NU Online News Service, March 18, 2004, 5:22 p.m. EST – One of the Web agency pioneers has decided to beef up its ability to sell over the telephone.[@@]

A few years ago, Quotesmith.com Inc., Darien, Ill., was emphasizing the benefits of an Internet-based, no-salesperson approach to the insurance purchasing process.

Now the company has agreed to acquire the assets of Life Quotes Inc., a 25-year-old Evergreen, Colo., life insurance agency that uses a direct-response call center model.

Life Quotes has about 80 employees, and 45 of those employees are licensed life agents who sell coverage over the telephone, according to Quotesmith Chief Financial Officer Phil Perillo.

Quotesmith decided after reviewing its 2003 results that it needed more staff to call on customers who had placed incomplete orders and take calls from prospects who were responding to magazine ads and other marketing efforts, Perillo says.

“We weren’t handling phone sales very well, so we decided to buy instead of build,” Perillo says.

Adding Life Quotes also should help double Quotesmith’s revenue. Life Quotes and Quotesmith each is reporting about $10 million in 2003 revenue.

Quotesmith is not discussing the deal price, but the company notes that it is raising $13 million by selling common stock to Zions Bancorp., Salt Lake City, Utah. Zions would end up owning a 32% stake in Quotesmith and have one seat on Quotesmith’s board.

Quotesmith hopes to complete the deal by late April.

Ken Manley, Life Quotes’ founder and president, will retire after the deal closes, but Quotesmith plans to keep Life Quotes’ offices and employees, Perillo says.

“We think they do something different [than we do] and we want them to do it,” Perillo says. “We may have ideas for automation, but, at this point, we’re not looking to pay for the deal with staff reductions.”