Marketing in a New Era.
This is the subject line of an email I received from a benefits producer I correspond with occasionally. He replies to articles and brings up thoughtful questions, and then we have some back and forth exchanges. I want to share one with you that I felt was particularly relevant to our readers regarding insurance sales and marketing.
I was on a webinar a few months ago and heard a well-known Insurance Company talk about an interview they had with a P&C Agency owner. They asked him how he felt about a life agent asking to go out and visit his top 10 accounts. The owner said if he was asked that question by a life agent one more time, he would throw the agent out of his office. Now, he did not mean that literally, but he is tired of hearing that same question from life agents that he's been hearing for many years.
I commend the Insurance Company for bringing that awkward topic up. In benefits, we have to come up with a new approach to working with P&C firms, voluntary benefits reps, life reps, etc. They all ask a similar question of benefits producers:
- Do you have any groups renewing in the next few months?
- How about if we go out and visit with your group accounts?
I am not sure what the answers are, but there has to be a better way to approach and be approached by these representatives. The same approach has been used for many years and continues to this day.
Your suggestions would be very helpful.
You bring up an interesting question. This is something we spend time working with agencies on because it can be so frustrating for everyone involved.
We recommend taking an approach of developing partnerships with people selling these other services, where both parties agree to work together in mutual benefit for the client and one another. When someone wants to call your clients, they are representing you, and if you don’t know them (or know them well), and/or you don’t agree with the way they work, then your reputation is on the line.
However, if these other producers are interested in a mutually beneficial relationship where they agree to become a partner, then it can be a benefit to everyone. And it provides you with a legitimate excuse to tell others who come knocking, “No thank you, we have an exclusive partner we work with already.”
To truly become a partner, each of you must take the time to share with one another how you work, share in the efforts to vet clients for a right fit, and support one another in those efforts. This takes consistent communication and regular meetings to discuss client opportunities and hold one another accountable for proper follow-through.
I’ve attached a guide we have for developing relationships like this. This is specifically for developing center-of-influence relationships, but both partner and COI relationships are based on sharing and support, so this guide will give you a good idea of how to structure a mutually beneficial relationship.
And I recommend finding someone to partner with in all directions – P&C, Voluntary, Life – because producers in each of these areas will approach your clients. If you’re not securing the relationships with people on “your team," then the client may well find others who can offer a complete/complementary package.
Thank you for the response. It is a lot to consider but in a good way. Finding the right partnership is key.
Agreed! It is a lot to consider and I think your response perfectly exemplifies the new era of both marketing and selling – it’s a different game and we have to approach it all from a different, and more thoughtful, perspective.
There has to be a better way
Developing and actively maintaining partnerships with outside firms that provide important services your clients need and want is a critical and expected part of doing business today. The role of being an employer is more complex, and that complexity is growing, not shrinking. Which leads to the obvious conclusion that employers need help – a lot of it – in specialized ways.
With the growing complexities, the expectation that one person or solution will be able to satisfy all the needs an employer has is simply out of touch with the specialized environment that we’re growing into.
And to Joe’s point, there has to be a better way. There has to be a different way that is more in line with today’s business environment, and it’s time for insurance agencies to move away from the tired old way things have been done for decades and find a better way to engage in prospecting, marketing, and selling.
There is a better way.
Start with the recognition that clients need help.
Then consider your role as a consultant in relation to their needs: Your role is to uncover the needs and find solutions to recommend.
You don’t need to be the one providing each solution, but you should know the partner you’re recommending and be able to participate in group conversations to ensure the right solution is ultimately offered and implemented effectively. As a sales partnership team, you should be sitting down with the client to have occasional stewardship reviews.
And heck, if you’ve brought two or three different partners to this client, schedule a once-a-year stewardship review with the entire team. Bringing everyone together gives you the opportunity to review all services holistically with the client and with the partners collectively. As a group, you’ll be able to see how all services work in tandem for the client and how the client derives benefit from this group approach.
This approach offers many benefits:
- Client gets a complete review/plan with multiple perspectives from people working together on their behalf.
- You demonstrate your problem/solution skills and your leadership in bringing together a team of specialists to help with the client’s most pressing challenges.
- All partners better understand their role within the bigger picture of what an employer is looking to accomplish and how working together helps everyone benefit from the collective.
Think something like this would impress a client and solidify your position as a trusted advisor? And lead to referrals for new prospecting and sales opportunities? Spoiler alert… it does both of those!
Photo by Luis Louro