All these years later and the battle rages on between being known in your community and professional circles as a product-based salesperson or a process-driven consultant. Different strokes for different folks I suppose, and far be it for me to tell you how to build your reputation or run your business. But, there are significant differences in the two approaches. One in which the business runs the agent and one in which the consultant runs the business (and is handsomely rewarded); today I’ll focus on the latter.
Identify Your Niche and Build a Process
The first step to building an insurance practice built around consulting principles is to figure out exactly who you want to work with. While being a generalist has proven a successful model for the longest of times, recent research suggests those who take a consultative approach built on expertly serving a niche (dentists, physicians, retirees, auto dealerships, government employees, etc.) connecting with and serving people with whom you can have a significant impact leads to greater personal happiness, greater financial freedom, and eventually a practice that is more valuable when it is time to sell. This approach takes time as initially it requires you to evaluate your current book of business, research and market to your chosen niche, and slowly and over time to shed your book of those policyholders who do not fit your ideal client profile, replacing with people to whom you can provide an unparalleled experience.
Once you have identified the niche everything that happens in your office is built to revolve around providing an amazing experience for those clients; your on-boarding process and communication rhythm, which call or appointment is high priority or low priority, how deliberately to grow your practice vs. working with everyone that calls or walks in the door. Key to this formula is having a multi-step intake process that is consultative in nature with the end goal of providing multiple solutions through a collaborative approach with your client. Finally, your process must be easily repeatable, understood and accepted by all office staff, and, provide high level service standards with solutions that speak directly to your ideal client.
Build a Team
Speaking of office staff. As the great Jim Collins says…
“Get the right people on the bus, get the wrong people off the bus.”
There’s nothing more detrimental to a business (yes, you are running a business) than office staff who aren’t meeting the service demands of your ideal client, or, aren’t contributing to the positive growth and atmosphere you desire. Most important, all staff (whether professional or administrative) must be aware of where they fit in the client service experience, and the responsibility they have to the next staff member in the process.
Building a team doesn’t only mean administrative staff. Having members of the team that specialize in a particular product or have a specific expertise can be of immense benefit. For example, if your niche is automobile dealerships, your team might look like this:
- You as Rainmaker
- 1 Personal Lines agent
- 1 Commercial Lines Agent
- 1 General Liability Agent (E&O, Workers Comp, etc.)
- 1 Senior Market Insurance Agent
- 2 Office Staff Members (Ops and Admin)
The combinations are endless and for sure building an ideal team for your ideal client will take time (3-5 years?) but in the end this is YOUR ideal practice for YOUR ideal client and YOUR professional reputation on the line.
As with all things, you get out of it what you put into it.
Run the Business
Perhaps the final and most important piece of the consultant puzzle is thinking, acting, and being a business owner, an entrepreneur. After all, isn’t that why you chose to become an independent broker in the first place? In all that you do execute on your process, delegate responsibility, don’t be afraid to turn away business or release policyholders, build strong relationships with centers of influence AND competitors (feel free to email me if you want to know why), and hold your team accountable to the highest-level client service standards treating your ideal client with the care and attention they deserve and could never receive elsewhere.
Live a World Class Lifestyle
So, what does all of this mean for you? What’s the true benefit? When I was in the wealth management business I developed a saying that I communicated regularly to my clients. It went something like this…
“Money doesn’t guarantee happiness but it does guarantee the ability to do things others cannot.”
Applying that theory to this blog, if you create and run a top-shelf insurance consulting practice, you should be handsomely rewarded with each of the following:
- The opportunity to participate daily in your client’s successes
- The flexibility to never miss activities and events outside of your business
- The balance that comes from delegating work so you can run the business
- The income that doesn’t guarantee happiness but guarantees the ability to do things others cannot
And finally, when it’s all said and done the ability to sell your practice at a multiple that the vast majority of insurance agents only wish they could, guaranteeing your legacy for years to come.