Super Agent

Posts Tagged ‘client’

Are You Making This Dangerous Assumption?

Client retention is an important component of an agency’s long-term profitability and stability, but too often, agencies invest a lot of time and effort into building initial client relationships and not enough time ensuring that those relationships are being continually nurtured over time. For example, in an article on Sales & Marketing Management, Rick Reynolds warns businesses not to make an assumption that we often hear:

“My clients would tell me if there was a problem…”

In reality, just like your prospects, your clients likely aren’t recognizing issues or problems that they’re currently experiencing or that might pop up due to things like marketplace disruptions or compliance requirements arising from new regulations. And if they are, and you aren’t proactively evaluating the relationship, you’re leaving the door open for a competitor to step in.

As a partner and advisor, you have the opportunity (and responsibility) to periodically assess your client’s needs, hidden or otherwise, and their expectations from the relationship. Reynolds says: Just like in any relationship, this becomes a refreshing dialogue once you get past the upfront discomfort of having such an honest conversation.”

Are you taking the time to assess your current relationships with clients? Are your goals and objectives still in alignment? Have you gained new capabilities that might be beneficial to them? By asking yourself these types of questions, you’ll increase retention and perform at your best.

Are You Taking Advantage of This Untapped Opportunity?

Last week, we discussed Al Lewis’ dynamic presentation at our recent annual event, but we also wanted to share an opportunity touched on by two other engaging speakers. Don Phin and Joy Justus of ThinkHR encouraged the group to think about the impact uninsurable HR related risks have on employers and how agents can step in to help them mitigate those risks.

Consider these questions:

  • How much did bad hires cost your employer clients over the last 12 months?
  • How much did losing any good employee cost them over the last 12 months?
  • What would be the bottom-line impact of improving total productivity by only 5%?
  • What is it costing them to keep poor employees?
  • What added costs are your clients paying due to poor risk management or return to work practices?

If they have employees, your clients are facing these issues. Are you ready to have a conversation with them around HR Risk Management to position yourself as an advisor, bring more value, and build a consultative relationship?

The Straw That Broke the Camel’s Back

In an excellent article from Bain & Company, the writers point out something that we hear all the time from producers. They said: “When we ask communication executives what causes their customers to defect, they often point to the last thing that happened before a customer left. Often, that’s a competitor’s offer.” But the important thing to point out, and what the writers go on to say is that although “competitive offers do sometimes lure customers to switch…typically [its] after a long period of eroding trust that results from a series of misadventures.”

Assessing only the last few problems or bumps in the relationship won’t lead to a full understanding of why you lost the business. Instead, consider asking yourself:

  • Was the client a right-fit to start with?
  • Were the agency’s goals, your goals and the client’s goals all in alignment?
  • Were you able to communicate your value, and consistently evaluate where you might bring new value to the relationship over time?

Most agencies invest a great deal of time and effort in building initial client relationships, but the biggest mistake they can make is to let those relationships go unattended over time. The enemy here isn’t the competition, its complacency. How many of your clients are sticking around because their fear of change is bigger than the impact of your value? Are you focusing enough time, energy and resources into your current business relationships in order to ensure your long-term profitability and prevent a “series of misadventures” from building into the straw that broke the camel’s back?

Face-to-Face

With the rise of new communication technologies and the Internet, face-to-face interaction has been largely replaced by conference calls, emails, or text messages. But, although these modes of communication are necessary and important, don’t underestimate the value of engaging with someone in person.

In one of our first blog posts, we talked about an agent with a difficult issue who discussed the challenge with us and set a strategy for moving forward. Then, the agent asked: “Should I send my client an email detailing what we’ve discussed?”

In these types of situations, where important issues need to be resolved or discussed, an email doesn’t leverage the most powerful aspects of communication. In an article on Forbes, contributor Carol Goman wrote: “In face-to-face meetings, our brains process the continual cascade of nonverbal cues that we use as the basis for building trust and professional intimacy. Face-to-face interaction is information-rich. We interpret what people say to us only partially from the words they use. We get most of the message (and all of the emotional nuance behind the words) from vocal tone, pacing, facial expressions and body language.”

Investing your time and attention with your clients by having a conversation in person is the best way to resolve the tough issues. And, it’s also important to check in (in-person) periodically with your most important clients in order to sustain and grow the business relationship.

When was the last time you had a face-to-face meeting with a long-time client? Did you have an in-person meeting with a client the last time you were working to resolve a big issue?

Use Action Plans to Manage “Initiative Overload”

A recent article from Bain & Company talks about the common problem that occurs when organizations are bogged down with initiative overload—they “are like swimmers buffeted by cross currents coming from every direction”, and the result is often fragmentation and unremarkable results for the company and the client or prospect.

