Web Leads and the Art of Digital Prospecting for Productivity

Insights from an Entrepreneurial Insurance Agent

August 5, 2009

How do top insurance producers build successful businesses in the digital age? How can agents and brokers expand their sales pipeline, and profitably reach the growing pool of prospects looking for insurance over the Web?

All Web Leads sat down to talk with Chuck Taggart, an entrepreneurial agent selling health insurance in New England, about how he uses web leads in his business. Chuck is a sales leader, setting records in 2008 by writing more than $3 million in new premiums.

Digital prospecting is only part of his success story. The bigger picture is knowing how best to manage the new sales cycle and optimize productivity. When talking to Chuck, what's clear is the impact of the digital multiplier -- being able to accomplish more than 90 hours of work with under 40 hours of actual effort.

We call this working smarter -- seamlessly connecting with customers, determining what they need, identifying the best opportunities, and then presenting them with the right offers to make the sale. Let's consider what Chuck has to say and how his experiences can affect your business.

AWL: Can you tell us how and why you got started as an insurance agent?

Chuck: I'm an engineer by training. Early in my career I developed some software that would write reports automatically. I am used to solving problems by thinking about the overall system, from beginning to end.

I got into the insurance business because I liked being rewarded for my own efforts.

The insurance industry is one of those places where if you work hard you can do well, as long as you serve your clients well. But you also have to figure out how best to use your time.

AWL: You now get many of your leads over the web. How have these web leads changed the way you're doing business?

Chuck: In Massachusetts I just use web leads; in other New England states I have many different lead sources -- post cards, radio ads, yellow pages, and even doing trade shows. It's important to get exposure wherever you can. It's also important to track the numbers. For my marketing, the biggest bang for the buck are web leads.

What I like best are the ratios. If I send out 1,000 post cards to a predefined list, I expect to get two sales -- one almost immediately and another 6 months from now (roughly a 0.2% conversion rate). With web leads, I have a much better ratio -- a sale for every 11 leads (approximately a 9% conversion rate). If I buy 1,000 leads, then I expect 90 sales. Thus if I want to increase my sales by 20 percent, (and who doesn't), then I need to acquire 20 percent more leads -- and figure out ways to process them more efficiently.

AWL: Certainly efficiency is important for profitability. What have you done to increase your productivity?

Chuck: I can always come up with ideas to take 90 hours of work and reduce it to 40 hours of effort. In the process, I improve my profitability by becoming much more efficient.

I've developed my own automated processes to help manage the flow of leads and close sales. I have an integrated lead management system -- a computer on the network that tracks my e-mail and helps me keep track of all the prospects.

Acting quickly is very important when buying web leads. It's best if you can get to your prospects right away, while they are still sitting in front of their computer.

When a lead comes in, my system will read the email, extract the contact information, store it in a database, and automatically generate an acknowledgement. Then I am able to follow up and rely on the computer system to manage the call list. I'll give the prospect a call, run through what we have in general, see if it's a good fit, and if it is I'll go out and see what we can do for them.

I can also save a lot of time by using my integrated system when I need to leave a voice message. Last year I bought about 4,200 leads, and when I added it up had I left about 10,000 messages. Now when people don't answer the phone, I rely on the computer to leave the voice message. When you do the math, the time savings is enormous. Take 10,000 messages and estimate that you'll need 1.5 minutes to leave a message -- you're spending 15,000 minutes per year on voice mail. This is over six weeks of my time that I can do something else with -- like take a vacation or buy more leads.

Web leads are just the beginning of the sales funnel. It's all about telescoping time, making yourself more efficient, and thinking about how the person responds on the other end.

AWL: Where should agents concentrate their efforts when working web leads?

Chuck: It's important to focus on sales techniques, think strategically, and invest wisely. It helps to be data driven.

I know that if I work my way down the list of prospects where I call a lead and get the person on the phone with the first call, I have a one in eight (1:8) chance of closing a sale. If it's the second call, then then I also have a one in eight (1:8) chance. After that the third call drops to one in eighteen (1:18) and the fourth to one in twenty three (1:23).

If you have 100 leads in front of you that are on the fourth call, then there are four deals out there. But instead of focusing on these old leads, if you bought 100 new leads, you would have a one in eight shot, and there are 12 sales in the pile.

Of course you'll have to spend money on the new leads. But it is actually more profitable to stop calling the old list and focus on new leads. So I emphasize with agents that you're spending the same amount of time and the same number of phone calls, but you can be more profitable. It helps to know how best to invest your time and effort.

AWL: Thank you, Chuck, for all of your insights.