Metrics - The New Normal

The CFO of today uses metrics and analytics for any number of purposes. These new data points help ascertain product launches, business goals, customer acceptance and yes even vendor evaluation. So, if you want to do business with larger organizations one of the keys is to provide your clients and prospects with business metrics that others are not providing.

If you want to have an enlightening conversation with a CFO prospect or client, ask this question:

"What are some of the metrics you use to evaluate your business performance?" It will lead you into a discussion that will rock your world. The information that CFO's need and use has changed at light speed over the course of the past several years. They have moved into metrics and analytics that help them improve their business on a quantifiable basis.

The CFO of today uses metrics and analytics for any number of purposes. These new data points help ascertain product launches, business goals, customer acceptance and yes even vendor evaluation. So, if you want to do business with larger organizations one of the keys is to provide your clients and prospects with business metrics that others are not providing.

The insurance brokerage business has traditionally provided clients with only one key metric . . . How their insurance premiums stacked up historically against exposures. For the most part, everything we have done points to only one thing . . . Price.

Oh, I know. In many cases, we do show clients or prospects how we drive down their claim costs. I suppose some would call those metrics. Not me, I call those project features with no quantifiable outcome; other than a reduction in claim costs or risk financing price.

As a Consultative Broker(TM), you are now able to provide your clients with a number of meaningful metrics that actually proves your Value Proposition and places it on the client or prospects financial statements. This is done by translating your Total Cost of Risk impact into the 6 areas of Business Risk.

Ready, here goes:

1. Hazard Risk - This is the simple comparisons that we have always known. (Hazard Risk Only)

2. Financial Risk - The entire Total Cost of Risk impact as it relates to profits.

3. Operational Risk - The TCOR impact as it relates to the clients competitiveness.

4. Strategic Risk - The ability to translate TCOR into business productivity improvements.

5. Human Capital Costs - Focusing the impact of cost reductions in turnover, training and human productivity.

6. Equity Risk - Demonstrating the impact of TCOR improvements on ownership evaluation.

These are the metrics that Consultative Brokers are becoming astute at providing their prospects and clients. They understand that to be acknowledged as a consultant and paid like one; it is imperative that they provide CFO buyer's metrics that are meaningful. These Consultative Brokerage Metrics become the backbone of their quantifiable value proposition.

So, if you intend to stay in the game of writing and retaining larger accounts; here is a word to the wise. You really need to get on board with discussing business risk metrics with your clients and prospects. They are getting them from other industries and using them to plan and operate their businesses. I can assure you that many of your best opportunities will come from being perceived as a valuable organization that helps create and provide outcomes based upon metrics.

They are now the new normal!

Best Regards to Consultative Brokers,

Rob Ekern

For more information on how to quantify TCOR, manage projects, build a value proposition, and consistently deliver stewardship reports and new business presentations to your customers, check out the Major Account Development System (MADS), an on-line consultative broker's toolkit. Available now!

Ready to learn more about Consultative Brokerage Sales Training? Visit the Consultative Brokerage Academy.

To learn more about C.R. Ekern & Company, please visit our website


TCOR: Building a Value Proposition

Total Cost of Risk (TCOR) is becoming one of the most important acronyms of the 21st century for agents and brokers. We at C. R. Ekern & Company are pleased to be the developer of the Total Cost of Risk strategy for middle market agents and brokers.

Total Cost of Risk (TCOR) is becoming one of the most important acronyms of the 21st century for agents and brokers. We at C. R. Ekern & Company are pleased to be the developer of the Total Cost of Risk strategy for middle market agents and brokers.

Like any great concept, Total Cost of Risk (TCOR) is now being trampled on by a number of ill informed agents, brokers, and sales training consultants. Why? This is due to the fact that the language of TCOR can be easily replicated. Unfortunately, the results can’t. Without the ability to quantify and replicate a value proposition, TCOR is simply sales buzz, not the consulting tool it was intended to be.

To that end, we have just released an important whitepaper that discusses how you and your firm can better understand how to use TCOR to demonstrate your value to clients.

