During the course of a year, Insurance Journal columnists, consultants and other writers dispense countless words of wisdom on how to be a better and more successful professional insurance agent. If you are a veteran insurance agent — or an aspiring professional insurance agent — and have not yet gotten around to making your own New Year’s business resolutions, their advice might be a good place to start.
Here are 12 ideas in no special order that, if you are so inclined and resolved, could be borrowed and followed to help shape your new year. Here’s to a Happy and Prosperous New Year to you all!
1. Embrace It: Insurance Is NOT a Commodity.
Insurance coverage guru Bill Wilson is adamant: You must know the policies you sell and service and the differences between them. Being able to read, understand and apply policy form language is a critical skill that is a fundamental prerequisite for successfully resolving coverage and claims disputes. Read Wilson’s first installment in his series: Once Upon a Time … Resolving Insurance Coverage and Claims Disputes.
2. Conduct an E&O Audit
An errors and omissions claim can take its toll on an agency. The financial burden can be a huge blow and individuals involved will face tremendous stress, which can impact the morale of the agency. Agencies should hire an independent consultant to do an E&O audit of agency practices. But if that is not in the cards, learn how to conduct a self-audit. Bill Schoeffler and Catherine Oak discuss: How to Conduct an E&O Self Audit.
3. Attract Young Talent
Young 20- and 30-years-olds have their own ideas about what they want from their employers. Many will sacrifice salary for more freedom and the right culture. They aspire to be part of a company’s larger vision. Jason Walker, managing partner at Smart Harbor, offers advice for appealing to this demographic: Taking a Page from the Insurtech Playbook.
4. Do Your Job
Agents are the translators between two people speaking different languages. Silence is a message that says an agent does not care yet silence is what small commercial and personal lines clients hear from agents over and over. Many agents think they can’t make money spending time with small customers. But that is the agent’s job. Outspoken consultant Chris Burand argues for figuring how to make money serving these customer and his solution is simple: The Need for Agents (to Do Their Jobs).
5. Improve Your Hiring Results
There’s a lot of money to be gained or lost in an agency’s hiring process. But most agencies still use a process that doesn’t work because it says: “He seems like a good guy. Let’s give him a shot!” Expert Randy Schwantz offers a system that does work for improving results. It starts with two people: a good cop and a bad cop: The 5-Step Evidence Based Hiring System.
6. Invest in Training
Employees are on the frontlines and should be able to solve problems on their own. But they need the confidence and skills to do so. This also helps managers by reducing time spent on dealing with customer complaints. One way to train employees is to have them spend time at the desks of other employees in the firm. Catherine Oak and Bill Schoeffler discuss other training tips: Good Training: Why Agencies Should Invest in People.
7. Achieve At Least 10% Organic Growth
How much did your agency grow last year? If your agency grew less than 10% last year, then Randy Schwantz has a solution for you: three keys to organic growth. The steps to are simple, but actually doing them is the hard part: 3 Steps to Building an Agency Growth Machine.
8. Speed Up Response Time
Consumers consider timeliness to be not just one factor but indeed the most important differentiator — above efficiency, professionalism and knowledge. With increasing pressure from insurtechs coupled with rising consumer expectations, response time must now be measured in minutes, not hours or days. Tom Wetzel, insurance marketing consultant, notes that emphasizing speed does not mean shortcutting risk management. He suggests agents follow a two-step process: Why Agent Response Time Is More Critical Than Ever.
9. Run Agency as a Business, Not a Lifestyle
Chris Burand says he has learned that most agencies are not run as businesses; most are run as a lifestyle. Lifestyles are personal, so perpetuation is not possible. Only true businesses can achieve internal perpetuation. If internal perpetuation is important in your agency, Burand reminds that perpetuation is always, foremost, a people puzzle: Why Agency Perpetuation Does Not Usually Work.
10. Develop an Agency Sales Strategy
Sales are the lifeblood of any business, yet most insurance agencies have, at best, only a general outline of a sales strategy. More often than not, agencies are filled with individual producers doing their own thing. The only control is to fire poor performers. Catherine Oak and Bill Schoeffler explain how to develop an agency sales strategy: What Is Your Agency’s Sales Strategy?
11. Build a Recruiting Plan
Insurance agencies too readily accept that the job market is tight and there are not many good candidates. They treat the process the same for every position. But consultant Mary Newgard believes that recruiting is sales and, like sales, it needs a structure and a plan: Lacking Structure: My Agency’s Biggest Recruiting Problem.
12. Eliminate Agency Silos
Among carriers, the silo model with departments operating independently and not easily collaborating is well-known. Silos can also create problems for agencies and generally fall into three broad categories: data, service and communications. Tom Wetzel talks with agent Brian Bartosh, and tech consultant Deborah Smallwood, for advice on what to do: Agent Silos: It’s Not Just a Problem for Carriers.
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