Become The Broker That Roars

I wish I had a hundred dollars for every brokerage who has said this to me:  'We’re just as good as any broker. We have great resources, a smart team, and we’re really focused on our clients. It seems like we have difficulty getting and keeping the attention of the larger buyers. It has become hard to actually differentiate ourselves.’

Or, how about this one: ‘We have excellent resources in risk control and claims. They are the best. But, when we compete against others, many have similar resources... so we all look the same.’

Does that sound familiar to you? Come on now, be honest.

Here is your solution . . . Become the Broker That Roars!

First let’s agree on one thing. Your firm is just as capable as any other broker, and in many cases better. You have all the resources, brokerage skills, marketplace leverage and expertise required to do a better job for your clients. At the end of the day, if the prospect or client understands this, you are the obvious choice because of your ability to act nimbly on their behalf.

But, here’s your problem… you can’t prove that, so your voice is being lost in the noise of other firms who sound like you!

I hate to tell you this, but just having solid resources doesn’t make you the best . . . it’s what you do with them that matters. That along with the ability to actually prove your results!

So, here is how you become the Broker that Roars...  

  • You show your prospects and biggest clients what the analytic results of your firm have been (or will be.)

  • You take away the resource ‘feature’ language and replace it with your quantifiable impact.  

  • You redesign your large account strategy around the proven and known results of your organization.

  • You take it to the competition and make THEM prove what they have done.

  • You seize the initiative by forcing them into a position where they just can’t compete.

  • You make it ‘put up or shut up’ time for them.

Of course, some of you may be thinking, ‘This all sounds great, but we just can’t achieve all that.’ Well, you might be thinking it, but remember one thing... This is not 1975. You DO actually have the ability to do this if you understand Analytic Brokerage™ and work with TCORCalc® as your source for Analytics and Client results.

If you chose not to, that is your concern. But, know this, you will chose to continue to fight the same way that you have for the past 30 years. How is that working for you now with the latest C-Suite expectations around metrics and results?

So, it is time for you to stand up on your two hind legs and ROAR! You have the ability to do it. You have made the investment in resources, expertise and have a stellar reputation.  Your firm is one of the top brokerages in your region. Now you just need the skills of Analytic Brokerage™ powered by TCORCalc® to amplify your voice!

Go get ‘em Tigers.

Best Regards to Analytic Brokers™

Rob Ekern, CAB (Certified Analytic Broker™)
Chairman, TCORCalc®

Straight Talk to Brokers

It’s time for some straight talk, OK? Many of you have been reading the Consultative Broker™ Briefing for years (now the Analytic Broker™ Briefing.) So, I hope by now you know that we are one of the few voices in the brokerage industry that has consistently provided you with meaningful information on larger account production.

Ready for some straight talk? OK, here it comes.

Those of you who intend to be in the middle and upper/middle market business better hop to it! You need to change your entire perspective and do it quickly. The world of outcomes and analytics are here to stay, and most of you don’t know yours. If you did, you would be hitting the ball over the fence right now.

Virtually every middle market broker can’t answer these important questions from a client: ‘How have you impacted our financial outcome over the past several years?’ Or, ‘What will your impact be on our firm if we appoint you as our broker?’

Some of you are saying, ‘Of course we can answer that question!’ Then you provide a litany of information that all revolves around loss ratios, coverages, carriers and terms. With a bit of ‘Value Added’ services thrown in for good measure. You and every other insurance broker within a 100 mile radius. Oh, come on!

Now look... I’m being hard on you for a reason. If you don’t wake up and smell the coffee, your time will have come and gone. Take it from a grizzled veteran of the insurance brokerage world. Your top clients and prospects are not going to allow you to continue to operate like it’s 1975.

So, I want you to think about this: Let’s say you’re sitting in your office and the phone rings from your largest client. Here’s what she says:

‘We have a new CFO and he would like you to demonstrate the financial impact you have made on our firm over the past 3 years. Please don’t make your presentation based on the marketplace or risk management strategies because he‘s interested in results.’

Here is what the CFO actually wants to know... ‘How has your representation impacted our firm in the following ways?

  • What was the impact on our profit?

  • How have you helped us reduce and recapture our Financial Leakage?

  • How have you added to our shareholder wealth?

  • What are your firm’s results with other clients like us?

If you can’t answer those questions, you’re doomed. Why? Because that same CFO is able to turn to his analytic dashboard and find a big hole in it. The hole is the information that you have not provided him. As a result, you have a client who feels under-served.  That is trouble for you!

