People around the country are selling insurance from home in numbers never seen before. Some are forced to, due to the COVID lockdown, and others have been doing it for years as an independent agent.
There are pros and cons to selling insurance from home. We'll take a look at those pros and cons, as well as talk about some key things you can do to set yourself up for success.
Pros of working from home
You no longer must worry about the commute to an office. You’ll save money on gas, wear, and tear on your vehicle, and gain additional time as well.
With less distractions going on around you and more time available to you, your productivity may increase, as long as you can use your time wisely.
With additional time and the ability to set your own hours, you can spread out all of your job-related tasks and family related tasks to get everything done as efficiently and conveniently as possible.
Fewer sick days
Being exposed to fewer people will decrease your exposure to illness in general. In addition, most people take a sick day not because they are unable to work, but because they have a cold or flu that is contagious and could get co-workers sick.
Working from home will allow you to work even if you have a slight fever, or a runny nose that would normally gross out a co-worker. You can gross yourself out while still being productive, even if it is at a slower pace.
Provides work life balance
All of the above reasons help to create a positive work life balance.
Cons of working from home
Although working from home can be more productive, you may not cope well being isolated, depending on your personality type.
You’ll find that many of the points on the Pros list can also be cons, depending on your personality. Working from home can be distracting if you don’t have a dedicated workspace setup and you don’t have the discipline to stay focused.
This is another one that could go either way. If you have a problem separating your work life from your home life you will find your work calling out to you at all hours, and your work-life balance will suffer.
Home office costs
At an office your employer is paying for the space and equipment. If you’re working from a home office you are your employer, so those costs are coming from your pocket.
You will be home all day long which means your lights will be on in your home and the heating or cooling will be running all day long as well. The additional costs may not be huge but should be considered.
Whether you see working from home as a Pro or a Con will largely depend on your personality and level of self-discipline. It will require a well thought out disciplined approach to be successful.
Now that we have an idea of the pros and cons, let’s look as what it will take to get to get setup for success while working from home.
⍟ Treat Your Workspace Like an Office
To work from home effectively you will need a dedicated workspace. It doesn’t have to be a dedicated office, but it should be a relatively quiet space with all the tools and supplies required to do your job efficiently.
Now’s the time to get the office furniture you deserve. This is no place to cut corners. You will be spending most of your day in this space and you will make it easier to work efficiently by getting comfortable furniture that will allow you to maximize the time you spend there.
This doesn’t have to be very expensive process. There are plenty of options for comfortable, ergonomic, office furniture these days. Even stand-up desk converters have become affordable and allow you the option to sit and stand at your desk.
If you work from a space that does double duty, just accept the fact that you may have to take a few minutes in the morning and at the end of the day to setup and break down your workspace a bit.
It’s worth the effort so that your workspace doesn’t feel like a kitchen island or spare bedroom while you’re working. When you’re done working and remove all the work-related items, it will feel like home again and not like an office.
If you haven’t worked from home before, trust me, this will be a big deal down the road. You want to be able to draw the line between your work time and down time.
⍟ Schedule Your Day and Commit to it.
Organization and Motivation are key success factors when you work remote.
If you’re the kind of person who dreads work on Sunday evening then you may find it difficult working from home. That bed or couch is going to look awfully inviting when you’re trying to force yourself to get work done.
When you work remote, you are your own boss. If you can’t motivate yourself, there is no one else looking over your shoulder to ensure you do. You need to be brutally honest with yourself.
It takes a highly self-motivated individual to be successful working from home. You need to be able to settle in, get working, and remain busy regardless of what distractions may present themselves.
Nevertheless, even if you don’t have that internal motivator, there are things you can do to help you stay productive while working from home.
One of the best ways to stay productive is to set lots of little goals. Completing small tasks can give you a feeling of accomplishment as you cross them off your list. A schedule or list of your tasks can help a lot with this.
Don’t think of your schedule as just a list of time related goals. There doesn’t have to be time constraints, unless that is a specific factor for the tasks you’re working on.
Creating a list of individual tasks that need to be accomplished will not only help clear the clutter in your head, but it will give you a good perspective on how much work needs to be done and how long it might take.
This will really help rid yourself of that feeling of overwhelm when you’ve got a lot of tasks to complete and you’re unsure which to do first.
Getting it all out on paper gives your mind a rest from processing the information over and over again.
Now you just need to make sense of which order you need to do them and arrange them appropriately. This becomes more obvious once you start to list out your tasks.
Making a schedule and having the motivation to get that work done are two separate issues. Nevertheless, having individual tasks broken out into list form makes it easy to get one simple task done at a time.
Once you start that practice you soon realize it feels good to scratch items off your list, and the work gets done with less intrinsic motivation.
