3 Steps to More Profitable Agency Relations
Agents insist that resistance begins not from a company’s decisions, but from how those decisions are communicated.
Solid technical service was once the standard by which independent agents conducted business with a handful of carriers. Relationships mattered, but they were built organically, over time, in an era when people rarely changed jobs, communication channels were direct and personal, and competition was limited.
Times have changed. A lot.
Product choice, communication channels, employee turnover, cultural diversity – virtually every aspect of modern business has expanded to challenge our ability to quickly and easily form solid, successful, profitable relationships. In today’s fragmented, customer-centric, information-heavy environment, solid technical services are table-stakes. They don’t win the game.
Worse, companies whose business depends to any extent on relationship-building confront a double-whammy: Relationships are both more difficult and more important. In an increasingly commoditized world, relationships can sometimes be the prime – or even the only – competitive contrast.
Agents follow the path of least resistance. Amplify the professionalism of company people, and increase quality premium from agents.
The 3 Critical Skills for More Profitable Agency Relations
35 years of training underwriters and marketing reps on the finer points of presenting, persuading, negotiating, and selling agents have given us pretty reliable insight into what works. And although communication skills can be many and nuanced, there are a few key topics which, if addressed in any real and practical way, cannot fail to improve the flow of quality business from premium producers.
1. Know your customer. It sounds obvious. Cliché, even. But the fact of the matter is that most underwriters – and even a majority of marketing reps – don’t know nearly enough about their agents: what drives them, what annoys them, what motivates them. And the personal stuff – interests, hobbies, sports, family – are utterly essential for activating the “emotional triggers” proven by neuroscience to be the basis for influence and persuasion.
2. Engineer benefits – not just policies. Most salespeople know that facts and features are not what sell product. Benefits do. Only, even the best salespeople sometimes neglect to develop benefits that align with the unique interests and priorities of a particular customer. And it is an engineering process – but it’s precisely because benefit development can take some work that the last thing you want to do is leave it up to the customer!
3. Build in flexibility. Over and over we hear agents complain that underwriters fail to provide enough flexibility when writing a piece of business. Sure, sometimes there just aren’t enough policy options available, but that’s not the only dimension where flexibility can be introduced, either. They key is to make sure the agent doesn’t feel like she’s being delivered an ultimatum. Not only should most insurance products be (or at least seem to be) collaborative, negotiation cannot proceed without some built-in flexibility.
Underwriters have more daily contact with producers than anyone else in the company. And those conversations often involve a lot more than just a simple exchange of information.
An agent’s decision to place his or her business is based not only on technical knowledge but on how comfortable the agent is with a particular underwriter or marketing rep. And agents insist that resistance begins not from a company’s decisions, but from how those decisions are communicated.
Agents follow the path of least resistance. Amplify the professionalism of underwriters, and increase quality premium from agents.
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