As an independent insurance agent, the company/agency relationship is crucial to your success.
Yet, I sense there can be a level of irritation or distrust in this relationship that is born out of fear.
It’s a fear of getting a contract cancelled, exceptions denied, or perhaps money taken away.
On the company side, there is fear. Fear that new business flow will stop. Fear that poor quality business will trickle into your company. Fear that the agency will roll your entire book of business.
But as an agency, if you can get past the fear and the charades that are played between agent and rep, great things can happen.
Games of charades? A perfect example of this is the planning season. The agent sits down with the company person and is asked, “How much can you commit to grow next year?”
The agent says, “Put me down for 10%”.
They both smile, a document is produced, and signatures confirm the exercise.
The company knows this won’t happen. The agency’s retention is 80% and for the agent to grow 10%, they will have to triple new business production from last year.
The agent knows this isn’t true either, because he was in the middle of losing a producer, and the rates for this company were steadily becoming uncompetitive.
But the charade continues and on each future visit, the rep lays out production sheets and fills the staff with donuts, but nothing really gets moved forward.
This relationship wastes a lot of time on both sides, but the good news is that you can use this relationship for your agency success with a handful of changes.
- Don’t let them waste your time! Be clear that you want to succeed with them but you need tangible, clear items of discussion that accomplish a stated goal no matter how small.
- Ask for money. Most companies have marketing money, even if there is no formal co-op program. A lot of this money goes unspent because no one asks.
- Use them for brainstorming. Rarely do you have the time to step back and work on your business. You are knee-deep in the business, managing renewals, putting out fires, dealing with employees, and diffusing claims. Use that “company” time to think through marketing ideas, staffing changes, or renewal processes.
- Ask for honesty. Find out what they really think of your agency. Ask what you do well? Where do you struggle? What needs changing?
- Have them create detailed plans for you. It is really hard to generate marketing checklists, sales processes, and best practices. Make them do it for you. They can be a surrogate agency manager, and you don’t have to pay them.
- Make them an accountability partner. Let them know what you want to accomplish and implement in the agency. Ask them to hold your feet to the fire on these goals. At each visit, they can ask how you are progressing on your goals.
To get to this level of partnership takes a lot of trust and honesty with your reps, and you won’t be able to do it with everyone. But with the ones you can, be honest and use them like you would a paid consultant.