Nick Berry

You don’t have a marketing problem, you have a sales problem

You don’t have a marketing problem, you have a sales problem

That was pretty harsh, and I probably just lost a few subscribers, but I’ll be real honest with you. That’s okay with me. Because I understand how this works. But let’s dig this hole a little deeper.

I’ve been working with small to medium businesses for the majority of my 21 year career. Mostly in sales, and the last few years in this crazy marketing side of things. And I can point to just a few of them that had the sales thing right. Even with the best product market fit, most businesses struggle with the fundamentals of sales. And if those fundamentals are out of whack, you can’t out advertise yourself out of that problem. You can outsell bad marketing, or sometimes even a bad product, but you can’t do it in reverse.

A podcast, email newsletter, paid advertising, and strategic content marketing, will never fix a sales problem.

And if you’re chasing your tail trying to fix sales without fixing the core fundamentals, I have some bad news for you. It’s only going to get worse. And I’m not talking about a sales slump, those are easy to fix. I’m talking your sales team is always in hunter/gather mode, instead of evolving to a more agrarian culture.

I love the insurance industry, it has served me amazingly well in my career. But boy howdy, do I see a lot of doodoo when it comes to the sales side of things. Let me tell you a short story about my experience this summer. My wife and I found a house we both loved, and we were ready to make an offer. We had all our ducks in a row, got pre-approved for a mortgage, everything else. I had already gotten a good friend of mine that has an agency get us a great quote on the house.

Let’s do an experiment (do agencies really have a sales problem)!

But I thought I want to do an experiment. I’m going to get some quotes from some local agencies, not because I didn’t think the quote we got was unreasonable, I wanted to test the experience of not having a personal connection like a normal consumer. So I googled insurance agency near me. I already knew who they were, I drive by them all the time driving through town. But I wanted to get the full experience. I knew of three specific agencies I wanted to test. One of them had duplicate entries, one I didn’t even recognize their company listing versus what their sign was on their building… We’re not off to a good start. But it gets worse.

Like any good modern adult, I don’t want to make any phone calls, that just sounds terrible. I want to go to a website, fill out a form and have someone email me or call me back. 

Let’s get some quotes

So let’s keep digging this hole, here’s how the first interaction goes with all three.

Agency A, the website is confusing, there are so many options, and then I finally find the get a quote button, it takes me to their generic contact us form. Well that doesn’t feel like this is going to be a technically advanced adventure. And I wasn’t wrong at all. I fill out that form, tell them in the comment, I’m buying a new house and would like to get a quote on homeowners and auto insurance, and give them the address. I get a generic thanks for filling out our form, we’ll respond soon…. I didn’t even get an email confirmation. This is going sideways fast. I move on.

Agency B, website is much cleaner, with clear instructions, but the quote form is literally a contact form… and the form response is the exact same, and again no email confirming they got my quote request.

Agency C, Clean website again, but what is this form button, why is it taking me to another company? Nope not filling that out, hit the back button and go to the home insurance landing page from the menu. The form is still pretty much a generic contact form, with the difference of a couple of check boxes asking me for the type of insurance quote I want. Fill it out, same damn lame generic thank you message, and gasp an email confirming they got my quote request.

So the quotes are requested, and only one of them emails me to tell me they got my quote request. But no one is giving me any kind of indication when I’ll get my quote, and considering the amount of information they collected from me, that’s pretty much impossible anyways!

So I went on with my day, expecting to get some phone calls, I actually turned on my ringer, and if you ask my wife, that never happens. Guess how many of them called me back on the first day? 3? HAH, not a single one. NONE OF THEM EVEN CALLED ME. And mind you all of this was completed by 10 am on a Tuesday.

Are we ever going to get any quotes?

Day 2, about 11 am I get a phone call from Agency A, I give her all the info she asks for, and she says great I can get a quote for you in a couple of days. A couple of days? For a homeowner policy and two cars? Look I get it, it can take some time to do this work, she says yes, that’s just our process. And she hangs up. Well that’s not going well. Why am I shocked by a couple of days? Because my agent collected all my info, and had a proposal in my inbox in about 3 hours. That’s my baseline expectation. 

Nothing from the other two agencies.

Day 3, crickets all around, that’s just annoying.

Day 4, I finally got the quote from Agency A. It was similar coverages as my quote in hand, except deductibles were way higher, and ACV not TRC for the roof, and it was 30% more expensive. I call her back and ask what’s going on, and she said it’s just a tough market, I tell her I’ll have to move on with another option. And she hangs up.

Now mind you this was 3 and a half months ago, I’ve yet to get a single follow-up email or phone call from any of them. 

Now this was a pretty lengthy story, but I’m going to make some serious assumptions here based on my knowledge of the industry. It’s probably a very common story throughout the entire industry. I know I know, why didn’t I call them? Because I wanted a digital experience, the one every agency owner says they want to have.

What can we do to fix this?

I’m not complaining, and I’m not even blaming these agencies. If this experience is exactly what happens at your agency I want to help you fix it! It really doesn’t have to be this way. In fact it shouldn’t be this way!

I know some people are reading and thinking Nick, this is a marketing problem, the leads aren’t getting to my producers. Marketing sucks! Well no this isn’t a marketing problem, it’s an operations problem. Then it becomes a sales problem. Remember, I didn’t get a follow-up from any of them. The lead was generated, but sales didn’t respond. Something is disconnected

First and foremost, all three of these companies are using wordpress and gravity forms. And guess what, that means those leads absolutely 100% should be passed along automatically to your sales team through zapier or maybe even a direct integration with your CRM. At the very least they can be emailed to someone at your agency, who can then pass them out or assign them.

