We must generate revenue for our businesses to survive, but that is not our purpose. Our purpose is providing solutions to help our clients protect what is most important to them and achieve their dreams.
This is something many people don’t know about me. When I was younger, I dreamt of becoming a rock star, writing songs, and playing guitar for a living. I even went to Los Angeles to pursue my dream. But I soon discovered my skills were no match for the many other talented people seeking fame and fortune in the music industry, so becoming a rock star did not turn out to be my path in life.
Luckily, I turned instead to the insurance and financial services industry where I discovered a passion for helping others – both the clients that I served and, later, as a consultant, advising insurance carriers, their agencies, firms, and representatives about how to succeed in a complex and ever-changing business climate. I have never looked back with regret (though I do still write songs and play guitar).
I learned early on that adapting to change is not only a necessary part of life, it can also lead to new and exciting opportunities. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying: “If you aren’t changing, you aren’t growing.” This has never been truer for our profession. The industry has been, and continues to be, rocked by change. There are exciting, new opportunities out there, but we must change how we are doing business to survive and grow.
Today’s consumers are in control. They can buy what they want, when they want, how they want. They are better informed than ever before, with information readily available online. Technology has also changed consumer expectations. They expect easy access to products and services across multiple channels. And as products are increasingly commoditized (at least in the eyes of consumers), client experience has become the great differentiator.
Building a thriving business today requires a major shift in mindset, one that puts service before sales. You read that right – I said service before sales. We must take a hard look at every business process and ask ourselves, “Are our clients truly at the center of everything we do? Are we making their lives easier and providing the level of service they expect and deserve?” Success will come from building long-term relationships with our clients rather than focusing on short- term sales.
Don’t misunderstand me. I am not opposed to making a sale! But I think of the sales process like breathing. We must breathe to live, but we don’t live to breathe. Breathing is not our life’s purpose. Similarly, we must generate revenue for our businesses to survive, but that is not our purpose. Our purpose is providing solutions to help our clients protect what is most important to them and achieve their dreams. When we serve our purpose, the results follow.
One shift you can make to ensure you stay focused on your purpose while placing service before sales is to redefine how you segment your clients. Most people segment clients based on earning potential (A, B, and C clients, for example). I place clients into one of four segments based on relationships.
Discussion Partners. Discussion Partners are engaged in the purchasing process and seek information about the products and services they are purchasing. They want to partner with you in creating a comprehensive plan.
Relationship Clients. These are the clients who are your family, friends, and other people in the community who know you. They don’t want to deal with the details of their insurance. They trust you to handle it for them.
Children of Longtime Clients. You can no longer assume that your clients’ children will automatically become your clients. You must actively cultivate relationships with them.
Price Shoppers. These clients are exactly what they sound like. They purchase solely based on price and are all about getting the lowest price right now.
The goal is to cultivate discussion partner relationships with clients. You do that by providing unrivaled service and using every opportunity to learn more about them – What I call getting a “360-degree view.” With a 360-degree view, you are able to provide more value to your clients, helping them to identify the solutions that are best for them, their families, and their businesses.
Strong relationships are built on trust. And discussion partner relationships are no different. By continually looking for opportunities to connect with your clients and learn more about them, you are building a stronger foundation of trust. As that happens, your clients will view you as a trusted partner in achieving their financial and protection goals.
Of course, trust doesn’t come automatically with a financial security title or designation. Trust is something that must be earned. Researchers have identified specific elements that foster trust. (P. Shockley-Zalabak, “Organizational Trust: What It Means. Why It Matters,” Organizational Development Journal, Winter 2000). Here are two of the elements along with actions you can take to earn the trust of your clients.’
Competence. First and foremost, your clients want to feel confident that you and your team know what you are doing. You must project competence and professionalism in every client interaction. Invest in continuous product training and professional development for yourself and your team. Cross-train team members, set and monitor performance standards, and use talk paths to ensure clients always receive consistent and complete information.
Concern. Your clients want to know that you care about them and their unique needs and goals. The two biggest mistakes I see financial security professionals make in this area are not connecting with clients enough throughout the year and not documenting their interactions. You should contact your clients at least seven times each year. You can’t build a relationship if your clients never hear from you again after the initial sale. Make annual reviews the cornerstone of your business, reviewing coverage needs with every client every year. Show your clients you care enough to make sure they have the coverage they need at the best possible value. Use your database to document every client interaction, then make sure everyone on the team is using those notes in their conversations with clients. There’s nothing worse than having to explain an issue three times to three different associates. Of course, your clients should never have to call three times to get an issue resolved, so be proactive and follow up with clients to make sure they are satisfied with each service they receive and address concerns before they become problems.
I accepted that I was never going to be the professional musician I hoped to be. And trust me, it was not an easy pill to swallow at the time. But I moved forward and found what turned out to be a better and more rewarding path for me. As financial security professionals, we must embrace the changes taking place in the industry today. We must redefine our roles, moving away from transactional business approaches toward building client relationships that last a lifetime – because that is how long our clients need us. We must put our clients at the center of every process and prioritize service before sales. We must continually earn the trust of our clients by demonstrating competence and concern with every interaction. For the good of our clients, our profession, and our businesses, we must embrace the exciting and new opportunities ahead.
The two biggest mistakes I see financial security professionals make in this area are not connecting with clients enough throughout the year and not documenting their interactions.
Troy Korsgaden is a highly sought-after Insurance Carrier Consultant. He is the principal of Korsgaden International, which specializes in global marketing, distribution, agency building and technology strategies for many of the world’s largest insurance carriers and financial services companies.
As a consultant, platform speaker, and author of seven books, Korsgaden’s mission is to help the insurance industry and its representatives wake up to the radical transformation taking place in the insurance industry. He helps those in the industry learn how to better communicate with consumers, so that consumers develop a higher appreciation for the value of insurance products.
In his career, which spans over three decades, Korsgaden has consulted and spoken with hundreds of thousands of executives, agents, brokers, and team members. A widely respected expert on the seamless distribution ecosystem. Korsgaden trains corporate insurance and financial services leaders on customer service, change management, technology, and transformational work, among many other key topics.
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