What is Your Story?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014
Written By
Abbie Michaelson

I was talking to a brokerage owner last week that had just won a very large prospect. When I asked about the preparation time required to win this piece of business, he simply smiled and said, ‘These things don’t just happen on their own’. We went on to discuss the tremendous amount of work that was done even before this prospect entered the pipeline. His team met weekly to discuss positioning, marketing initiatives, strategies and how they compared to the well-known competition. Then they went to work turning their dream of growth into a reality.

An increasingly challenging environment

You don’t need me to tell you that brokers are facing one of the most difficult business environments in the industry’s history. Employers are downsizing, insurers are reducing commissions, and clients are expecting more for less. All of these factors are putting a squeeze on brokerages’ growth, retention and overall value.

It has forced brokerages to take a good, long look internally to determine how to adapt to these changing market conditions. Many have found they do not like what they see. Stagnant account executives, lack of vision, weak value proposition, administrative inefficiencies and price-focused selling are just some of the many areas that inhibit growth.

Turn challenges into opportunity

While it seems like a daunting task, some brokerages, like the one above, consider this as an opportunity. They are creating a path to greater retention and growth through building a sales culture, creating cost-saving strategies, implementing proactive value touches (building a wall around existing clients and regularly demonstrating the differentiation to prospects), utilising insightful analytics, marketing value over price and positioning as a trusted advisor.

But where does a brokerage start? It begins with your story. Why should people buy from you? If your answer is your people, expertise and your service, that will not distinguish you in the slightest. Everybody sits down with that prospect (and your clients for that matter) and says that. It needs to be quantified. What makes your people great? Their knowledge? Are they really better than the brokerage down the street? Firms driving to be a brokerage of the future are focusing on their story. They are sitting down and putting together who they want to be.

Want to know what prospects are looking for? Develop a compelling message based on employers’ needs. Based on our survey, here are a few things they don’t want to hear about:

  1. Years in business
  2. Breadth of markets available
  3. Customer testimonials

Our survey of more than 2,000 employers tells us that if your introduction relies on any of these things, you will lose your prospects’ attention. Prospects want to talk about their problems and see if your story is compelling and can help them. Everything begins with your story.

The other secret ingredient to firms that are currently experiencing growth is the relentless pursuit of execution. Football games are seemingly won on the pitch on a Saturday or Sunday, however this is just an illusion. The amount of preparation and practice a football player puts in during the week before the game is extraordinary. As a season ticket holder at Anfield I was delighted to hear Brendan Rodgers, when asked about how he likes to train players in his first interview as the new Liverpool manager, say ‘You train dogs, I like to educate players both on and off the field’. Proper preparation, training and execution is similarly related to winning in the insurance industry, so when our version of Super Sunday comes along the prospect is going to be blown away in the first 15 minutes.

These difficult times require change and the brokerages that are changing the conversation—those who understand the need to educate clients and prospects also recognise the need to educate internally. Demonstrable value in front of clients and prospects comes from the recognition across your sales and servicing teams that this is what makes you different, this is the value the client or prospect was looking for and finally, this is the brokerage we should trust because we can see an actual differentiator other than price.

Become the brokerage of the future—now

To get started, create a compelling story and focus on execution to make the story a reality. The good news is many will not follow this path, but instead will continue to do the same thing hoping the results will change. For the firms that do make the effort, a road to higher growth and retention awaits.

The great news is it is completely up to you what road you want to take. The choice is yours. I could have called the brokerage who lost that prospect and wrote a blog about them. Which story would you rather hear? More importantly, which story are you writing for yourself?

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