October 2008

22
Oct

Rainmaker Part 1: Agents Beware, Everybody You Meet Is a Potential Client

Agents, Principals, CSRs, and Office Managers, read this book.  How To Become a Rainmaker by Jeffrey Fox.  This is a must read for anyone in an agency who cares about its image and attracting new clients.  It’s a short read and hits home many points that sometimes get lost in the shuffle of the day-to-day hunt.  I consider it a reference guide to keeping yourself sharp when going after a new prospect you’d love to call a client.  This is part one of a two part series I’m doing on this book.  I hope you enjoy.  This is Chapter 17, Treat Everybody You Meet as a Potential Client.

"Rainmakers see the world, and everyone in it, as their market.  Rainmakers know the world is small.  They know that everyone knows someone.  They know that anyone can become a client, or refer a client, or recommend a client, or scuttle a promising relationship.

Rainmakers treat non-clients as they do existing customers.  They are polite to everyone.  Rainmakers view everyone as influential.  They know that business can come from unexpected places.  They know that something they did ten years ago might result in business today.

There are no "little people" to the Rainmaker.  They do not berate the waiter because the kitchen is slow.  They do not get angry with the person at the ticket counter because the airline delays or cancels a flight.  Everyone is treated with courtesy.  The Rainmaker is as respectful and polite to the guy who mows his lawn as he is to the president of the company that makes the lawn mowers.

A wire and cable salesman had a good relationship with the top management  of a client company in Florida.  The first person he met on every sales call at this customer was the company”s receptionist, an efficient, organized young woman.  Part of her job was keeping the sales appointment schedule. Although she was not the person who bought wire and cable, and was never involved in the decision making, the salesman always treated her courteously.  The salesman always waited patiently if there were delays, never making insistent demands–as did other salespeople.  The salesman never implied his importance by dropping the name of the executive vice president, the person he was there to see, as did others.  The salesman always thanked the receptionist for her help, and always made sure to say good-bye to her.

Eighteen years later, the receptionist is now the executive vice president of the company.  With her influence, her company became the wire and cable salesman’s biggest account.

Don’t make unnecessary enemies.  Why be unlikable?  Who is ever helped by unpleasant behavior?  Pleasant people often appear self-controlled and confident.  Customers like that.

The Rainmaker knows that anybody can help or hurt."  -villageChief

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09
Oct

Can Loyalty Have Its Privileges?

I was having lunch last week with an old friend who’s a financial consultant with Wachovia Securities.  No I didn’t have to drive him home after his two-martini lunch.  Actually we didn’t talk about the depressing stock market at all.  Instead we caught up as old friends do.  At the end of lunch he insisted on paying.  And he did so with his American Express card.  I looked at his card and noticed that he’d been a member since 1981.  Wow, I couldn’t recall anything I’d been a member for that long.  I asked him about his experience with their customer service and other options offered to members.  He was extremely positive about his overall experience and had nothing but good things to say.  Obviously his longevity played a factor into his loyalty with American Express which was part of the reason for sharing his experience.

It hit me.  Would this work on an agency level?  Neither have I heard of the idea nor had I ever entertained the thought of this concept on the retail agent level.  So hey let’s take a closer look. The ABC Insurance Agency Card may look something like this:

 1.  Different status levels of clients would mean different levels of service and focus from the agent.  We all know we should have our clients ranked A, B, and C.  So what if each level defined certain awards to these clients?

2.  Client status could be upgraded by the number of cross-selling.  For example a client who buys an auto policy starts off as a bronze client.  If they add a life insurance policy or home policy, their status is upgraded to say silver.  They know it and you do too.  Statistics have shown the more policies an insured holds from his/her agency the lower the probability he/she will leave.  I guess you could look at it like hostages.  The more you hold the less likely they are to negotiate leaving… but I digress.

3.  Brand the membership in a club and offer a card.  The club name would hopefully dovetail into the agency’s branding objectives and the card would have the year the insured joined.  The status on the card could mean that the insured is included in the monthly agency drawing for a reward.  And the higher the status the more times they are entered.  Also, the agency card could offer discounts to dry-cleaners, oil change services, restaurants, and other community businesses.  A few of these businesses could even be clients wanting the referrals!

4.  While carrying this card, you’re assuring your client that you are always with them.  If Joe client gets into a fender-bender, he can pull out his card and immediately reach you.  It’s free advertising to your agency when your insured tells others about their membership.  Free positive testimony to your agency is always welcomed!

5.  One of the hardest things about the insurance business is that an agent is selling an intangible.  With your agency membership card you’ve just made an intangible item tangible.  Your agency card would provide the agency main number, agent name, status level, and maybe even a picture.

Pie in the sky, maybe.  So here’s the tough part about the above idea.  How does an agency manage a program like this?  What are the costs associated with a venture like this?  Will the value exceed the costs?  Do you start off offering the card to only the A clients or launch the card to A and B clients?  All valid questions that have to be answered before taking the first step.

It never hurts to think out loud or even write out loud as I’ve done.  But merit is due to a client’s loyalty.  It counts!  And clients like to share with others their own successes and memberships.  I did this to my friend at lunch when I told him I was part of the Randalls Remarkable card program and that I receive a 1/2 continental airline point for every dollar spent.  It’s not American Express but I still feel included.   -villageChief

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