Volume 12, Issue 5 - September/October 2010

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Seven Tips for Working with Insurance Agents
Inside Tips from an Insurance Agent —and Former Auto Glass Business Rep
by Penny Stacey

Five years ago, Steve Pierick was working for Binswanger Glass (part of Vitro America) from his home in Madison, Wis. He was traveling non-stop, and, though he had been working in the auto glass industry for 21 years (he originally was with the former Auto Glass Specialists), he decided he needed a change.

“I was traveling 100 percent of the time,” he says. “I actually lived in Madison, Wis. … but my office was in Memphis, Tenn.”

But Pierick, who once was a member of the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standards (AGRSS) Council Inc.’s Standards Committee, wasn’t sure exactly what to do next; he knew he wanted to branch out and own his own business, though—that was a must.

“I considered [opening] a glass shop just very briefly, and really felt it was time for a change,” he says.

And that change came in the form of a major industry switch—Pierick decided to become an agent for State Farm, for whom he still works today. Pierick recently took the time to offer the following tips for auto glass businesses working with insurance agents during an interview with AGRR magazine.

1. Set your company apart from others.
“Find ways to differentiate yourself,” says Pierick. “Every glass shop pretty much looks the same unless there is a service problem. Be creative. Come up with ways to serve the public better and differently than anyone else.”

And, he says, it’s important to “think outside the box.”

“Start with wild, crazy, expensive, never-could-possibly-do features, advantages or benefits,” advises Pierick. “Then strategize and massage the ideas, and find a way they can actually work, and that would get the consumer, the insurance company and the agent to say ‘wow!’”

He adds, “Differentiation, in any business, is crucial to sustained growth and profitability in my opinion.”

2. Develop relationships with insurance agents.
Though there often are legal limitations on how involved an agent and an auto glass shop might be, whether incentives are acceptable, etc., Pierick suggests using creative ways to develop relationships with them and to catch their attention—and help them as well.

“For example, you might send articles about a particular subject of interest sent to their offices,” he says.

If you’re going to send trinkets or keepsakes to agents (and if this is acceptable in your state), Pierick suggests being creative with these as well.

“Lose the scratch pads,” he jokes.

3. Provide your own referrals.
If you are looking to develop a relationship with an agent, you can try to help them out in less direct ways than offering a trinket, too. Sometimes, that might mean sending your customers their way.

“You also can refer business to an agent,” Pierick suggests.

4. Inform, inform, inform.
If you’re not ready to take the plunge of offering referrals, even supplying information can prove helpful.

“Provide information that would be helpful to an agent in marketing their various lines of insurance,” says Pierick.

Many in the industry hold continuing education classes for insurance agents to not only help them develop their knowledge of why a proper auto glass installation is important, but also to gain continuing education credits to maintain their agent licenses.

“Every glass shop pretty much looks the same unless there is a service problem. Be creative. Come up with ways to serve the public better and differently than anyone else.”
—Steve Pierick, State Farm

5. Update your marketing plan continually.
Even if you develop a good system for working with and marketing to insurance agents, it’s important to continually re-evaluate the methods you’re using.

“I see many glass shops stuck in their ways,” says Pierick. “They’ve managed sales, service and marketing the same old way for years. No one really stands out for any particular reason.”

6. Keep your marketing plan above-ground.
No matter what avenue you choose, Pierick encourages auto glass businesses to make sure that whatever they’re doing to get insurance agents’ attention is in compliance with the law. “Stay way from under-the-table rebates to team members, free ‘whatevers’ for a glass claim,” he says. “Take the high road, and maintain your professionalism.”

7. Remember that consumer choice rules.
Though many auto glass business owners attempt to attract agents’ attention or develop relationships with them, Pierick stresses that, in the end, it’s most important that you try to reach the consumer, even those who utilize agents. “Most agents and companies are giving the consumer the choice,” he says. “Find ways to make sure you are that choice.”

Penny Stacey is the editor of AGRR magazine.


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