software code cyber security

The rapid rise of technology in the past several decades has completely changed the way businesses operate. Everything is done electronically: data storage, bookkeeping, communication, even the signing of documents is all done with keyboard strokes and taps of screens. 

This shift to digital business has, in many ways, allowed us to do our jobs more effectively, efficiently, and comprehensively. But the advancement in digital technology has not come without setbacks. Cyber security has become a concern for businesses of all sizes, not just large corporations. In fact, small corporations often do not have the proper protections and policies in place, which makes them even more susceptible to hackers and data breaches.

No matter how small your insurance agency may be, you likely have information stored online or within your network that cyber criminals want. Security breaches can lead to fraud, distribution of private information, and the loss of trust from your clients, employees, and the surrounding community. These are our tips for ensuring your agency’s private information is secure and protected:

 

Take cyber security seriously.

The first way to protect yourself from cyber attacks is to become aware of the risks. Even as a small insurance agency, you have tons of valuable information that is attractive to hackers. Not only is your business’s information at risk, your computers store the personal information of your clients; their contact information, financial status, home, health, and much more. Nearly half of all cyber attacks target small businesses, and 60% of those companies go out of business within six months of the attack. The risk is there, and it must be addressed.

 

Keep your security software up to date.

It may seem obvious, but you can prevent security breaches by simply updating your anti-virus and spyware protection regularly. It may seem like an inconvenience at the time, but keeping your software up to date will protect your computer system against major threats and save you from disaster later on.

 

Use formal security policies.

Educating your employees and implementing formal policies when it comes to cyber security is crucial. Require that every password created uses both uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, symbols, etc. and that they are changed every two to three months. Not allowing personal information to be shared by email and implementing 2-step authentication processes for financial transactions are also good ways to ensure everyone’s information is protected.

 

Invest in the right security tools.

If you’re unsure what kind of cyber security tools your business needs or if you’re using the right ones, enlist the help of a professional. Many of us aren’t overly tech-savvy, especially when it comes to firewalls or Trojan horses, so consult with IT specialists to figure out what exactly you need. These people will help you decide what kind of security to purchase, get your network set up, and be available for tech support in the future, should you need it.

 

Be prepared and have a plan. 

Cyber attacks cannot be predicted, so it’s important to always be prepared to deal with one. Have a data backup system in place so you have an extra copy of all information in the event that it gets stolen. Make a step-by-step post-breach plan for yourself and your employees that includes contacting the correct authorities, communicating with clients, storing new data, etc. Make sure employees are aware and trained on this plan before it needs to be used.

 

Regardless of the size or status of any business, it’s at risk for a cyber attack. Use these tips to protect you and your clients’ information from online criminals and keep your insurance agency running smoothly and successfully!

job applicants waiting for interview

They say good employees are any business’s greatest asset, and it’s especially true when it comes to insurance agencies. Unfortunately, insurance policies don’t usually sell themselves like the latest iPhone model or a candy bar in the checkout aisle. The success of an insurance agency depends on the skill of its employees; without knowledgeable, talented salespeople, the product will not sell. 

That said, it’s imperative to hire the right people when assembling and adding to your agency’s team. You probably have a basic set of criteria in mind when hiring: hard-working, dedicated, personable, professional appearance, etc. But these basic standards are not enough to ensure that 1) the right kind of people are applying for the job to begin with, and 2) you’re hiring the best applicants.

The hiring process can be difficult, but selecting the right talent is fundamental to an insurance agency or any other small business alike. These are our tips for seeking out and hiring the best employees:

 

Get the word out in the right places

80% of people searching for jobs use online resources to locate opportunities and apply for positions. To begin your hunt for employees, make a hiring announcement on your website, post about it on social media, and add a listing to job search websites like Monster and Indeed. LinkedIn has become a great way to get the word out about open positions and network with potential candidates. Be wary of Craigslist; it used to be a go-to for those seeking and offering employment, but anymore has become associated with illegitimate people and business scams.

