Consider who you partner with to bring your strategic plan to life.
You know how important it is for an agency or financial professional to establish trust with clients. It’s the key for being the firm agents come to for large or complex cases and to staying in business for the long-term.
In my last blog post about creating a profitable business model, I discussed the potential in niching down and serving a select group of clients in all areas. But that only works if you can demonstrate your expertise in doing that.
Keep reading to learn how to leverage expertise to grow your practice.
Here’s some food for thought: Agencies cannot survive with a sales team and back office talent alone…
To fully serve your agents, as well as the end clients, you need expertise in taxation, underwriting, estate planning, wealth transfer, succession planning, and marketing.
The fact is, agents and clients want to work with experts—at least for the really important things in life.
If you don’t believe that, just look at your own life…
Do you ever look for a “decent” doctor for your family, or an “okay” school district for your kids, or a real estate agent who knows how to help you with part of the process of buying your dream home? I doubt it. You want an expert in these key areas.
So who wouldn’t want their financial team to be experts? The good news is, you don’t actually have to be the expert in all areas—as long as you know where to find someone who is. Besides, if you tried to become the expert on everything, you’d spend way too much time and money—while in the meantime, miss out on new opportunities and the things you actually love doing.
Reframing the “jack of all trades” mindset
In your mind, there could be two things holding you back from this approach.
First, it’s innate in us to be self-reliant and push ourselves. Yet, we seldom have the bandwidth as leaders to spend time inside someone else’s business. We know our own paradigm well enough but we don’t have the luxury of learning someone else’s enough to apply it. In his book, “Who, not how,” entrepreneur coach Dan Sullivan outlines how we should stop asking ourselves, “How can I do this?” when setting a goal to achieve something, but rather, “Who can do this for me?”
Second, we typically conflate “expert” with a perceived cost … and this leads us to taking on something that’s not necessarily in our wheelhouse.
When you recognize this—and begin focusing instead on the relationships and connections you have to achieve your goals—it transforms you and often translates to more premium coming through your doors.
Do what you love and love who you know.
Enter the IMO. Working with the right IMO allows you to leverage their expertise and catapult your agency’s profit. When you find an IMO that can help you build a solid foundation when it comes to technology and your business model, and then utilize the access they provide to experts, you put your agency in a great position to grow sustainable revenue that allows you to thrive into the future. Or put you in a better position to sell.
What can an IMO with connections to subject matter experts do for you? If you were to work with Partners Advantage, we would pay the wages for talent, and pass on the costs only when a policy is in force...through a commission override. Also, because our success depends on your success, there’s alignment between our goals and yours when it comes to making sure a case gets placed. Additionally, you save time and effort partnering with an IMO to get the subject matter expertise you need. Which is much more efficient than trying to learn it all yourself.
That said, there are some agencies who choose to use the carrier for this rather than an IMO. Maybe it’s because their IMO doesn’t have subject matter experts or they feel carriers should be knowledgeable about how their products can be used.
While that’s true, I’d say there’s one major thing to keep in mind…
Carriers are technically capable of handling the issues and seeing the need for estate planning, or marketing, or underwriting… the solutions they provide must tie back to a benefit or feature found within their products.
It’s harder for them to see the solutions offered by their competitors like different underwriting credits, riders, age bandings, and so on.
IMOs look at multiple carrier product offerings and help you arrive at the ideal solution for the client’s situation. They see the market at an elite level and know how a number of products could be used in different ways to accomplish a specific need.
And your agents receive the valuable education and point of sale support to solve complex challenges for their clients—who oftentimes happen to be high net worth individuals.
You may have some agents who don’t have the ability or comfort to refer the client out to another professional to handle taxation, for instance. The support from their IMO could be the difference between losing the case and having a fighting chance of winning the business.
As an agency, this is a great value-add. And it trickles down to you in the form of revenue that might otherwise have gone to a competitor – and even worse, losing all of a client’s business!
Becoming the preferred firm for placing large and complex cases
Without experts in your business, you relegate yourself to only simple transactions and basic insurance coverage and miss out on the opportunity to bring on and serve more seasoned independent financial professionals.
If you’re using a deep business model, you have to be able to serve essentially all of a client’s needs. This helps attract the right producer or advisor to your agency and in turn, increase your valuation.
Experts in a particular area have “seen it all,” they’ve seen what works, what doesn’t, and common pitfalls when placing large cases. Can this be done in-house? Perhaps. Do you see the potential to cultivate this level of expertise for someone on your team today? Are you willing to invest in the extensive training for you or someone on your staff, or the recruiting and hiring expense of bring someone onboard to fill this role? Would you be able to patiently wait and watch them gain the real-life experiences, including the agony of losing a large case?
The alternative approach to this long, arduous, costly (and potentially heartbreaking!) process is to leverage an IMO who already has the complex case expertise in estate planning, taxation, and underwriting, and intuitively knows what to do and what to avoid -- experience that a layperson wouldn’t have the luxury of knowing. That’s extremely valuable when we are talking about hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars.
Once you have experts at your disposal—at a variable cost instead of an ongoing salary that you have to pay—you create a stickier value prop for your agency. This is especially important if you want to appeal to the modern producer with a comprehensive planning philosophy.
Here’s the bottom line…
In this blog, we talked about how important it is not to put all your eggs in one basket. Meaning, you don’t want the bulk of your business to come from just one source or key account because it jeopardizes your future.
With access to experts, you do not have to walk away from complex cases that could mean more diversified revenue streams for your agency.
Not only does partnering with an IMO with subject matter experts improve your business financially, it also legitimizes your business in the eyes of the carrier that sees you offering greater value to their agents.
The big takeaway here: Your ability to handle complex cases is a reflection of your brand.
Once your brand includes getting these kinds of cases placed, your reputation will precede you. Which means, you can attract even more top producers and their clients to your agency.
Next Steps: Determine the area of expertise needed.
Ok, it’s time to uncover the areas where experts could help your agency most.
Start by surveying your agents to determine which disciplines would be most beneficial to their team’s growth. That will tell you where to find the “low hanging fruit”…
Here are some sample questions to survey your agents:
Rank the order below where specialized education would benefit you the most? (1=highest opportunity)
- Estate Planning
- Premium Finance
- Succession Planning
Rank the service capabilities below where an investment would benefit our agency the most? (1=highest opportunity)
For those selected, are you currently in these markets and utilizing other firms for this expertise?
For those selected, are you currently seeking professional development for you and your firm?
Once you know what areas have the most interest, reach out to the agents. Have a discussion and see if you can quantify how much business you could earn if you had an expert in particular areas.
Then be willing to ask for help. Refusing to accept support can actually do a disservice to your business and stunt your growth.
What to look for in a trustworthy IMO
OK, by this point you get it! You realize you need to have access to experts. An IMO could say they’re an expert, but you need proof, right?
I would suggest looking to the size and stature of the IMO in the industry. What’s their reputation?
Who do they serve currently and what are they known for? Do their experts have specific designations or specialized education that instills trust and boosts credibility?
What are you hearing from top producers? Word of mouth and referrals are some of the most reliable forms of marketing out there.
This could be an opportunity to expand your success—don’t miss out on it.
If you haven’t checked out our Escape Velocity Resource Center, I encourage you to do that now. We provide tons of content on the 5 forces that hold agencies back from reaching their full potential.
Is one of the 5 forces holding you back? Let’s chat about how we might be able to help.