We spend quite a bit of time working “in the business,” but not as much time working “on the business.” Life’s busy in the non-stop world we’re living in and there often doesn’t seem to be enough time to breathe or find downtime.

We are well into 2017, with a new presidential administration, new opportunities, and new challenges. Let’s pop the hood of our agencies and discuss how to create sustainable growth and success for many years to come.

For years, agents and brokers have been trying to survive and thwart new competitors, legislation and plenty of obstacles. It’s time to stop simply surviving and to leverage your experience, intellectual capital and unique value proposition to thrive and enjoy some of the best agency growth you have ever experienced.

The four key areas we will discuss in this article as well as my breakout session at the upcoming BenefitsPRO Broker Expo are:

  • Agency infrastructure

  • Changing market

  • Rise of consulting

  • Next steps

Agency infrastructure

 

Our Chicago-based company just witnessed one of the most incredible World Series wins and sports stories in a long time. By looking at how the Cubs turned their organization around after a 108-year drought to become a world championship ball club, we can discover insights that can be gleaned for any business. What can an insurance agency learn from the Cubs?

The Cubs recruited their head of operations, Theo Epstein, who created an internal document called “The Cubs Way.” The document outlined every aspect of the operations and was adopted by everyone from the bat boys to the manager. It discusses topics including talent acquisition, a toolbox for success, timing, KPIs, and trusting your team. In addition, it discusses topics such as big goals, specialization, accountability, operational alignment, and never stopping improvement and growth.

I challenge you to create a “Your Way” document for your agency.

Changing market

 

Consumers’ buying habits and styles have changed immensely over the past five years and continue to be a moving target. The ways an insurance professional goes about their sales process has also changed. Multi-shopping channels, how a prospect vets you, and how they perceive you are just as important as your approach.

Furthermore, cold calling and trying to reach decision makers has become increasingly difficult in recent years, and normal buying processes have emerged as buyers become savvier.

Leveraging technology and using tools like LinkedIn to your advantage is now required. Social selling has been around for years, but the insurance industry has been slow to adopt.

Have you created your online professional brand? Have you found the right people to connect to and gained referrals and introductions? Are you engaging your contacts with insights and become a thought leader? Are you building relationships online?

Face-to-face communication is still critical, but with the millennial generation increasingly taking roles as decision makers, your ability to leverage online tools will be a key factor of your success for years to come.

Market segmentation has already occurred in the employee benefits space. New models are popping up weekly: technology based agencies, fee-based consultants, etc. How are you adapting to the changing market and how is it working?

Rise of consulting

 

Consulting has also been a buzzword for many years now. It seems like everyone is now a consultant, so clearly defining your process is important in order to articulate the specific process that is unique to your agency. Employers are now looking for advice and guidance more than ever before.

Any broker can spreadsheet and come up with the same rates, value-adds, and enrollment technology. Employers seek a broker/consultant who can uncover pain points and deliver solutions around six key areas: risk and financial management, benefits communication, health management, administration and technology, compliance and legal oversight, and HR consulting.

A majority of brokers tell us they rarely dig into all six of these categories. Creating built-in processes that are repeatable and duplicatable will assist you in uncovering pain points so that you can deliver specific solutions to your clients and prospects.

A true consulting process has four key steps: discovery, analysis, solution design, and implementation. How you define each of these categories is what makes your agency unique.

How much time do you spend on transactional work versus knowledge work? What do the best agencies in the industry do?

These topics will be thoroughly discussed in the breakout session at the BenefitsPRO Broker Expo.

Next steps

 

What can you do today to start transforming your agency? I would recommend taking an agency assessment. What are your current gaps and needs?

Depending on the size and focus of your agency, there are several different approaches to how you would define your processes. The needs of a local agency focusing on small group and individual is clearly different from a regional broker focusing on the middle market.

There are hundreds of technology vendors in the market and more popping up every day. It can be overwhelming to figure out which vendors do what. And do I need them all or just a couple?

We will go into detail on the three main buckets of technology and what best-in-class agencies are putting in place to achieve success. What is the differences between CRMs, agency management systems, ben admin, HRIS and analytics tools?

Whether you are an agency looking to build your consulting practice, cross-sell more voluntary benefits, launch a fee-based model, or further articulate your value to clients and prospects, there are clear steps you can take to have an impact in 2017 and beyond. Defining both short- and long-term goals are crucial. As W.E. Deming once said, “If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.”

We look forward to seeing you at BenefitsPRO Broker Expo in April! Register today with promo code: SOFL and save $100!