What The Big Hitters Do

By Steven R. Craig

All business people recognize that a business must grow or face inevitable decline and death. Ambitious agents must look at their business the same way.

Most agents agree the easiest way to grow their business is by working with clients who have larger, more complex insurance needs. In this article, I will explore key areas that separate agents who are the big hitters from those who are still struggling.

Seek To Understand. To paraphrase Stephen Covey, you must understand the client before you can expect him to understand you. Elite producers know that a clients life insurance needs dont exist in a vacuum and that they are inextricably linked to other long-range planning issues.

If you are going to work with doctors, you need to understand the business of medicine. If your target includes senior executives of small public companies, you need to understand the rigors and routines they face daily. Understanding the client is much more involved than just understanding the corporate balance sheet or knowing how to structure a buy/sell agreement. It also means understanding non-insurance solutions to the same problem and how one solution might be superior to another based on the clients specific situation.

The problem is agents often only engage in education on a “need-to-know” basis. To enter upscale markets, a more proactive approach to learning must be taken. For example, an associate of mine wanted to expand his practice to include Bank-Owned Life Insurance (BOLI). This market is so complex that he first had to learn the business of banking before he could make his first presentation. He had to understand asset/liability management, regulatory requirements and financial ratios that are important to directors, shareholders and regulators. He had to understand cost of capital, deployment of capital and more importantly, he had to understand the mindset of a community banker.

Only after he had done his study and aligned himself with a firm that specializes in the market was he able to break into this lucrative field.

Make Yourself Indispensable. Not long ago, a producer and I had a meeting with a very influential business manager. We were discussing one of the business managers centa-millionaire clients and his $50 million of life insurance. In that meeting, I learned why this producer consistently generates in excess of $1 million in new commissions. The business manager who advises ultrahigh net-worth clients stated plainly that this producer is “his guy” for creative insurance solutions. The relationship he had built with the business manager had made him an indispensable resource when it came to insurance planning.

Here are a few points that can help make you indispensable:

Be a team player–know your role and when to hand off to your teammate;

Put the clients interest first–always;

Recognize that the clients unique situation deserves a unique solution–not a pat answer; and,

Be knowledgeable in a variety of areas outside of insurance.

Developing your performance in these four areas will distance you from the pack of agents competing with you for the advisors attention.

Referrals Are A Two-Way Street. If you have made yourself indispensable, you have already made yourself a good candidate for referrals. But referrals are a two-way street, and in order to be successful you must give referrals as well as receive them. In professional services, our contacts are our inventory. The extent to which we share those contacts with other advisors will directly impact the referrals we get from them.

Professionals in this area often make (and take) introductions before an immediate business need is apparent. This way the parties can get to know and become comfortable with each other. Whether the contact leads to new business or to another referral, skillful practice of sending referrals out to other professionals results in a steady flow of referrals in to you.

The difference between modestly successful and wildly successful producers lies in subtle, yet distinctly different business practices. Luckily for the producer looking to achieve higher levels of success, these skills can be learned and that next level of achievement can be attained.

Steven R. Craig, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, has played the role of insurance agent, general agent and home office executive. He is based in Encino, Calif. He can be contacted via e-mail at srcraig47@aol.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, February 10, 2003. Copyright 2003 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.