We tend to stay close to familiar things. Consider that dangerous for your business as we sing “Auld Lang Syne”and look forward to 2015. Next year looks different from 2014. The recent shake-up in the U.S. Senate means that the legislative logjam will start to loosen up and the creek will flow again, especially on health care. Next year is not like this year. 

Changing behavior changes you

Management hubbub tells us we must position ourselves for constant change. We should welcome it, but that is not our human nature. You will miss opportunities next year if you fail to change your behavior, see the reality of your customer changing, and adopt the changes that started years ago with what your customer wants. Have you and your agency changed with the times, or do you stick to what worked years ago and now lessens your sales and service productivity? Resolve to make this change in January. Fail this pledge and you find your competitors more competitive than ever and it will just get worse.

Embrace three things in 2015 to ring in more profitable sales and happier customers:

1)     Expect amendment of the ACA to allow for more market forces and heavy-handed regulation. The new Senate leadership already telegraphed that the ACA gets a haircut to eliminate stuff that is burdensome and does not make sense. Set up your email alerts on this in January as the fur begins to fly.

2)     Expect to buy more technology to sell and service your customers better. Tech has gotten good. It is no longer acceptable for your firm to not have robust value-add and CRM functions for your prospecting and current clients. You are a dinosaur without it. Surveys suggest that tech purchasing for benefit agencies will be big in 2015. Jump out of your comfort zone and start playing the game with technology. You will have to spend some time learning and mastering the offerings, but it will pay off. Take this advice from someone who has built and sold a few technology companies with names you well know. It works. It produces sales in the right hands. It makes customer service easier.

3)     Expect a continuing and growing trend that the line between HR management and benefits blurs and ultimately becomes indistinguishable. We will see this in the next five years. Are you willing to grow and get in the middle of insurance sales and HR management? Your prospects and clients hope you will, or else they will call somebody else.

I harp on these issues because you need to change your professional image and wares, because it works. Our industry sorely needs this change. Too many bad actors stick to old ways of selling when they could set themselves free and reap more business for themselves while maximizing their value to clients. What are you waiting for? 

My friends, do this or watch your book — and career — die a thousand deaths. I say heresy here, but the customer relationship, however strong, is not strong enough anymore. Your clients have changed. Joe Bag-of-Donuts is still out there scraping, but his days are limited. Own up to your need to change, too.

Davidson, CEBS, is a principal at Davidson Collective, LLC and a management consultant to brokers across the country. He is on the faculty of the Sheldon B. Lubar School of Business at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Reach him at craigjdavidson@outlook.com.

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