Great Expectations: Five Rules for Closing Internet Leads

Let's face it, internet leads are no longer the ‘new kid on the block' when it comes to insurance marketing methods.  If we'd written this article 10 years ago it would have been made up of suggestions of ways that might help you get a better return on your investment.  But here we are in 2014 with 20 years of real life experience, studies and feedback, able to provide a set of tips from top insurance agents that are proven to boost your performance from internet leads.

While there is never a ‘one size fits all' solution to winning in any realm of life, we believe these tips, when added to your natural flair and passion for helping customers find the right policy for their needs, will set you well on your way to success with online leads.

Rule One:  Understand The Prospect's Experience

While most agents have heard of and may even have used internet leads, few have a full understanding of the other side of the table - the experience of the insurance shopper, or prospect.  Almost all shopping experiences are now driven by the consumer's demand for choice and the ability to comparison shop for any product or service of their choice.  This has led to the growth of some huge online companies - Orbitz and Amazon are among the most cited examples.  That behavior has now emerged within the insurance marketplace and, where previously a consumer may have had lifelong or at least multi-year relationship with their local insurance agent, they are now finely attuned to the habit of shopping around to get a ‘better deal'.  In fact, according to the Comscore 2013 Online Auto Insurance Shopping Report, 67% of all consumers who obtained quotes for new car insurance went online to comparison shop vs. only 23% who spoke to their local agent.

Once online and searching for quotes, consumers often end up seeking a site such as insuranceQuotes.com  which enables them to enter their details once and then be connected with multiple agents who are willing to quote them, thus providing the choice that they desire.  From their perspective that is a highly favorable and time-saving approach vs. visiting three or four different insurance carriers' websites and filling out those forms multiple times.

Such is the speed of technology now, within seconds of hitting submit, that consumer's details have been distributed to an agent, like you, who has signed up to receive leads of prospects whose profile matches such a consumer.  Even though they are told to expect calls and emails from multiple agents once they have completed the form, few consumers expect or are prepared to hear back so quickly.  They often fill in the form in a few minutes they have spare between other daytime activities and once they submit it they go about their daily tasks.  Be prepared to overcome their surprise and un-preparedness for the call with you, and have a brief but informative pitch ready to leave in a succinct voicemail if needed.  We always recommend following up with an email too ensuring the prospect has a choice of ways to get back in touch with you.

Rule Two:  The Early Bird Gets The Worm

Given the previously stated consumer's desire for choice and comparison shopping, the website into which they entered their request for quotes, insuranceQuotes.com in this example, will send their details to on average three or four different insurance agents.  At this point, the agents who see most success in contacting and converting internet leads are those who have established a way to make contact with the prospect as quickly as possible after receiving the lead.

Studies from Velocify, conducted across millions of leads and several industry sectors, have demonstrated that contacting the prospect by phone within one minute of receiving their details results in a 391% higher chance of converting them.  Generally, contacting a prospect so quickly ensures that you are the first agent they speak to which allows you the initial chance at convincing them you are the right person to provide their insurance needs.  Consumers want to feel appreciated even before they become actual clients, so your willingness to be so attentive and quick to try to meet their needs makes an excellent first impression.

Rule Three:  "It's Always Too Soon To Quit"

So said the famous author of ‘The Power of Positive Thinking', Norman Vincent Peale, and so say we at insuranceQuotes.  While Mr. Peale's words were born of an essence of creating a positive mindset, our agreement comes from the data we see from multiple sources which say that perseverance really does pay off when it comes to working online leads. 

In their 2013 Sales Optimization Study, Velocify's research showed that the optimal number of calls made to establish initial contact with a new lead which later converted was ‘6'.  They also revealed that incredibly over 50% of leads are never called a second time by the agent!   There is a goldmine out there waiting for agents who show the perseverance to push on beyond the first failed attempt.

It's worth noting at this point that your strategy to pursue your new lead should not consist only of phone calls.  In a multi-media world, consumers like to have control over how you contact them.  Some people, having started their search for insurance online expect at least the immediate next steps to also be of a digital nature.  Therefore, ensure you are ready to get an email sent to your new prospect as soon after receiving the lead as possible.  Let them know you'll be trying to reach out to them (ideally let them know the number you'll be calling from so they recognize it when it comes up on their phone), but also invite them to send you an email back so you know when it would be most convenient for you to contact them.

