By Phil Calhoun
For over four decades, California Broker has provided information and resources for health and life insurance professionals in California. During this period, over 25,000 brokers have read and responded to our content monthly. As we work to reinforce trust within the broker community, we consistently seek to provide articles that brokers find to bolster their ability to be better advocates for their clients. This series is on the value of collaboration and is intended to help brokers bring solutions to clients and grow their business.
We plan to continue to work with our gifted authors who enable us to contribute timely, valuable information and expertise to California Broker readers. We remain committed to the goal of being a trusted resource for our subscribers who depend on learning and growing, to evolve as client advocates.
Ensuring Brokers Flourish
The key to long term survival is the ability to evolve. For insurance professionals to survive, evolution is in part based on access to the resources needed to both retain clients and generate new revenues. Brokers who practice forward thinking constantly look to find the balance between the application of technology and their compassion and experience. Many seasoned brokers lean on their industry expertise and are selective when applying technology. Newer brokers move more quickly to use technology to find new clients and service them as well. While what works best is measured in client retention, all can agree it is critical to stay organized and efficient in client management.
The bottom line is to stay focused and do what is needed to resolve issues to retain clients as well as winning new ones.
Finding Tools and Techniques to Evolve
The evolution in the insurance industry has, and will continue to be, driven by many factors. Insurance professionals play a critical role in the industry. When they apply new tools, use technology to impact the sales process, and help their clients understand and use their insurance benefits, the impact is positive and highly valued. The sales process will continue to be driven by the application of enhanced tools and techniques technology provides. Combine these with experience, and a perfect match is made. Help from General Agencies and Field Marketing Organizations (FMOs) and membership in professional associations all contribute significantly to success. Applying learned lessons and enhancing the work product through technology is the ideal balance.
The Role of Cal Broker
As a media company, we look for content that helps brokers adapt and grow. Articles are now in categories we feel help organize the information in strategic areas brokers can use to grow their business. Some categories are obvious — Group Benefits and Medicare being the top two. Voluntary benefits, professional development and technology are categories that are popular. Newer topics such as commission — dealing with protecting, growing, and selling commissions — have generated requests for more. And our most recent categories — Cross Selling and Collaboration — provide a perfect segway to help open doors for the inclusion of insurance products often requiring a specialty focus such as Long-Term Care Insurance, Life and Annuities. The goal is to provide California Broker subscribers with more solutions to address their client’s issues.
Building Client Trust – Opening the Door
As soon as a broker starts advocating for their clients, the nature of the relationship shifts from being solely insurance-oriented to a more focused approach as a trustworthy client advisor. During this phase, clients develop trust in their broker due to their ability to tackle problems with professional expertise. With every successful resolution, the level of trust between the two parties grows, leading to a shared value system where clients perceive their broker as empathetic towards their concerns and capable of finding solutions. This level of trust also encourages clients to share more of their worries with their broker. However, some challenges may require the assistance of a specialist or colleague beyond the broker’s immediate area of expertise.
As a media company, we seek to share industry success stories and cover fresh ideas and new techniques brokers can use to address client issues.
The commitment to find solutions to help clients is the common link between the work all health and life insurance professionals perform. To expand their offerings beyond the primary focus of health insurance, brokers must focus on strengthening their trusted advisor relationship with customers.
As trust between an insurance professional and their client deepens, clients tend to divulge more information about their plans and concerns, providing insight into their planning needs and top priorities. This presents an opportunity for the insurance professional to uncover issues that may require direct attention or collaboration with partners.
Typically, these issues revolve around business challenges, personal and family needs, and future plans. It’s important to identify the root cause of what’s keeping your clients up at night.
While an insurance professional may have resolved numerous issues for their client and have access to solutions for new issues, it’s not uncommon to encounter issues that require the expertise of a specialist or colleague.
Why Collaboration Is The Key To Success
Insurance professionals can either become specialists or collaborate with specialists. Clear areas outside an insurance professional’s lane are legal and tax related. With many planning processes such as estate planning, succession planning, and asset protection planning, there is a fit for insurance coverages. Working with tax and legal professionals in a collaborative way requires an understanding of how a team approaches issue identification, then problem definition, then potential solutions. Planning work for clients directly leads to specialty lines such as long-term care, life insurance, annuities and other “specialty” lines of insurance. Many health insurance professionals find doing the work required to support their clients is a full time commitment. When they look to grow their book, it becomes more than a full-time endeavor.
How to work with a collaborator
Collaborating with trusted partners becomes a priority when client issues arise that require specialized expertise, such as insurance or planning work. The first step is identifying which specialists to collaborate with. Once you’ve found a solid specialist, introducing them to your client is crucial. Your client will trust your judgment in making the connection, but a collaboration method is still necessary.
Start by summarizing background information and highlighting the key issue of top concern. Then, share this with your chosen specialist and discuss the best way to introduce them to your client. Your collaborative partner will review the client information and clarify any key issues before preparing for the first meeting.
Prior to the initial meeting, your specialist will advise you on how to proceed. During the meeting, you will lead introductions in a three-way call or in-person meeting. As the referrer, you can choose to remain actively involved or simply work from updates provided by the specialist. Over time, as your trust in your partners grows, you can opt to hand off clients or stay involved on a case-by-case basis.
Masters of Collaboration
Our legal partner has mastered collaboration itself as a craft. Joseph Strazzeri of Strazzeri Mancini LLP suggests, “We define collaboration as the art and science of how people work together to create better outcomes. It is a process of celebrating different perspectives, disciplines, and resources to enhance the value of the work at hand.”
Joseph and his team at Strazzeri Mancini LLP often remark that there’s liberation in the power of “We.” They say the We-driven mindset sets a transformation in motion. “With a collaborative community as your resource,” notes Joseph, “you don’t have to master the answer to every quandary.”
“As you learn about the business of succession planning, you will observe how vital collaboration becomes, as the right questions seem to arise naturally and ideas flow between your client and your collaborative partners,” he continues. “Decisions are made and the process unfolds with plans for additional research and thought development. Follow-up meetings often include the client’s other advisors. CPAs and legal professionals often join future meetings where they contribute their expertise to the discussion and participate in the process — all with the best interest of the client in mind.”
In the Insurance Insider eNewsletter, California Broker is presenting an exclusive offer featuring a comprehensive range of planning topics from Strazzeri Mancini LLP and The Southern California Institute. These topics are relevant to both individuals and business owners and can be learned by health brokers and shared with their clients. Many recorded topics are available for free access using the access code Calbroker23. To discover the recommended topics, please refer to our eNewsletter.
California Broker intends to forge more partnerships with specialist organizations in the future. We encourage subscribers to also contact our advertisers for assistance from their specialists.
Our articles on specialty insurances aim to educate and connect subscribers with experts in long-term care Insurance, life Insurance and annuities. Our goal is to refer our subscribers to proven collaborative specialists who have a successful track record of working with health insurance professionals to define issues and provide solutions.
Another excellent resource for finding a collaborative partner is California Broker’s eDirectory
Phil Calhoun is owner and publisher of California Broker Magazine. Phil also is a leader in coaching health insurance professionals. He is an active member of several insurance associations including the California Association of Health Insurance Professionals (CAHIP) and local chapters in Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego and Inland Empire Health Insurance Professionals.