 

Be open

One of the biggest mistakes any employer can make is going into the hiring process with their mind already set on exactly who and what they want. Keep in mind that uber-extroverted people with long lists of experience don’t always make the best salespeople. (Check out this list of attributes found in successful salespeople). People with the right personality traits that have no sales experience or experience in another industry can often be trained and molded to become top insurance salespeople. When hiring, keep an open mind and give every applicant a chance to impress you.

 

Consider part-time and remote employees

It makes sense that some of the best employees are not available because they already have jobs. However, those people may be interested in picking up something else on the side for additional income. Hiring someone part-time allows them to get the ball rolling and prove themselves as an agent with the opportunity to become full-time in the future. The same principle applies to remote employees. Maybe the best salesperson you’ve ever had lives two hours away, or has other obligations that prevent him or her from coming to the office every day. Just as it’s important to be open about a person’s background and experience, be open to the type of employment they could provide.

 

Research applicants on social media

Everyone is warned to be mindful of what they post on social media because you never know who’s looking, and it’s true! There’s no shame in doing a quick Facebook search for someone applying to work for your agency. Interviews are very formal and nerve-wracking for most people, so it can be hard to get a good read on a candidate that way. By looking at the person’s social media profiles, you can get a clearer idea of who they are, how they work, and even what their online network is like by looking at their friends list.

 

The biggest thing to remember about the hiring process is that it doesn’t happen overnight. Don’t rush into anything or make decisions based on a hunch- it’ll end up costing you more time and resources in the end. Take your time, be thorough, and make sure you’ve found the person you’re confident can face the challenges of the industry each and every day before sealing the deal. Good luck and happy hiring!  

business woman working on computer at deskWe all have days at the office that are spent mindlessly scrolling through Facebook or staring out the window while our mind wanders off. It happens; getting off task from time to time is inevitable. However, if you or your employees are spending more time doodling on sticky notes than getting real work done, there’s likely a problem, and it’s definitely affecting your business’s productivity.

If an inability to focus or lack of motivation has become an issue at your office, know that there are several easy things you can to do to improve morale and efficiency among your employees. Sometimes subtle changes in the work environment are all that is necessary, and other times participation of the entire staff is needed. If your agency could use a shot of productivity, have your employees try these strategies to get back on track and ultimately see more success:

 

Plan and prioritize

Organization is key in keeping stress under control and making the most out of your time. Before you begin each work day, set aside 15 to 30 minutes to go over your daily tasks. Decide which are most important and create a schedule accordingly. As you begin to work, focus on only one task at a time to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

 

Set goals.

Part of your daily planning should include setting goals for the day. Tell yourself, “I want to get this, this, and this done by the end of the day.” Make a physical list and hang it somewhere at your desk so you can refer back to it throughout the day. As you cross tasks off your lists, you’ll feel more accomplished and motivated to complete the rest.

 

Take breaks.

Sometimes the answer is as simple as it seems; if you’re feeling antsy or like you can’t focus, take a short break. Go outside and circle the block or just take a lap around the office. Research shows that taking a time-out and doing something unrelated to work for a while can do wonders for productivity. Grabbing a coffee or chatting about weekend plans with a colleague can give your mind time to regroup and leave you feeling refreshed for the next several hours.

 

Disable notifications.

Texts, social media, and emails are sure-fire ways to distract you while you’re at work. If you feel like the constant buzzes and chimes aren’t allowing you to get anything done, put your phone on silent and exit out of your email for awhile. Obviously it’s important to check your messages several times throughout the day, but we’ve all been in that situation where we glanced at a tweet that took us down a YouTube rabbit hole for hours at a time.

 

Jazz up your workspace. 

A messy work area may be plaguing your productivity more than you think. Even if you’re not explicitly thinking about it, an unorganized desk is constantly reminding you of yet another task you need to complete, which leads to stress, anxiety, and lack of focus. Take the time to clean out old files and organize office supplies. In addition to cleaning up, adding colorful artwork, personal knickknacks, or small plants to your workspace will make you feel more comfortable and lead to increased productivity.

