I have the good fortune of meeting and working with the very best in our business. I routinely engage in discussions on a variety of topics that affect our industry. Interestingly enough, the conversations I enjoy most are not those with experienced producers who draw from a vast pool of experience and knowledge.
Often, the most engaging conversations involve younger producers, not set in their ways or forced by circumstance to follow a certain path.
Recently I was asked by a new producer, “What kind of accounts should I focus on?”
I thought, “how nice, to be fresh enough in this business to have a blank slate and a variety of choices” I also remembered the difficult challenges I faced as a young producer. I remember the lack of direction and guidance, and the absence of advice or mentoring. The standard in the agency business for young producers was, “Here is your desk, your phone and phone book; go sell something.” Fortunately, I was very lucky, and made some good choices and decisions along the way.
At the very beginning of my sales career, one of the best choices I made was locating my office next door to an old pro and super producer by the name of Gordy Johnson. I spent hours listening to him communicate and negotiate on the phone with customers, prospects and insurance companies. He was a master. I pestered him for answers to never-ending questions and asked him to review my proposals and correspondence. Gordy, after all, had been in this business for over 30 years and had been a top producer for most of those years. He had been an agency owner twice, and had a list of accolades a mile long. Most importantly, he had persevered, adapted to and thrived through several of the most challenging and competitive economies of our nations recent history. Gordy was in his 60′s and he and was still growing his book and was having fun. I felt if I could go to school on him, I would shorten my learning curve, and maybe, just maybe, I might succeed. That year I sold over a million in commercial premium, created a national program with CNA and never looked back.
For those new producers finding your way in this challenging business, here is some wisdom I gleaned from one of the best and brightest in our business.
1. Become an expert either in coverage, or in a sector. Specialize in one or more industries. Become well know as the very best in that industry.
2. Choose an industry that holds special interest to you, one that you enjoy or have some connection with. If you enjoy what you are doing, it won’t feel like work. You’ll never have a hard time getting up in the morning, you’ll be excited to go to work, and you will succeed.
3. Develop strong relationships with the centers of influence in that industry. Offer your time and offer your help. Sit on boards and committees with them. Get involved in charities or functions that they participate in.
4. Birds of a feather flock together. High quality people and companies associate with other high quality people and companies. Make sure your first sales made are to the best in the industry, and ask for referrals.
5. Relationship selling is everything. People buy from people they like. Make sure you develop strong relationships with the top 20-30% of your clients.
6. This is not a part-time business. You must develop friendships with your clients. Get to know their families; participate in their lives.
7. Always walk away from questionable business. Never write a piece of business that you feel could potentially cause problems for your agency or the company.
8. Form partnerships with your insurance companies. Create relationships with your underwriters.
9. Never, ever, chase the dollar. Always operate from a position of selfless service and doing the very best you can for your client. Always deliver more than you promise. Do this, and the money will come.
10. The devil is in the details. Always check and double check the work done by other people. Know your client’s policies, review all policies before they go out, and make sure you do the presentations. Your clients want to see you, and they deserve as much attention in their fifth year with you, as they received in their first year.
11. Cross sell. Be the one person your clients come to for ALL of their insurance needs. Do not write the business insurance and neglect the personal insurance. Their business is important, but their home is their home. Always write their life insurance, you become very important to their family and future.
12. It’s as easy to sell a large account as it is to sell a small account. It just takes more time and knowledge. The obstacle is in your mind.
13. Have fun, turn work into enjoyment and fulfillment.
I hope these pearls of wisdom help shorten your learning curve and accelerate your success to make your career more profitable and rewarding.