CONTRIBUTED Lee Nickels, center, is joined by a team of people to run his State Farm operation in Russellville, including Melissa Espinosa, Steven Hargett, Hailey Peters, Adam Duke and Susie.

State Farm’s Lee Nickels opens office in Russellville

After one month in business, Lee Nickels is settling in as a State Farm agent in Russellville.

The 2003 Mississippi State graduate has worked in sales nearly all of his career, first with an auto dealership, then with ServiceMaster and with New York Life before landing at State Farm. Insurance sales, one might say, is in his heritage.

“My dad was in insurance ever since I was born,” Nickels, 37, said. “I had a chance to go work for him, but I decided out of college I would rather go do something else … But sales is in my blood. I really enjoy talking with people and meeting the public. I really have that drive and satisfaction to achieve certain goals and results.”

Name recognition ultimately drew Nickels to work under the State Farm brand. “They are the biggest and best for a reason,” Nickels said. “I knew the income potential was really good for State Farm agents … I knew what opportunities State Farm provided. I made it my goal to work for State Farm – but it was a hard journey.”

The Columbus, Miss., worked as a team member under a State Farm agent in Hernando, Miss., for five years but decided he wanted to be an agent in his own right. After going through what he describes as a “rigorous process” to transition into an agent role, Nickels interviewed to take a spot in Russellville, vacated by the retiring Gus Garrard.

“I wanted to have the freedom to run my own ship,” Nickels said. He said applying for State Farm’s agent selection process included putting up good numbers, developing a business plan and other stringent requirements, including working with State Farm corporate in Atlanta, Ga., during his training. “I knew if I stayed the course and worked hard, I could get to where I am right now.”

Nickels said he focuses on a needs-based selling model for his business. “You find out what they currently have and what they’re looking for, and then you try to uncover their needs … It’s where do you want to be, what do you currently have in place to get there, where are the gaps and concerns, and then what do we need to do to fill in those gaps.”

He said he also prides himself in running a business of integrity and strong customer care.

For Nickels, the success of his business really depends on getting his name and product in front of a large number of potential customers.

“If you sell, say, 10 percent of the people you talk to, and you want to make 10 sales, you need to talk to 100 people,” Nickels said. “It’s a numbers game. Of course, there are so many other things that are important, but I think that’s the most important: making the calls.”

Having a memorable catchphrase is also helpful – “Where Nickels saves you dollars” is a tagline he borrowed from his grandfather, who used the same motto for his furniture business.

Within the next five years Nickels said he hopes to grow his business, grow his team and transition to owning his own office space. “We plan on being here until the day I retire – putting our roots here,” he said.

Nickels and wife Mary have four children: Callie, 7, Harrison, 5, Sadie, 3, and Jacob, 1. Outside the office Nickels enjoys family time, church participation, hiking and tennis.

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