One of insurance and benefits agencies' great challenges is overcoming the perception and stereotype that "all agencies/brokers are the same."
Unfortunately, most agencies do nothing but reinforce this belief. For way too many agencies, their efforts could be summarized with the following:
- Show up at renewal time, begging for a chance to quote.
- Come back with the same spreadsheet and oh-so-similar capabilities presentation (list of products they offer) as their competition.
- Claim that what differentiates them is the level of service they provide.
- Pray they did a better job of telling the same story as everyone else.
Because these slow-growth agencies fail to have anything that truly differentiates them in the eyes of the market, their best attempt at differentiation is to claim to be a better version of their competition. The industry's promises of "We'll get a better price" and "We provide better service" are ubiquitous dronings.
Almost as commonplace are nonsensical messages intended to provide a reason for them to be your next broker. Messages like:
- "We're the 4th largest benefits agency in the greater metro area."
- "Serving the greater metro area for 46 years."
Where is there any real value in either of those? And, if there was any real value, they've just told me I should go to one of the three larger agencies or anyone who's been in business for at least 47 years.
But in all fairness, emphasizing size and longevity or arguing to be "better" is the only option for agencies that continue to compete in a commoditized world.
Compete in a new category
On the other hand, high-growth agencies understand that better is not a differentiator. High-growth agencies refuse to be a commodity; they create new categories of differentiated offerings.
So, what does it take to stand out from the competition and truly differentiate? It could be as obvious as looking at what the typical agency does and doing the opposite. High-growth agencies tend to:
- Compete for business off renewal when the competition isn't even around.
- Emphasize the problems they solve rather than the products they sell.
- Quantify the impact they deliver by solving those problems.
- Follow a sales process that puts their success in their own hands.
Tip the odds of winning in your favor
High-growth agencies refuse to play on a level playing field; they will only compete on one tipped in their favor. They understand that a spreadsheet is synonymous with "commodity," and they see the ridiculousness of competing with something that makes them look exactly like someone else.
They also realize that the "level playing field" of a spreadsheet is an illusion. In a spreadsheet competition, the advantage always belongs to the incumbent.
High-growth agencies also recognize that there are two significant decisions a business owner must make. A spreadsheet emphasizes one of those decisions, plan design issues such as carrier, financing, contribution, etc. This is a decision that must be made at renewal time.
The other decision is to choose the advisor best equipped to serve their overall needs. High-growth agencies recognize that this decision will take a backseat if they show up at renewal when the business owner is dealing with the plan design issues.
High-growth agencies recognize that a prospect may be with the right carrier but the wrong advisor. Whether or not that's the case on a specific opportunity, they know they can best communicate their overall value when they can make that the focus of the conversation, which can only happen off-renewal.
It's not that the high-growth agencies don't address the insurance issues, quite the opposite. However, they realize that the best insurance decision will likely start way before renewal time by planning the right strategy with the buyer when they're not under duress.
They also recognize that addressing the insurance needs is only one part of the overall picture they must manage for their clients. In addition to approaching the insurance needs in a more consultative manner, they take the same approach to their buyer's non-insurance needs, such as compliance, technology, HR resources, etc.
High-growth agencies take the time to gain a broader understanding of the buyer's overall needs, and they then create a plan of how they will put the right solutions in place to improve their clients' overall HR/benefits program.
A simple spreadsheet and list of services offered don't stand a chance.
You can't buy it
Non-growth agencies will claim they have a differentiated value proposition because of their people, service, or the free stuff they give away. They will continually chase a competitive advantage by looking for the next bright and shiny solution of the day to dangle in front of their prospects and clients. In reality, they take the next step of making themselves look like everyone else.
High-growth agencies understand that true differentiation isn't about what product they have to offer; it's about the problems they can solve.
They understand they will likely need to make a financial investment to address new problems. Still, the most important investment is the time they invest in researching and understanding new issues and the expertise they develop in implementing those solutions to fix problems on behalf of their clients.
Think about it, what would you find more enticing as a buyer when visiting a website? Would you be more inclined to click on a "Products we offer" or a "Problems we solve" button? No brainer, right?
High-growth agencies understand that their differentiation doesn't lie in what they have to sell. It's how they work that enables them to deliver the results not offered by their competition.
Cost of doing nothing
Slow-growth agencies believe their sales process starts with the first face-to-face meeting with the prospect. High-growth agencies understand that buyers make 60%-90% of the buying decision before ever meeting with the producer.
High-growth agencies understand that the sales process starts with an effective marketing strategy, and they develop marketing messages that clarify what type of results they can deliver. Through their messaging, high-growth agencies give buyers per to expect more from their broker.
They provide educational content relatable to prospects/clients because it focuses on the legitimate challenges they deal with daily. Beyond just identifying the challenges, high-growth agencies share insights on addressing those needs. They also quantify the positive financial and operational impact that is on the line if those problems aren't addressed.
High-growth agencies share stories of how they have addressed these challenges for other buyers and create a compelling reason for the prospect to want a meeting. They understand that through effective marketing, the sales process becomes infinitely easier.
- Evaluate what you are saying. Look at your top three competitors and compare their messaging to yours. Could a prospect tell how you are different?
- Define how you work. What are the steps of your sales process? What problems does it help identify? And what impact do you make on a client's business as a result of solving those problems? (If you don't have an answer that is a TRULY differentiated value proposition, you need one.)
- Collect success stories. Identify and document your own success stories. Analyze what allowed the success to happen. Define how you can replicate it consistently. Start building these stories into your marketing efforts and sales process.
No one said being different was easy. Yes, this will be hard work, but it's the kind of hard work that has catapulted others to unprecedented growth and success.
Photo by memedozaslan