Alex Ditcharo never thought he’d work in insurance, but he’s been working for the Malia Hayward insurance agency for eight and a half years, selling property and casualty as well as life insurance and disability. When he first began working for the agency, there was only one agent in the office so he didn’t receive any formal training. “It was sink or swim,” Alex remembers laughing.
Ditcharo loves his job: “My favorite thing is saving people money,” he beams. “Just yesterday, I saved a guy over $2000 on all his policies so it felt really good! He wins, and I get a commission, so everyone wins.”
Ditcharo also loves his job because his coworkers are like family, the agency owner, his aunt. He is perfectly happy working for someone else rather than being an agency owner. “It’s less of a headache,” he says. “I’m good at my job, and it’s effortless now that I’m knowledgeable. People all over town--realtors, mortgage companies--are always calling me, picking my brain because they know me as the insurance specialist. When they have difficult questions about landslides and flood insurance, they call me. It’s helped me grow connections.”
Ditcharo’s growing network and buying the right leads have contributed to the fact that he makes quite a bit more than the average producer. The Malia Hayward agency usually ranks second or third in Alaska, and their retention rate is better than the agency that ranks number one.
When Ditcharo first began working as a producer in 2013, his boss bought leads from several vendors that don’t exist today. He was thrown into the fire with creating a process of working them properly. “Through trial and error, I found my way of doing it successfully,” he says. Today, the agency buys both internet leads and calls from SmartFinancial, as many as six or seven Internet leads a day. His account manager is always available to answer questions and help analyze his progress.
“The hardest thing to do besides getting the prospect on the phone is getting them to continue talking to you after they find out you’re selling insurance,” he says. “Now, before I call now, I will prepare the quote. Some people aren’t really shopping for insurance but I have their basic info, though not always correct. So, I do my homework and piece together a quote. The quote usually ends up being very accurate, and I can sometimes get it lower. Also, I say that our agency is in Juneau. Being local helps keep the lead on the phone. If they say it was a mistake and they are not really shopping, I say, ‘Well, I can save you $80 a month!’”
Ditcharo says it’s easy to figure out when the lead is seriously shopping or not. For instance, if the lead says they have an Audi and it turns up in the insurance report that they don’t, Ditcharo will prepare a quote for the car they really do own. Sometimes, these leads with bogus information end up as a sale.
The secret to Ditcharo’s success is no secret at all. He has simply honed a process in thoroughly working leads, without wasting a single one. He’s accepted the fact that it’s challenging to get the lead on the phone. He also staggers between each point of contact with a single lead. “When I first call,” he says, “I leave a message and send an email with the quote. Two days later, I will call but won’t leave a message or text. The third time I call I leave a message and email. The fourth time, I leave no message, no email but I text.”
Ditcharo trains all the new producers the agency hires, and the experience may come in handy one day. Even though he is perfectly content working for an agent, he knows he’ll have to consider becoming an agency owner when Malia Hayward retires. “I will continue to work for State Farm,” he says, without a doubt. “I truly believe their quality and pricing is the best.”
7 Golden Tips from Alex Ditcharo of State Farm
1. Giving your agents and producers thorough training is very important, even though I didn’t have that luxury.
2. Hire the right people. There tends to be huge turnover with staff in the insurance business. At our agency, we do a personality test to hire people, and it’s pretty accurate and helpful.
3. Have a quote ready for an Internet lead. My process of having a quote ready prevents a lot of rejection.
4. Persist despite hesitation. If the hesitation is about price, tell the lead their accident will fall off in six months and ask, “Can I call you in six months?” With teens, each year their rates drop so I ask to call. Usually people say yes. Sometimes, I get a client after three years.
5. Find a way to relate to people. Sometimes I start a conversation about local attractions or something that helps me connect. If the lead doesn’t buy, I ask to call in six months.
6. Follow through. If you say you'll call back, do it. Following up is a huge part of success.
7. Retention is key: Be legitimately personable, and not fake. Mean what you say. Look out for the client and find them discounts.They will be really appreciative and they will remember that you saved them money. Call them if they are late with a payment. They appreciate that too. If they have a service question, give them information. Agents sometimes don’t service people about driver’s licenses expiring but staying on top of the client helps to prevent cancellation. You must have a good service team. We have two customer service people on staff.