July has been the best month for Mario Neto's State Farm agency since he opened the doors in 2020. His agency has grown over the years so that he and his staff service residents in four states: Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey.
Like many insurance agents, Neto didn't set out to sell insurance. In school, he studied technology and business, eventually earning three masters degrees in both tracks. He had a lucrative career in pharmaceutical devices and biotechnology, working with doctors on cutting edge treatments, so when he got a call from State Farm, he didn't know why they were calling.
"At the time, I was traveling around the globe for my job," he remembers. "I'd spend six weeks in Japan, five weeks in Australia. I was hardly ever with my family. I told the State Farm recruiter that I'm not experienced in financial services, but he said it didn't matter. They were looking for brainpower, people who execute and have fire inside."
A 10-minute conversation with the State Farm recruiter turned into 30 minutes and then an hour. In just a matter of days, Neto began transitioning to a role as a State Farm insurance agent. Today, he's happy he made the change because he enjoys the latitude he has in making decisions. He's also home every day with his family while helping his community with every type of insurance product there is to sell, including pet insurance. Over the past few weeks, he's been hiring new agents to keep up with the demand.
Neto did not use leads in his first career, at least not in the same way he now uses them to sell insurance. He used to rely much more on referrals from existing partners or from his personal network. "For instance, I'd call people and ask, 'Who is the number one lung cancer specialist in Europe? I'm planning to launch in Asia and need a doctor for my advisory board.'" Now, he uses leads to ensure a steady stream of new business so his agency can continue to grow and thrive.
"State Farm does the best training in the industry on business strategy and on how to influence people but not on how to use leads," says Neto, who learned from experience, by figuring out how to define the type of lead he wanted. He also spoke with colleagues about their experiences, and his Account Manager at SmartFinancial consistently gives him the best advice from working with other successful insurance agents.
Neto buys Internet leads and live-transfer calls for all the various insurance products he sells: home, auto, renters, life, health, commercial fleet, commercial liability--and, yes, pet insurance. He gets internet leads sent to his CRM and email. He also buys live transfer calls from SmartFinancial.
“The service level at SmartFinancial is #1 for me out of all the vendors I work with," says Neto.
"I started with life insurance at SmartFinancial, and I recently added auto leads," he says. "The service level at SmartFinancial is #1 for me out of all the vendors I work with. I'm now looking to add 100 new customers to my book of business, so I'm buying at least 10 leads a day."
"I’m now looking to add 100 new customers to my book of business, so I’m buying at least 10 leads a day.”
This may sound like a big investment, but it's not one that Neto takes lightly. He doesn't just call a lead once and forget about it if the call doesn't end in a sale. He has a process in place at the insurance agency that all of his agents use: "First day we call three times. The second, we call two times. We are efficient, clean and in control. Right now, we have over 10,000 tasks set to check on leads by calling, emailing and texting."
With three producers and a customer service manager, Neto also understands how important retention is so he has an agent who schedules meetings with the agency's current book of business. "All my CSR does is contact each customer at least once a year. We do a full review and look for gaps or an opportunity to serve them better in areas they are not covered. Generally they add something better, so we call not just for retention but to cross-sell other products."
Neto hopes to achieve a double digit closing ratio, ideally around a 15%, on the life and auto Internet leads he buys. With calls, he's already closing about 90%! In Q4, the year's last stretch, SmartFinancial is there to help Mario Neto of State Farm meet his high goals.
Golden Tips from Mario
1. Get a lead vendor who will give you a true partnership. They will help you maximize your efficiency and the money you invest. They should discuss options and do analysis with you. Not all IOPs are as responsive as my partner at SmartFinancial.
2. Choose a vendor that will help you train your new agents and producers. They will spend one hour, or one teleconference, on how to use the leads so you get the best results.
3. You need to find champions to work for you. Find people with grit. Everything else you can teach.