⍟ Get the Tools you Need to be Efficient
Quality Computer. Nowadays laptops are powerful enough to run just about any software you could find.
As an Insurance Agent it’s unlikely you will need the most powerful computer available. Laptops offer enough power to do what you need, and you'll have the flexibility to take it with you as needed.
Avoid buying the lower end laptops, if possible, as they are much more prone to issue like freezing or the dreaded blue screen of death. They simply aren’t made to last.
When running a business, your time, and the information you store is valuable. Don’t waste your time and risk losing the information you store on your computer by purchasing a dirt-cheap laptop.
Purchase from a well-known name brand. You will get a higher quality and a better warranty which will pay off if you have mechanical issues. The time and headache that can come from going cheap on a computer will hurt your bottom line and your sanity.
If you are comfortably working on the laptop monitor, go for it, but there are better ways. Just because it’s a laptop doesn’t mean you can’t have a comfortable sized monitor to use.
There are several tools you will need if you are planning on working from home. There are also a lot of accessories that may help improve your workflow and productivity.
Let’s take a look at some of the more important tools and accessories.
Docking station. A docking station will allow you to connect your laptop to other accessories, such as a larger monitor, external speakers, mouse, keyboard etc.
This will give you the functionality of a full-size desktop, with the flexibility to disconnect your laptop and move to a different spot if you need to.
Full sized keyboard. A full-sized keyboard is usually more comfortable and ergonomic than a laptop keyboard. This will come down to personal preference, but is a very inexpensive way to gain efficiency, and work in a more ergonomic position.
Headset. Making sales calls is hard enough without missing parts of a conversation. There are many good quality brands to choose from. You don’t need the most expensive headset, but don’t settle for the least expensive either.
The quality of your audio is probably the most important factor for an agent working from home. You could get away with using inexpensive camera, or even your iphone for video, as long as you audio is crystal clear.
This is a better scenario than having a great camera but terrible audio. At the end of the day, your customers, above all else need to hear you clearly.
Webcam. Hopefully you’ll be looking at using video calls as well as phone/audio calls. The rising popularity of video makes it an acceptable communication method for business.
Technology has brought the price down so that a good quality (HD or better) cameras are inexpensive and plentiful. An important point to remember when it comes to video cameras is the lighting of the space you will be recording in.
With proper lighting a bad camera may look good, and a good camera might look great. If your space is a bit dark, consider additional LED lighting to give you the proper lighting. It will be worth every penny. If you’re going to bother with video, then you have to pay attention to the lighting.
A window is a great source of free lighting. Natural light will go a long way in helping your customers see you clearly on a budget. If you can, set yourself up so that you are facing the window and your lighting should be fine.
Larger Monitor. More screen real estate means you can have multiple windows open at the same time and therefore have access to more information quickly.
Get the largest monitor you can reasonably fit in your workspace. You will rarely find yourself wishing for less screen size.
If you have a laptop this is even more important. Most laptops will have the ability to connect a monitor directly. If this doesn’t work for you, then you can use a docking station to get connected to a monitor, and many other laptop accessories.
External Speakers. Not necessary, especially if you’re using a headset, but if you like to work with background music, they are inexpensive and may be worth your while.
Printer. If you plan on doing little printing, then it may not matter too much which printer you get. Most are wireless now, so you can hide it in a different room or a closet if you’re tight on space.
If you plan on printing documents, especially contracts, then you might want to investigate something a little more substantial, maybe even a laser printer. It can be a time-consuming task to wait on an inkjet printer to print multiple page documents every day.
When shopping for a printer don’t forget to check the price of ink before your purchase. Also be sure to look at the amount of ink the cartridges hold so you can compare apples to apples. Some printers seem like a great deal, until you figure in the cost of the ink compared to other printers.
Adjustable Chair. The type of chair you use is probably more important than your choice of desk. With an adjustable chair you can conform to sitting at a variety of desk sizes with the same chair. It is worth spending money on a chair that offers ergonomic adjustments, including back support, seat and arm height and other adjustments.
Stand Up Desk Converter. Stand up desk units come in all sizes, shapes and price points. Along with the chair this is one of the pieces that can have the most positive affect on your health.
Being able to stand while working will make a big difference in your overall health and your energy level throughout the day. Sitting most of the day has a greater chance of making you feel tired and lethargic.
Being able to stand when you feel the need allows you to stretch and change positions, bringing several health benefits.
⍟ Don't forget About Human Interaction
You can only work alone without human interaction for so long, even if you are making calls all day. Luckily you have a laptop and can occasionally head to the nearest coffee shop and setup for a few hours.
