In 2011, Chris Steward graduated with an accounting degree from CUNY’s York College. He went into banking until 2013, when he suddenly decided to find a new direction. He knew that insurance is always in demand, and it’s recession proof, so he became a State Farm agent and opened his own agency in 2017. He sells P&C products, life insurance and health products like disability income.
Prior to opening his own agency, Stewart worked with another State Farm agent from 2013 to 2017. It was a big agency, which won awards. The owner was also looking to expand, so Stewart learned how to grow a team from that experience and was surrounded by other motivated agents.
“Even though I had great experience, I worried about pulling together a team when I opened my agency,” admits Stewart. “I started with one team member and by the end of 2018, I added another one. I now have three team members in the office, building and growing our book of business and trying to retain the policies we write.”
At State Farm, you can’t buy a book of business but Stewart inherited one to work on, after. an agent passed away. He needed to write new policies to meet his goals, so he began buying insurance leads one month in. He knew that if you didn’t produce enough new business, State Farm could cancel his contract. He’s been steadily buying leads from SmartFinancial for five years.
“I started off buying a combination of data leads and live transfers,” says Stewart. “However, the transfers didn’t work for us because we didn’t have a big enough team. It got too hectic getting inbound calls on top of the learning curve. I ended up stopping live transfers but stayed with the data leads because you can control the calls. Our success comes from proactively following up.”.
Stewart likes that he can turn up the volume on incoming leads and also turn it down, based on how busy they are in a given week. Usually he buys 15, sometimes up to 20, leads a day. At minimum, he buys 50 leads a week.
As soon as the leads come into his inbox, the team does a dummy quote with the information they have. They then get the price out right away. If the price is competitive, they write a policy. If not, they keep calling until they make the sale.
“SmartFinancial is pretty good at getting us accurate information,” explains Stewart. “The people they send us are actually shopping for insurance. We don’t give up on the leads that do not buy right away. We contact them at least four times a week, via call, text or email. If they are not responsive, we push that lead out a month down the road to contact again. We only stop if they say, ‘Stop contacting me’. We also have a referral program. We send out a $10 gift card if we sign a referral.”
Stewart has quarterly goals from the corporate office that he needs to meet. He takes those goals andI breaks them down for the team. “I tell them, ‘If we do X amount of this, you guys will get X amount in bonuses,’” explains Stewart. “That way, they know what they have to do each week to attain that goal.”
State Farm also offers company promotions for travel when agencies meet certain goals and sell certain products. For instance, in 2023, it was a trip to Germany and other countries in Europe. State Farm pays for the trip, and the agent only pays for airfare.
“The trip is nice,” says Stewart, “but qualifying and meeting financial goals for the agency is the most important part of it.”
In the near future, Stewart hopes to add a fourth member to his dynamic team. “So far, the magic number seems to be three or four. If the agency grows financially, I’ll consider hiring even more agents or opening a second agency. For now. We’re just putting in the work.”
5 Golden Tips from Chris Stewart of State Farm
- Be persistent, and don’t give up. If you’re feeling down and out, like you’re spending money and the money is not coming back, remember that insurance sales is like a rollercoaster and it’ll pick back up. Just stick to the process and believe in yourself and your vision.
- Communicate with your team what your goals are and make sure they understand and believe in your vision.
- Keep following up. When you get an interested person, call and text them regularly. Texting often gets a quicker response than a call or email.
- Be flexible and ask when it’s convenient for the customer to take a call. Work around their schedule.
- If you write a policy, ask for a referral. It’s always easier than selling a policy to a lead.