Q&A with TM Keri Fox

Mary Ann Smith | September 2, 2020

Keri Fox is a Smart Choice Territory Manager serving Washington state.

What options and/or tools are available to help agents communicate with new clients and engage with existing clients as states enforce stay at home orders?

I think one of the biggest challenges agents face during Covid-19 is how to do business effectively when access to the office is lost. Trying to manage new business, active clients and staff from home, isn’t ideal. However, there are a number of useful tools. ZOOM has become a “must have” for most agents. The basic version is a full-featured, easy-to-use online meeting tool…..and it’s free. VOIP phones make the transition from office to home easy. Agents and staff can all take office phones home without losing a call or forwarding lines.

Nerdphone and OOMA are the two most popular options. They both provide an app allowing your cell phone to function as another office phone. Microsoft Office 365 includes several programs such as Teams, Sharepoint and Yammer to keep office staff connected. MS offers a wide variety of apps, and some like POWER AUTOMATE, allow you to create automated systems and tasks. EZLynx has package options to link your website, management system and rater, providing potential clients a comparative rater for self-quoting online and a self-service feature for active clients.

With so many business closures and the virus spread, is personal lines a better option than commercial? What about life?

This is a great time for all lines! Independent agents have a huge advantage over captives as people shop for better rates to counter their economic losses and changes. Though certain commercial risks, such as restaurants and hospitality, are experiencing closures, many markets are surging. Adaptation is key. Add a line of business, such as personal lines, or find new commercial markets. Carriers and MGAs will happily provide a list of best market options based on written premium. Life? Write it! Rohrer and Associates reported a 200% surge in submitted applications. Younger people are realizing they may not be immortal, and it may be too late if they wait. Ask us for guidance. We’re here to help and have the advantage of a broader perspective.

How important is building a referral network and what can I do?

According to every top producer and sales training company, creating and engaging in a regular referral system is what makes top producers. It is the best free marketing system you can have, with one of the highest close ratios. When it comes to referrals, agents are taught to just ask; however, there are other options. Loan officers and mortgage brokers make fantastic referral partners. Give each new client 3 stamped referral cards for friends and family. Your client gets a Starbucks card (or card of choice) for every three cards returned where contact is made. Read and watch videos. From Kindle to YouTube, and your local library, there are mountains of instructional material with many options. Try several until you find what works. Join an insurance FB group and ask other agents what works best for them.

What are some creative ways agents can take advantage of slower times to gain deeper industry knowledge and expertise?

Insurance is a constantly changing industry. You should be, too. It is a good idea to try to devote 30-60 minutes each day for education. The time is there if you manage your day. Whether it’s CE classes, learning new marketing ideas, watching sales training videos or gaining an in-depth knowledge of the products you sell, it is valuable. Time and money spent educating yourself will result in better client retention, better coverage recommendations, better marketing ideas, and may help avoid costly errors and E & O claims.

What is the most rewarding part about being a Smart Choice® state director? What is the most challenging?

I love Smart Choice and feel so incredibly fortunate to be part of this amazing organization! I think if I had to name one thing, it’s helping new agents learn about commercial insurance and write business. Commercial insurance was my passion as an agency owner and being able to pass my knowledge on to my agents and watch them thrive is exciting. Witnessing agents gain a renewed love of insurance and contributing to that experience is just plain wonderful! There are always challenges. Like my agents, I am learning and adapting.

Navigating the highs and lows of the insurance world with grace makes us better agents and better people. We are a very special insurance family, and I so thankful to be here!

Mary Ann Smith