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How To Develop a Great Relationship With Your Clients

One of the most important things an agent can do is to develop a trusted partnership with their clients. A trusted relationship does not come quickly and means agents and their clients must look differently at the insurance buying process. There are many things an agent can do to build productive relationships with their clients.

Agents Must Take Action

Listen To Your Clients. The best way to know and understand your clients is to ask questions then listen to them.

Spend Time With Them. Agents need to make time for their clients besides just the renewal. We recommend you find ways to touch your clients monthly, with a newsletter, card, visit, industry gathering or a personal visit.

Get Your Team Connected To Their Team. It is often a great idea to have your agency team, and your client’s associates meet to get to know each other. This can be done at a social event or something like a lunch and learn.

Do Something Without Being Asked. Agents tend to get in a mindset of insurance, stop that way of thinking. If you just finished reading a good business or management book give a copy to your client. If you are heading off to a seminar, ask your client to go with you.

Be A Problem Solver. Get educated in your client’s industry, and then you are better able to help them solves all kinds of problems other than insurance.

Be Willing To Sell Less Insurance. This a tough one for agents to get over. But a trusted relationship starts with your client believing you are interested in what is best for them, not the agent selling more insurance. There are many other risks and none risk solution to your client s issues and concerns, get educated in these and be willing to educate and inform rather than sell.

If agents started to practice these six items, clients would become more interested in sharing all of their concerns, and you will become a valued business partner.

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”– Dale Carnegie

Reichley insurance believes insurance is more than a transaction. Insurance involves a trusted relationship built on a promise to put people before policies. Our promise is to listen to you, identify your risks and provide solutions. Every employee has the heart of a teacher. Connect with us to experience The Reichley difference.

Perk Reichley and Bob Lilly

#insurance #riskmanagement #customerservice #busienssinsurance #selling #educating

 

Insurance Is Not the Only Answer

My insurance agent friend John and I had another conversation about how agents can, and need to differentiate themselves from other agents.  Last month we talked about how John uncovered an uninsured exposure and how John’s advice helped his client recover about $450,000.

John holds to the belief that the agents job should be to help the client understand and uncover risks, then design a plan to treat or manage these risks.  The agent should not be quick to suggest insurance in every situation.  In fact, in some cases, insurance may not even be the best option.  Agents need to get out of the selling business and into the education business.

John’s most recent example involved a manufacturing business that had a small fleet of three delivery trucks.  John asked the client about the costs associated with the three-vehicle fleet, which included the vehicles, maintenance, three drivers, related benefits, and finally the cost of five recent accidents over the past three years. The client identified a number of costs they were having trouble managing, these included; workers’ compensation claims, high driver turnover and a number of auto accidents.

John asked the client to consider outsourcing the delivery (mostly small packages) around the community and region.  John led the client in a review, or risk analysis, of having their own drivers compared to using contracted providers.  The results showed that the business would save about $12,000 annually by contracting delivery services.  John worked with the client to make sure all contracts and agreement had the proper insurance language, including additional insured wording.

In this case, John actually lost revenue as the business sold their trucks and let the drivers go.  However, John showed the client how a trusted business partner could add true value.

Reichley insurance believes insurance is more than a transaction.  Insurance involves a trusted relationship built on a promise to put people before policies. Our promise is to listen to you, identify your risks, and provide solutions.  Every Reichley employee has the heart of a teacher.  Connect with us to experience The Reichley difference.

“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.” – Albert Einstein

 

How an Agent Can Go From a Vendor to a Trusted Advisor

My goal in these articles is to create a dialogue among agents and insurance buyers about the differences between being a vendor and becoming a trusted advisor.  This concept starts with how insurance is viewed.  Insurance cannot be viewed as a product, but rather a relationship.  Insurance buyers need to understand that the insurance relationship consists of the agent, the buyer, and the insurer.  The insurer does not really care about the buyer; they offer a set of products.  The agent is the one who should care about the buyer, and develop a relationship through education, not selling.

You will not move from a vendor to trusted advisor overnight.  Here are the stages that include a process from: vendor, credible source, problem solver, then trusted advisor. To go through these steps an agent must consider the following.

What Are the steps an agent should consider?

  • Understand the needs of your client
  • Know your client’s industry
  • Be willing to do some work without compensation
  • Stop selling and do more educating
  • Develop other contacts within the business
  • Be willing to evaluate business processes
  • Don’t assume insurance holds all the answers
  • Ask your client to allow you access to information
  • Help them identify emerging issues and needs of their business and industry

Reichley Insurance believes insurance is more than a transaction.  Insurance involves a trusted relationship built on a promise to put people before policies.  Our promise is to listen to you, identify your risks and provide solutions. Every employee has the heart of a teacher.  Connect with us to experience The Reichley difference.