How did this happen? Because, you did not make the effort to learn and grow in the business you are now in... Providing clients with a financial impact that is superior to your competitor’s. Period. If you can’t demonstrate your true impact, then as Dr. Deming says, ‘you are just another person with an opinion.’

Now, I know it’s not really your fault. Until recently, the technology and analytics simply did not exist for you to be able to consistently quantify your client impact and track record, and then demonstrate that to your largest prospects and clients in a meaningful way. Fortunately for you, times have changed.

You might have had the opportunity to do all the things that the ‘New CFO’ was asking for, you just didn’t have theability to do them. You didn’t have a way to get there . . . unless you were an Analytic Broker with TCORCalc®.

So, wake up. Smell the coffee. Those of you who keep up with your clients’ and prospects’ demands for knowing ‘what you are worth’ will prosper. This is selling to the highest degree.

Isn’t that what you have been trying to do for years?

Click here to watch a quick introductory video entitled 'Welcome to Analytic Brokerage™' and you're on your way. 

Best Regards to Analytic Brokers™

Rob Ekern, CAB (Certified Analytic Broker™)
Chairman, TCORCalc®

Dodge the Torpedoes!

As many of you know, I was considered a successful working broker back in the bad old days of the last soft market. In fact, I was also fortunate enough to earn the top production award from my mega-broker employer. So, aside from now being a consultant, it does qualify me to give you some insights from close to 37 years of production experience and 4 cycles.

As many of you know, I was considered a successful working broker back in the bad old days of the last soft market.  In fact, I was also fortunate enough to earn the top production award from my mega-broker employer.  So, aside from now being a consultant, it does qualify me to give you some insights from close to 37 years of production experience and 4 cycles.

First of all, nothing changes.  I heard the first complaints about the marketplace in 1975.  The words are the same.  “Dog gone those insurance companies!  They don’t know what they are doing.  They are putting us out of business by constantly lowering their premiums.”

Or this one:  “My clients just keep beating me up over premiums.  Each year they tell me that I need to sharpen my pencil.”

Here is the one I really like:  “My insurance company gives me two prices.  The one they give me on renewals, and the one they give my competitor on new business.”

Here is another beauty:  “I talked to my underwriter today and they gave me the premium for your renewal.  But, they told me that they did not want to lose your business and I can probably get you another 7%.”

What do all of these have in common?  They are statements from agents and brokers who constantly live in fear.  They are afraid of their competitors, carriers, and in many cases their own clients.  Why is this?  Because in most cases they do not have any semblance of broker control.  They consider themselves simply messengers who feel lucky when a client blesses them with a renewal or an underwriter coughs up a price.

So, it is time to stop the bleeding and stand on your feet.  Dodge the Torpedoes!  Of course the water is filled with danger, but it will not stop you if

  1. Make certain your client knows what your value is.  That entails that you speak with them regularly about all the “little things” that you and your firm do for them.
  2. You must do Value Reports™ (Stewardship Reports).This shows your client the quantifiable impact that you make inside of their business.  It goes well beyond the pricing of insurance.
  3. Don’t live in fear. Clients can smell this. I have seen many occasions when a broker created their own competition by “running scared.”
  4. Keep prospecting tougher deals. Here is what most seasoned brokers know; there is less competition at the top than the bottom.  The bigger the deal, the less number of brokers.
  5. Prospect your commodity competitors.  Now that the marketplace is beyond free fall, some of your competitors will have no place to stand.  They cannot make up the difference by simply price

As a working broker in the depths of the last soft market, here is what I know.  Successful brokers grow their business no matter the marketplace conditions.  Once every decade or so, they get an artificial boost from the “hard market”.  But they do not wait for it!  They find prospects that have problems and these problems have nothing to do with the insurance marketplace.

So, Dodge the Torpedoes!  Get with it and understand that the marketplace conditions are the same for everyone.  Stop looking for the easy price deals, they don’t exist.  Everyone is in a feeding frenzy and the successful brokers will then be the ones who practice the ability to differentiate themselves by deployment of resources and the reduction of a client’s cost.

- 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

Outrunning Marketplace Change

Until last week, the soft market seemed to be a demon with no end in sight. We have been speaking to you about the importance of using Total Cost of Risk as a measure of your value, other than simply a cheaper price. Those of you who embraced our teachings are reporting a tremendous growth of new revenue. But...what about the flip side?

