Success Story: Tony Stoll on Making It as an Independent Agent

Fran Majidi January 19, 2023
Tony Stoll Insurance

Tony Stoll was raised in Silicon Valley but now lives in northern California. He graduated from college in 1988 with a degree in exercise science and ran fitness and sports programs for adults and kids for years but half the time he felt like a babysitter. In the end, he realized he could never be in charge of his own business.

“In 2005, my brother was selling property and casualty insurance, and I thought I’d give it a try,” Stoll says, “I liked the concept of building up a business with residual clients.”

Stoll has now been selling insurance for 16 years. He was a captive Farmers agent from 2011-2017 and has also worked for an insurance brokerage for six years. He has been completely independent for four years.

When asked why he didn’t stay with Farmers, Stoll says, “Quotas. I wasn’t selling enough life insurance. I had a hard time convincing people to protect their families. I know it’s important, but I got tired of asking for favors to meet the quotas. Farmers also stopped supporting the super small agencies and encouraged small agency owners to merge. I sold my business back to them and became 100 percent independent.”

As an independent agent, Stoll had to start from scratch, first by setting himself up with different MGAs. He had a few clients who found him through Google but he had to find new business too.

“You have a lot of freedom as an independent agent,” he says, “but it’s got its ups and downs. I prefer it because I have access to a lot of carriers. So far, I have 15 auto carriers, 12 homeowners insurance carriers and six or seven commercial carriers, not to mention some aggregators. I can find a place for anyone with any risk.”

When it comes to marketing, Tony has spent a lot of money on insurance leads but had no luck with the first few vendors he tried out. They would reach out to him after he stopped buying, telling him they’ve revamped their business, but the leads were still not qualified.

“The vendors I worked with before SmartFinancial had me set a bid amount,” Stoll explains. “It’s just too much for me to spend $150 on a lead which is a risk no carrier will take.”

When he began working with SmartFinancial, Tony bought live transfer calls, mainly commercial leads, which go hand-in-hand with good premiums.

“I started the live transfer commercial calls from SmartFinancial a couple of months ago,” he says. “I’m about 10 or 12 leads in, and I’ve closed a couple and am still working on a few. The calls work for me; it’s more than just basic information, and they all seem to be the same risk. I’m signing parcel delivery or long haul trucking businesses, box trucks and delivery pallets of merchandise that go from one fulfillment center to another. These sales are decent premium policies, and I plan to start trying internet leads for homes at $700 to $1000 premiums and car insurance along with it.”

Tony still loves to get out there and generate his own leads. He likes to walk into a sandwich shop or restaurant and just ask if they’ll consider a quote to switch. “If they see your face all the time it’s easy,” he says. “You give them a great compliment about what a nice, clean establishment they run and they’ll consider working with you. A restaurant policy can be $3K. It’s also a residual client. You make X one year and you get 50 to 80 percent if you keep everyone.”

As for the future, Stoll’s retirement plan is based on residual clients. “My brother and I might buy some investment property for passive income, but I don’t want to be working when I’m 70. In six or seven years, I want someone who will work on a $1000 base and commission. I’ll give them 80%.”

Golden Tips to Insurance Agents

1. Learn everything you can about business insurance because that’s someone’s livelihood. The thing about commercial insurance is that it’s usually 12 months and bigger premiums. The great thing is you won’t get a call on a Sunday night about car insurance only to have the guy cancel in a couple of months. Commercial clients stick better and longer because it’s something they want to keep. They also tend to make every payment.

2. Move to California where there are many people with so many perils and endless clients. California has certain zip codes where insurance companies are not covering homes and businesses due to fire. Most people need two policies one for liability theft vandalism and water and a separate one for fire if they are close to brush. With beach houses, waters are starting to rise, and in 3 years they’ll end up in the ocean. The California Fair Plan will give someone insurance no matter what, but it is very expensive and only covers fire, lighting and explosion. In a state like Utah, every peril is under one policy.

3. Market yourself. Don’t be afraid to give someone your card more than once. Tell them to give it to a friend. Just be nice and learn to service your clients.

4. Take yourself to a business owner and convince them to let you fill out the form for them by asking questions. They think it’ll take hours to get a quote but it doesn’t. Save the prospect some money on his insurance and you can eventually insure the staff for their cars. Be the guy that’s going to take care of them. You can get lots of referrals this way too.

5. Use SmartFinancial because they have good quality leads. I’m looking at a lot of premiums. I sold one for $19,000 and I made 10% plus a decent size broker fee, so I made close to 3K. I only paid $65 for the lead.

6. Good retention is key. Start young and after 25 years, you can make 300K without doing much at all. You can sit back and hire a staff to service existing policies and a producer to bring in new business.