ACG - Agency Consulting Group

The PIPELINE

A national monthly newsletter for agency principals dedicated to agency management topic

HOW TO MAXIMIZE AGENCY INCOME BY STOPPING SELLING INSURANCE

What a ludicrous statement!

How can an insurance agency MAXIMIZE income if they stop “SELLING” insurance?

There are still almost 1,000 agencies in each state and most of them “sell” insurance to clients and prospects in the same way. They are introduced to prospects by others or by marketing and advertising, they meet the prospect and collect policies and information in order to create a quote and proposal for insurance and they return hoping to “win” the prospect with a good price and by showing the prospect that the agent knows his business and products.

Most insurance buyers look at insurance as a necessary evil – one that wastes money when it is not needed during the policy year in the best scenario and causes stress and anguish if needed because the insurance company is expected to pay as little as legally possible to settle a claim. Clients, frankly, don’t know whether you, as their agent, are working for them or for the insurance company. We all represent ourselves correctly as agents of the companies, but we want the client to think that we’re looking out for his best interest, as well.

So, at best, the clients and prospects are confused and suspicious. Every time you come in the door they expect you to try to pry more money out of them for insurance that, while it may be needed, takes discretionary income out of their pockets.

WHAT A GREAT WAY TO BUILD A RELATIONSHIP – BEING COMPARED TO THE IRS AND USED CAR SALESPEOPLE!

Unfortunately, most agents were raised and trained in the business to be exactly what the client suspects -- salespeople trying to get them to change from their current insurance programs to other, similar programs in order for the agent to earn commissions. Most agents will live out their entire careers exchanging clients with other agents as pricing changes in the companies they represent.

Yet, the best agents in the country don’t work that way. And most agents have at least a few clients for whom price is less a consideration because of the services provided and/or the relationship established between them and the agent.

RELATIONSHIP – VALUE ADDED SERVICES –

PROVIDING VALUE IN EXCESS OF COMPENSATION

We have been consulting to the agency industry for over 25 years. Pretty much every week we are in a different agency helping them with organizational development, compensation programs, Strategic Planning, valuation, marketing programs and all other phases of agency operations. We get to see every kind of agency in operation and we can easily differentiate the success stories from the ‘failures’. The three headings, above, define every successful agency in our experience.

RELATIONSHIP

Successful agents take the time to develop relationships with their clients before “selling” them anything. As a matter of fact, The Asset Protection Model was built on the principal that clients will come to you to become their insurance advisor IF they trust you and believe that you are looking out for their best interest. This attitude is impossible to create if you come into the prospect ‘shooting from the hip’ and seeking to quote his insurance. He then looks at you as just another agent – just like the others. Relationships are developed – over time – and are made outside of the selling philosophies. Relationships are based on building trust and the client’s realization that you are DIFFERENT from all of the other insurance agents he has encountered before. The APM actually disproves selling as a way to achieve long-term clients. Every client is interested in minimizing costs. No one disputes that. But you have no business taking that client if COST is the only thing that shifts his loyalty from his current agent to you. In order to build the quality relationship that defines gaining a Customer for Life, you must show him your value BEFORE you provide him his insurance program. If you are interested in a copy of the Asset Protection Model, contact us at 800-779-2430.

VALUE ADDED SERVICES

If the only ammunition in your arsenal is PRICE, then the only weapon you have is quoting. Sure you know your products. Sure you can create an insurance program that covers the clients’ risks. Sure you have several companies to market each client’s insurance program. But how does that differentiate you from every other agent in the country?

Let’s face it – with the exception of very large or very specialized clients, insurance products have, in fact, become relatively commoditized. And, while you certainly know your products and insurance topics, so do your best competitors. Either you are drawing from an ever-increasing number of marginal clients, those with serious deficiencies or claims waiting to happen who are available to any insurance agent who would like to try to insure them – or – you are competing with other knowledgeable agents on good clients with decent insurance programs in decent companies. What makes you different than the agents around you?

In order to really grow your business, you must gain access to your competitor’s best clients, ones with whom they have strong relationships, but clients whose only tie to their current client is product or price-driven.

If you can demonstrate a range of services that you can provide to which the current agent has no access and can do so pro-actively and progressively, the client will soon realize the intangible value of using your agency instead of his current agent and will come to you to take over his insurance program in order to avail himself of those services.

What kind of “services” are we talking about? Small and medium sized companies have the same regulatory compliance issues as large companies. Their problem is that they have no one trained or available to analyze their compliance shortfalls and resolve them. There are also ingredients of the Total Cost of Risk that are far beyond simple insurance products and cost in which you can be trained and create new levels of service for your clients. The services are out there for you. But you must be committed to adopting them as core services, not tangential services, available to your clients and prospects to prove to them that you are more valuable than any of your competitors. Their selection of you as their insurance counselor should be theirs (without sales or coercion from you) based on the services that you provide that the other agents cannot.

VALUE IN EXCESS OF COMPENSATION

We don’t want to consult to agencies who don’t believe that the cost of our services, while not inexpensive, is more than worth the return they achieve from the changes we implement. Similarly, if you become a prospect’s agent because of the services you have provided him you want him to think that you are well-worth the cost because of the benefit you bring to his company on an on-going basis. This means that the service doesn’t end with his conversion as a client.

We offer a very successful marketing program to agents to take advantage of the non-appearance of their competitors to their best clientele. We also warn our client that they must become an integral part of the customer’s business in order to assure that they will not even consider shopping their insurance in the future. If your doctor has successfully worked with you on every illness and condition that you have on an on-going basis, would you consider changing doctors when one appears that may cost you a few dollars less? Of course not. Similarly, you must “indoctrinate” your agency into your client’s on-going operations through both insurance and other value-added services to assure that you are always considered more than cost and that it would be just as ludicrous as in the example above to consider changing insurance counselors.

We help agents form Contact Grids; this works best for those who have planned activities and have contact with each client several times each year. This provides the level of service promised while you were establishing your relationships. Each client has an annual plan associated with that transcends renewal quoting and truly gets into the Total Cost of Risk while protecting all of the assets. Of course, each client is different, so it requires specific planning. Some may only need you once or twice a year while others may require your efforts as an agency, not just the efforts of a product, several times each year in different protection venues. All you need to do is to create and monitor a contact plan for each client each year that convinces you that you are providing more service than a) your cost to him, and b) than your competitors can provide.

If you implement these three key ingredients and STOP SELLING insurance, you will find that the clients eventually demand that you be their agent, keeping the income flow growing as you expand your products and services to more than just another insurance agent.