-Rob Ekern

For more information on how to quantify TCOR, manage projects, build a value proposition, and consistently deliver stewardship reports and new business presentations to your customers, check out the Major Account Development System (MADS), an on-line consultative broker's toolkit. Available now!

Ready to learn more about Consultative Brokerage Sales Training? Visit the Consultative Brokerage Academy.

To learn more about C.R. Ekern & Company, please visit our website

Large Accounts: The Way Forward!

The purpose of Consultative Brokerage is primarily one thing: To help you attract and retain larger accounts. That is the only way that you can outrun the marketplace and your competition. Why? Because those are the accounts that allow you to create value no matter what the marketplace dictates. Also, your carriers will always need you in the upper end of the market with accounts that require “hands on” expertise.

As you begin planning your production for 2011 here are a few things to consider:

The Soft Market will continue to expand its revenue eroding run.  In fact, in the past 21 years, 19 of them have seen softening prices.

  • Some carriers will begin to provide you with mixed signals.  As their revenue base continues to shrink, some carriers will continue to experiment with “multiple” distribution channels.
  • Your clients and prospects will continue to be under financial and business pressures.  Those who have survived the “Great Recession” will remember the lessons.
  • Your competition will go into a feeding frenzy.  Remember you are not alone.  Your competition will continue to target whatever they can get their hands on, driving your revenues even lower.

The purpose of Consultative Brokerage is primarily one thing:   To help you attract and retain larger accounts.  That is the only way that you can outrun the marketplace and your competition. 

Why?

Because those are the accounts that allow you to create value no matter what the marketplace dictates.  Also, your carriers will always need you in the upper end of the market with accounts that require “hands on” expertise.

Oh, there is one other thing you should know:  THERE IS LESS COMPETITION AT THE TOP THAN AT THE BOTTOM!

I can hear you right now: “Easy for you to say, Ekern. But, how do we do it?”

Here are some universal truths about the production and retention of large accounts in the current marketplace and economic environment:

  • You must approach accounts from a perspective of Business Risk, rather than simply hazard.  These are the risks that impact productivity, profitability, competiveness and human capital.  These are the important issues to CFO’s and do not revolve around insurance pricing.
  • You will need to learn and practice the language of CFO’s.  This will give you the confidence to have business discussions rather than insurance meetings with buyers.
  • You must have a Value Proposition that can be translated to the financial statement of buyers.  By doing this, you can overcome the “transactional” nature of the insurance placement.
  • You need to produce exceptional Stewardship and Conceptual Presentations. These documents show your clients and prospects ways that your firm differentiates itself.
  • You need a prospecting methodology that stands the test of time.  It comes as no surprise that many larger accounts do not buy based upon simply the fact that you have called on them.  In some cases the buying cycle of these accounts may involve several people and involve longer than 1 renewal period.  That becomes problematic to some agents and brokers who focus only on the transactional renewal date.

We formed C. R. Ekern & Company in the depths of the last soft market (before the 2 year reprieve in 2001 & 2002). Our mission was a simple one: To provide you with the training knowledge and tools that will allow you and your organization to prosper.  To that end we have created learning tools, consulting services and client development tools that all point in one direction . . .Larger Accounts.

So, as you look toward 2011 and beyond, remember this.  The business you will be in going forward may consist of a perpetual soft market.  There comes a time when you must say . . . “How’s that workin’ for ya?” 

You can go forward, or backward.  Larger accounts are the way forward!

- Rob Ekern

For more information on how to quantify TCOR, manage projects, build a value proposition, and consistently deliver stewardship reports and new business presentations to your customers, check out the Major Account Development System (MADS), an on-line consultative broker's toolkit. Available now!

Ready to learn more about Consultative Brokerage Sales Training? Visit the Consultative Brokerage Academy.

To learn more about C.R. Ekern & Company, please visit our website

Large Accounts: Feeding the Bulldog

As fall approaches many of us turn our attention to planning for the next year. Frankly speaking, you are where you are. More than likely no new prospects will fall out of the sky and you essentially know what opportunities you will be working on for the rest of the year. So, let’s talk about the business environment that you will find yourself in as you approach your thought process of planning next year's production.