Until last week, the soft market seemed to be a demon with no end in sight.  We have been speaking to you about the importance of using Total Cost of Risk as a measure of your value, other than simply a cheaper price.  Those of you who embraced our teachings are reporting a tremendous growth of new revenue.  In fact, just this week, we heard from 2 of our clients that had just been appointed as brokers based upon their value proposition and our Total Cost of Risk Value Report™ (Stewardship Report) (each with about $25k of income).

But...what about the flip side?  What if the recent Japanese earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident take the capacity out of the marketplace?  Right now it is predicted to reach about $35 billion of insured loss.  My guess is that it will go much, much higher (this figure does not include the tsunami or the nuclear event).  At the beginning of the year, one industry expert stated that for the market to turn there needed to be a $50 billion disaster.  In the first 2 months we have exceeded that between Japan, the Middle East, and New Zealand.

Of course this is a tragedy of epic proportions and we share the global concern over the tremendous loss of human life in Japan. As you know, we are brokers, not insurance company actuaries, so I will save my predictions for private discussion.  However, the impact of these global events cannot be overlooked. What if the marketplace should suddenly harden?

Consultative Brokers™ who understand and practice Total Cost of Risk will be able to demonstrate all the ways they have helped their clients reduce costs, even when the price of insurance goes up.  The uninitiated brokers will be sitting ducks as buyers consider alternatives to simply paying the freight for global disasters.

So, if you think the soft marketplace is here forever, then you need to use Total Cost of Risk as a way to create new revenue based upon your value proposition.  Also, if you think the soft market will never end, then you need to show your clients all the ways you have been reducing their costs.

Now, let’s presume the worst (after all, we are in the insurance business).  Let’s just say that the Japanese disaster is the tipping point or close to it.  Here is what you should be doing right now:

  1. You must get very proficient with TCOR.  As each cycle nears the end, buyers become more sophisticated.  There is a whole new generation of buyers who were not in charge during the end of the last cycle in 2001.  They are smarter now, and less-patient based upon the difficult economic times.
  2. Log and value your projects.  At some point you will be required to demonstrate how your projects and resources helped clients reduce their costs.  You must be very clear on the value of the project, the impact on costs and how it improved the client’s business operation.  A list of features and timelines don’t feed that bulldog.
  3. Begin playing defense.  Your clients and buyers are not in vacuums.  In the event the marketplace changes radically, you need to be the bearer of the bad news…IN ADVANCE.  This entails keeping them informed using articles and web site information.  They can hear it from you, or others, take your pick.
  4. Begin playing offense.  Those of you who are Consultative Brokers and really understand TCOR should aggressively call on prospects that have simply been buying insurance from the “price sellers.”  These price sellers would be at a big disadvantage because they have been a one trick pony.
  5. Never use your income as a negotiation.  Some brokers decrease their incomes in the hard marketplace in order to soften the blow to the buyer.  These amateurs do it because they can’t prove what their value is.  So, they use their income to negotiate credits from underwriters in order to reduce premiums.  If they understood TCOR or could create a Value Report they would be able to stand their ground.

OK, now I admit to presuming some things as regards to the marketplace.  I can’t say that this is the tipping point.  Only the actuaries, reinsurance, and insurance carriers can determine that.  But, one thing is for sure: the excess capacity of this marketplace is being sucked out in one quick hurry.

So, as Consultative Brokers, your job is to anticipate marketplace conditions rather than react to commodity pricing fluctuations.  It is only through the adoption of Total Cost of Risk and the delivery of Value Reports that you can outrun marketplace change.  

- 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

Creating a TCOR Urgency

To really create a Value Proposition using Consultative Brokerage and TCOR you need more information than the usual insurance quote transaction. In many cases, the buyer is not motivated or is confused about what the process is. So, rather than spend the time required to get you the information (ie claims, risk control, financial data) they find themselves lost in other projects.

One of the most difficult issues for budding Consultative Brokers™ face is to create a sense of urgency in a new prospect’s mind.  Over the years I have heard many new TCOR converts exclaim, “I have a buyer who says they are intrigued and want to learn more, but I just can’t get them to the next step.”

Here is one reason why this happens.  To really create a Value Proposition using Consultative Brokerage and TCOR you need more information than the usual insurance quote transaction.  In many cases, the buyer is not motivated or is confused about what the process is.  So, rather than spend the time required to get you the information (ie claims, risk control, financial data) they find themselves lost in other projects.

But, the bigger reason is the fact that as a broker you have not created a sense of urgency.