As an agency owner, producer or service team member, you’ll likely relate to the problems that arise from “initiative overload”…maybe you have to tackle a surprise request from a client, address an unforeseen risk or scramble to deliver on promises made during the sales process.

The article provides a few great tips for overcoming initiative overload such as (1) managing your time to determine what your strategic priorities are, (2) clearly defining your responsibility for each initiative, and (3) determining your involvement by establishing distinct decision processes and maintaining open communication. But in order to avoid initiative overload all together, we would recommend creating action plans.

So, when and how do you create an action plan? Action plans are the culmination of agreements gained during the sales process, and depending on the size of the agency, the prospect and producer should agree to take on 1 to 2 initiatives per quarter or year. They represent the work that needs to be accomplished by both parties in order to strengthen and protect the client’s business.

In many ways, in order to retain accounts and grow your book of business, implementation of agreed upon initiatives is not only necessary; it also provides a big opportunity to differentiate. But, successful implementation only happens when there is a strong action plan in place. In today’s challenging marketplace, an action plan ensures that timelines won’t become hazy, promises won’t be broken, and both parties will get the most out of the relationship.

Sales Opportunities Beyond Placing Policies

Many of the agents we speak with believe that only the broker of record (BOR) is in the position to establish a relationship with an employer and gain new business. But when your sales process and approach is truly consultative, this idea doesn’t hold up. Insurance policies don’t always address every risk or problem an employer faces. In fact, many (if not most) times there are issues that have been transferred year after year to an employer’s policy that are still unresolved. What’s more, the road to obtaining new clients is more complex in today’s selling environment.

So, when an employer has a problem that is exposed during a conversation, why not be prepared to offer them a solution for a fee?  Leading a prospect to recognize issues that exist and offering your specialized services, tools and capabilities on a fee-basis  not only helps diversify your revenue, it also differentiates you and allows you to establish an initial relationship that could lead to engagement in the future.

For example, what if your agents performed an injury management assessment for a fee and helped employers uncover underlying issues with their reporting process?

If a business is implementing dangerous practices or is struggling to assess their risks, the opportunity is there for agents to step in and offer solutions. Don’t be afraid to put a price tag on the value that you bring to your client relationships—value based fees are directly related to serving their best interests.

Having Difficult Sales Conversations: Part 1

In a great post on The Sales Blog, Anthony Iannarino says that in order to create greater value, you have to have difficult conversations—“You are going to have to talk openly about the big changes that are going to need to occur for your client to succeed, for you to succeed together… What makes you strategic is your willingness to deal with the biggest, nastiest, foulest issues.”

We often talk about the importance of producers leading the sales process during the first meeting and willingly stepping into tension filled moments to challenge and engage a prospect. Without a little discomfort, it’s unlikely that anything new is being brought to the table. And today’s buyers expect new ideas.

So, if you find that you’re reluctant to have difficult and probing conversations with clients, it’s important to assess where your fear is stemming from. Do you need to gain new capabilities in order to confidently address the issues a prospect or client is facing? Are you letting self-doubt or the need to “be liked” get in the way of your success? Do you know the impact you have on your clients and the outcomes you help them to achieve?

Getting comfortable with uncomfortable topics of conversation is a big step toward differentiation, as long as you do so with humility and without pushing away the prospect.

Iannarino asked: “Will you go there? Will you give the elephant a name and tame him?”

What strategies do you use to create positive tension during your sales meetings? Are you trying to overcome your fears around this issue? Let us know in the comments, and be on the lookout for Part 2 next week.

Don’t Overlook This Forgotten Treasure

When addressing injury management practices and processes, the person most likely to be overlooked to provide improvement in this area is the front-line supervisor. Supervisors are forgotten treasures in the injury management outcomes equation. Consider this:

  • They have firsthand knowledge of the injured employee, the work environment and the opportunities that exist in modified work assignments
  • They can directly influence the tone and message sent to injured workers on behalf of the employer
  • If they have an existing relationship with an employee based on trust and transparency, they can be made available to answer questions about their health and safety

In an interview with EHS Today, veteran of the chemical industry Paul Balmert said, “The guys doing the work pay a lot more attention to their front-line supervisor than they ever do the plant manager or the vice president,” Balmert said. “The biggest single mistake I saw in my 30 years was when managers didn’t understand or appreciate [that] and therefore didn’t take maximum advantage of that tremendously powerful leader out there.”

So, how can your clients make the most of this important asset?

Reviewing their training practices is the first step. Does training reflect and encourage return-to-work? Are supervisors encouraged to communicate and empathize with workers? Are they able to identify modified duty and transitional work assignments?

These are all good questions to ask when thinking about the best way to engage supervisors, and to ensure that a work culture of mutual respect exists. Having a conversation around supervisor training with your clients is a great way to help them discover the importance of focusing on better outcomes.