Next, collect as much information up front as humanly possible. I know marketers have been telling you the more friction the worse. Sure that makes some sense with low intent people on your blog articles. But if someone comes to your website looking for a quote, they are ready to give you info, heck they might be ready to buy if they’re a referral! Your lead form should be asking for as much relevant info as possible. Collect that address, collect the make and model, as much info as you can get to make the quote intake that much faster!

Then, add a success landing page! After they submit the quote submission, redirect them to this page. This page can be very simple, but I would make a quick video thanking them for their quote submission, and set the expectation of how soon they should be hearing from your agency to get the rest of the information to get their quote started. Setting expectations goes a long way and a prospect will normally give you quite a bit of grace when you tell them how this is going to work.

Then call them, they should be getting a phone call from your team within 15 minutes of submitting that form (during business hours, of course), and start the quote process. If you want a great tool to improve quote intake, I would take a look at Risk Advisor or SALT. Lead velocity is a thing, and can sink a sales organization.

Here’s another tip, ask on your quote form, what’s your preferred method of communication[Email, Text or Phone], and use it! I get with quote submissions, the phone is faster, but delivering the quote or proposal, send it the way they prefer!

The real super power of sales

Now you’ve got the proposal in hand, now what? Follow the f&*k up! You now have some time and maybe money invested in this lead, call the damn leads! And calling them once or twice doesn’t count. My rule of thumb has always been follow up until they tell me to f*&k off. If you come into my eco system as a lead you’d probably lose your mind. 

I’m aggressive, my marketing systems are based on how I learned to do sales. When you book a call with my team, depending on how far out you book, you could get up to 7 emails. And after the call and you don’t buy you’re getting 16 emails, 2 a week for 8 weeks. Plus all the calls the sales team are supposed to do. Then at the end of the campaign I ask them to join our weekly newsletter list, and about half of them sign up!

I’ve had plenty of sales people complain about it, until I show them the data behind it. Everywhere I’ve implemented an “indoctrination” campaign the call show rates improve by at least 15%. 

Now, none of my emails are “salesy” and they won’t give a prospect the ick, but they will set the expectations of what’s to come, and each one leads with value or teaches them something.

Now let’s go over those numbers, a lead could get up to 67 emails a year from me. That sounds insane right? It’s an email they opted into, who cares if they don’t like it, they’ll unsubscribe. The people that don’t unsubscribe, every time you send an email, it’s one more opportunity for them to remember who you are, and why they should buy when they’re in the market to buy.

Do you need to send them 67 emails a year? No. Would it hurt your sales? Absolutely not. But what do you send? Well first and foremost, it almost doesn’t matter. Now you can’t send them garbage, but education, entertaining, or valuable content always works. And you don’t need to always be closing. In fact follow-up communication should be more about them, than you. 

If you’ve been paying attention the last I don’t know 47 weeks or so, I’ve been running my mouth about creating content. Do you think I have been saying it because I like repeating myself? I mean I do like hearing myself talk, but no, if you create 52 blog articles a year, and never create another article again, you have 52 emails you can send to your prospects, leads and customers. And if you really want to get adventurous you can split those emails up 3 or 4 ways, by just writing one section up as an email, giving you over 200 emails you can send!

Sales says the leads suck

the leads are weak

The leads don’t suck, you didn’t do a good enough job to filter them out. Because all you did was ask them 4 questions and took 4+ hours to respond to them. If all you’re doing is asking for their name, phone and email address and not contacting them, you get what you deserve. Fix those two things, and I promise you, the leads will stop sucking. If someone has made it that far, and has the intent to fill out your sales form, they will give you a bit more information.

Once you improve your lead quality, your team isn’t spinning their wheels on mediocre leads that don’t respond. Then it’s time to start focusing on marketing tactics and strategies. 

But how do you get started? Take a step back and audit your processes, go through the experience firsthand. Maybe just flowchart out the process you want to have happen, then meet with your team and implement it. I bet there’s a youtube video or two that would show you the way.

Cutting to the chase

So, what’s the bottom line here? It’s simple: fancy marketing won’t save a sinking sales ship. My experience, both in the insurance industry and beyond, proves that a killer product or a slick marketing strategy is nothing without solid sales to back it up.

The real-world example of my house insurance hunt isn’t just a random story. It’s a wake-up call. It shows just how common and damaging weak sales strategies are. Those three insurance agencies? They’re not outliers. They’re a snapshot of a widespread issue. They had the leads. They just didn’t know what to do with them. And that’s not a marketing failure; that’s a sales disaster.

Now, what can you do about it? First, accept that your sales strategy might need a serious overhaul. Then, get your hands dirty fixing it. Streamline your lead management, get personal with your customers, and make your sales process as agile and responsive as possible.

It’s not rocket science. It’s about getting back to basics and doing the work. Audit your processes, talk to your team, and start making changes, one step at a time. And remember, it’s not just about getting leads; it’s about what you do with them.

Stop blaming your marketing and start looking at your sales. That’s where the real problem usually lies. Fix that, and you’ll start seeing the results you’ve been looking for. It’s time to stop chasing your tail and start making those leads count. Now if you’re reading through all this and you’ve solved all these sales problems it’s time to get started with your content marketing. I only take on one agency a month for this system, but book a call for the Fractional CMO services today.

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