There is plenty of talk these days about technology changing the workplace, even replacing humans. Can it happen with selling insurance? Are insurance agents being phased out? With so many tech changes in the world, what will you need to do to compete in the years ahead? And what’s popcorn got to do with it? Stay tuned . . .

Technology Selling

First, let’s all agree with the proposition that the industry is woefully behind the times when it comes to tech. A few enterprising agents and companies are changing that view:

Brian Greenberg — We’ve talked about Brian before in a previous article. Brian used some basic knowledge about search engine optimization, combined with an easy-to-use anonymous online quote system to propel him to the million dollar round table.

Gary Savelli — Online insurance sales made simple. A 35-year veteran in the industry, Gary’s online selling success goes way back to 1998. He developed a formula for using social media, Google Ad Words, web videos and efficient website design with an anonymous quote system, including a mobile app, to dramatically improve his agency’s online sales. Best of all, he’ll do the same for you for a reasonable fee at Insurance-Web-Sales.com

Insurify/Snejina Zacharia — Insurify can turn a picture you snap of your license plate into an instant anonymous quote. The system scours millions of records to verify personal information and driving history, then delivers a comparison quote by text, along some suggestions on additional coverage.

Then you have the Silicon Valley players who threw an estimated $2.65 billion at insurance tech start-ups like CBInsights, Lemonade and Policy Genius. It appears many see the antiquated insurance industry ripe for picking. Especially where old time industry players make you wait days for a simple quote or require a complete family genealogy before they’ll even think of responding. Now it’s not just a speedy response that counts, although Geico did well with their “15 minutes can save you 15%” commercials, it’s about real customer convenience and, in our opinion, the ability to get a totally anonymous quote. Hey…people just don’t like to be bugged.

This is probably a good time to add that the technology that drives better insurance sales is not limited to the Internet, mobile apps or search engine optimization. It’s also about effective communication. How’s your phone system working these days? Given the new technology in phones, there is no excuse for customers not reaching you, even if you are working from home. VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) phones use virtual switching to route customers to any place you have an Internet connection. Add features like eFax, remote forwarding to your cell and you won’t miss that next inquiry…unless, by mistake, you choose to use auto attendants or hide behind your voicemail. Yes, despite the new technology and anonymous quote trend, when someone finally decides they need to call you, answering your phones live is an effective marketing strategy!

Now A Word About Popcorn

Ok, we’ve determined that everyone is pledging new allegiance to online sales, automation, social media exposure and anonymous quotes to improve agency sales. And, they work, if implemented and maintained. So why has Google recently backed off on it’s online insurance comparison-shopping deal with CoverHound? This was supposed to be a nationwide system to instantly quote for multiple carriers and the almighty Google was behind it! In our opinion, they learned, even feared, that the nitty-gritty of selling insurance goes beyond quick quotes. Real coverage and real premium discussions mean you have to actually talk to someone! Sure, there will be customers who gravitate to automation and actually prefer to avoid human contact, but without some living, thinking, brain cells in the picture, one could end up with some genuine coverage gaps and that could spell l-i-a-b-i-l-i-t-y.

All right, you’ve waited long enough, now you get to hear about popcorn. Enter Carly Hiteman, a second generation insurance pro who is fully automated and equipped in the social media skills needed to generate meaningful online activity. Just as important, however, she has the old-fashioned customer service sensibility that can turn online prospects into premium sales…year after year. Heck, she even serves her customers fresh popcorn from a funky popcorn machine in the center of her insurance office! Who else does that? Of course, it’s not only the popcorn that makes Carly different. Take a look at this agency owner video she made for Allstate and tell me she isn’t someone you could trust and want to do business with.

So, do you have to run out and get a popcorn machine? Not exactly. The future of insurance selling will focus first on technology and analytics to deliver more online interest. The agents that are successful in converting that interest to sales and backing it up with legacy type customer service will prevail…perhaps thrive…against the pure techno-geeks and some well-funded, mega players. Even the online gurus like Insurify’s Zacharia admit that while a few Jakes (referring to the State Farm khaki-clad TV pitchman) will go by the wayside, others, like the Carley Hiteman’s of the world, will do 10 times their current volume just because insurance buyers still need guidance and still recognize the value in good service.

Want to be successful selling insurance ahead? Crank up your tech skills and start making your own brand of popcorn!