When it comes to recruiting new business, too many agencies take the “whoever fogs a mirror” approach. But when they are asked if they have clients they’d like to fire, they always respond with a resounding “Yes!”

To really uncover ideal clients, an agency should view the relationship from different angles.

First, the agency should consider what type of client best suits its culture. For example, maybe it prefers working with smaller employers because it gets better access to the owners, or more contact with the employees and an opportunity to really connect with their team.

Or perhaps it’s better suited to larger companies with HR managers and CFOs, as these settings are more conducive to detailed, analytical conversations about plan designs, compliance and technical HR support.

But regardless of whether the firm is large or small, if the employer’s goals and values don’t match those of the benefit brokerage, the relationship will not be productive. For example, if the employer is looking for a price-shopping broker and the agency seeks to add value through business consulting, both parties are going to be consistently frustrated.

Also see:8 ways to ruin an office culture.”

Here’s an exercise that can provide some clarity. Start by selecting five of the agency’s favorite clients and five that consistently frustrate the agency’s advisers. Based on feedback from leadership, producers and account managers, identify the characteristics of each group. Include everything from the tactical to the technical, noting feelings and intangibles as well. It’s especially important to note which of these characteristics are deal breakers.

What should emerge are two sets of characteristics that provide pretty clear profiles of the type of client that best suits the agency and its advisers, and the type of client it is better off without. What does this look like when the exercise is completed? Here’s a sample from an agency with a very clear idea of what it wants in a client:

Sample client profile
51-250 employees; privately held; owners are at the decision-making table; open to technology. They put employees first, and write the check to prove it. Have an emphasis on healthcare consumerism and are willing learn about factors driving premiums and out-of-pocket expenses, using that information to make decisions.

They look to us to help guide them through this less-than-perfect system. The decision-makers are decisive, detail oriented and loyal. They are looking for help with benefits administration, compliance, payroll and HR.

When an agency understands the type of business it wants to work with, it has a more compelling story to offer prospects, because it knows the relationship will be a good fit. It isn’t desperately hoping that the employer needs a new broker and that it can offer something, anything, that it might need.

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