“The man who will use his skill and constructive imagination to see how much he can give for a dollar, instead of how little he can give for a dollar, is bound to succeed.”  – Henry Ford

An Example of How Not All Agents Are Alike

I was having a conversation with an agent friend of mine discussing how we can differentiate ourselves from other agents.  He told me a stunning story that I want to share.  This story goes to the heart of my quest to educate agents and customers about the value of relationships.

My agent friend (call him John) told me that he recently was hired by a business to help them manage their commercial insurance and risk program. The client had been with their previous agent for ten years, so the change was a big decision for them.  John asked the new client why they decided to change, and they told him that they felt like all the previous agent did was renew their insurance.  They only saw him when a bill needed to be paid.  The client checked around, and another business associate recommended John.

As part of John’s relationship building, at the first meeting he asked a series of questions about the client’s business.  One of the questions led to the client telling John that they owned an underground storage tank that had been un-used for about 10 years.  The client never thought to tell their previous agent about the old tank.  The client said it just never came up.  John explained the risks of owning an underground tank, and directed them to various web pages showing the possible fines if there was ever an issue.  Obviously, the client became very concerned.  However, John suggested a number of solution options and the client decided to have John secure a quote for pollution liability.  The client ended up with a $1,000,000 policy at a cost of only $10,000.

This is where the story gets good.  About two years later as part of the annual client review meeting, John asked about the tank, and the client said they were removing the tank as part of a plant expansion.  Well once the tank came out, there was found to be $450,000 of soil damage and pollution cleanup.  That is a $440,000 cost benefit (minus the deductible).

Needless to say, the client now truly understands the value of relationships and the importance of having an agent who provides insurance and risk solutions.

Reichley insurance believes insurance is more than a transaction.  Insurance involves a trusted relationship built on a promise to put people before policies. Our promise is to listen to you, identify your risks, and provide solutions.  Every Reichley employee has the heart of a teacher.  Connect with us to experience The Reichley difference.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”  – Simon Sinek

 

How You, The Customer, Benefits From Hiring A Trusted Advisor

Over the past year or so, we have been discussing the importance of looking at insurance as a service rather than a product.  One area we have not spent much time on is how this adds value and benefit to the customer.

It would seem to me that every family, business owner, or business manager would want to have the following benefits:

  • The complex becomes clear. When you have a relationship with the agent who is serving you, they will make the complex world of insurance understandable.  Only an agent who educates first will be able to help you understand your risk and how best to manage it.  The trusted advisor cuts through the clutter to find the right solution that will solve your problem.
  • Is Insurance the only option? Clients may not always understand that there may be other ways to handle a risk.  A trusted advisor is in the education business—not the selling insurance business.
  • Value-added benefits. With a trusted advisor, you the buyer will have all the resources and knowledge of the agent and his/her team.  You will have help in understanding the buying process, creating of solutions that are designed for you, and support in bringing recommendations to others in your organization.
  • You have access to other experts. Wouldn’t it be great if your agent brought to your team attorneys, accountants, claims experts, loss control professionals and more?  Well, a trusted advisor will do just that.

This is a different mindset for the buyer and agent, but when done correctly it can provide real benefits to your family, business, and life.

Reichley insurance believes insurance is more than a transaction. Insurance involves a trusted relationship built on a promise to put people before policies. Our promise is to listen to you, identify your risks and provide solutions. Every employee has the heart of a teacher. Connect with us to experience The Reichley difference.

Agents…Learn to Be “Consultative” Rather Than “Transactional”

For those who have been following my posts over the past few years, thank you!  We have been talking a lot about how to better serve the needs of our customers.

If I had to put customer service into one thought, it would be this; be consultative rather than transactional.  It is hard to get your head around this because it seems like our business is nothing but transactional.  Binders, certificates, billing, claims processes, and renewals all seem to focus on the transaction process.

Transactional selling is about need, price, and closing, and the word “client” is nowhere to be found.  Conversely, consulting is client focused through discovery, education, and problem solving.

Here are a few ways you can break out of the transactional cycle:

  • Educate yourself on the client’s risks and potential needs.
  • Realize that you are creating value, not “low cost.”
  • Develop relationships with your clients.
  • It feels better to help someone—rather than sell someone.
  • There is real satisfaction in creating solutions.

Consultative customer service is the direction in which our industry is going.  Trusted advisors actually generate more business and sales, receive more referrals (via their customers), and have long lasting customer relationships.