 

Dragging yourself out of bed and heading to the office on Monday mornings might never become an easy task, but there are things you can do to ensure your employees aren’t spending their days desperately waiting for 5 o’clock to roll around. Try these tips for increased productivity in the workplace and reap the benefits of happier, more successful employees!

business woman talking on phone in officeFollowing up is often a difficult but very necessary part of the sales process. Very rarely will a sales agent connect with a lead on the first attempt, which is why it’s important to follow up with them to work towards the sale. In fact, the follow-up is really where the ball gets rolling and the sale gains momentum; 80% of all sales are made on the 5th to 12th contact. 

Following up is important not only for closing leads, it’s a great way to network. Even if you aren’t able to get a sale, you can build a relationship with the prospect through follow-ups, and they may refer someone else to you in the future.

Unfortunately, most sales reps don’t put enough time and effort into the follow-up process, resulting in missed opportunities. Think your technique could use a little tuning up? These are our dos and don’ts of following up:

 

DO be personal.

Whether it’s a phone call or email, make sure it doesn’t sound like the same, generic message 15 other people are receiving. Be mindful of their personality when you talk to them. Are they more professional or laid-back? Take on the tone that they feel comfortable with and use language specific to them.

 

DON’T use certain phrases.

It’s beneficial to avoid using certain phrases like “touch base” or “check in” when following up with a prospect. By telling them you’re just calling to follow up, the lead hears “I’m calling for no reason,” and may think there’s no reason to continue the conversation. The last thing you want to do is make your client feel like their time is being wasted, so always have a “reason” to call. Stay up to date with news and trends in their industry, and use that information to let them know how you can help them.

 

DO prioritize your follow-ups.

As a salesperson, you’re likely having tons of conversations with different people all the time. Make a list of the leads you’re currently working on and rank them from strongest connection/most interested to weakest connection/least interested. Make efforts to reach out to those at the top of your list before those near the bottom, as they offer the most promise and may be waiting for a call.

 

DON’T forget or choose not to follow up. 

Even if you think you’re wasting your time by following up, you’re not. As we mentioned before, following up is a great way to network and improve relationships, even if you’re not converting clients. Reaching out after the initial contact is a good way to let the prospect know you’ve thought about them and you want to help. Choosing not to follow up does exactly the opposite and may cause the prospect to defer others away from you.

 

DO be kind!

We probably don’t need to say it, but it’s always important to be kind and show gratitude in any communication with your leads. Let them know you appreciate them taking the time to talk to you and don’t forget to be yourself. No one wants to talk to a robot, so always be endearing and sincere.  

 

 

shutterstock 526320877There are many factors that make a good salesperson, but at its core, it really boils down to how many customers you can help, and therefore how many sales you can close. Unfortunately, closing is usually the hardest part of the sales process. You can have a great sales technique, but if you crumble when it comes time to close, its hard to be successful. If you consistently find yourself losing sales after you’ve gotten inches away from sealing the deal, try these tips for effective closing.

 

 

 

 

 

Know your stuff

The first step in closing more leads is becoming an expert on your product. If you don’t know the policies you sell inside and out, it’ll be tough to instill in your prospect the confidence they need in order to purchase. Study up, know the competition, and be ready to explain why your policy is better than another without hesitation.

 

Shut up and listen

During the first steps of the sale, let the prospect take the lead in the conversation. Prospects want to feel like a person, not a sale. Ask questions about their lifestyle, situation, goals, and plans for the future. Not only will you be building rapport with the client, you’ll be able to better understand their needs and ultimately offer them the insurance policy that best suits their life. Think of yourself as an insurance consultant in this way, not an insurance salesperson, and closing will become much easier.

 

Become a storyteller

Storytelling is a good way to connect with people in any setting. Talk about the benefits of your product by recalling or creating a real-world scenario in which your policy was able to help someone else’s family in a big way. Your prospect will be able visualize themselves in the same situation and may become motivated to take the steps needed for the same positive outcome. Remember, humans act on emotion, not logic.

 

Use trial closing

Before entering the closing process, ask your prospect trial closing questions to gauge how they feel about everything you’ve discussed. Questions like, “How do you feel about how this policy would meet your needs?” or “What questions or concerns do you have?” puts the ball back in the client’s court while simultaneously making you aware of any objections. If the prospect has concerns, address them specifically and reiterate how you can help them.

