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How to Sell Insurance on the Internet... The Old Fashioned Way

Author: Gary Savelli

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be able to tell people that I made $75,000 my FIRST YEAR actively selling insurance on the Internet. And it looks like the coming year will be even better. Through our web site, our small four person San Francisco family agency is selling an average of 50 or more policies and bonds per month as I write this.... 


The past four months were record months, with close to 100 new policies A MONTH, all sold via the Internet. We get 20-50 quote requests daily and, of course, referrals from customers we have sold at our web site. Folks, I am telling you the truth when I say that we are trying to CUT BACK on Internet sales because we cannot keep up with it. There is money to be made on the Internet, and if other insurance agents have tried, and tell you otherwise, it's usually because they have not done it right or have not understood what it takes to make sales. Here's what it takes.... 

Forget the common jargon you read in every broker and agent magazine article you pick up about insurance on the Internet. Yes we all need fast loading sites, interesting content, regular search engine submission, fast and automated quoting... but phooey! We know all that. We've read the same stuff over and over! Most agents that have web sites know what to do (or are learning what to do) - but they are selling only a few policies here and there. It's a start - but it's not "success."

I have insurance brokers, marketing representatives, insurance companies, agency managers, and web site designers asking me how I sell insurance on the web.... because they can't! Yesterday I spoke with a company Internet consultant who told me that what my agency is selling rivals most COMPANY'S Internet sales numbers! For a variety of reasons, insurance agencies both small and large, and even some companies, just aren't doing what it takes to be successful at it.

Now, in this article I'm NOT talking to big companies like Progressive, InsWeb, etc. who have budgets of millions of dollars, and can do things that 99.9% of the average agencies cannot do. Forget all of that... you don't need it. Let them do what they are doing, and God bless them. What YOU need to do is so simple, most agents overlook it altogether.

Let's try HARD WORK for a change!

There is a mentality out there that somehow thinks one can get a web site up and running, and do just about nothing, and all this money will come rolling in. It's just not so. I don't know where that idea started, but let's get rid of it. To make money on the Internet takes a lot of WORK. I have helped several agents get going and I find one thing in common: the agencies that sit back waiting for their web site to do the work, reap just about nothing. The ones that go crazy TRYING to make it work see results. So the question is, what effort are you putting into it?

My sales do not come "automatically" from the Internet. In fact, the more "automated" my site is, the FEWER sales I make. Why? Because I believe insurance is something that will always need some personal intervention. I'm sure these "automated" company sites do all right, but I have heard the bottom lines are not what they were hoping for.

Of the 100 automatic auto quotes my site does, I sell maybe two of them. MAYBE. Of the 100 auto quotes I intervene in (by e-mail, telephone, or mail) - the ratio goes up to something like 20. Why? Because I am a salesman. I'm a nice guy. I like my clients. I want to help them. I'm eager to go out of my way to "fix" things for them. I spend time with them. I make things easy for them. I work hard!! If a fellow has received an automatic quote from Progressive, and then talked to me, if my product is competitive, I will win every time (I hope!).

Now - hard work you say? Hard work in what? Of course we can only talk about a few things in an article this length, but let's return to the things that everyone knows already, and see how hard work can make it all come together for you.

"Your Web Site and The World of Search Engines"

The normal course is that an agent will submit their web page to a few search engines, and keep their fingers crossed. Yes, they may see a few hits to their site if their web pages come up on occasion. But eventually your web site will disappear from the rankings and sometimes altogether from an engine for no known reason. Fresh submissions are the best. We have a diligent submission schedule at our office where we are submitting EVERY WEB PAGE we have to the major search engines on a regular basis. At least monthly. If we are looking for more traffic, sometimes every two to three weeks. When we are too busy to handle the number of quotes coming in we STOP submitting to cool things off.

How long does submitting web pages take? Many hours. It costs money if you want someone else to do it for you (a great "by-hand" submission operation which does your page for only $5 to all the major engines can be found at If you don't submit your pages regularly, you can forget it. Without hard work, you will see very little traffic at your site. And usually your MAIN or HOME page is a search engine loser, so you need sub pages that feature other kinds of insurance programs you have to offer. The more, the better. That's more hard work designing and redesigning until you are successful.

"Is One Web Page Enough?"