As fall approaches many of us turn our attention to planning for the next year.  Frankly speaking, you are where you are.  More than likely no new prospects will fall out of the sky and you essentially know what opportunities you will be working on for the rest of the year.

So, let’s talk about the business environment that you will find yourself in as you approach your thought process of planning next year's production:

  • You should expect the “soft” market to continue.  In many cases, the fat has been squeezed from the market.  There might be a few drippings left, but don’t expect huge rate decreases.  Also, don’t expect any increases either (unless you are working on deep water drillers).
  • Many of your clients and prospects are still hurting from the “Great Recession.”  They understand that business as usual does not provide them new solutions.  Truthfully, many of them are wrung out.
  • Your competitors will continue to be in a feeding frenzy.  Remember, there is less insurance premium available to all brokers.  This is the first time this has happened since WW II.
  • The insurance carriers will continue to support this feeding frenzy.  They will start 2011 with a speech about “holding the line” but by the end of the first quarter, all bets will be off.

As some of you know, I do have a little grey hair.  I started my production career in 1974.  This is the fourth cycle I have seen.  This one is unlike the others - it is taking place at the same time as a major recession.  So, as producers, you are getting hit with the double play: reducing rates and a reduction in rating basis.

So, with all this in mind, how should you approach your production planning for next year?

  • Recognize that Old Solutions don’t feed the bulldog.  The concept of using the insurance carriers pricing as your point of differentiation is now obsolete.  Why?  Because the blood has been squeezed from the turnip.
  • Understand that your prospects are still smarting from the “Great Recession.”  This means that you must approach them from a place of helping them reduce costs and improve their business model.
  • Like John Dillinger said: “Go where the money is.” The money is with accounts that have losses and are complex.  These are the accounts that are considered larger and have issues which do not revolve around insurance.  Also, these larger accounts have problems that are costing them six figures of financial leakage.
  • Focus on pinpointing financial leakage.  Many of these larger accounts are hemorrhaging money and don’t know it.  Why?  Because their broker has focused only on the insurance coverages and payment of claims.  Once you show this to them, they will move heaven and earth to obtain your solutions.
  • Offer a “Business Risk” Solution.  Plan on building a prospect list of firms who see you and your organization as offering business solutions.  You must be able to give the buyer what they want: productivity, profitability, competiveness and human capital retention.  Your insurance offerings are simply the hazard risk.
If you intend to stay in this business and be successful, you must understand Large Account Production techniques to help you feed your bulldog next year and beyond.
 
- Rob Ekern

For more information on how to quantify TCOR, manage projects, build a value proposition, and consistently deliver stewardship reports and new business presentations to your customers, check out the Major Account Development System (MADS), an on-line consultative broker's toolkit. Available now!

Ready to learn more about Consultative Brokerage Sales Training? Visit the Consultative Brokerage Academy.

To learn more abour C.R. Ekern & Company, please visit our website

Large Accounts: The Keys to Your Success

We have transitioned through both the soft and hard markets, seen a number of name brand carriers disappear, and experienced the expectations of our clients shift dramatically. All of this inside a business climate that went from boom to bust.I did not say that it is an unprofitable business or that it will not be financially rewarding in the future. That will come to those of you who understand how to create a value proposition that helps your clients improve their profits, competitiveness, human capital, and productivity (Business Risk).

It has been 15 years since we started C. R. Ekern and Company and coined the term Consultative Brokerage™.  I am personally very gratified for the friendship and reinforcement that many of you have provided us over the years.

Of course, since our inception the agency/brokerage business has changed dramatically.  We have transitioned through both the soft and hard markets, seen a number of name brand carriers disappear, and experienced the expectations of our clients shift dramatically.  All of this inside a business climate that went from boom to bust.