 

If you aren’t closing at the rate you would like, it may be time for a shift in gears in your selling technique. Incorporate these tips into your current technique and find out what works best for you. Like anything, remember that converting leads into sales requires practice. Good luck and here’s to a prosperous 2017!

shutterstock 550342585How many times have you been doing something at work and thought to yourself, “Man, there’s got to be a better way to do this,”? In a world where it seems like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done, it’s crucial to work efficiently. It may seem like the rise of technology is adding more items to your to-do list each day, but with the right tools, getting organized and working faster is easier than ever. Check out these online applications that’ll take the burden out of working as an independent agent so you can focus on what’s important:

                                               

DocuSign

In a previous blog, we discussed the benefits of becoming a paperless office. Not only is it a hazard to the environment, physical documents can only be accessed from your office and are easily lost or misplaced. DocuSign is a service that allows individuals to electronically exchange and sign documents and contracts. Forget snail mail, fax machines, or having clients need to physically stop in the office, DocuSign allows you to securely sign, send, and store any document from any location.

 

Evernote

Evernote is an app designed for taking notes and organizing/storing information. Instead of the cluster of sticky notes on your desk or unorganized files on your desktop, Evernote acts as a digital notebook and organizes everything for you. Keep the app open while you work and use it to jot down important info while you’re on a call or to make a quick list. You can also store files, photos, articles, and more, and then easily find it with Evernote’s powerful search technology later on.

 

Dropbox

Dropbox is a cloud-service used for file sharing. Instead of sending documents individually and then re-sending them when they accidentally get deleted, upload them to a Dropbox where your employees can access them at any time. Dropbox can be installed on an internal network (the computers in your office) and also accessed remotely from the internet. Once you share a file, those with access to the Dropbox can make changes and re-share it, and all original copies are saved.

 

OmniFocus

OmniFocus is for the person that just can’t seem to get organized and stay on task. OmniFocus is an app that organizes all of your routine activities (from simple tasks to major life goals) and breaks them down for you in a way that is manageable and realistic. The app will show you deadlines, completed tasks, periodic reviews, and will sync everything from your mobile devices to your desktop. OmniFocus is the ultimate way to combat poor time management skills.

 

MailChimp 

You know the importance of marketing as an independent agency, but that doesn’t mean spreading the word about your company is easy. MailChimp is an email marketing service that allows you to create, design, and send mass emails at once. Users can create specific lists of recipients and send emails to different groups of people accordingly. MailChimp is very user-friendly and you can easily send professional-looking promotional emails out in no time.

 

 

There are countless other useful online platforms for independent insurance agents and small business owners alike, but these are just a few of our favorites. The best part is that all of these services are accessible from any Internet-enabled location, so you can stay on top of things even when you’re not at the office. Remember that time is your most valuable resource, so utilize the tools available to you to become more organized, efficient, and successful!



business partners shaking hands around tableYour office is much more than just a space for your employees to sit at a desk all day long. It’s an environment that speaks to your company’s culture and has the ability to either motivate or discourage the people in it. Offices that are warm and inviting tend to increase productivity among employees and encourage business from outsiders. Next time you’re in your office, take a minute to really look around. Is it dated, drab, or boring? If your office is in need of some TLC, check out these tips for making your space more welcoming!

 

Get organized

There’s nothing more overwhelming than an unorganized space. Go through your office’s lobby, breakroom, and other shared areas and tidy up. Remove unnecessary clutter and bring in storage solutions if you need them. Ask your employees to clean their desks and provide them with trays, drawers, cabinets, etc. to make their personal spaces orderly and comfortable. Getting organized will not only make things easier to find, it’ll make your office feel more spacious.

 

Let there be light

Many employers don’t realize the power of natural light. Studies show that exposure to natural light improves employee morale and even provides certain health benefits. In comparison, a dark office creates a discouraging environment and is likely to make employees feel tired or depressed. Be sure to utilize the windows in your office and keep the blinds open during work hours. If your office has few or no windows, consider adding wall lighting, as overhead lighting can feel too harsh.

