Ask Prospects for Help

A very successful commercial insurance producer told me this recently.  He said that when he is on a sales call, particularly a business luncheon, instead of the usual amount of small talk before starting to get down to business, after exchanging a few general pleasantries, he asks his prospects and clients to help him solve a business problem or issue that is current for him.

“Unrelated to our business today, let me take a minute to run this by you.  I’m wrestling with this, to develop a workable solution.  What are your thoughts?”

He said that getting their opinions demonstrates to them that you value their thinking on a matter that you have been considering.  Nothing too deep or serious of course – you certainly don’t want to destroy your main purpose for the meeting – but he said it has really helped him connect with his prospects and clients.  He added that as a valuable side-benefit, he has heard some great ideas that helped him solve some of his outstanding issues.

LinkedIn – More Meaningful Connections

Lately, I am making it a point to ask many people I encounter daily in business settings – both formal and informal – if they are on LinkedIn. Most are and I ask them if I can connect with them after meeting them.  It is an easy way to make more meaningful connections.  Just change the automatic invite message wording to a more personal one, possibly referencing your conversation earlier in the day or mentioning something significant or mutually interesting, that you discussed together.  The chances are that this practice will result in stronger business connections for you.  It has worked well for me.

 

Marketing Message Simplicity

Recently I was reading an article about the importance of marketing messages and the author made reference to this statement from Albert Einstein:  “If you cannot explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”   If you don’t understand your business, how can others be expected to do so?

Old Albert knew his way around an equation for sure but it sounds like he was also well aware of other aspects of life.

For we who are involved with marketing – and that is just about everyone, in one way or another – it is important to take the time to prepare your own marketing message.  As Einstein suggests, it needs to be simply stated.  You may only get one chance to relate it to a potential client or business associate who can refer you to clients.

John Jantsch, marketing guru and author of many great business books, including “Duct Tape Marketing”, refers to this part of your marketing message as a “Talking Logo”.   He describes the importance of it as “…a short statement that quickly communicates your firm’s position and forces the listener to know more”.   I like what John has to say.  He himself makes his many useful messages simple but meaningful.

My Talking Logo is:  “I help independent P&C agents get the appropriate markets for their specific needs.  I help them make more money.”   I hope it passes the “Einstein test”.

Business & Golf

Especially for people in insurance sales and management roles, there is no doubt that playing golf offers many networking opportunities, especially with existing and potential clients. In fact, that is why some people play golf – It is their sole reason. However, I have always viewed golf as another form of problem-solving and many business people I know enjoy it for that reason in addition to the networking and friendship that inevitably results.

With regard to problem solving, many of those described are used to overcoming obstacles to make the best day-to-day business decisions.  Golf is just an extension of their work in a more open environment.

How am I going to hit the ball over that tree?   What club do i need?  Should I try to go over the lake or avoid it by going around it or playing short of it?  To make sure I don’t hit my ball into that huge bunker, should I play to the opposite side of the green even it will put me very far from the hole?
These are examples of questions that golfers ask themselves throughout a round of golf.  The golf shots they propose and attempt are aimed at solving the problems at-hand.

It is the same type of decision-making environment that business managers face everyday. However, the consequences of making a wrong decision in business is hardly ever more serious that a bad business decision on a golf course…unless, of course, you bet too much with your friends and lost!

From noted creative thinking coach, Michael Gelb:  “Life is a continuous exercise of problem solving.”

Memorial Day History

Memorial Day History

Originally known as “Decoration Day”, the observance of Memorial Day as we know and recognize it on last Monday in May each year has a diverse history. Decoration Day is most often believed to have originated in Waterloo, NY just after the Civil War by a town druggist who was very sympathetic to the sacrifices of those who lost their lives in that long and brutal struggle. It had no name in the beginning but became known as Decoration Day due to the activities that citizens conducted. To honor the fallen, the druggist promoted placing flags or other forms of markers at the foot of all soldiers’ graves in the town of Waterloo. Very soon thereafter the word spread throughout the North and South and other town groups set-up their own forms of remembrances. As understandable signs of pride, cities and towns in both the North and the South claimed in 1886 to be the birthplace of what ultimately became Memorial Day.
Flags were soon accompanied by flowers being placed at grave sites throughout the Country. Somber marches were also encouraged in many towns. They could hardly have been termed as celebrations. According to a number of similar historical accounts, the dates of such remembrances varied from town to town but were most often held in the spring, because most of the flowers were in bloom then and available for the marches.
The concept of honoring those who died in battles actually goes back to ancient times when the Greeks and Romans did so annually with grave markings, festivals and feasts.
It was not until after WW II that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all wars in defense of our freedoms in the United States of America.
Memorial Day became a Federal Holiday in 1971 although it was still referred to as Decoration Day in many places throughout the Country.
On this Memorial Day, the Disabled Veterans Insurance Careers team – www.dvic.us joins so many others in honoring all fallen heroes who have served our great Country.

By Phil Tuccy – DVIC Strategic Board Member

Prepare to be “Underwritten”

I recently had a very interesting conversation with Shane Tatum, the President  & CEO of Integra Insurance Services, an organization in Texas which provides agency network affiliation for qualified agents and agencies.

