Those golden days of maintaining a full portfolio of property and casualty insurance customers for life are slowly drawing to a close. Yes, relationships are still very important. However, the widespread use of online tools is changing your job as an insurance agent – and to continue to be successful, you need to change tactics as well.

1. Your prospective clients are more informed about insurance products.

Your prospects have already been online, reading educational content about coverages, how much they need, what’s included. In many instances, they’re even comparing insurance rates online, using such tools as the new Google Compare. In fact, today’s insurance buyer goes through nearly 60 percent of the sales process before they even talk with an insurance rep, says CEB, a best practice insight and technology company.

The best way to meet this change: Become their insurance consultant, not their insurance salesperson. Provide them with a helpful piece of collateral or an article you’ve read that pertains to a situation they are dealing with.

2. Your prospective clients have read your online insurance reviews.

Reviews are key in selling today. As reported in an article, BrightLocal’s annual Local Consumer Review Survey found that 88 percent of people surveyed said they consult reviews “regularly” or at least “occasionally.” The same survey found that 72 percent agreed “positive customer reviews make me trust a business more” – so those reviews are important.

The best way to meet this change: Have you checked your reviews lately? Google your insurance agency name and see what other listings come up besides your website. Check on your LinkedIn and company Facebook pages, if you have them. What have people posted about you on Yelp? Do you have any unanswered complaints with the Better Business Bureau? Be sure your agency responds properly to all of these. At the same time, your agency needs to make a concerted effort to have satisfied policyholders post their positive insurance reviews on Yelp and your Facebook page; as well as posting testimonials on your website

Related: Six ways to get more online traffic than your competitor down the street

3. Carriers are using data mining and predictive analytics to hone their appetites.

Carriers are tapping into increasingly sophisticated technology to provide more actionable information capabilities from their massive amounts of property-casualty data. Pinpointing a more accurate cost of risk is leading to greater risk discrimination among insurance companies, allowing them to better control risks and losses, according to ALIRT’s “Year End 2014 P&C Industry Review” as discussed in an Independent Agent magazine article earlier this year. This allows not only for better pricing strategies from carriers, but more specificity with regards to the types of insurance products they offer.

The best way to meet this change: Stay nimble. With the constant change of carrier appetites, there are new markets and niche markets to uncover. Stay on top of carriers’ new offerings so that you’re first to the table with new products for your clients and prospects.

 4. Digital demands of Millenials and X Gens

The two younger generations – and those coming after them – have shown a huge propensity to conduct a majority of their online business via their cell phone.

The best way to meet this change: If you haven’t already done so, invest in the technology to make your website mobile compatible. This is crucial, because your website must be simple to navigate on mobile; pages must load fast and be easy to read.  What looks good on a PC or laptop may not render well at all on mobile or tablets. Whichever vendor you choose to help you accomplish this, the first question they’ll ask is: are your users mobile-first or second? In other words, do most of your prospects and clients primarily use their mobile to access your website, or do they primarily access you via computer? Your Google Analytics can provide this information for you; if not, go with mobile second, which will still make your website responsive and mobile-compatible.

5. Social selling takes front row for commercial insurance

Ok, perhaps we’re exaggerating a bit on this one – but it IS becoming more popular. Still, we have to admit, according to a Hubspot blogpost in October, only 42 percent of sales people (that’s in all industries, not just insurance) have more than the bare minimum of information on their prospect before they reach out the first time. Those 58 percent are completely missing the boat – especially if they’re selling commercial lines – because their prospects’ info is available online at LinkedIn.

That brings us to the subject of social selling. Just what is social selling? It’s using social channels to prospect, communicate and nurture your leads.

The best way to meet this change:

  • Prospect: When you research a prospect online, don’t just view their company website; instead, use other prospecting tools such as their LinkedIn page. If you need specific contact information, look on their LinkedIn page on the right side – often key employees are listed there. If not, in the top search bar, click on the People icon and then in the search bar, add the company name and the position you’re searching for – Chief Financial Officer,  Risk Manager, Human Resources Director, etc.  It will take you to a listing page with several people listed.

    On the left side, you can filter your search and look for specific locations, choose only current employees, choose anyone that’s a first or second degree connection to you, etc.  Then you can click through to their page(s) and read their information. 

Related: Six ways insurance agents can rock social selling on LinkedIn 

  • Communicate. You may want to contact your LinkedIn second degree connection who knows that person, and have them introduce you to your prospect. It’s a good way to turn a cold call into a warmer call.

    Once that introduction is made, you can email them a brief personal message with a link to an article you’ve read online that they may be interested in, and invite them to connect with you via LinkedIn. Make sure the article is from a reputable site like the New York Times, Huffington Post, Forbes, etc.  You’re not trying to sell at this point – you’re trying to warm up the lead. After that initial email, follow with another one (or a phone call) asking when may be a good time to discuss their coverage.

  • Nurture. Continue to post links to helpful articles on your LinkedIn page and your business Facebook page (note: you need a business Facebook page that’s completely separate from your personal page), along with your Google Plus page, if you use this channel. These posts will be seen in your first connections or friends/fans’ newsfeeds.

    You can also boost or sponsor specific posts (paid advertising) so that your post shows up in the newsfeeds of the audience that you target, such as all CFOs and financial directors of a given city, for instance. For best success, experts suggest you post only one sales post promoting yourself or your products to another 5-6 informative posts that you’re curating from other websites, such as Forbes.

Each of these top five changes relates to the Internet and big data – innovations that are here to stay. Agents who ride these waves of change, always keeping an eye on the oncoming waves behind them, are better positioned to increase their book of business in 2016.