Farmers Insurance Group District Office Trains-Supports New Agents
by Leo Adam Biga
As a Farmers Insurance Group district manager in Portland, Oregon Scott Richmann works for one of America’s largest, most well known insurance brands. A former Farmers agent, he now specializes in developing new agent candidates. Assisting him is training coordinator Melissa Bauer.
“We kind of go from peaking their interest in careers as agents with Farmers, then getting them through the licensing process. Once they’re fully licensed and come on board with Farmers we are in charge of all the initial training for all the products and systems and rules,” says Richmann. “That includes some business training, because most people who come in don’t come from an owning-their-own-business background.”
The sluggish economy has impacted the insurance industry like every other sector.
“Times have gotten tough and people are shopping for insurance more than they have in the past, and that goes for Farmers’ customers and any of our competitors’ customers.”
He says because consumers are highly motivated to save money they’re more inclined “to listen” to pitches comparing rates and switching carriers. “So the general downturn has kind of opened the incoming door a little wider than it’s ever been. At the same time it’s also opened the back door for people leaving. There’s more carriers involved as well” and that translates into more competition.
Whether due to people losing their jobs or having their hours reduced or benefits eliminated, he says, “the business has been hurt because people have had to cut back what they have,” including fewer purchases of big-ticket items like homes, cars or boats. That means fewer homes, cars or boats to insure.
With more folks looking for jobs or additional employment, he says, the number of inquirers and trainees for Farmers agent careers is quite high. Nurturing new agents is what Richmann most enjoys.
“My biggest job satisfaction is helping that raw person come in with no insurance background and watching them over the years evolve their business into a successful insurance agency. I like working with them kind of from ground zero to build something that is their own and taking it to wherever they want to take it.”
He says whether agents are new or established “part of what we do is to make sure they continue to grow and develop their agencies and run a profitable business for both themselves and Farmers.”
Critical to an agent’s success is reliable new customer prospect leads. Richmann says his office used genie as a data base provider but “we didn’t like the price, bottom-line, so we dropped genie and went without that resource. Then we found it was something we didn’t want to walk away from totally and Melissa (Bauer) did some research and found InfoFree.com.”
“I reviewed InfoFree and it looked like a good alternative,” says Bauer. “When we pulled some lists for cold calls we actually found them to be good. People were answering the phone. We didn’t get a lot of disconnected numbers. We definitely got good feedback from our agents.
“I like that InfoFree offers some flexibility and searching options, where I can download an entire list right away and not have to pick and choose a few at a time.”
Richmann likes that InfoFree’s ever-expanding products, such as renters’ leads, are cost-effective tools that allow agents to “initiate conversations with people about insurance.” Those contacts, he says, drive the business.