No. One web page is mediocre at best. That is if you are trying to sell insurance. If you want a glorified "calling card" on the Internet, stick with one web page. If you want to sell insurance, you need a minimum of 12, each targeting your potential customer's interest. We have over 100 web pages. We have 20 domain names featuring different kinds of coverage. We work hard at getting to people who need our help, and statistics prove that if they don't find what they need within 12 minutes, they quit. So, much effort is given by us to be found for very specific situations, and to be found quickly. For example: for "special event" coverage, we have a wedding event page. What can you do? If you write airplane insurance, get a Boeing Airplane insurance page. If you write roofers liability, get a specific page for that product. If all you have is a blurb on your main page, the engines and viewers will not pick you up. This all takes time and effort on your part. Are you willing to do it?

"The Inquiry, Quoting, and Sales Process"

My web site has very RARELY sold a policy all by itself. It is always best to get as close to the person inquiring as you can. It takes a lot of effort. Sometimes a person wanting a quote does not want to talk to you, so you can't get too close, but my experience has been that most are happy to meet a "real" person. So when your quotes start coming in, you need to really do some "selling" to get your clients. If I talk to a person on the phone, that is by far the BEST way to make a sale. Next, would be e-mail contact. Last would be them getting automated information and contacting me. If I can TALK to the person, I get a good feel for what they need, and what I have to offer them if anything. If I just sent them an e-mail, I have to wait for THEM to decide if they want my service (whereas, when I can talk to them, I can ASK them to make a decision right away.) And lastly, automated quotes are least effective because I cannot be involved in the sales process at all... and as I said, I sell very few of those.

Now the Internet buyer is very "quick" and "savvy." Yes, they are glad to meet a nice person like you, but they want some service. So, if you are going to have a secretary take a message when they call, of if you are too busy to talk, forget it. My staff has explicit instructions to get Internet inquiries to me or my sales people as close to "right now" as they can. Sometimes that is not possible, but that is rare. "Call backs" (meaning a person leaving a message and me returning their call) are most often losers. I have found that by the time I get back to them it's too late. They want to BUY! And so it can be very hectic, and it takes a lot of effort. But we sell them all the time, 5 to 10 a day. Perhaps I could sell more than that if I had the wherewithal, but we are not looking to expand as an agency right now - so the current volume is more than enough for us to handle at this time.

"Processing New Business Effectively"

Because Internet customers are looking for service, it takes a lot of effort to "get ready" for them. When they call, and are ready to buy, are you willing to do what it takes to be prepared to process that business without delay? Time is of the essence. We have spent numerous hours getting perfectly clear copies of applications, forms, and cover letters needed to process that business when the buyer chooses to use us. When a person says, "fax me the applications, I want the insurance," they have them in their hand in less than 5 minutes. That makes an impression - and a sale. If they have to wait until later in the day, they may call someone else - it happens to us on occasion. But if you have done your job, it's going to be you that wins out.

My bookkeeper runs credit cards through immediately when a fax order arrives. She has to stop everything to get that done, because once the money is in hand, it's over! So we are scrambling at times to finalize each policy. But it works. It works because WE are working, and working hard.

"In Conclusion"

The results? A happy staff among other things. When a day goes by so fast, because we are so busy, morale stays high. People have a sense of accomplishment. They know we are making money and doing well. And we reward them for it. If they work hard, I want to compensate them for it. We have a wonderful agency "family" - and a Chinese lunch every Friday. An agency shirt and baseball cap. Candy, dinner gift certificates, and even cash bonuses. Why not? We worked hard for it!

Folks, it's a big pie. Are you selling five new pieces of business every day without spending anything extra in advertising? Without knocking on doors? Without buying a huge yellow page ad? Without hiring more sales people? I am. I'm happy! I am not offering you a "get rich quick scheme." It's about adding a steady flow of customers to your business each and every day. If you are willing to WORK HARD to get your web site started and running efficiently, the Internet will work back for YOU.

If you'd like to know more about our services to help agents, or would like to purchase our great "nuts and bolts" book (geared to the small to mid-sized agency) entitled "Selling Insurance on the Internet" (a great agency addition for only $25), visit our web site for agents at: (you can also view a short video clip on how to make your agency web site a success). If you are an agency and need some serious "consulting" to make a go at a web site, or fix what you have so it will do something for you, I am available for special consulting projects if you email me at:

I'll see all you hard working agents on line, making your agency web site a real success. Those that aren't working so hard? — Well, maybe I'll see you at an eBay auction, spending your hard earned money trying to find a bargain... isn't that the way it is in this life?! :)

Gary Savelli

Copyright 2001 by Gary Savelli. Used with permission

​127 South Peyton Street
Alexandria VA 22314
​phone: 800.221.7917
fax: 703.683.7556

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