Here is the deal, and I know it will upset some of you: the property casualty insurance industry as we have known it, is a shrinking business.  Don’t believe me?  You can form your own opinions from the results of the past 40 years.  I know, I have been there for virtually all of it.


I did not say that it is an unprofitable business or that it will not be financially rewarding in the future.  That will come to those of you who understand how to create a value proposition that helps your clients improve their profits, competitiveness, human capital, and productivity (Business Risk).  Without that, you are simply in the insurance distribution business  . . . a constricting business model.

Oh don’t get me wrong.  There will continue to be blips of hard market pockets as your suppliers continue to put them and you out of business.  It will be possible for some of you to hang on from cycle to cycle.  But, remember the cycles will come further apart and they will return more quickly to a lower rate.  During the 37 years of my brokerage career, we have spent 81% of the time in a “soft market” environment. 

So, in my humble opinion, it is critical that you continue to grow your larger accounts.  These are what provide you with the highest level of profitability. If you are going to survive in this business, you will need to understand Business Risk and how to create a real Value Proposition.  That is what will give you traction for decades to come, not simply a few years.

So, it is time for you and your firm to get serious about creating a value proposition that is real.  Not just wrapped around the product.  Many of you are capable of it and must drop everything and make this your single most important task for the coming 24 months.

- Rob Ekern

For more information on how to quantify TCOR, manage projects, build a value proposition, and consistently deliver stewardship reports and new business presentations to your customers, check out the Major Account Development System (MADS), an on-line consultative broker's toolkit. Available now!

Ready to learn more about Consultative Brokerage Sales Training? Visit the Consultative Brokerage Academy.

To learn more about C.R. Ekern & Company, please visit our website

TCOR: Setting the Record Straight

It has been close to 15 years since C. R. Ekern & Company first introduced the concept of Total Cost of Risk (TCOR) to regional agents and brokers. We did not invent this concept, but adapted it to a meaningful tool for agents and brokers. We knew at the time, that eventually the concept of TCOR would become an acronym that was freely accepted into the Agency and Regional Brokerage sales vernacular. We are gratified to see that Total Cost of Risk (TCOR) is now an important part of many firms client and prospect dialogue. Other consultants have even claimed to invent it!

As many of you know, one of my favorite verses is from a Rudyard Kipling poem, it goes like this:

“They copied all that they could follow, but they couldn’t copy my mind, so I left ‘em a sweatin’ and a stealin’ a year and a half behind.”

It has been close to 15 years since C. R. Ekern & Company first introduced the concept of Total Cost of Risk (TCOR) to regional agents and brokers.  We did not invent this concept, but adapted it to a meaningful tool for agents and brokers.

We knew at the time, that eventually the concept of TCOR would become an acronym that was freely accepted into the Agency and Regional Brokerage sales vernacular.  We are gratified to see that Total Cost of Risk (TCOR) is now an important part of many firms client and prospect dialogue.  Other consultants have even claimed to invent it!

Having said that . . . The majority of the agents and broker’s who tout the concept of Total Cost of Risk (TCOR) do not know what it really means.  In fact, I have noticed several firms who actually have changed their names and slogans to feature Total Cost of Risk and TCOR.  Then, the rest of their material is about how they can deliver more effective insurance programs!

We are the consulting organization that introduced the concept of Total Cost of Risk to the Agency and Regional Brokerage system, it is important that I set the record straight.  By the way, this record setting is also based upon a number of years (25) as a top performing agent and broker.  Ready here goes:

  1. The insurance is the smallest part of a transaction with a buyer.  What we know is that the insurance is only 20% of a buyer’s true costs.  Therefore, when you use the concept of TCOR to sell insurance, you are going backwards.
  2. The power of TCOR is not to simply get an underwriter to present better terms in the future (see above).  While that may arise because a buyer’s TCOR reduced, it is not the main goal nor is it the main benefit.
  3. Total Cost of Risk is used by a successful Consultative Broker for one main purpose: to establish credibility.  It removes the buyer’s remorse and refocuses a client on the important matters such as cost.
  4. You can only impact TCOR through the delivery of resource capabilities.  I shudder when I see what some are calling a TCOR presentation.  It is an endless list of features. I recently saw an agent’s website that featured TCOR; it had close to 70 features listed under the banner of TCOR Reduction issues.
  5. If you can’t quantify TCOR, it is meaningless to a buyer.  Our firm is pleased to have developed the top Total Cost of Risk Calculator available inside the industry.  Not only does it identify benchmarks against sales, but also quantifies the impact inside a client’s business operation.

