A few years ago, after creating a tremendously successful campaign for Blue Cross and Blue Shield that reduced negative perceptions by 38%, increased positive perceptions by 19% and doubled inbound leads, they asked us to see if we could help Farm Bureau do a better job of selling Blue Cross and Blue Shield health insurance.
Farm Bureau sells their own life, auto and home insurance and they are very well respected by their customers.
At the time I began working on this project, Farm Bureau had 850 agents in North Carolina and those agents weren't coming close to making the annual sales goals that had been agreed to with Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
I recommended, and the client agreed, to let me have one-on-one interviews with 15 of their agents so I could better understand:
- How they generated leads
- How they scheduled appointments
- What took place during an appointment
- What worked and didn't work with regards to making a sale
- Their perception of Blue Cross and Blue Shield health insurance
- Their customers' perception of Blue Cross and Blue Shield health insurance
The one-on-one discussions with the agents were invaluable.
Each interview lasted anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes and gave me a much better understanding of the agents' mentality, how they went about their job and their perception of Blue Cross and Blue Shield health insurance.
As I was presenting my findings to the vice president of sales, who had been managing the 850 agents for the past 20 years, he stopped me 10 minutes into my presentation.
He said, "How did you get this information? You've already told me two things I've never heard before and I've been managing these guys for 20 years."
I explained my methodology and hypothsized that his sales reps were telling me details they never shared with him, or amongst themselves, because they thought they were irrelevant.
Since they were all agents, they tought everyone was doing the same things and knew the same things.
While there were a lot of consistencies, they were also a lot of nuances that each agent had developed over time that helped them be more successful.
One, in particular, was an agent who only met with the husband and wife together at the kitchen table where he could see both of them simultaneously. He wanted to be able to see both decision-makers' reactions.
Based on what the V.P. of sales told me, this finding was subsequently added to the Farm Bureau agent training.
After presenting the findings from the one-on-one interviews, the V.P. of sales asked me to validate the findings, and see if we would learn any new insights, by conducting an online survey of the other 835 agents.
I created and implemented the survey. The results confirmed everything I had learned fromt he one-on-one interviews and provided no new insights since the online survey didn't allow for the all-important follow-up questions, "Can you tell me more about that?" or "Can you explain why you do that?"
The solution to the problem of Farm Bureau agents selling more Blue Cross and Blue Shield health insurance didn't come directly from any of the agents.
The solution came from knowing:
- There's a Farm Bureau agency on a major thoroughfare in all 100 counties in North Carolina.
- Farm Bureau agents thought very highly of Blue Cross and Blue Shield health insurance, even though they didn't receive as much compensation as they did when they sold a Farm Bureau policy.
- Farm Bureau clients trust their Farm Bureau agents.
- Everyone in the state of North Carolina recognizes Blue Cross and Blue Shield health insurance as the "gold standard."
- Farm Bureau and Blue Cross and Blue Shield have tremendous brand awareness and equity.
This knowledge resulted in the recommendation that Farm Bureau buy yellow plastic A-frame signs for every agency with a sign that says "Blue Cross and Blue Shield (logo) health insurance available here Farm Bureau (logo)."
The agents put these signs out in front of their office every morning when they opened the office.
Results: Farm Bureau met their 12-month health insurance sales goals in less than three months and spent less than $65,000 on the signs.
Today, you continue to see the A-frame signs in front of the Farm Bureau offices as well as car magnets of fans of local colleges and universities.
Use insights from your customers and your sales people to help you solve business problems.