TOP CONSULTANTS DISCUSS BEST PRACTICES STRATEGIES
Symposium covers how to retain customers, build agency value in changing times
ORLANDO, Oct. 11—Two top consultants discussed strategies for independent agencies to retain customers and employees, as well preserve and enhance agency value, at the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America’s (the Big “I”) Best Practices Symposium late Sunday.
The symposium was a featured event at the Big “I” Convention taking place here through Oct. 12.
Bobby Reagan, CPCU, of the Atlanta-based insurance consulting firm Reagan Consulting, spoke about how to do more for agency employees, customers and shareholders and why it is important to do more, given the rapid changes taking place in the industry today. Helen Sutton, a speaker with the Philadelphia-based Richardson global sales training and consulting firm, delivered the keynote presentation on six critical skills required to be effective in sales.
Reagan’s presentation noted the symbiotic relationship between doing more for employees, being better able to serve customers, and preserving and enhancing agency value in a marketplace where consolidation is becoming the norm. By hiring and retaining the best staff, an agency can provide better service, increase revenues, and boost its value.
To do more for employees, Reagan suggested four things: give them the tools they need to do their jobs; invest in their training, career development and personal development; provide the most attractive compensation that is feasible; and provide perks and benefits, such as equity in the agency, that will make them more loyal and more likely to stay.
“The quality of your employees is one of the biggest assets you’ve got,” Reagan said. “One of the best things you can do for your customers is to have energized, high-quality people.”
It is better service, Reagan noted, that elevates independent agents and brokers, and while he said that it was important to provide competitive prices, one of the keys to getting and retaining business is simply to do more for customers than competitors can.
“It’s about being a consultant and business partner to your customers as opposed to a peddler, changing the paradigm, creating a situation where people are going to look at you as an advisor,” Reagan said. “You are there doing more for your customers than simply peddling insurance.”
“If you’re providing the same level of services to your customers in 10 years that you are today you’re in trouble,” Reagan continued. “People are going to expect more, and they’re going to get more from somebody.”
Reagan also noted that the retention and growth of an agency’s customer base is critical to maintaining and increasing its value, which is crucial to shareholders and also crucial in the event that an agency looks to sell or consolidate.
Sutton followed Reagan’s presentation by discussing six critical skills her firm has identified as necessary to sales excellence: presence, relating, questioning, listening, positioning and checking. Using the notion of the “1-percenter” popularized by author Tom Peters—the idea that successful businesses do not do one thing 1,000 percent better, but do 1,000 things 1 percent better—Sutton asked the audience members individually to focus on one of the six skills they could do better and start with that.
“You don’t start huge,” Sutton said. “You start small. You take any one of those bullet-points and chip away 1 percent at a time. You’re looking for one thing to take back and implement right away.”
Big “I” CEO Robert A. Rusbuldt congratulated attendees for taking part in the symposium and making an effort to improve their business practices to become more successful. He thanked those who represented agencies that have met the criteria to be “Best Practices” agencies—agencies that embrace and follow proven industry “Best Practices”—as well as representatives of attending agencies that wish to become “Best Practices” agencies themselves.
“For those of you who want to be Best Practices agencies, frankly, I think it’s the best thing you can do for your agency,” Rusbuldt said. “It is incredible to me the opportunities our agents have that are right here and ready to go, where you can learn from the crème de la crème, the best of the best. I commend all of you for your commitment to be the best in the independent agency system.”
The Big “I” Convention is the showcase of the Big “I” meeting that features one of the largest exhibit halls in the insurance industry; several prominent guest speakers; a compelling company CEO panel; a wide variety of innovative continuing-education (CE) classes; numerous networking opportunities; and many other exciting events.
Founded in 1896, the Big “I” is the nation’s oldest and largest national association of independent insurance agents and brokers, representing a network of more than 300,000 agents, brokers and their employees nationally. Its members are businesses that offer customers a choice of policies from a variety of insurance companies. Independent agents and brokers offer all lines of insurance—property, casualty, life and health—as well as employee benefit plans and retirement products. Web address: www.independentagent.com.