When we developed the Consultative Brokerage Methodology we told you that its main purpose was to position the client to deliver a Value Proposition.  At the time, we used Total Cost of Risk (TCOR) as the delivery mechanism (a concept we introduced 15 years ago).

Well, it is now time to move on.  Now that we and our clients have mastered the concept of quantifying and developing Total Cost of Risk.  We need to take you to the next level.  That is the concept and understanding of Business Risk. Total Cost of Risk is simply the vehicle: Business Risk is the attachment point.

So, stay tuned for our next Consultative Brokerage Briefing, we will show you how the most sophisticated agents and brokers are using Consultative Brokerage Techniques to create significant value.

Of course, once we shed light on Business Risk – “They will copy all that they can follow”.  But if it takes them another 15 years to copy and follow, we will be blazing another new trail!

- Rob Ekern

For more information on how to quantify TCOR, manage projects, build a value proposition, and consistently deliver stewardship reports and new business presentations to your customers, check out the Major Account Development System (MADS), an on-line consultative broker's toolkit. Available now!

Ready to learn more about Consultative Brokerage Sales Training? Visit the Consultative Brokerage Academy.

To learn more about C.R. Ekern & Company, please visit our website

Pushing the Right CFO Buttons

Here are a few Consultative Brokerage Skills that you (and your organization) must master in order to be successful. You must have a business dialogue that is sustainable and relevant over a long period of time. Remember that most large accounts take longer than one renewal cycle to land. In many cases, your appointment as the Broker of Record takes place “off” renewal and usually happens when the client really gets your value.

The skills required to call on a CFO seem mysterious to many insurance agents who have not developed Consultative Brokerage™ Skills.  Time after time, the unskilled broker walks away from the meeting with a sense of disappointment.  Why?  Because the CFO does not respond like most insurance buyers.  They are not particularly interested in the markets, the insurance commodity, the coverages, or the broker’s perspective on Hazard Risk.

Here are a few Consultative Brokerage Skills that you (and your organization) must master in order to be successful.  You must have a business dialogue that is sustainable and relevant over a long period of time.  Remember that most large accounts take longer than one renewal cycle to land.  In many cases, your appointment as the Broker of Record takes place “off” renewal and usually happens when the client really gets your value.

  1. Learn a New Business Style – The key is to learn and practice a new language.  Your presentations and client/prospect visits must appeal to a more sophisticated audience.  It is important that your approach does not portray you as just another agent/broker “looking for their business.”
  1. Understand Business Risk – Most insurance agents and brokers focus on “risk” as they know it.  Unfortunately, this falls under the category of Hazard Risk.  The real issue is Business Risk, which encompasses a wide variety of important issues such as profitability, productivity, competiveness and human capital.  Oh by the way, Hazard Risk is also included.
  1. Do the Research – It will be critical that you engage a CFO in a conversation about their business model and goals.  This may require you to lead the CFO into this dialogue by showing your depth of knowledge concerning their industry… NOT AS AN INSURANCE AGENT FOCUSING ON THEIR COMMODITY.
  1. Know your Value Proposition – As you uncover and discuss a client’s business risk, your Value Proposition will be utilized to offset the financial impact of their Business Risk.  Therefore, you must be clear on the flow of Value during the transaction as you deftly lift the curtain for the client, one step at a time.
  1. Propose a Project – Most CFO’s are analytical by nature.  Therefore, they do not make emotional decisions.  They select a broker based upon an outcome.  The only way to “prove” yourself is to show them an outcome, or to be able to conceptually demonstrate one.
  1. Don’t be Afraid to Require Skin in the Game – The toughest CFO’s you ever deal with, will turn into some of your best clients.  Why?  Because they will test you in the beginning just to see if you can take it.  Their theory is that if you can’t protect yourself, you will never be able to protect them.  So, you will need to push back from time to time, just to meet halfway.   Any less and you will be considered a supplier of insurance coverage and dismissed.

