As a consultant, part of your job is looking out for the best interests of your clients. And part of that best interest should include looking at things outside of the scope of insurance.
As crazy as that may initially sound (after all, you are an insurance agency), it's important to recognize that you have access to an incredible amount of information about a client business and its operations. In some cases, it's more information than any other consultant or adviser with whom a business might work. The level of detail and knowledge you potentially have access to runs deep: from the financials, to the properties, products, services, partnerships, business risks, and to the employees, turnover and retention, communication, wellness, compliance (this list can go on for as long as your business is actively involved in helping clients manage their resources).
State of the business
Traditionally this type of information has been collected and then simply submitted to the carrier. But, by tapping into the depth of information you have across so many areas of a business, there is potential to provide significant insight and advice to help clients improve both operations and profitability. This advice and influence can go well beyond the benefits or commercial policies you place on their behalf. From the client perspective, a lot of this information is gathered purely for the purposes of insurance submissions and not tracked and/or used internally for studying the state of the business. This provides even more opportunity for you to bring a wealth of information and value to your clients about their own business.
But using this information requires congregating it all, studying what it might mean, and finding potential solutions for what's not working or finding ways to capitalize on opportunities.
It also means being a student of business and keeping clients informed of issues that may not have hit their radar yet, or issues for which that they haven't fully considered the significance. When playing the role of consultant, rather than strictly being a broker, it's your job to bring these conversations to your clients.
Be the bellwether
Especially as we find ourselves in times of unprecedented turmoil that have shaken the very foundation of everything we've known, there is no better time (except for about 5 years ago) to establish yourself as a bellwether for your clients. Keeping them informed and helping them understand the long-reaching implications that their business decisions of today are going to have on their business of tomorrow, and three years from now, should become your singular focus.
Studies are regularly conducted on the state of employee satisfaction and morale and business projections for hiring and growth, both locally and globally. Understanding the implications of what the results are saying, and educating your clients on these pitfalls and opportunities should be how you spend your time in personal and agency development.
Traditional or transformative
It might feel like it's the time to dig in and focus on the traditional part of your business of offering more products or educating clients in more depth about the same products. Unfortunately, that approach is just getting you a better traditional answer to your challenges, and what your clients are seeing are much more complex problems that they need help navigating.
Instead, going against what might feel like the right direction, and reallocating a disproportionate amount of agency time on developing your team knowledge is actually an excellent use of time and resources. And this effort isn't just a one-time-use activity. A huge benefit to having a knowledge-based business, versus having one that is built on selling a product, is that the knowledge can and should be used again and again. Use it in developing stronger partnerships with your clients, demonstrating a clearly better business model to your prospects, and putting out a completely different message in your marketing efforts.
Having an extremely strong understanding of all products and services you offer your clients is critical. But even more critical for the transformation–leading agencies is proactively providing guidance and advice and being the leading source of education and solutions throughout all areas of the agency – sales, customer service, and marketing.
If you are truly a consultant, then keeping your clients informed, discussing bigger business issues affecting their operations and profitability, and watching out for their best interests should be one of your primary responsibilities.
Keneipp, partner and coach, Q4intelligence, is a business consultant specializing in transformation strategies for independent insurance agencies. She coaches, creates curriculum, and writes regularly about the evolving role agencies can play in the growth and development of client businesses. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter (@WendyKeneipp) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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