While Shane was explaining the Integra prospecting approaches and overall philosophy for determining the quality and experience of agents and agencies that his organization seeks as possible members, he said something that I had not heard before.   He stated that they carefully “underwrite” each prospective member before considering them for inclusion into one the two key Integra membership programs.

Action words like ‘vetting’, ‘analyzing’, ‘evaluating’, etc.  are most frequently heard in conversations of this nature.  However, after hearing Shane describe the Integra “underwriting” approach, I do believe it is most descriptive of the actual process that needs to take place in order for an agency network organization to make the best educated decision as to who should be a member of a network group.

It is well known that traditional insurance underwriting requires knowledge of as much about the proposed insured as possible and the risks to which they may become exposed.  This information is needed to make an informed decision as to whether the company wants to provide insurance coverage.   Similarly, an agency network should want to know as much as possible about each prospective member.   Most do but some are more about quantity than quality.  Those that underwrite their prospects are models for the others.  As an agent or agency seeking an agency network group to join, look for the groups that make you feel as though you are being subjected to an underwriting process.   It will be to your advantage, in the long-run.

A written marketing that is well-developed will prepare you to be effectively underwritten.

Teaching People to Care

Can it be done?   I recently read an article in which the author stated that, as an insurance Agency Principal, he feels that he can teach any employee to do almost any task.  He added that the real issue is to teach people to care.

Maybe he was in a low mood when he stated this but his point is well-taken, as least as “food for thought”.   It might have more to do with creating an atmosphere where “caring” is a key aspect of the workplace culture.

I am not at all sure that “caring” can be taught.

 

George Nordhaus – “A Marketing Man for All Seasons”

My title for this blog could just as well have been “George Nordhaus – A Marketing Man for All Insurance Agencies”.  Most of the agency principals with whom I interact know his name. They will tell me that they remember George’s marketing products, presentations and/or interviews – all developed and presented with the purpose of enhancing the world of insurance marketing, to the benefit of so many agency operations and the industry in general.

Always sincere, enthusiastic and with so much energy in his efforts, George is still “out there” in his marketing ideas laboratory, cooking-up solutions to fit the needs of insurance agencies of all shapes and sizes.

Specifically he employs his unending energy to produce “Monday Morning”, a series of timely interviews with various people in the insurance industry, all who want to spread their messages through the efforts of George Nordhaus. Additionally, he oversees the operations of Agencies-On-Line, LLC – www.agenciesonline.biz and Insurance Hiring System –www.insurancehiringsystem.com.

Has any one person done more in the last fifty-plus years to promote insurance industry marketing? It is doubtful.

Under ‘Advice for Contacting George’ on his LinkedIn profile, he states:  “I am totally open to just about anything that concerns marketing”.  That sums it up.  He is open to everyone.

You owe it to yourself to check-out his resources.  Guys like him are few and far between.  In an era with so many different marketing information providers, with his unique and time-tested approaches, George Nordhaus is truly one of a special breed.

Agents: Read & Understand Your Employment Agreements

This week I had an agent tell me that he felt like he was deceived when he tried to leave the agency that had employed him as a producer, for more than five years.   He announced to the employing agency principal that he was leaving to go out on his own, as he had a deal to buy a small, existing agency,  His next question to the employer was how he could transfer the business he had produced for them, for five-plus years.  The agency principal pulled out the agreement that the producer had signed when he was first employed in the agency.  It stated that the first full year of the producer’s employment did not count toward fulfillment of his five year qualification requirement.  It was considered to be “orientation and training”, although the actual training period seemed to last only a few months, before the producer was turned loose to produce.

So, instead of having satisfied the full five years of vesting, the producer still had a year to go to be able to extract the business for his own purposes.  The producer told me that he remembered something about that clause in his agreement but didn’t fully understand the wording and didn’t ask for clarification, before signing the agreement when he was first hired.

He had obviously made a big mistake.  The damage was done and now his plan for his own agency is in real jeopardy.  He said that he might file a law suit to dispute the validity of the terms but he cannot afford to do so at this time.

The “moral of the story” is of course to make sure you not only read your agreements thoroughly but be sure to get a clear understanding of all the terms.  Get a clarifying letter, if you are not sure of any aspect of any agreement.  Better yet, ask for some review and clarification help from a third party.  You cannot afford to make mistakes like this.

Tip:  Some of the State Agent organizations provide contract reviews for their Members.

Disabled Veterans Insurance Careers

A couple of years ago, I was reading an insurance industry magazine article about an interesting organization that was hiring, training and licensing disabled veterans for placement into insurance agencies.   I decided to contact both the Founder and President/CEO, to discuss my possible involvement, as a volunteer.   I had retired from my full-time marketing and sales related position and was looking for an organization that was really trying to make a difference, not just spending most of its money on administration and advertising.

When I met the Disabled Veterans Insurance Careers Program founders and staff – www.dvic.us I quickly determined that it was the right organization for me.   They made me part of their team as a Strategic Board member, which has been a very rewarding experience for me.  The  DVIC team works together very closely to achieve the mission to educate, train & create meaningful employment opportunities within the insurance industry for disabled veterans.

Take a few minutes to look at the website listed above and particularly the 4-minute video of the interviews with some of our disabled veterans.   You will see how the DVIC program has made a difference in their lives.