Here is the bottom line.  If you intend to grow and prosper in these difficult (or any) times, then you must be skilled in how to create relevance with a CFO.  It is the difference between being perceived as a Consultative Broker or a simple vendor.  There a hundreds of insurance vendors and very few Consultative Brokers.  Which would you prefer to be?

- Rob Ekern

For more information on how to quantify TCOR, manage projects, build a value proposition, and consistently deliver stewardship reports and new business presentations to your customers, check out the Major Account Development System (MADS), an on-line consultative broker's toolkit. Available now!

Ready to learn more about Consultative Brokerage Sales Training? Visit the Consultative Brokerage Academy.

To learn more about C.R. Ekern & Company, please visit our website

Business Risk: The Final Frontier

One of the biggest misconceptions in our industry is around the concept of “Risk.” As insurance professionals, we believe the term risk to mean simply “hazard” risk to people, places or things. We assume that all of our clients and prospects find these hazard risks to be high priority problems. So, we deluge them with all our diatribes about our unique ability to handle and mitigate risk. We couldn't be more wrong!
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One of the biggest misconceptions in our industry is around the concept of “Risk.”   As insurance professionals, we believe the term risk to mean simply “hazard” risk to people, places or things.  We assume that all of our clients and prospects find these hazard risks to be high priority problems.  So, we deluge them with all our diatribes about our unique ability to handle and mitigate risk.  We couldn’t be more wrong!

Have you ever asked a CFO or business owner what their greatest risks are?  The answer will surprise you.  The astute ones will rebut your question with one of their own.  They will ask, “Are you talking about my insurance risks or the biggest risks to my business?”

When you confirm that you are more interested in their “Business Risk”, you will watch their eyes change.  They will then tell you about the competitive, financial, operational and productivity challenges they are facing.  They will also give you a perspective on the importance they place on the intellectual value of their human capital.  They will take the term risk and apply it inside their business model by discussing how it affects every major decision from choosing a new product, moving into new territory, adding new customers, and increasing capacity in a difficult business environment.

Why will they open up on these issues?  Because that is the reason they are in business; to generate profits by reducing the impact of Business Risk to their capital.

Every client you have, or prospect you call on, has five areas of Business Risk.  Your role as a Consultative Broker™ is to not just help them identify these areas, but to also show them how you can help reduce their impact.  These are the Five Points of Business Risk.  For you to be successful in the future, you must be knowledgeable about how these Five Points interact inside a client’s operation:

  1. Hazard Risks – The traditional insurance risks that we have all been trained to spot, mitigate and compete for by offering less expensive or more comprehensive insurance programs.
  2. Financial Risks – The various risks that can affect a client’s profitability.  Financial Risks include currency exchange, asset devaluation, accounts receivables, non-payment of contracts or banking lines of credit.  They directly impact a client’s profitability.
  3. Operational Risks – The risks a client experiences regarding their productivity.  Such risks include such things as their geographic environment, maintaining or improving their equipment, acquisitions, and supplier inefficiencies.
  4. Strategic Risks – There is a direct correlation between strategic risks and competiveness.  These risks include the loss of key customers, improper product positioning, regulatory hold-ups or customer pricing pressure.
  5. Human Capital Risks – Whether in good or bad economic times, a business’ most important asset is its people.  This is the intellectual capital that keeps everything else going.  The risk of loss includes not just the health of the workers, but their ability to contribute.  Such things as lay-offs or poor morale contribute to this risk.

Here are some final thoughts on the subject of Business Risk.  When you look at the Five Points of Business Risk above, there should be no doubt about their importance (If you don’t believe me, ask one of your clients or prospects.)  Why is it that most Insurance professionals focus primarily on Hazard Risk while they ignore their client’s most critical Business Risks?