Now I don’t blame most of you for this lack of creation.  As traditional brokers it is something you have never learned.  Why?  This is due to the fact that historically we have been providing a product that every buyer needs with an expiration date that forces a decision.  So, we have never had to create that sense of urgency.

If you intend to become proficient as a Consultative Broker and a TCOR advocate, here are some of the things you must first master:

  1. Become an Evangelist - The first thing is the fact that you must really believe what you are attempting to accomplish for your prospects.  A true Consultative Broker would rather cut his hand off, than revert to the old methods.  This belief must ring true in all your interactions with a client.   If you waiver, your momentum will be lost.
  2. Have your buyer visualize the result – Really understanding Business Risk allows you to have a discussion with the prospect that will show them how their business operations will benefit from your Total Cost of Risk and Consultative Brokerage methodology.  This is the glue that binds the discussion.  Or like the late Frank Bettinger used to say: “Show a person what they want and they will move heaven and earth to get it!”
  3. Show them how others have benefited – Our clients have numerous examples of accounts that have reduced costs by tens of thousands or in some cases hundreds of thousands.  Once a buyer sees that their colleagues or competitors are improving profits, competitiveness, productivity and human capital costs; they desire the same results.  But remember, it is not enough to provide nebulous ramblings about value propositions or total cost reductions. (see bellow)
  4. You MUST Promise to Deliver a Quantified Outcome – As we have said for years, “if it ain’t got that swing, it don’t mean a thing”.  Prospects will not spend time with you, without that payoff.  So, you must promise to provide them with a Value Report™* that actually shows how you will change their business operations.  This of course presumes you have the ability to prepare one!
  5. Make it easy on them – In most cases a TCOR presentation is a complex sale with many constituents.  It is unlike the insurance transaction that simply includes a buyer, you and underwriters.  It is critical that you gather data from other areas such as risk control and claims management.  You should interface with these functions inside their organization.  This also gives you a chance to build relationships.
  6. Prepare for tough questions – Over the course of my career I have built the best long-term relationships with buyers who seemed tough in the beginning.  That is because many astute business people test you initially in order to find out about your backbone and maturity level.  How you respond to these questions will determine their interest in you.

The skill by which you create a sense of urgency will have a direct correlation to your ability to be appointed the broker of record.  As with any Conceptual Sale it is important that you make it come alive inside a prospects business model.  This requires skill not simply as a sales person, but also as a Consultant.  Hence the term . . .Consultative Broker™.

- 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: 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

Fee-Based Compensation: It Takes Money to Drink Good Whiskey

We have said this before, but it bears repeating as we all go into our year-end planning. Never confuse the difference between commission and fair compensation! There is no relationship between them. A commission is what an insurance company is willing to pay you to deliver their commodity and your compensation should be based upon the value you deliver to a client. The two are not the same.

We have said this before, but it bears repeating as we all go into our year-end planning.  Never confuse the difference between commission and fair compensation!  There is no relationship between them.  A commission is what an insurance company is willing to pay you to deliver their commodity and your compensation should be based upon the value you deliver to a client.  The two are not the same.

In many cases for you to provide value to your clients it will require a great deal of resources and effort outside the commission check.  It is imperative that your clients and prospects understand the value that you bring to the table.  Sometimes, that requires an additional investment on their part.

When speaking about this, I am reminded of one of the first lessons I learned as a very young person in this business.  I was negotiating a surplus lines placement with a grizzled veteran of the business.  When I complained about the price he was charging my client he looked at me above his nose glasses and growled, “It costs money to drink good whiskey, Ekern."

Simple enough, eh?  Now, how do we get fairly compensated without falling victim to the cannibalistic commission structure?  (i.e. the better the price negotiation for our clients, the less we make!)

The answer is to switch your top clients to a fee based, results and resource driven compensation system.  One in which you get fairly compensated for the resources you deploy and the costs your clients reduce.  This is the only win/win formula I know of.

So, if you agree, as most of you should, here are some additional thoughts on Fee Based Compensation.

  1. Your fee must be results driven.  It is not enough to simply tell a client that you intend to switch them to a fee.  You must answer the question of “what’s in it for them?”  The “wiift” is the fact that you will demonstrate a reduction in costs through your resource deployment.
  2. You must be prepared to manage the account.  This means that you and your organization will take responsibility for owning an outcome.  This goes well beyond simply placing the insurance policy and hoping that things work out.  You will need to provide the client with strategic planning and stewardship reports.
  3. Your fee should be higher than the commission.  Remember, the commission is based upon simply the insurance placement and does not reflect any of the client’s results or your efforts.  A successful Consultative Broker knows how to demonstrate the ROI and value proposition of their firm.  This is particularly true in a soft market when each year the premium or rates drop.
  4. Never use a fee to compete on price.  Your fee should not be used as a way to reduce a clients cost through removal of a commission and then a lower fee substituted in its place.   If you do this enough times, you will find yourself out of the business.

