intimate because we need to talk about things like your death, your health, your family, your income. The conversation, hard to get much more intimate with that and so people go through that conversation, one. They probably don’t want to have to have it with more strangers in the future than they absolutely have to. Two, successfully and safely pursuing and negotiating that conversation creates a very deep psychological bond. For what that’s worth, I think this–
Chris: I agree with you. It’s an emotional conversation, for sure.
Michael: Yes. People think it’s not. Life insurance is really emotional.
Chris: Well, think about this. Think about the PNC. If you’re doing commercial lines, PNC, which are the bigger accounts. Let’s assume that that’s the bigger sale that people are trying to do. That conversation can be pushed down from the CEO, or the founder down to the controller, or the CFO, or somebody in the business, because that’s cost. This is a risk management decision, what’s it going to cost and how am I going to do this? That’s not a particularly exciting conversation.
I’m not trying to say that there’s nothing interesting going on in PNC, but it’s a risk management discussion. That isn’t personal. It’s all about money. I’m going to pay you some money and if something happens, you’re going to pay me some money back. The life insurance conversation is a very different conversation. What do you want to do? Who’s going to be involved in your business? Which kid? Are you going to leave this kid the business? What are you going to leave the other kid as an alternative? What happens if you pass away?
It is a more personal conversation that you can’t delegate to somebody else. It’s very difficult to do that. I do believe that that’s an emotional conversation. It’s not the only way to have an emotional conversation, but I think that’s a big part of a lot of the training that I do too, which is you need to get to know the customer as well as you can.
Once upon a time, they used to do the Mackay 66. There were questions you had to ask your clients and you wanted to get to know them a little better every time. The better you knew them, the more they felt you understood them, the more likely they were that they were to trust you and want to work with you. A lot of that went away. It’s not as personal in general. I think insurance isn’t as personal as it used to be. It’s always good to have those questions and get to know the people. There’s no downside to that.
I think that’s probably why State Farm had such fantastic response because it was such a deviation from the normal conversations they had, that it wasn’t just about price. What’s it going to cost for five million dollars of liability on this particular policy. That’s an RFP type situation versus, “This person really knows me, and I feel like they’re helpful at planning my comprehensive situation. They know everything.” Probably the PNC stuck because the people felt, “I don’t want to have to disrupt the PNC and the life.” Which is more complicated.
Michael: In a moment, Chris, I’m going to ask you to share how people can reach out to you. First, if you could issue a message to the principles, property and casualty agencies now, about this topic, what would you say?
Chris: I would say you have to understand your clients and to understand– I guess I would say think about catching a train. To catch a train, you don’t stand on the track, listen to the sound and chase the train. You go to the station where you think the train is going to show up and you go at about the right time, and you catch the train because you know it’s going to be there.
To just do what you’ve always done, is a little dangerous in an industry which is bound to be some disruption. If you talk to your clients and ask them what they have going on and where they are, they’ll tell you what they want and what they don’t want. Number one, get to know the clients and what they need. Then be mindful of what other people are doing. That there are folks from other industries, not just from the life side, but there are folks coming, coming into insurance to offer insurance a little differently. Whether it’s Lemonade, or Google or Facebook or somebody else.
If you just sit around and wait, that’s not a good plan. I just watched that movie, World War Z with Brad Pitt. It was a post-apocalyptic walking deadish. He made a sign that, “I’ve been in a lot of bad places. I found that people who keep moving survive, and people who sit around, don’t.” I think that talk to your clients and keep innovating, even when it’s not obvious that there’s a need for it. I would say think about that. Adding life is one of those things they should at least consider and the products will at least make it a little easier now than maybe it would have been 10 years ago.
Michael: If somebody did reach out to you about this, Chris, what could you do for them? What kind of help could you provide?
Chris: I consulted with, might have mentioned that earlier, probably over 1,000 business owners in the last 20 to 25 years. Whether they’re running an agency or their agents are entrepreneurs of whatever size business, I do consults, I sit on people’s boards, I do retreats, corporate retreats for senior management to sit down for a day and walk them through it. I built sales training programs for people in telecom, to folks in insurance on both sides, to an investment management firm. This is some of what I do. I like to find unique paths to success that are based on the culture and the skills and the client base of the client, the customer and then what they want to accomplish. That’s some of the stuff that I do.
Michael: Your book is available on Amazon and other places, right? 6 Secrets to Leveraging Success?
Chris: Yes. My website has a bunch of a lot of resources.
Michael: That’s right, you have a lot of as I recall free content that’s available, as I recall.
Chris: I do. Much to the demise of my or to the dismay of my marketing team there’s a lot of free stuff out there. There’s some stuff for sale and there’s a lot of free stuff too. The https://thechrisjarvis.com. T-H-E and then my first name is Chris, C-H-R-I-S, and my last name is Jarvis, J-A-R-V-I-S.
Michael: hhttps://thechrisjarvis.com and so people can visit your site. Is there any other way that you encourage people to find out more about you or reach out to you?
Chris: I’m on LinkedIn and all the other good social media stuff. I think you can get to all that from the website, or in LinkedIn. I have some free chapters of books, and a bunch of videos and things that they want to get some idea of what the heck I’m like and read testimonials and all that stuff that I can be of assistance. I just enjoy trying to help business owners who are struggling. Crack the crystal ceiling and get to another level.
Michael: Crack the crystal ceiling. Okay, Chris, this has been a delight and eye-opening. I really, really appreciate you spending time with us today.
Chris: My pleasure. It’s been a lot of fun.
Michael: You bet.
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