There seems to be some division among thought leaders in the insurance industry whether insurance agents are just commodities dealers or value-add counselors. For the independent insurance agent and broker to be relevant in the years to come, agents and brokers must be value-add counselors. More importantly, our society will be done a grave disservice if the counseling that insurance agents and brokers give in assessing, finding, purchasing, and maintaining quality insurance at an economic price is diminished. Accordingly, I wholeheartedly support and encourage insurance agents and brokers to focus on their value as experts and consultants.
Insurance is far more complex than most people realize. Consumers who seek the best possible price by surfing the internet, downloading a mobile app, or accessing an 800 number might feel good at the outset. But it can also be followed by sleepless nights worrying about their level of protection, or discovery that their coverage was insufficient, not what was expected, or has little to no service attached to it.
Selling products based solely on price have a much lower retention rate, and for good reason. When the time comes for the consumer to want a relationship, it will be with someone else.
Early in my career as a young business lawyer, I knew that one of the ingredients for success was being able to bring in my own clients. To bring in my own clients, I knew that I had to prospect within my community, create meaningful relationships with personal and business contacts and nurture those relationships.
Insurance agents, too, must prospect within their communities, creating meaningful personal and business contacts and must nurture those relationships to succeed. Just as lawyers are just consultants in the legal realm, insurance agents can be valuable counselors to insured on the types, qualities, and quantities of insurance to best protect insureds’ hard-earned assets.
Young and ambitious, but not really knowing how to do it, I read Alan Weis’ Million Dollar Consulting as a guide to assist with my approach in bringing in my own clients. Alan advised to (1) focus on relationship, and (2) deliver strategic value.
Focusing on relationship means developing meaningful relationships with potential clients. Successful agents take the time to understand their clients’ needs and wants. They ask about family, hobbies, and stresses. They are active listeners. They keep detailed notes on business and individuals so they can follow-up on important events and changes. They meet or contact client regularly so that they are top of mind. They are actively involved in their communities in a way that is meaningful, for example, leading a charitable event (or events) in their community or giving annuals gifts to customers.
“To bring in my own clients, I knew that I had to prospect within my community, create meaningful relationships with personal and business contacts and nurture those relationships.”JENNIFER CARROLL, CEO of Veruna
Successful agents and brokers deliver strategic value. Successful agents are content and process experts in their field. They know the types, limitations, and exclusions of insurance applicable to their customers. They actively listen, asking questions to quickly ascertain the nuances of a client’s personal or business unique needs. They research options and coverages for those unique needs. They give tips and best practices for getting the best value out of insurance coverage as well as advice on avoiding risks. They journey together with their insureds to understand their insureds’ needs, get sufficient coverage at a reasonable price, avoid risks, and give relevant advice. Successful insurance agents and brokers add value that insureds cannot make themselves (at least efficiently).
When good service is delivered, successful agents and brokers ask for referrals.
When starting down or refreshing the focus on relationship-building and delivering strategic value, start with what you know how to do well. Alan is credited with saying “You grow by exploiting strengths, not honing weaknesses.” We each our have natural affinities in relationships and expertise.
What do you or your company already do well? Do you volunteer a lot? Is there value in asking more community members to get involved in those efforts? Do you like to write or create videos? Can you publish those to those in your communities who would like to know more or navigate insurance better? Do you love to bake? Perhaps sending baked goods to top customers regularly then asking how you can better serve them and earn their referrals would be helpful.
So, as I now focus on helping Veruna succeed, to meet its goals of being a next-generation agency management system, I think about what Veruna can do to aid agents and brokers in developing and maintaining relationships and showcasing their value-add.
As an insured myself, I want to make sure I have experienced, driven counselors to aid me in finding the right insurance at the right price – for many years to come. Thank you to all the wonderful brokers who have helped me over the years. Your value-add has been greatly appreciated.