I’m sure they are well intentioned, but there are way too many industry “thought leaders” out there promoting myopic solutions to the ever-growing challenge of insurance agency growth. In many ways, their “easy button” ideas are the advice equivalent of snake oil.

  • Sell more voluntary! No sh#%! If I sell more of ANYTHING I’ll make more money.
  • Offer this one cost saving idea! Maybe the prospect will forget about all their other problems.
  • Focus on the CxO! To hell with the rest of the influencers and decision makers.
  • Eat pizza and drink beer on your way to a ripped physique! Eat pizza and drink beer on your way to a ripped physique! Eat pizza and drink beer on your way to a ripped physique! If I say it enough won’t it be true?

As much as we’d all like our answers to be this easy, it just can’t be.

You describe yourself as a trusted advisor to your clients. And if you really believe that is the role you serve, you already know these answers are Band-Aids, at best.

On being a consultant/advisor

If you want to truly earn the trust of your clients, every recommendation you make has to be with their best interests in mind. Voluntary benefits can absolutely be an important part of the advice you give, but make sure it satisfies part of the client’s benefit strategy and not simply your revenue goal.

Innovative cost-saving ideas are absolutely critical. But, if you think that your one idea, special program, or bully tactic is enough by itself, then you are not advising to the complete needs of your client.

On being a relationship builder

Charging past the receptionist and the HR manager on the way to the office of the CxO because you KNOW they will be blinded by the brilliance of your idea will backfire more often than it works. The challenges associated with a successful HR/Benefit program rarely fall within the scope of responsibility of one person.

Sure, there may be one person whose area of responsibility is most critical at the moment, but do you really think they will ignore the rest of their team and their legitimate concerns/interests on your behalf? Even if they do, because you ignored the rest of the team with whom you’ll be working, you are starting a new client relationship on toxic terms.

But, way more likely, not addressing the collective concerns and challenges of the entire team will most often get you kicked out of the contest.

Approaching a prospective client with confidence is very different from coming in with swaggering arrogance. To assume you know everything, to assume the CxO will make his/her decisions in a vacuum, and to think the rest of the team is just an obstacle to be gotten around, is to establish the relationship on top of a sinkhole.

The decisions you are asking clients to make are complex and impact multiple areas of the company. This is one of the primary reasons that, according to CEB, there are 5.4 influencers in any significant decision. Ignore any one of them at your own peril.

Snake oil, now only $99.99!

I know it’s tempting to buy the snake oil advice, but don’t do it. Recognize that for every example of how the oil “cured the incurable”, there are nine casualties hiding behind the circus tent.

The challenges your clients are facing are complex and difficult, which means preparing yourself to earn their trust and offer the right advice is even “complexer” and “difficulter." No, it’s not easy, but commit to doing the hard work while your competition stands around rubbing the snake oil wherever it is you’re supposed to apply snake oil.

Photo by Neil Girling

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