Why Your Entire Agency Needs to Adopt a Critical Thinking Mindset

Wendy Keneipp on July 29, 2019

Insight-driven organizations are growing at 30 percent annually, according to a 2017 Forrester Research report, “Insights-Driven Businesses Set the Pace for Global Growth.”  

How well is your organization keeping pace? 

Insights. Thought leadership. We hear these termquite a bit. Are they cliché? Maybe. But they’re concepts based on solid ideas that every sales person and agency should be paying very close attention to 

Sorting through all the noise of available information to pick out the relevant items is a skill that some organizations have honed and some just have not. People who specialize in a field and advise others have a responsibility to stay current on the most pressing, relevant items in their industry and the things that most obviously impact their clients.  

Take an honest reflection – if you’re not doing this, are you really advising? Or are you just helping make a product selection? Advising is done within a wholistic business context, and product selling is done regardless of the context. 

As benefits advisers, researching the industry and keeping clients and prospects informed on issues that impact their business as it relates to managing employees should be right in your wheelhouse. And it should be what you spend the majority of your time working on, either reading and analyzing or talking about with colleaguesclients, and prospects. 

Insights sell 

Consider this from Chief Learning Officer, “Insights have been referred to as the new currency of business, and today’s economy is often referred to as the insight economy. Consultancies and think tanks have made it clear: To compete today, companies must rely on critical-thinking experts sharing insights.” 

Are you one of those insight-driven organizations? Are you translating information for your clients? Are you helping them cut through all the noise and get to the most important ideas to help them make better business decisions and drive stronger results in their organizations?  

If not, you’re losing out on tremendous opportunity.  

You need critical thinkers 

Not everyone is cut out for this style of business. To do it effectively, you need people on your team who have the skills to interpret information and create quality insights through writing, video, speaking, etc. You need critical thinkers on your team who are willing to share their ideas openly. These critical thinkers can be leaders, sales people, account executives, or specialists (HR, Compliance, etc.).  

The options are wide, but if you don’t currently have at least someone like this on your team, you’re going to find yourself falling behind if it isn’t already obvious. This is quickly rising in the ranks of the most critical skills needed for organizations.  

Why benefits agencies resist being insight-driven organizations 

1. It’s too much work 

Bringing critical thinking into benefits agencies also brings considerable impact on processes and workflows. As agencies shift from sales of products and service to consulting around comprehensive management of employees and compliancebehaviors need to change.  

  • Sales people need to engage in more listening and less talking; more question asking and less answer giving.  
  • Marketing must creatmore insight-driven content and do less promotionmore interpretation of information and less pushing of easy-to-share content.  
  • Account management must take on more listening for intent and unspoken needs and limit transaction-only conversationsmore question asking and less order taking.  

If you read this and are thinking, “No way that’s gonna happen,” then you’re likely not cut out to be an adviser. If doing research and finding quality insights and answers for your clients is too difficult, or if you think it takes too much work and time, then you should stick with product sales. 

When you work with clients in a consultative way, it’s going to take time. And brainpower. And writing skills. And conversational probing and patient listening-for-intent sales skills.   

You need to be able to take what the client has told you and return a plan of what you believe they most need. And what the client most needs doesn’t necessarily coincide with what they may want. You need to learn how to balance those two things. Education for yourself and for the client are at the heart of it 

2. They’re afraid 

There are some who love to share their opinions and ideas and can’t wait for the next opportunity to educate their audience. And then there’s most of the rest of the benefits industry. Sharing ideas and opinions in public seems to terrify most.  

And really, it’s no surprise. Having a business where everything comes from the carriers – from the products to the pricing to the messaging to the billing and the service – it’s no wonder agencies never gain their own voice.  

But doing so is a critical step to moving from product selling to advising. It requires that you have an opinion and share advice and recommendations based your knowledge, insights, and experience. If you can’t get comfortable with this, you can’t be an adviser. 

Bottom line 

Insight-driven companies don’t spend tremendous time and resources developing analysis and interpreting information because they want to sound smart – they do it because clients are attracted to companies who ARE smart.

Photo Credit: ximagination

Insurance Agency Leadership | Q4i Growth Platform  

Topics: Leadership + Management, Agency Development