As author David Meister tells us, “There is no greater source of distrust than advisors who appear to be more interested in themselves than in trying to be of service to the client…A common trait of a trusted advisor relationship is that the advisor places a higher value on maintaining and preserving the relationship itself than on the outcomes of the current transaction, financial or otherwise.”

Why Insurance Is Not A Product

No matter how hard television advertisements try to convince you that insurance is a product, it is a service. Some advertisers use animals, actors pretending to know insurance, or wild claim examples to convince you that all you need is a simple internet policy and your problems are solved. They claim that the lower the premium is, the better it is for you.

Low premiums do not equate to the right coverage for you. Do not be fooled by actors trying to convince you that insurance purchased online in ten minutes will respond to a serious accident or injury. These advertisements focus on cost rather than the value of the service purchased. What we should be focusing on is the value of a policy in relationship to a purpose.

The value of a policy in relationship to a purpose

  • Get away from the idea that consumers should primarily focus on the price they are willing to pay for coverage, rather than making sure they have the coverage they need.
  • You cannot cover your risk by arbitrarily choosing an amount you are willing to pay for a policy. You need to make sure that your risk is properly covered.
  • Beware of insurance companies who have brands that claim, “We are the cheapest so we must be the best!”, or “We cover that crazy football party claim (less than .00001% of all claims) so we must cover everything else.”
  • We want our clients to understand the purpose of insurance and the value of the many solutions available.

Insurance Is a Promise of Service

  • Agents should help their clients determine why they are buying insurance.
  • Insurance is designed to protect individuals and businesses from the unexpected. It is important to help clients understand possible implications of actions.
  • Agents need to educate clients on the difference between low cost and value. Office Depot aired an advertisement a few years ago that explains this concept.

Source for some of the information in this article; Timothy P. O’Brien

Your Policy Is Only As Good As Your Agent

To say that your insurance policy is only as good as your agent is a bold statement. You have also heard me say, that not all policies are created equal. Just what do I mean by this? The idea is that your agent is the most important part of your insurance program. Here are three reasons why this is true:

  1. Insurance companies only offer a policy, they do not design coverage. On the other hand, independent agents can design coverage that is best for your specific needs.
  2. Independent agents work for the client, not the insurer.
  3. Experienced agents can help you identify and manage your risk, rather than sell you a policy.

The best way to ensure you are getting the best advice and value is to have a trusted relationship with an experienced agent. Like any relationship, communication is the key. A good agent will listen to the customer and offer risk and insurance solutions. There are times when insurance is not the best solution. Again, here are examples:

  1. Contractual Risk Transfer – There are many ways to transfer your risk through a contract or agreement. An example might be for products liability. If you are distributing a product manufactured by another party you can transfer the product liability to them, rather than take that risk on.
  2. Self-Insure – There are times when the risk may be such that you are better off self-insuring rather than spending a lot on an insurance policy with a super high deductible. Sometimes, you can mitigate risk by putting risk control techniques in place to reduce or eliminate the risk all together.

Only an agent who is interested in your best interests would offer you options that included no insurance. Rather than using any agent to get you an insurance quote, select a qualified independent agent who will collaborate with you and design a risk management program that meets your needs.

 

Client Education Trends

We have been on a journey for over a year to educate both agents and buyers of insurance about the most effective way to secure insurance and risk management services. It appears our work may be paying off. We are seeing more and more articles related to the buying and selling insurance that include titles like:

  • “Educate Your Clients”
  • “Discover Solutions”
  • “Quality Relationships Matter”
  • “Buyers Value Partnerships”
  • “Sales People Can’t Wing It”

These are all good articles that directly relate to what we have been saying over the past twelve months. We have reviewed a number of these articles and picked out some of the best points for agents and insurance buyers to consider. These include:

  • See your buyer’s needs through their perspective. This involves active listening on the agent’s part. Agents should talk less, and listen 80% of the time.
  • Deliver your buyer a solution — not a product. Solutions are meant to address the client’s real needs, not sell an insurance product.
  • Focus on what’s important to the client. Determine what their true needs are.
  • Focusing only on your insurance product will cause you to miss what buyer’s value from you.

If insurance buyers demand these procedures of their agents, and agents practiced these guidelines, insurance coverage would be better designed, and overall cost of risk would be lower for businesses. Insurers would be happy because losses would be reduced, and businesses would be matched with the right insurer.

Sources: Jay Mitchell, Dive Inside the Mind of Your Buyer — and Discover a Solution to Serve Them. 2.28.17, Clayton Christensen, The 4 Disciplines of Execution, Deb Calvert, Research Reveals What Buyers Value…It’s Not What You Think, 3.2.17.