 

Decorate the walls 

Hang artwork on the walls to add personality and visual interest to your office. Choose images that reflect your company and will inspire your employees. Consider hanging one or more large mirrors from your walls as well. A mirror will make any space feel larger and also reflect light, making the space brighter.

 

Use accent colors 

Adding even subtle splashes of color can bring new life and dimension to your office. Paint an accent wall or purchase a few pieces of brightly colored furniture to place in shared spaces. Pops of color can turn a boring office into one that exudes energy.

 

Freshen the air

You probably pay close attention to the way your office looks, but how about the way it smells? Scent is one of the most powerful senses and is proven to impact the way we behave. Pleasant smells lift moods and may even affect the buying behavior of clients. According to Apartment Therapy, cinnamon, mint, lemon, orange, and rosemary scents can help boost productivity.

 

You don’t need to completely rebuild your office to make it more comfortable and inviting; a few simple changes can make a big difference. Use these tips to make your space more welcoming and reap the benefits of happier employees and visitors!

 

 

 

shutterstock 528463369The rise of social media has opened doors to many new and inexpensive marketing opportunities for insurance agents. Nearly 78 percent of Americans are active on at least one social media network, and as of 2015, social media has surpassed search engines like Google and Bing in driving referral traffic to other websites. If you’re not using social media as a way to market yourself as an insurance agent, you’re missing out on huge potential to establish and maintain client connections.

 

Know that there is a right way and a wrong way to use social media for business purposes. Here are some tips for using social networks efficiently and getting the most out of your social media presence:

 

Choose your channels.

It seems like a new social media platform becomes the “it” thing every day, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be active on all of them. Different channels serve different audiences and purposes, so consider who you want to be talking to. Instagram generally attracts younger people while LinkedIn is used for professional networking. Our advice is to begin with Facebook because it is the largest and most widely used, followed by Twitter and then others as you see fit. The most important thing is not trying to be on every network at once if you can’t keep up. In the case of social media, less is often more.

 

Create a separate business profile. 

It’s a good idea to set up separate business profiles aside from your own personal profiles. While we’re sure your friends love seeing pictures of your children and family vacations, it can appear unprofessional to those you don’t know personally. Use your business profile for just that, business. And make sure your profile picture/avatar is a high-quality, professional photo of yourself.

 

Post quality content, and post it consistently.

Put some thought into the things you post to your social media accounts. Make sure the content is relevant to the insurance industry or an adjacent industry (like cars, homes, weather, etc.), written without grammar or spelling mistakes, and includes a bit of your personality. Be sure to post a mix of original content and shared content like blog posts or news stories. What’s equally important is to make sure you’re posting on a consistent basis. Don’t overwhelm your following with too much information, but at the same time, don’t neglect your accounts for long periods of time. Utilize the scheduling features offered by Facebook and Twitter to create posts ahead of time and schedule them to publish on certain days.

 

Engage with others.

It’s not enough to simply have a social media account and post to it. Make sure you’re liking, sharing, and commenting on others’ posts as well. This shows your social media community that you’re paying attention and can be approached. After all, the whole point of social media is to be social. The first step in generating any kind of business is to be personable and engage in the conversation.

 

Promote your social media accounts.

There’s no point in using social media if you don’t have friends or followers to interact with! When you set up your profile, begin by following organizations and people you know. Use the “suggested friends” and “who to follow” features to connect with others who may have similar interests in your area. Include links and some sort of call to action to your social media pages on your website, email signature, and other marketing materials. Just as you would in person, take steps to grow your online network.

 

Social media has become one of the most prominent ways to communicate with others, so capitalize on the opportunity to make new connections and gain new clients. Remember to be professional while still showcasing your personality in the things you post. Make connecting to your followers and providing them with valuable content your number one priority, and the leads and referrals will fall into place!

Business people at a social event Relationships are perhaps the most important marketing tool in nearly every industry. While it’s certainly important to master your craft, there’s a ton of truth to that saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” especially when it comes to sales. Making a conscious effort to get out and meet people can be time-consuming and even awkward sometimes, but it’s crucial to connect with like-minded individuals in order to be successful and advance your career.

