We conducted a small survey of personal lines insurance agents to see who's purchasing internet leads and learned that most agents have purchased internet leads in the past, but 60% of them no longer do.
It was a small sample of 200 agencies and nearly 86% said they purchased leads in the past, but only 31% of them still do today. The biggest reason for no longer buying them was price and quality. Anyone who has ever purchased internet leads knows the drill.
You engage with a lead provider and they tell you that they generate their own leads, only sell them to 2-3 agents and that you'll close 10-20% of what you buy. You sign up believing you finally found the holy grail of internet leads and go 0 for 100.
You call the lead provider, yell, scream, threaten to dispute your credit card and they give you a bunch of credits to try again. You eventually give up and come to the conclusion that internet leads stink and you're better off being a "referral based" agency. Sound familiar?
Then you receive an email promo for free leads so you try again and it's the same experience; over and over and over again. You decide that rather than buy leads, you're going to invest in SEO, SEM and generate your own leads. You invest thousands of dollars with a vendor and get little to no return on your investment, so it's back to being a referral-based, cross-selling agency, also known as your comfort zone.
These strategies may help
How do agents succeed with purchased internet leads? What's the secret? There's no secret sauce per se, but there are strategies you can implement that will help you convert online leads.
There are agencies building empires buying online leads with little to no branding of their own agency and it works for them. Even if you don't want to go to this extreme, isn't it possible to supplement your pipeline when self-generated business slows down?
First and foremost: Who is working this lead? If you have a 20-year veteran that's been a gatherer their entire life, you're setting them up for failure by handing them an internet lead and expecting them to hunt. Even a part-time business development rep that dials leads and transfers to licensed staff is more effective than a veteran that hates calling leads.
Secondly: Automating your sales process will help you immensely because when you're printing leads, emailing leads, handing them out and tracking them manually, there's no accountability and they’re difficult to measure. Having a scientific approach to your contact strategy is the difference between success and failure.
As agents, we're great at talking to prospects when they're on the phone, but getting them on the phone is not our strong suit. Having a cadence of calls, emails and text messages will enable you to develop this contact strategy and quote more leads than ever. If you're printing a lead and handing to John the 30-year veteran who is "good with clients" and is "a loyal employee" and “has great attendance” you're going to fail, period.
My favorite lead management solution is Velocify. Based in El Segundo, California, they've developed a contact strategy based on the actions taken on over 4 million converted leads and it works! By automating this part of the sales process you'll have access to data you never imagined.
Maybe you'll realize that certain risk profiles or lead providers convert best for your agency. You'll know who in your agency is most effective at contacting leads, what time of day you're most effective, how many times it takes to reach a new prospect and dozens of data points you can tweak to make yourself more effective. For the cost of 2-3 policies per month, you could buy five seats and it'll pay for itself 10 times over.
Third: You see, when you buy online leads, they are sold to more than one agent and chances are, the prospect went to several sites. This means they're receiving calls from agents and many prospects will try to get you off the phone as soon as you introduce yourself. The worst thing you can do when calling an online lead is ask if they'd like to get a quote from you. Of course they want a quote; they didn't fill out a contact form with all of their rating information for fun. I've consulted with agents that contact 60%-70% of their leads, but only quote 30% of them. After listening to recorded calls, the number one reason is failing to overcome that initial objection; "I already bought", "I'm busy", "not right now", etc. The best way to prepare is not to ask if they want a quote but jump right in and don't give them a chance to say no.
Last but not least: Speed to contact. Having a cadence is important, but according to Velocify a lead is 391% more likely to convert when contacted in under one minute and that percentage drops in half after 2 minutes. If you walked into a department store and wanted to buy an item, would you wait an hour or a day at the register to buy? No, you'd put the item back on the shelf, walk out of the store and buy elsewhere.
Bonus step: When you convert online leads, you'll learn that clients found online will refer friends and family exactly the same way clients from other sources do. Track referrals from online leads and attribute these referrals to the lead provider when calculating cost per sale by lead provider.
Be more effective when buying online leads
To recap, here's how to be more effective when buying online leads:
- Have the right people calling, quoting and converting leads. We need hunters, not gatherers.
- Automate your sales process with a Lead Management Solution. Not CRM, not Agency Management, not Excel, but a true Lead Management Solution. Take a scientific approach to your contact strategy to include a blend of calls, emails and texting. Use the data you gain to make future decisions on staffing, lead providers, risk characteristics and other valuable points.
- Overcome that initial objection when calling a prospect, and they answer the phone. Practice together, be prepared and don't fear objections.
- Speed to contact is the number one driver of conversion is a study of over 4 million converted leads from Velocify. Speed to contact increases your chances of conversion by 391%.
- Believe you're going to succeed. If you believe internet leads don't work and your staff believes the same, you're right! They won't work. Ask for referrals and cross-sell to increase your return on investment and obviously improve retention.
Eighty-five percent (85%) of consumers initiate insurance research online, but the good news is most of those inquiries end up on the phone with an insurance professional. Companies are investing billions of dollars annually to drive consumers online because it's effective. Independent agencies can capitalize on this using a blend of technology, sales and our unique expertise that consumers will never find in a call center.
Stuart Ganis (firstname.lastname@example.org) is 27-year insurance veteran, agency owner and founder of Ganis Consulting. The firm serves insurance agencies, carriers and technology companies focused on retail insurance distribution in areas of sales, marketing and M&A advisory. Follow Stuart on social @StuartGanis. To learn more visit www.GanisCo.com.