Let's get personal: How agents can use relationships to win business.
Insurance is a relationship business and agents manage a lot of relationships. They have their clients, prospects, agency and community — plus, insurance carriers, managing general agents, underwriters, claims departments, adjusters — the list is practically endless.
An outsider might look at these relationships as purely business, but successful agents know just the opposite.
The importance of personal relationships in the insurance industry
How many independent insurance agents and brokers do you know? And out of those agents, how many would you consider to be your competition? There's probably more than you would like — not to mention the number of insurance brokers and sales agents in the U.S. is expected to grow 9% by the year 2024.
So, why do your clients choose you?
We'd all like to think that what sets us apart in the "business world" are our tactical skills. Maybe it's the ability to "read between the lines" of an insurance policy or the amount of money you can save a client over an extended period of time. But that's there's a problem with that: skills can be learned.
If there was just one or two skills that made people instantly choose one agent over another, everyone would just specialize in those skills. What you need is something that truly sets you apart. You need more personal relationships.
"Our research shows that the number-one predictive element of an individual's success is the number, the quality, and the depth of social capital--the personal relationships among those that they do business with," said Keith Ferrazzi, CEO of the management consulting firm Ferrazzi Greenlight and author of Never Eat Alone and Who's Got Your Back?.
If you're wondering why personal relationships outweigh other factors of success, it's simple: you're not as rational as you may think. But — no one really is. Decision making isn't logical, it's emotional.
To tap into the emotional side of decision making, you have to ditch the "it's not personal, it's business" attitude and embrace personal, emotional and genuine relationships. Personal relationships build trust — and trust enables productivity.
How agents can build better relationships with underwriters
Art Seifert, President of Glatfelter Program Managers, has held many positions in the insurance industry over the past 40 years ranging from underwriting, sales and management; he often talks about how different these business sectors have to work together and appreciate each other's roles to be efficient and successful. While his recent video is specific to agent and underwriting relationships, the key takeaways can be applied across the board.
"The more of a bond you can develop on a personal-level, the more cushion there is on a business-level," says Seifert. Watch his video for quick tips to help agents build better relationships with underwriters.
Part 7: A Sit Down with Art Seifert | SEE PART 6 HERE
4 Simple habits to build more personal relationships
Building relationships is easier for some people than it is for others. This is true for agents, but also clients. You can find an instant connection with some people, but others will take a little extra work. But the good news is, as we mentioned earlier, skills can be learned. Here are a few tactics to help you build even more personal relationships with just about anyone:
We mean actually listen to what others say and retain it. Research shows that most people only remember about 17 to 25% of the things they listen to. Remembering small (but significant) details about your clients and prospects will help you stand out. If you're having a phone conversation with a client, try taking a few notes, or write a few things down about each client after you have an in-person meeting.
This also allows you to find similarities, which we all know is important in any personal relationship — but it's even more important when meeting new people. In fact, the less we know someone, the more we find similarities to be important. (For example, I've discussed having a dog with countless other dog owners. They like dogs, I like dogs, we now have common ground.)
If for some reason you can't find common ground, focus on the next tactic: mirroring.
"It's not what they said, it's how they said it." Sound familiar? About 7% of communication is what you're saying and the other 93% comes from nonverbal cues — and you should use that to your advantage.
Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and realize that you're using your hands more frequently, smiling more or talking with a higher, or lower, pitched voice? If you're subconsciously matching the person you're talking to, that's a good thing! Mirroring, or mimicking, others' behavior can help you build better connections. A study of negotiations found that those who mirrored others’ posture and speech reached a settlement 67% of the time, while those who didn’t settled 12.5% of the time.
There are a few other non-verbal cues that you should always keep in mind, including eye contact (most people consider the "right amount" to be about 30-60% of the time), smiling and keeping an open posture.
3. Practice EQ.
If you subscribe to our blog, then you've probably heard us discuss EQ, or emotional intelligence, before. If you're looking to build relationships with more people, particularly those who are outside of your normal circle, you'll need to be open to new perspectives and ideas, and let go of preconceived biases.
"To truly connect with an infinitely varied group of people requires something of you: strong emotional intelligence, or EQ. Having a strong EQ is linked to being open to looking at situations through a variety of lenses, rather than looking at the world through your eyes only and having a 'my way is the right way' mentality... Strong emotional intelligence is something that has to be repeatedly practiced. We aren’t just born with it," explains Lindsey Elias, Marketing Content Manager of Glatfelter, in her blog post Ditch the Mob Mentality and Increase EQ to be Better at Business.
4. Be you.
Last, but certainly not least, simply be you. Now more than ever, people crave authenticity, honesty and transparency. Stay true to who you are, know what you're best at and focus on building relationships with the right people. It's less exhausting and it'll save you time, resources and maybe even your sanity.
Have you developed a relationship with someone you thought might be impossible? (Keep in mind, this is a public forum so if you say "my mother-in-law" she just may see it. 😉) Let us know how you approached it in the comments below!
Bri Burkhart, Integrated Marketing Specialist
Bri is an over-enthusiastic dog mom, pop culture fanatic and Instagram addict. She enjoys eating pizza, practicing yoga and hiking.
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