Good Riddance, and don’t let the door hit you on the way out!

Even though the insurance industry is populated mostly by genuine professionals who do their jobs for all the right reasons, there are a few outsiders who think they are smarter than the rest of us. Usually they come from a different industry, and are sure that their brilliance and the widget or service they provide will bring us insurance rubes into the current century.

Generally, they make a big splash, get some attention for themselves and their companies. Then, after spending some time and figuring out that this business is more complex than their initial simplistic understanding, they exit the industry leaving chaos in their wake.

As I thought about it, I realized that hidden in the drama that these individuals create were a few key lessons. Lessons that weren’t unique or specific to these situations, nor our industry, but that can guide you as you navigate to insurance business success.

Not only in your client and selling relationships, but also in pursuit of your strategy to improve your agency by using insurance sales, marketing and automation tools and education.

A Brief History

Although sometimes it can be a bit humbling to admit, I’ve been in this great industry for most of 30 years. Some of you know my story well enough, if so skip ahead, but many of you may not.

My insurance career started as a third generation independent agent in a medium-sized agency in suburban Chicago. Because I had a technical bent, one of my responsibilities was working with our agency management system.

Pretty soon, I was getting a reputation as an advanced user; thus I got invitations to speak at user group meetings around the country. Ten years later, I switched over to the vendor side of the business, and here I am.

Lessons Learned

Keys to my longevity in this industry are the relationships I have developed with all sorts of people in various roles throughout the industry. From agency principals, sales and operations folks, through to carrier, vendor and association leaders, there are great, dedicated professionals in this industry.

Of course there are clinkers, just like everywhere. But by and large, the vast majority of this industry is focused on doing the right thing for our insureds, and being a point of calm in the middle of the storm.

With age comes a positon where one can gain perspective, and since we’re at that time of year when retrospectives are common, here are a few lessons that have served me well.

Get Involved

If you are new to insurance, or looking to maximize your success, I can offer no better suggestion than to get involved. Participate in your community, your local chamber, volunteer with a charity. But do it for the right reason: because you care. Not because the other people that participate might buy a policy from you.

They will, but if your efforts aren’t genuine, others will see it a mile away.

Contribute to Your Industry

Some of my best friends are the industry folks I’ve met over my professional career. I met them all because I got involved in agency automation and the user groups. If that doesn’t float your boat, that’s OK. Find out a way to contribute that is important to you.

Participate in your association; teach insurance classes to other professionals or the local high school kids; work on a designation or three; post your ideas and help your peers on a professional site.

Not only will you make life-long friends, but you’ll see how this great industry touches areas of which you might not have been aware.

Trust, But Verify

if your efforts aren’t genuine, othersThis gets us to the introduction to this blog post. Although many of the folks who work in this great industry are in it for the right reasons, there are some who aren’t: Vendors or their staff who are more interested in the transaction; Good carriers who have a change of posture and no longer take care of the customer, etc.

So how do you separate the wheat from the chaff?

One of the things that is amazing about this industry is how interconnected it is. And you can use that to your advantage. If you are looking to try something new, or solve a challenge in your agency or company, odds are good that somebody else in the industry has had a chance to try it. Use your connections to find a resource.

You will probably get some great advice and a recommendation that indeed, the solution will do what you want. But every now and then you also might find that a little more work is required than you thought, or that the solution doesn’t really perform as advertised.

Too Good to be True Usually Is

When you get the email that claims to be able to provide you with the secret to 150 miles per gallon or cold fusion, you quickly hit the delete button. Why then, when we get the equivalent types of messaging in our work life, aren’t we able to quickly see the quackery for what it is?

One of the challenges is that we have genuine business problems, and we are looking hard for a solution. Most vendors don’t couch their messaging in hyperbole. They have created a solution that applies in certain situations, and they talk about the successes they and their customers have experienced.

Others, however, do make claims that are hard to substantiate, or perhaps are even too good to be true. The rise of the web and the new marketing disciplines required has created quite a few of these types of claims.  “We guarantee you will get a page one listing on Google,” “You will have more prospect traffic than you will know what to do with,” etc. are the sorts of claims you will hear.

The issue is that, while these whoppers rank right up there with the fuel additive that will get you 150 mpg, the difference is the area of web marketing and advertising is not in the day-to-day experience of most insurance professionals.  Most times, these claims just can’t be substantiated.

Again, ask for references, and do your own back channel research. Do your contacts know anything about this product, vendor or service? Has it performed reliably for others? Has anybody in a LinkedIn group heard about it?

The Long Story Short

In an great industry filled with good people, every once in a while a bad apple turns up.

If you connect to your community and your industry, your clients and colleagues will see you as a trusted resource, and your career will flourish. And those same connections can be used to vet other industry people and solutions. That way you can be certain that you are dealing with reputable companies and investing in proven products and services.

If you want an independent opinion, reach out to the Agency Nation team or comment below. We live, breathe and sleep this stuff and we’ll offer some ideas and advice.

Good Selling,

Marty Agather

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