Of course there are many additional nuances to skillfully developing a fee based practice.  But for today, let’s all agree upon one thing.   The good whiskey costs money!  The commission compensation system does not account for the difference between aging in oak barrels versus aluminum vats!

- 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

Broker Control: An Acquired Skill

As every Consultative Broker™ knows, the key goal of working with any prospect or client is to obtain and maintain “Broker Control.” What does Broker Control mean? In short, it is the ability to direct the prospect or client to the proper conclusions. These conclusions can range from simply agreeing to take the time to listen to and consider what you are saying, all the way to appointing you as the Broker.

As every Consultative Broker™ knows, the key goal of working with any prospect or client is to obtain and maintain “Broker Control.”  What does Broker Control mean?  In short, it is the ability to direct the prospect or client to the proper conclusions.  These conclusions can range from simply agreeing to take the time to listen to and consider what you are saying, all the way to appointing you as the Broker.

Every sale or client interaction offers you an opportunity to gain or lose Broker Control.  The key is to understand all the nuances of your actions and how they are valued by your client.  Remember, in these difficult economic times, a client or prospect is judging you more critically than ever before.

It breaks my heart to see a Broker lose a tremendous client simply because they didn’t understand the keys to Broker Control.  Frankly, it didn’t need to happen.  In fact, in most cases, the losing Broker did it to themselves.

Here are some of the most common ways a “holding” Broker loses Broker Control.  At the end of the day, even if they don’t lose the client, they have probably lost their position as a Consultant.  Now they have been delegated to the role of an insurance vendor and may be treated like a shoe salesman.  Eventually the client will fire them.

  1. They hold back information.  In this situation, the Broker fails to keep the client informed of changes and important information throughout the year.  These Brokers see the renewal period as the only time a client is interested in being informed.  Of course, by the time the renewal comes around, they are on the outside looking in.
  2. They don’t keep new projects in front of the client.  They assume that the client is not interested in spending time on new projects.  Therefore, they lose their value to the client.  I have seen this one time and time again.  Eventually the relationship gets stale and dries up.
  3. They are afraid to say no.  Of course we have been taught that the customer is always right.  But, that is wrong.  We all know of cases where our clients have endeavored to go down the wrong path.  Sometimes, you need to tell a client that even though you value their business, your business reputation will not allow you to support their decision.  Truthfully, some clients need to hear this in order to respect the “professionalism” of such an approach.  Others will test you, just to see what you are made of (e.g. the new CFO.)
  4. They don’t keep current on the client’s business operations. In these cases the client has evolving issues around productivity, profitability, competitive pressure, human capital, geographic expansion, acquisitions, or governmental regulations (to name a few.)  When the Broker does not stay current and ends up losing Broker Control, they may complain, “The client didn’t tell me about that!”  - as if it is the role of the client to do their job.
  5. They don’t establish a Value Proposition.  Eventually these Brokers will hear the most infamous words known to Insurance Agents.  When asked why the client is making a different choice, they hear, “We think we have outgrown you.”  Notice I said Insurance Agent?  I used that term because that is all you are if you can’t demonstrate a Value Proposition and embed it into your client or prospect’s business operation.
  6. They abdicate their responsibilities to others.  Now, we all know the importance of delegation.  Abdication and delegation are two different things.  Delegation is when you send a resource out to the client in order to assist you in making a client presentation.  Abdication is when you expect the resource to make the presentation without your participation.  In these cases you have lost your visibility as a Broker and will be seen as “frictional” inside the transaction.  In these cases, the commission income is coded to the wrong individual!

By the way, for those of you who are “glass half full” people, read the above examples and change the comments from negative to positive.  You will then have some answers on how to obtain Broker Control.  Either way, you get the drift.

The ability to obtain and maintain Broker Control is a skill that must be acquired.  In my years as a successful mega-Broker and now as a Consultant, I have observed one thing - The Producers who learn this skill and practice it regularly develop the largest books of business.  They don’t waste time second-guessing their own clients and can therefore spend their valuable time finding new ones.

- 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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