Networking is important. Really important. And as a salesperson, it’s an inherent part of your job. Here’s why:

 

New connections. By definition, networking is done to meet new people, exchange information, and develop contacts. Attending events or joining networking organizations allows you to meet and develop relationships with influential people in your industry. You are able to learn from the experiences of others and even get advice when you need it. Networking allows you to tap into the networks of other people and can open many doors to new opportunities.

 

Positive Influence. Attending networking events puts you in a position where you are surrounded by people who are excited about your industry. These people likely share the same goals and values as you do and will motivate you to be successful. Attitudes are infectious, so it’s important to hang out with those who bring a positive and uplifting point of view to the table.

 

Increased visibility. By networking (and networking frequently) you’re making yourself known by your peers and community. By becoming a familiar face, you’re building a reputation and showing others that you are invested in your industry. People tend to associate these kinds of people with desirable attributes like knowledge, expertise, and support.

 

Increased confidence. We should probably start out by saying that if you’re not a generally confident person, a career in sales probably isn’t for you. However, everyone can always work on themselves, and networking is a good way to facilitate growth. Every time you go to a business or social event and push yourself to talk to people you don’t know, you’re building your confidence. This growing confidence will not only make conversation with new people come more naturally, it’ll translate into sales.

 

Lead/referral generation. For a salesperson, this is probably the most important benefit of networking. Attending networking activities is a great way to talk to others about your company and explain how you can help them. You may turn some of these people into clients, and if not, they’ll likely send others your way. Another benefit is that these leads are often more high-quality (people who are serious about doing business with you) than leads you may generate elsewhere.

  

Networking is one of the most underrated and effective ways to meet people, market, and become successful. Remember that networking is about forming relationships, not just selling. If you take the time to get to know others in your industry and talk to them as people rather than numbers, the sales will come naturally.

for rent signThere are several advantages to renting a home or apartment versus buying one; less commitment, no property taxes, and most importantly, no mowing the lawn or shoveling the driveway. It’s true that renters avoid having to purchase homeowner’s insurance, but many also believe they can get away without purchasing renter’s insurance. Some renters assume that they’re covered since their landlord already has insurance, and others simply just don’t want another monthly expense.

 

Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about renter’s insurance that lead people to believe they don’t need it. While it’s not required to have renter’s insurance, it’s certainly a good idea, and the benefits far exceed the perceived drawbacks.

 

It covers personal property. 

Think about all the items you own that are stored inside your apartment; furniture, electronics, jewelry, etc. The value of these things quickly adds up. You may think that if anything were to happen to your apartment or rental home, you’d be covered under your landlord’s insurance policy. Wrong. Your landlord’s insurance only covers the building itself; he or she isn’t liable for damage to your personal belongings unless they previously knew there were problems with the building and chose to ignore them. With a renter’s insurance policy, your personal property is covered in the event of:

 
  • Fire and lightning strikes

  • Wind and smoke damage

  • Explosions and electrical surges

  • Snow storms

  • Water damage

  • Vandalism and robbery

 

It offers liability protection.

Most renter’s insurance policies also offer a form of liability protection. If a guest hurts themselves in your house or apartment, you could be found legally responsible. Renter’s insurance would typically cover medical expenses and any resulting lawsuits up to a certain dollar amount. Liability protection also covers damage to another person’s property from your home (if your child accidentally hits breaks a neighbor’s window while playing baseball, for example).

 

It covers living expenses after a disaster.

If you’re renting a house or apartment and your home becomes damaged to the point where it is unlivable (after a fire or pest infestation, for instance), renter’s insurance would help pay for a hotel and meal expenses while repairs are being made. Renter’s insurance may literally put a roof over your head during times of emergency.

 

It’s affordable.

The number one reason renters don’t purchase renter’s insurance is because of the cost. However, the average renter’s insurance policy costs only $15 to $30 per month, while the average person has over $20,000 worth of belongings in their home that wouldn’t be covered by a landlord’s insurance. When you think about replacing 20 grand worth of stuff, the premium is fairly inexpensive.

 
 

So do your clients really need renter’s insurance? Yes, we absolutely believe they do. Similar to other types of insurance, different policies exist for different people depending on their specific needs and budget.

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