When 17th century businessmen gathered in Edward Lloyds London coffeehouse to write some of the worlds first insurance policies, they knew the value of building strong relationships. Four centuries later, relationship-building is even more important because, along with dramatic technological change, weve seen increased profit pressure on everyone involved.
Today, it is absolutely critical for carriers to build productive relationships with their distributors. The operative word is “productive” and that means going well beyond a round of golf and some refreshments at the 19th hole–measures that used to suffice when building relationships.
In the current, highly competitive environment in which we all operate, a carrier must provide significant added value, which includes being able to identify and articulate how the products and services provided by the carrier fit within each distributors opportunity. Added value also means enumerating which products provided by the carrier actually fit the distributors market–and ultimately the customer–as well as the marketing muscle to back it up. Anything short of this is business as usual. And today, business as usual is a recipe for failure.
Todays best carriers function much more than ever like professional business consultants. Successful carriers have developed processes that help general agents take an objective look at where they fit in the market. Ideally, this process includes an evaluation of how the agency interacts with its brokers, what segments of the market it has the ability to serve and serve well, and–most important–where the most lucrative profit opportunities lie for the GA and carrier alike.
For carriers, this process may involve acknowledging that some of their products and services might not be as appropriate for some customers as those offered by competitors. This candor–formerly unheard of–adds credibility.
Measured and unbiased assessments of a companys products and services can be one of the most effective tools for building trust with distributors and ultimately winning additional sales. A carrier adds considerable value to a distributors business by providing an unbiased evaluation of where that carriers products fit. The old broad-brush approach of “sell our product all the time” doesnt add the same value because it dilutes the relationship and lessens credibility.
Providing objective market and product analysis is only the beginning, of course. Its just as important for carriers to be able to help an agency implement and track a dedicated sales plan for each product, based on the agencys sales objectives.
By collectively participating in this effort, both carrier and agency quite naturally develop a more productive relationship–one that grows even closer as distributors realize that the carrier has committed its expert resources to helping the agency become more profitable.