Can you believe it? Renewal season is just around the corner!

I know what you’re thinking: “KT, have you lost your mind?! First quarter has barely ended, NO WAY I even want to start thinking about 4th quarter!”

I’m not talking about the insurance renewal that’s the bane of your 4th quarter existence. I'm talking about a renewal discussion that is even more important—the one to renew your advisor relationship.

Renew my what?

When it comes to their benefits program, businesses have two critical decisions to make. They must choose the structure of the insurance plan they provide their employees, of course. They must also choose an advisor who can best serve their year-round needs, including the insurance strategy.

These decisions need to be separate decisions, not mashed together at a stress-filled time when the focus is on the insurance decision. Renewing the relationship should be the focus of a conversation you have approximately three months before the start of any particular client's renewal process (six to seven months before the insurance renewal date itself).

If you want to make the most significant impact possible on your clients, if you want your impact to be fully appreciated, you must make this a separate decision.

What will we talk about?

At its most basic, this conversation should focus on the significant results you’ve delivered over the previous 12 months and plan for the results they need you to provide over the next 12 months.

I completely get that the most significant impact you make on your clients' businesses is in the way you structure their benefits programs. However, that impact is made even more effective because of the other solutions you deliver. This is why you have invested so heavily in the ability to help with compliance, technology, communication, HR resources, etc.

In other words, focus this conversation on your overall value as an advisor. Don't get me wrong; this conversation isn't about you. This conversation has to be all about the client and the needs of their business. You're there to help move them forward. 

Structure the conversation based on:

  • Revisiting their longer-term HR/benefits goals
  • Discussing the progress you have made over the previous 12 months
  • Identifying precisely where they are on track and where they aren’t
  • Determining how to get the off-track items on-track
  • Prioritizing the client’s action items
  • Laying out a plan for how you will help address these issues 

DO NOT FORGET about the most impactful solution of all. During this “relationship renewal” conversation, lay out the strategy for what the client wants to accomplish with the next insurance renewal and lay out how YOU will help them navigate it successfully.

The insurance strategy will be more impactful and less stressful when it results from a broader plan laid out well in advance.

I hope you’re seeing how critical this is to help your clients see your overall value. I hope you also see how it will help keep the competition at bay when 4th quarter rolls around. And won’t that alone make the 4th quarter at least a bit more manageable?

Nothing to discuss?

You may have some anxiety over this discussion. I get it. You may even feel frustrated because there is no real, measurable progress to discuss. You are so tired of providing all these great solutions and resources only to see them ignored.

This conversation is the key to changing that. You really can't blame your clients for not using what you provide. If you are only setting strategy with them at insurance renewal time, they can't pay attention to the other stuff, as important as it is. It never gets on their radar screen.

Even if you have nothing significant to report on in terms of recent progress, still have this meeting. Use it to discuss the other problems you can solve, identify which of those they may have, and agree on a plan for how you address them together.

The conversation alone will strengthen your relationship. It will change the way they view you as an advisor.

This conversation is more important than ever

With the impending requirement for advisors to disclose all forms of compensation they received on each client, the sooner you have the discussion, the better. I suspect there are many benefits advisors out there dreading the compensation transparency conversation more than a root canal.

For those who tie themselves only to the insurance renewal, I'd be worried. How many competitors do you expect to escalate the age-old strategy of undercutting your commission rate when it is a forced and focused topic? If your client thinks all they are paying you for is to get quotes, you will be susceptible.

For others, this forced transparency will be a godsend.

Most advisors deliver significant value to their clients but don't have a conversation that focuses on it. Commit to having conversations focused on the value you provide, and your clients will, naturally, see you as more valuable.

Not only are clients willing to pay reasonable compensation for value, but they will also pay a premium for it. But your value must be a focused part of the conversation before they can find a reason to do so.

Use Pareto’s Principle

Admittedly, these conversations take some preparation, especially when you start doing them for the first time. However, if you are the advisor you present yourself to be, having this kind of conversation isn't just a good idea; it's a responsibility.

Even if you legitimately don’t have time to have this kind of conversation with all of your clients before 4th quarter gets here, at least get started.

If you commit to having a "relationship renewal" conversation with the top 20% of your clients, chances are, you’ll be protecting 80% of your revenue. How much more at peace will you be heading into 4th quarter with that kind of reinforcement in place with your best clients?

Photo by sean824.