There are several reasons:

  1. They are unable to carry on a business conversation with an astute client, so they focus only on what they know... the insurance program.
  2. They are unable to deliver a true Value Proposition through the application of TCOR (Total Cost of Risk) and Resource Capabilities.  Without a legitimate Value Proposition they will fail to provide funding alternatives to offset the client’s Business Risks.
  3. They are unwilling to learn the important business techniques that will allow them to generate and retain larger accounts in any business climate.
  4. They see themselves as insurance people, rather than as business consultants.  They are not capable of showing a client how to improve their financial position and business model.

Thank goodness that Consultative Brokers™ are able to ask a business executive the important question… “What are your biggest Business Risks?”  It usually leads them to a deeper discussion, a long-term relationship, and a quality client for many years!

- Rob Ekern 

For more information on how to quantify TCOR, manage projects, build a value proposition, and consistently deliver stewardship reports and new business presentations to your customers, check out the Major Account Development System (MADS), an on-line consultative broker's toolkit. Available now!

Ready to learn more about Consultative Brokerage Sales Training? Visit the Consultative Brokerage Academy.

To learn more about C.R. Ekern & Company, please visit our website

 

The Golden Age of Producers

During the course of this year, I have spent a great amount of time on airplanes visiting regional brokerage clients across North America. There is one theme that I am constantly reinforcing in all my visits to these brokerage superstars. This is the best time ever for new business-focused producers. In fact, I consider this the Golden Age for top notch brokerage producers.

During the course of this year, I have spent a great amount of time on airplanes visiting regional brokerage clients across North America.  There is one theme that I am constantly reinforcing in all my visits to these brokerage superstars.  This is the best time ever for new business-focused producers.  In fact, I consider this the Golden Age for top notch brokerage producers.

"The Golden Age?  Are you kidding me, Ekern?  The economy is difficult, the marketplace is soft, our revenues are down and the carriers are in a feeding frenzy.  How can this be the Golden Age?"

Well, first of all, let’s get one thing straight.  All of the above issues focus in the wrong direction.  These are OUR problems, not the client’s and prospect’s issues.  When we do this, we miss the entire point of the situation.

If you are willing to focus on new accounts, you will find opportunity that has never existed before.  Frankly speaking, prospects who may have rejected your approach in the past may well now embrace you with open arms.  Why?  Because the economy has caused them to seek alternatives and listen to new ideas.  They need to, in order to survive.

These are the same firms that have been telling you for years that they are “well taken care of.”  Or, you have been hearing about their long-term loyalty to their existing broker.  In many cases, you have become de-sensitized to the point of no longer seeing these firms as prospects.

Well, guess what?  These are now the companies that are examining every business relationship that they have.  Not because of mean-spiritedness, but because of survival.  They are being forced to do this by owners, stockholders, bankers, and in some cases, customers.

But, remember, these firms will not call you . . . .you need to call on them!

If you intend to pursue some of this “low hanging fruit”, there are several things you must know:

  • You must use a different language.  In the event you approach these firms with the same language as every other insurance broker, including the incumbent, you will be rejected as not offering anything different
  • You must focus on Business Risk.  Remember that Hazard Risk is just one fifth of the prospect’s true risk.  You will need to discuss how your firm improves productivity, competiveness, profitability and human capital.  These are all addressed through a thorough understanding of Business Risk.
  • You must understand the prospect’s goals.  I KNOW this sounds simplistic; however a prospect’s goals can be different depending on the situation.  Some prospects will have the goal of just surviving, while others may have the goal of growing by taking advantage of their competitors’ weakness.
  • Look for the headlines.  Every week in each of your respective marketplaces you are reading and hearing about layoffs.  What does that tell you?  These companies are doing things that are usually distasteful to them.  They will welcome alternatives that may allow them to retain their intellectual capital and human capital.
  • Understand the prospect’s financials.  Aside from underwriting considerations, there is one more important issue.  Can they pay their bills?  This is not an endorsement of picking up distressed accounts.

