Why Sales Automation?

As the insurance landscape gets more and more competitive, it’s more important than ever to provide the best products and service to customers.

But comparative raters are turning customers’ heads in the direction of a good price, making that more difficult for independent agents. In order to compete, agencies must focus on their main purpose: being a trusted adviser who safeguards and protects what matters most.

My agency, FCIS Insurance, is always looking for new ways to grow and create new opportunities. Recently, we reevaluated how our sales organization was managing new and renewal business processes.

We found that our sales process essentially consisted of activities within our agency management system and spreadsheets—which took time away from current clients and resulted in missed opportunities. Like many other traditional agencies, our staff was so busy with manual, administrative tasks that it was difficult to give customers the level of service they wanted.

In May 2017, we embarked on a digital transformation, adopting new technology to automate operations and better connect with our staff, insureds and insurers. We implemented a foundational management system to manage our entire agency, along with integrated mobile technologies to better connect with customers.

To create the full digital agency-customer experience, we took advantage of the sales automation capability within our management system, Applied Epic. With fully integrated sales automation, our management system enables us to manage sales opportunities, pipeline, forecasting and activities.

Sales automation has driven success at my agency in three main ways:

1) We spend less time on administrative tasks, and more time on the customer.

As agents, one of the most precious things we have is time. There is always something we could be doing, like prospecting new business or following up with current clients. Sales automation takes many of these processes and does them for you.

Previously, I would track leads via spreadsheet, specifying whether they originated from the internet, a phone call or an event. Then, I would correlate them with another spreadsheet, tracking the number of policies sold for an idea of where my sales were coming from.

Altogether, it took me about two or three days each month, and it was not as accurate as I would have liked it to be.

Now that sales automation is integrated into my agency management system, I can track and report on the leads and sales we have directly within my management system, removing the need for duplicate entry and providing powerful real-time data and visualizations that used to take me days to create.

Sales automation provides me with dashboards such as new business opportunities, employee productivity, renewal date timelines, follow-up activities and more. This process now takes me about three to four hours each month—a 96% decrease in time spent managing sales reports.

What do I do with that time now? Focus on the customer.

2) We follow a sale from lead to insured.

Without our customers, we don’t have a business. Sales automation technology enables our agency to better connect with our customers so we can give them the best service possible. We now leverage technology from the very first interaction with a prospect to input their information and get the sales cycle started.

Because my agency is heavily focused on commercial lines business, we attend many tradeshows and events in order to meet with our customers or find new prospects. Before our digital transformation, it was all too easy to get prospect or customer information, then either lose the piece of paper it was on or forget to input the information into our management system after the event.

Now, our sales cycle has come full circle. We leverage a mobile app to input the information into our management system in real time. All data is constantly refreshed as new prospects are added into the system, so we never have to worry that a prospect list or report is outdated by the time it gets into the hands of the user.

In this way, our management system automatically adds the prospect into the sales automation process, enabling our staff to follow up when the time is right.

Sales automation then provides us with a number of capabilities that give us valuable insights into our prospects and customers, enabling us to more easily follow up on sales efforts.

For example, we can input a prospect’s policy expiration date into our system so that we are notified to follow up with them close to that date. Or, we can follow a sale from lead to insured, with as much information about the client as possible, from the very beginning.

3) We gain visibility into our sales pipeline.

Sales automation has dramatically impacted organic growth at FCIS Insurance. It provides our producers with graphical dashboards that drive them to hit their goals each month because their progress is right in front of them.

With such unprecedented, granular visibility into individual clients, our producers can peel back each layer of the onion and see where there are holes in a client’s coverage or when their current policy will expire.

Considering that 86% of a producer’s earnings are typically generated from their renewal business, according to an average from several years of the Big “I” Best Practices Study, it was critical for us to find a technology that would enable us to better track these transactions. Sales automation provides our producers with specific automation renewal pipeline dashboards so they can track when customers are due for a renewal—then follow up when the time is right so they never miss a renewal.

Our previous processes felt like we were reaching into a bucket and pulling out random prospects to follow up with. Now, our producers are meticulous about who to follow up with and when, driving sales and positively impacting our bottom line.

Similarly, our producers now have greater visibility into their new business pipeline so they can track and forecast new business opportunities. On the dashboard, producers can see all of their new business opportunities, sorted by the current sales process stage and probability of closing.

Additionally, producers can easily change their sorts based on preference, including estimated revenue or premium, source of the account, target close date and more.

One very important way we forecast opportunities is by requiring the estimated premium field when producers are inputting prospect information. Even though this information may be relatively unknown at the very beginning of the process, it can be updated at any point and can make a real difference when using the sales funnel dashboard.

Our sales managers also have a manager-level view that enables them to keep an eye on larger opportunities based on premium or revenue target. This sales funnel dashboard presents managers with a literal funnel of largest to smallest opportunities based on revenue.

Finally, the executive-level dashboard provides me, as president, with the highest revenue-generating opportunities for the entire agency. Each of these dashboards provides a 30-day forecast  so we are able to keep track of all opportunities at all times.

Since implementing sales automation technology into our agency’s processes, we have seen a significant improvement in operational efficiency and growth. Sales automation has given us the confidence to push for higher sales goals and the comfort to focus on servicing our customers.

In today’s market, it’s critical to free up time to focus on advising and servicing your customers. Sales automation can help you streamline processes so you can focus on your customers—because if you don’t, someone else will.

Courtney Wooge is president of FCIS Insurance, an independent agency headquartered in Forest City, Iowa.