Working from home will require you to be proactive in planning out your week. Not only so you can schedule the work that needs to be done, but so you can decide where you want to work for an occasional alternate workspace.
If you can plan your tasks that don't require you to make phone calls for a certain time of day, it makes for a nice change of pace to sit and work at a coffee shop, bookstore, or cafe.
⍟ Selling Over the Phone
When making calls from home there are a few things to consider as opposed to working from an office. If you’ve ever been on a cell call and could hear every background sound within 100’ of the caller, you’ll know that background noise is the biggest challenge to overcome.
Cell phones are great multipurpose devices but not the best for actual phone calls. The microphone and speaker in a cell phone are extremely small and not a very high quality.
Luckily there is a simple solution. Headphones with an integrated microphone will change the quality of a cell phone call completely. (as long as you have a good cell connection)
Your ability to hear your customer and for your customer to hear you is crucial. Using a quality headset for your calls will remove the risk of not being heard or worse, being seen as unprofessional.
Imagine talking to a salesman and hearing noise in the background and the occasional missed word. Would that make it easier to buy from him?
Make certain of your call quality by testing it out. Use a friend’s phone to call your number and listen to it yourself. You need to ensure that the sound quality is clear and professional.
The next step is to reduce the possibility of background noise. Some of us that have kids will have a little tougher time with this, but it can be addressed.
Making calls in an enclosed room is a great first step. Adding a white noise machine can help reduce the ambient noise coming from outside the room as well.
Most of us are a little more understanding about people working from home these days, and a little background noise isn’t the end of the world.
Nevertheless, why take the chance. Do everything you can to increase the likelihood that you will sound clear and professional when on the phone. Let your customer know that they have your complete attention and focus.
Your cell phone signal quality will obviously play a factor as well. If you will be using your cell phone for calls and have a bad signal, then a headset isn’t going to fix that. If you have an area of the house that gets a good signal, then maybe that should be where you make your calls.
I recently had AT&T which had spotty coverage in my area, so I switched to Verizon which happens to have much better coverage in my area. Do whatever you need to do to ensure the best signal for your calls, or you will be fighting an uphill battle.
Aside from sound quality, remember to be prepared for your call before you dial. Whether that means accessing your CRM to have the customer’s information in front of you, or simply having pen and paper available to take appropriate notes.
Don’t start a call unless you are fully prepared. There is no reason to be fumbling around while you’re on the call with a client.
Hopefully it goes without saying that if you’re using a cell phone, then you need to have a charging cord in a convenient location. I use an extension cord to get the charging block right next to my desk, and a 10-foot-long charging cable. This gives me some room to pace around while I talk even with the phone charging.
You don’t want to be on a long phone call, sitting uncomfortably in a corner because your phone needs charging and you weren’t prepared.
⍟ Selling Via Video Call
Video calls and video conferencing have become almost commonplace. Whether it’s for business or just chatting with family, video is everything a phone call can be and more.
If you understand the psychology of sales then you will welcome video conferencing as a sales tool. Your job as a salesperson is to gain trust with your client, understand their problems and educate them accordingly.
Being seen by your client while you talk to them can be used to your advantage. Everything we said about your phone call strategy still applies here but we will expand on it.
We mentioned the equipment used for video calls above. Let’s look at the supporting measures you can take to have successful video calls.
Once you decide on a camera, you have your audio solution and your lighting is acceptable, you can start to think about your background.
Although some video conference software can change your background, it may still look a little off. It comes down top personal choice, but the background in the software may not always look correct. Sometimes it can fail entirely.
Rather than rely on the software background, find a way to make your actual background more acceptable. Purchase some shelves and a couple wall hangings to make a wall more presentable.
If you simply don’t have that option, try covering the background with a movable screen or room divider. Put some effort into making it look professional, or at least neat and presentable.
Once you have the setup make sure you test it out with a friend to ensure the audio quality, video quality, background, and lighting.
Don’t leave anything to chance. Do a live run through with your video software before you use it with a customer. Getting the bugs out before you make a sales call will make you more comfortable on the call and allow you to concentrate all your efforts on your customers.
As soon as you are ready to go live you can now approach your customers as if you were there in front of them. All the visual and social cues you lose on a phone call are now available to you. Your customers can be greeted with a friendly smile and look you in the eye.
You will also have an easier time reading cues from your customers to get a better read on how they are absorbing the information you are providing.
So, you’re all set up and ready to make video calls with customers, but are your customers ready? This is something you will need to address. You will need to be familiar with what they will need to do to be able to connect, so you can help them through it if necessary.
Seniors are, in general, are very capable with using laptops and cell phones these days and shouldn’t be underestimated. Nevertheless, if you find that a potential customer may not be tech savvy, they may be reluctant to make a video call because of their discomfort.
