This blog covers how to manage the changes insurance and benefits agencies are making as a result of a changing business model. One of the questions we hear a lot in these discussions is “Whose responsibility is that?”
And it’s a good question. One that needs to be explored within your own structure.  We can give you some ideas, but we can’t answer it specifically because each agency is as unique as the people within it. You might already be set up to deliver in some of these areas, or you might need to bring in new people, reallocate resources, or hire some outside firms for support.
One thing is for certain – you’re going to have to make some changes.
As buyers and their needs become more complicated, delivering on this new level of sophistication requires more people in the agency to take on an active role in acquiring and supporting new clients.

Let’s start with the producer role

In this new model, we need to take time to think about how the producer’s job has changed, and we need to evaluate what that change looks like for them, for the client, and for the agency. Producers are sales people who are good at working with clients and making promises. They may not be so good at delivering on all those promises, especially when we have a growing repertoire of services, and nor should they be.
Think about it like this. When you’re in a restaurant, does the waiter make the food? No, they are the liaison between the customer and the kitchen. And they are experts, hopefully, at being that relationship person and the translator between the two. The chef is the expert at making the food and the bartender is the expert at making that drink. The waiter makes sure you have an excellent all around experience.
We need to look at insurance and benefits agencies in the same way. Producers should not be doing it all themselves. We’ve moved beyond that model where you can have a do-it-yourself production staff. It takes a team.

Let’s look at some areas within the agency where you might need to add or restructure

Marketing – Being the first point of contact with the prospect through marketing activities and messaging. Having a point person filling this role is an important part of the new model. This person needs to be a very strong connector between the leadership team (to help create the message) and the sales team (to ensure proper delivery of the message).  This person should also be creative and motivated to create a strong internal and external marketing program.
Prospecting – Bringing in new revenue should be top priority for the agency, and should be given appropriate attention and resources.  Prospecting efforts should be supported by strong sales leadership, which helps drive the efforts of the producers by providing accountability, time management planning, regular sales development meetings, and account strategy help.

Client Service – What the client receives needs to reach beyond reactive policy service issues. Additional services, unrelated to the policies, need to be delivered to clients, and people with expertise should be responsible for that delivery. This may be people with special areas of expertise in an area like wellness, it may be someone to help coordinate the delivery of third party providers, or it may be internal folks who deliver a variety of solutions around HR or risk management.

Traditionally, agencies have relied on carriers for a lot of their business support services like marketing materials and activities, prospecting lists, and they’ll even participate in team selling efforts and offer some client programs like wellness or safety.
Sometimes these are the right resources, but you also need to be open to partnering with other solution providers and creating some of these things internally.
Creating the right structure will take some time to figure out what works best. As you work through it, I highly recommend you first create a vision of what you would ideally like the customer to experience when working with your company.
Start from the ideal, and then create a structure to support it. Don’t limit yourself to thinking about what your structure or team currently looks like. Companies can be reorganized and people can be trained.

Keneipp, of St. Louis-based Benefits Growth Network, coaches, trains, and develops strategies and curriculum for agency growth. She can be reached at wendy@benefitsgrowthnetwork.com.

 

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