Oh… one more thing you should be aware of.  This is a double-edged sword.  Many of your clients are thinking the same way.  If you are not constantly reminding them of your value and how you are impacting their business risk, you will fall victim to a Consultative Broker™ who gets it!

-Rob Ekern

For more information on how to quantify TCOR, manage projects, build a value proposition, and consistently deliver stewardship reports and new business presentations to your customers, check out the Major Account Development System (MADS), an on-line consultative broker's toolkit. Available now!

Ready to learn more about Consultative Brokerage Sales Training? Visit the Consultative Brokerage Academy.

To learn more about C.R. Ekern & Company, please visit our website

Provide Clients With What They Really Want!

A successful Consultative Broker understands how to translate their value proposition to address all of the questions above. These are the issues that drive business decisions in virtually every industry. They are universal “needs” of any astute business person. For you to continue to be successful in 2009 and beyond, you and your firm must understand how to deliver this without being simply an insurance or risk management vendor.

Happy New Year to all Consultative Brokers!  If you are like most people, the New Year is a time for resolutions.  You know the deal: the diet we don’t stick with, the exercise program that lasts 3 weeks, and, of course, my favorite: the number of pounds I intend to lose!

Here is a resolution that I believe should be adopted and stuck with for all of 2009 and beyond.  Ready? Here it is …. “I resolve to be a better business person in 2009.”  Simple, eh? 

Why is this critical to your success as a professional broker in 2009?  Because “becoming a better business person” is the only way you can prosper in a down economy.  You will need to adopt an entirely new set of skills other than simply being able to discuss the ramifications of the policies, coverage, and price.  These will fall on deaf ears as your prospects and clients focus on the important issues facing them during these challenging economic times.

One of the greatest sales books ever written is entitled, "How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling."  It was written by Frank Bettinger in the 40’s, and the message is as relevant today as it was in the mid 70’s when as a young producer it helped provide a foundation for success. One of the key quotes of Mr. Bettinger’s is:  “Show a Person What They Want, and They Will Move Heaven and Earth to Get It!”  This is a basic tenet of Consultative Brokerage.  Helping a business person get what they want.

So, here are some questions you should ask yourself as a business person.  Which of these do my clients and prospects want?

  • Do they want to save money; or improve operations?
  • Do they want a reduced price; or increased efficiency?
  • Do they want a lower insurance cost; or increased productivity?
  • Do they want better communication; or reduced internal frictional costs?

A successful Consultative Broker understands how to translate their value proposition to address all of the questions above.  These are the issues that drive business decisions in virtually every industry.  They are universal “needs” of any astute business person.  For you to continue to be successful in 2009 and beyond, you and your firm must understand how to deliver this without being simply an insurance or risk management vendor.

To fully grasp this concept you must change the dynamics of your prospect and client approach. Focus on what they want . . . not what you want.  Again, this is a simple concept that many brokers and agents find hard to implement.  Over the years we have been brainwashed by constant pricing competition brought on by ourselves.  Why?  Because we have never had to “create a need” in the minds of the client.  So, we focused on what we knew; the commodity.  The whole time assuming that this was their real need!

For you to continue to have relevance with clients you must learn how to fill the real needs of astute buyers.  You will need to understand how to improve their Business Risk (productivity, profits, and operational efficiency).  That will require that you understand how to be a better business person and provide them with quantifiable value.  Then, you will need to be able to translate that inside their business operational model.  In a down economy, this is what business people are looking for.  So, show how you can bring it to them and “They will move heaven and earth to get it!”

- Rob Ekern

For more information on how to quantify TCOR, manage projects, build a value proposition, and consistently deliver stewardship reports and new business presentations to your customers, check out the Major Account Development System (MADS), an on-line consultative broker's toolkit. Available now!

Ready to learn more about Consultative Brokerage Sales Training? Visit the Consultative Brokerage Academy.

To learn more about C.R. Ekern & Company, please visit our website

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