This is just another objection you must address. Find out what the best way for them to connect would be. Would they connect on a laptop, an ipad, iphone, android phone?
Armed with this info, you can ease their fears and tell them you can help them through the process.
Of course, this is part of your pre-sales prep work. Get an understanding of the different ways you’re your customers would connect with you and learn that too. It’s not difficult. Software like Zoom and others like them make it very easy to jump on a call. If you can talk them through the process, then you are much more likely to address that that objection.
⍟ Got Network Troubles?
Ok, so you don’t need to be a network engineer to address some common at home network issues. There are some simple solutions to the more common issues, so let's review a couple.
One of the more common issues is a spotty wireless connection. You may have great connection in your bedroom but a terrible connection in your kitchen. But what if you’re new temporary office happens to be in your kitchen?
Wifi Extender. Using the above scenario as an example we’ll look at how to address it. Several companies make “Wifi extenders” which are designed specifically for this problem. There are a few different options fro Wifi extenders. One is a kit that has plug in adapters. One get plugged into an electrical outlet near your wifi and connects to your Wifi router with a network cable.
Another adapter plugs into an electrical outlet closest to your laptop and connects to your laptop via a network cable. This effectively uses the wiring in your house to get the internet signal from the main router location to any other power outlet in the house.
Granted you need a network cable to connect to that extender plugged into the wall. Don’t worry, if you think cables are too 2015, there is another option.
⍟ The Benefits of Using E-Applications
Since the Coronavirus lock down, the ability to use e-applications has become a hot topic. The lockdown really highlighted the importance of being able to sell from home and complete applications online.
In an industry based on relationships, it is still possible to conduct business successfully, and build trust with clients without meeting face-to-face.
Agents are starting to realize the many benefits of filling out applications online. This isn’t relegated to times of mandatory social distancing. There are good reasons agents should be using e-applications all the time, whether we have a quarantine situation or not.
E-Apps are a great way to submit business. They are quick and easy for agents and clients alike and can be signed electronically. An application that may take you 30-40 minutes by paper may take you just 10 minutes online.
E-apps are a much quicker way to do business. They aren’t just quicker to fill out, the time to process the applications is also sped up. In some cases, turnaround time for approvals can be decreased by up to 2 weeks.
There are far less mistakes with an online application since the application can alert you if something is missed or input incorrectly.
You can pre-qualify your clients by answering required health questions.
In addition to application and approval time savings there are more efficiencies agents gain by using this process. An agent will also benefit from not having to drive out to client’s homes as they would with paper applications, not to mention the associated costs of travel.
The time gained by using online e-applications can now be put into dealing with more clients, increasing the number of applications that can be submitted compared to the old manual process.
People can be hesitant when it comes inviting a stranger into their home. This can make a virtual meeting and e-app option much easier to sell to clients.
Most insurance companies are offering bonuses to agents when they use e-apps. Why are they doing this? Because they benefit from the efficiency of online applications just like everyone else does. As agents turn more and more to online applications it allows insurance companies to streamline their business around that process.
Some carriers offer immediate underwriting approval. With these carriers you know on the spot if your client is declined. No more waiting for days just to find out the app was approved or not.
Complete multiple apps at once. Some carriers such as Mutual of Omaha and Cigna (as of the date of this article) allow you to submit applications for different plans. Ex. A client that is looking for a Med Supp. and a cancer policy can be done in one pass without the redundant paperwork.
Don’t think of handling applications online as a novel method to be used in just a few circumstances. There is no reason not to be using e-apps as often as possible. It will benefit you, your clients, and the carrier if you do.
Whether you are choosing to work remotely or are forced into it, there are plenty of positive aspects to having that option to work from home. There are also some cons to be aware of and steps you can take to increase your chance for success.
As long as you approach it with an open mind and understand the challenges there is no reason you can’t be as successful or more successful working remote than you would if you were in an office.
With the right approach you can set a schedule that allows you to work efficiently and maintain your personal and family matters without compromise.
With the right tools you can create quotes quickly and easily. You can help a client through an application in short time and have a signed, approved policy in far less time than if you used a paper contract.
It’s very possible to continue to do business without being physically in front of your customers. As we’ve discussed, there are a number of measures you can take to get around that. At the end of the day you are still going to sell the way you would as if you were in front of your clients, that part won’t change much.
In addition, some things which are different, like e-apps and e-signatures, can increase your efficiency and make you more money in less time.
Insurance agents should be taking a close look at all options available to them to ensure they are taking full advantage of technologies that could be helping to grow their bottom line.
Happy selling, and know that a Marketing Mentor is here to answer any questions you may have.