Charline Espinoza started working in the insurance industry in 2001. Prior to becoming an insurance agent, she was helping defend policyholders as a State Farm corporate employee in the legal department. At that time, you had to be an employee to become an agent, and it was a new agency owner who first encouraged Charline to look into becoming an agent. There was a need for insurance agents to service the latino community.
“When I was approached about becoming an agent, I pictured the older man in a tacky suit. At first, I thought, ‘That's not me!’” Charline remembers, laughing. “When he started telling me about how they wanted to diversify the agents, I decided to go for it.”
Charline soon opened her agency in Redondo Beach, California, and 15 years later, she is in Hermosa Beach, about a quarter of a mile away from where it all began. When she first opened her shop, she was given a book of business to service from State Farm. As soon as she had the money, Charline hired two people, and they all began scouring the phone book.
“We also attended local marketing events,” Charline says. “We went walking around to visit businesses, we participated in the chamber of commerce mixers. We did everything we could to reach out to our warm market.”
It was in 2011 that Charline first started buying leads. Insurance leads were different then, and she had to buy software to access data on new homeowners and people purchasing autos. Many of her clients were seeing rate increases, so she was more focused on retaining policyholders than growing her book so she only bought a few.
“Around 2019 we ramped up the leads with a focus on growth,” Charline explains. “Each year, I was losing customers and my income was decreasing so I needed to grow just to maintain a book. If you’re losing 5% of your clients a year and without buying leads, your book can evaporate pretty quickly.”
Charline’s staff focused mostly on Internet data leads all through much of the COVID pandemic, and luckily State Farm subsidized the cost. In 2021, they shifted to buying more live transfers, and today they're buying a combination of data leads and calls from several vendors.
“We came to SmartFinancial to do something a little different than what some of the other State Farm agents were doing,” Charline explains. “I wanted to see if I can leverage a higher close ratio working with a new vendor. What she found was that with SmartFinancial, she has an account manager to help her tweak her settings and place bids based on what she’s willing to pay. She also likes that she gets most of the information she needs emailed to her right away.
Charline’s agency has the most success with homeowners data leads best because they allow her staff to reach out and educate the customers in developing new relationships. “We’ve got three full-time sales people here and three service people following up,” says Charline. “I prefer my team to be busy calling out, so data leads work best for us in general.”
Charline is more focused these days on management and education than selling policies, but with growth on her mind, and a track record of wins with the insurance leads she’s buying from SmartFinancial, her State Farm agency is destined for success.
4 Golden Insurance Sales Tips From Charline Espinoza
- Educate the customer and have conversations. Create connections. Ask questions, like, “Are you a pet owner?” Ask about their occupation. Be genuinely interested in who they are so you stand out.
- You’re not just selling insurance. You’re advising customers on how to protect homes and assets, so make sure they are informed about how it all works.
- Follow up by phone and text, and mail out handwritten notes to leads. We’ve gotten some great responses this way.
- If you call and they don’t have time, set up an appointment and send a reminder beforehand. You can even call an hour before the appointment to make sure they can keep it. Just keep them in the pipeline, even if you have to reschedule.