At an industry conference, an independent agency owner in upstate New York relayed how he expanded his business among existing personal lines accounts by one-third over the course of several years. A part-time customer service rep would come into the office for several hours on Fridays and call accounts who had one or two policies with the agency, talking about the importance of personal umbrella policies and offering free quotes. Of course, she left a lot of voicemail messages. The owner told me, "In the first year or two, nothing really happened. We didn't sell very much. But suddenly, people started asking for quotes and started buying umbrellas."

To what did he attribute the change in reception? "With this young lady leaving friendly messages year after year maybe they felt if it was important to her to call, it should be important to them, too."

What strikes me most about this success? The agency owner had the smarts to stay with what initially appeared to be a failed effort.

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