If after all this you still haven't had the response you were looking for, prepare a graceful email to the prospect telling them you hope they have found the insurance they were looking for, but offering your services if they are in any way unhappy or would like more advice on insurance in the future.  Add them to your prospect nurturing database and follow up in a few months when you know their policy will be ready for renewal.

Rule 4:  Have A Process

Understanding how to get the best out of internet leads requires an agent to layer their own nuances and personal touches on top of some of the basic best-practices already discussed here.  These will most frequently be borne out of testing, monitoring, and refining over a period of time as your experience grows.  Some basic questions you should be able to answer with regards to your process include:

How do I ensure I get in touch with a new lead as quickly as possible once I receive their details?  Depending on the size of your agency you could try one of the following:

  • Have one person dedicated to making initial contact with a lead as soon as you receive it.  This person should have an alert set up which notifies them the instant you have the lead in your inbox which should trigger them to jump on the phone.  Even if they are not qualified to actually sell the insurance policy they can act as your initial contact point and set up an appointment time that works for you and the prospect to speak.
  • Sign up for a Warm Call Transfer service.  This is a service which effectively does the task above for you if you don't have someone who can do it.  NetQuote offers this with their LiveLead service.  We will phone out on your leads the second we receive them and will try to transfer them to your phone or set up an appointment for a later time.
  • Also consider having a system which automatically sends an outreach email to your lead as soon as you receive it - even before you get a chance to call.  There are several Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools available depending on the cost and complexity you are looking for.  NetQuote offers a free Lead Management Solution to our agents which does this for you.

What is my contact strategy beyond my initial contact attempt?

  • Having seen the results proving that perseverance pays off, try different combinations of call and email attempts to find which permutation works best for you.  Be sure to try each combination across enough leads to get meaningful results and trends.  Once you have found your own optimal combination, always try something different and new with between 10% and 20% of your leads to see if your process can be continually improved upon. 
  • Remember that your contact strategy doesn't stop once you decide you won't be able to sell the prospect on this occasion or after they tell you they have chosen another agent.  This is where it becomes important to have your own prospect database.  Keep detailed notes about their policy renewal dates and the objections they raised in declining your quote (if you got to that point) so you are ready to pitch them again proactively in a few months.  If making contact at all was difficult on this occasion, add them to a section of your prospecting database for softer communication methods - maybe add them to your email list to send out helpful insurance hints and tips; or add their details to your direct mailing list, so you can send them periodical information or newsletters.  That way, when they are looking for insurance again, your name will likely be higher on their mind than their existing agent!

Rule 5:  Be Ambitious But Realistic

Internet leads are a great source to fill your pipeline full of potential new business and we have many agents using our service who pay testament to having built their entire business on the back of online leads.  But that isn't the case for every agent.  While they have an important and growing part to play in the insurance shopping marketplace, these leads are not as likely to convert as someone who walks into your office and asks for a quote, nor from someone who has been referred to you by a satisfied client.  But be patient - these are genuine prospects who went online seeking insurance quotes and who matched the profile of customers you signed up to be put in contact with.  Because customers want choice, not every prospect will choose you every time, but as Babe Ruth said, "Every strike brings me closer to the next home run."

In Conclusion

Internet leads are here to stay, and as consumers demand more choice and ever-higher standards of customer service, those agents who optimize their approach to meet these needs will find themselves in a winning position.  Use this simple summary of the tips above to remember how to get ahead of your competitors in this channel:

  • Perceptive - recognize the consumer journey and prepare your pitch accordingly
  • Prompt - be ready to be first in line to speak to a new prospect and reap the rewards
  • Persistent - keep a steady flow of contact going, even after the lead may appear cold
  • Process-Driven - have a practiced and documented process which you continually seek to optimize
  • Pragmatic - internet leads offer excellent value but be realistic in the returns you expect vs. other lead sources

Scott Axcell works as the Vice President of Marketing for insuranceQuotes.