Any agent can buy online insurance leads. Many are doing just that every day. The insurance industry has jumped on board with the online lead generation process, which has both good and bad ramifications. On the plus side, online leads are a solid and well-establish tool for reaching new clients. The downside, however, is that many agents are doing it, which means the marketplace is crowded and only strategic salespeople will be able to reap the rewards. In fact, the very nature of buying online prospects means that agents must be creative when it comes to closing insurance leads. It’s a process that will only work for the most engaged and adept agents. Here are six tips for closing online leads like a boss.

Understand Customer’s Viewpoint

Long gone are the days when consumers relied on their neighborhood insurance agent for information and service. The online world allows people to comparison shop for insurance anytime they want. In the end, it is the insurance agents who can view the buying process from the customers’ viewpoint who will do best in closing insurance leads. A concrete knowledge of the process and where along the path there are sales opportunities can put you ahead of the competition.

A 2015 study of insurance shopping by J.D. Power found that many customers are looking around for good deals, but not all of them are switching if they find a better (read: cheaper) prospect. That is good news for agents who take the time to understand potential customer’s needs and preferences. Once the deal is closed, you can have a customer for life. However, you won’t get to the closure stage without solid sales strategies.

Get There First

When a potential customer fills out an insurance inquiry form online, he or she expects to get a lot of calls or emails from multiple agents, sometimes up to eight. But the chance of converting that lead into a sale grows smaller the longer you wait to get in contact. A B2B article on response times details the decline in conversion rates as the clock ticks down, so it is clear that the earliest bird is the most likely to get the worm. Of course, taking the time to fly down to the worm is the first step, as many agents don’t even get in touch with the leads they receive.

Your goal in contacting prospects is to surprise them with the eagerness with which you get in touch. You can further underscore this favorable opinion by being prepared with a concise sales pitch and a promise to get in touch soon by email. Of course, you have to follow up on this pledge, or you will lose all the credibility you just gained.

Be Persistent but Not a Pest

After the initial phone call, an email is the next logical step for establishing a rapport with online insurance leads. They will have an easier time digesting the information you give them if they can read it at their leisure. But don’t give them too much time. If you don’t hear back after a few days, it is time to follow up with another email or phone call.

Velocify’s 2014 Sales Performance Optimization study found that it can take up to seven points of contact for a lead to convert into a sales prospect. However, the same study showed that some salespeople never even follow up on as much as 61 percent of the leads that come their way. That means if you are an agent who is actively engaged in trying to help an online insurance lead, you could be ahead of the game already. Just be sure you are not too persistent. If the prospect asks you to stop contacting them, it is important to honor their wishes.

Establish Yourself as Invaluable

During your multiple conversations with a potential customer, it is vital that you are a good listener who makes it clear you are invested in his or her satisfaction. You will have plenty of opportunities to establish yourself as an expert not only in the insurance field but also in your marketplace. You have to be up to date on rates, information, legislation, and changes that could be coming down the pike.

Many people are intimidated by the insurance process. That provides you with an opportunity to put their minds at ease with your expertise. Let them know they can ask any question. Give them the answers to caveats or potential hurdles before they even ask. It is much easier closing insurance leads when the client sees you as a partner in their success.

Stick to the Plan

Over time, you’ve likely gotten a feel for which strategies work best in your marketplace. Now is the time to create a framework of those best practices. You can use this system every time you get an online insurance lead.

For example, if you want to be the first person prospects hear from, you have to create an automated system that gets your notification emails to your wherever you are. That way, you can make a call even if you are out of the office. You might also consider establishing an autoresponse email that goes out immediately after the lead has made contact. This won’t be an option with all lead generation services, but it is a handy tool. Even if you have this feature, you still must plan on making a phone call as quickly as possible.

Next, be strategic out the information you send out in the follow-up email. You want to dispatch helpful information but not an overwhelming amount. Think about whether you want to include a rate sheet or whether you want to wait until a prospect contacts you for that information.

Finally, establish and follow a plan for check-in emails and the next step in the sales process. If you use the same practices each time – tweaking when needed – you will be better equipped to close more insurance leads.

Be Optimistic but Realistic

Even if you have a plan, call prospects right away and establish a strong rapport, you are not going to make a sale each time. It is important to go into every conversation with the expectation that you and the lead will continue your relationship. This confidence will be transmitted to potential clients.

Still, online lead generation is just one option in the whole insurance sales toolbox. It is a better bet than cold calling, but not as likely to end in a sale as when someone chooses to walk into your office. By being realistic about your conversion rates and continuing to hone your sales process, you may eventually be able to rely on online leads for a significant portion of your annual revenue.

Closing online insurance leads requires diligence, creativity, and self-discipline. If you are only half-engaged in the process, you are less likely to convert prospects into customers. These tips for closing online leads will help you take advantage of internet contact, but it will not perform the entire sales process for you. However, if you can understand the customer’s point of view, get in touch quickly, follow your prescribed process and establish yourself as an expert, online leads can turn into lucrative relationships you can nurture for the rest of customers’ lives.