Throttling It Up to 110%

October 22, 2012 Laird Rixford

From my dad to coaches and everyone in between would tell me to give 110%. Being rooted in logic and mathematical numbers, I always thought how can you give more than 100% when 100% is all you have?

I was a huge Space Shuttle fan. I watched every launch, knew every detail, and even tried to become an astronaut until they told me that being 6'5' tall pretty much ruled that out. One of the things that has continued to intrigue me about the Space Shuttle was that it normally operated at 104.5% power and even as high as 111% in emergencies. How could these super smart rocket scientists get it wrong and allow something to do more than what it could do? Was I missing something?

During a visit to NASA in Florida I asked about my quandary and was answered with the following, 'The shuttle's engines can only run up to 100% of their ability.' Sweet vindication! The rocket scientist continued, 'The reason you hear numbers over 100% is due to the fact that the performance is rated against the original design to keep in line with the test data.' Wow, that makes way too much sense. Maybe those scientists can keep their degrees for another day.

With that in mind, during the following 15 years as I started my career, I was driven by the following philosophy: to get more work done, do not work harder or smarter, just more efficiently.

Throttle up your agency

Insurance agents are consistently overworked. You are part salesperson, part insurance expert, and part crisis mitigator. With all that is going on, how could you possibly spend time on growing your business while balancing your work with friends and family? Work more hours? Work weekends? Skip a soccer game? No one wants that. Instead make you and your agency more efficient. Redefine 100%.

"Go for throttle up"

How can you make your agency more efficient? The first step is to automate internal processes as much as possible. The first step is with an agency management system. This allows you to easily find customers, look up policy details, download policy updates and electronically file and store documents within a customer's record. A good management system can save an agent hours of work each and every single day.

The next improvement is with a comparative rating system. If you are writing through more than ONE carrier website than you need a comparative rater. The reason is twofold.
Single Quote Entry
Why input the insured's details on more than one website? Why train agents how to login and navigate multiple carrier websites? Why repeat the process when you receive a new piece of information that affects the consumer's quote? With a great rating system you would be able to insert, update and re-rate quotes in a fraction of the time it takes to use a carrier website.

With most quotes being handled over the phone you have less than two minutes to collect information and return a quote to customer. You would be hard pressed to do this within a single carrier's website, let alone more. A well laid out rating system will allow you to quickly ask the questions required and return a quote within those two precious minutes. If you currently use a rating system that takes more than four minutes (start to finish) to quote and return rates, it is time that you look at upgrading to a system that fits your more efficient needs. I cannot stress this next point enough. If you have to call back a prospect with a rate, then two things are happening: you are spending too much time quoting and the likelihood of that consumer going elsewhere increases exponentially.

Putting marketing on autopilot

An automated marketing strategy is key for your agency. This allows you to spend more time quoting and servicing your customers versus worrying about tedious follow ups, which often fall between the cracks anyway.

The first way to automate your agency's marketing is to have a great website. It should quickly capture visitors and drive them to a quote or contact page through a clear and concise call to action. The next function of a website is to educate customers when you cannot. Finally, your website should be used as a landing page for your email marketing ...

... which automatically sends follow up emails in a drip fashion to your prospects. Once a prospect fills out a form on your website or you insert a customer into your rating/management system the drip process should be initiated automatically. Each line of business should have its own string of emails that are dedicated to closing the prospect.

Once closed, your marketing system is not finished. It should transition to the role of retention and referral marketing. How often are you touching your customers? If not at least a quarterly basis then you need to start because consumers are getting inundated with marketing from your competition who are actively trying to take your customer.

Getting some downtime

During the ascent of the Space Shuttle as aerodynamic pressures increase, the shuttle is throttled down to 72% to relieve stress on the vehicle. The goal of owning your own agency is to make a living. Living includes fun while not working at times. However, when you throttle down a bit to have that long deserved vacation, know that your agency is working more efficiently than it did before so when you are getting 72% your agency is still working at 100%.

About the Author

Laird Rixford

As CEO, Laird Rixford is responsible for providing strategic direction and leadership for the company. Rixford has a proven executive management track record and has more than 20 years of experience in entrepreneurship and insurance technology. An expert in insurance technology and marketing, Laird is a recognized public speaker and has presented at industry events across the United States.

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