March 23rd, 2017
We reached out to life insurance industry veteran and esteemed professional development expert Jim Ruta to shed some light on how advisors can add more value to their client interactions. If you are an agent or broker looking to impress your clients and provide stellar service, check out his tips below:
1) What are some of the keys to enhancing the client experience?
The client experience is a process, not a project. It’s not some thing you do, it’s every thing you do.
That means everything your client sees and experiences about you in the marketplace from how you hold out to the public to how you prospect, contact clients, work with them, encourage referrals and service them all matters. A lot. There is a lot to this idea but here are a few keys… The first key is considering it all and make sure that it is congruent with who you are and what you stand for in business.
Second, make sure your business service is clear and understandable by your clients.You will only ever be referred for what you do best so make sure that is what you promote. Know. Know you know. Become known for what you know. Now clients understand their experience with you.
Third, “If you never do more than what you are paid to do, you will never be paid for more than you did.” This means when you help more, you sell more… and clients appreciate you more. Fourth: Never have a business system in place (regardless of what some coaches tell you) that would make you look badly if it were published on the front page of the local newspaper.
Principal among these ill-advised ideas is “Client Segmentation”. While I appreciate the attraction on a pure business level, client experience is not pure business. No one wants to be your “C” or “D” client. The ICON advisors I know treat all their clients with their best possible service. Doing otherwise only serves to tarnish your brand in the marketplace.
Remember, your brand is just what your clients think about you. Imagine discovering your physician had you on the “D List” for medical service. Finally, whether we get a fiduciary type standard of care or not, live by the rule that “There is no right way to do a wrong thing”.
As the late great John Savage said years ago, “Take care of your clients first, last and always and they will always take care of you.” It’s a great mantra for client experience.
2) What are some tools you recommend to increase customer loyalty?
Anything and everything that seems like a “business hug” to your client is a good thing. Little things like birthday cards for clients and kids, holiday cards, anniversary cards, hand-written notes, birthday breakfasts/lunches (bring a friend on me!) are all good.
The rule I’ve learned is that “hokey” really works. If no one does it any more, it’s a great idea. Show them that you care and they will care for you too. The more you care for them the more loyal they will be. My experience is that these small things have a big impact on loyalty – far out of proportion to the time and cost of doing them.
Remember, your best clients are your competitors’ best prospects. Think about it. If you aren’t servicing them, someone else will be and you will lose your client. Think I’m wrong? How many good clients do you have because their existing advisor took them for granted? And, service means some sort of review every year.
How many years should it take to do an annual review? This means both a “policy” and a “people” review of the client situation. You are obliged in common law to do it. When you do, you discharge that responsibility and build loyalty. Ask for feedback on your service too. Studies show that advisors who ask increase client loyalty by up to 69%. That’s worth it.
Of course, here, I’m also partial to InforcePro.com to help you manage the service needs of your existing block of life insurance business. Your clients think you are watching out for them and their policies. InforcePro helps you keep the promise you made when you sold it. Surprisingly too… asking for referrals can boost loyalty.
When you have a business that earns loyalty in a specific area, people want to share the good news. Be great and they want to look good by referring you. But, you have to be great first. You can only be good in one area too. FOCUS and then refer the rest. That is a great loyalty tool.
3) It’s been said that referrals are the lifeblood of any good business. What’s your take on this?
If you do business right, referrals will help you build it bigger. I come back to focus here too. When you know you are particularly good at some thing, you can speak with more authority when you ask for referrals. That sense of authority makes all the difference. Make no mistake about it.
You have to be good – probably VERY good to speak with authority. Be great at something and you know you can help someone who needs that. That belief is very compelling when you ask. But, you do have to ask. If you don’t A.S.K., you don’t G.E.T. as I was told one day in Chicago. I like the idea of building your business around referrals.
Tell everyone you work with that you will work so hard that when you ask for an introduction to a friend, they will want to recommend you. We’ve used “By Referral” on business cards for years because it prompts exactly this discussion. I recommend it. We also build the referral issue into initial client meetings – the “Relationship Engagement Document” so there are no surprises.
With this approach, asking for referrals is a client advantage. “I work so hard to earn them that you get the best possible service.” Finally, here’s the dirty little secret about referrals. “If you aren’t getting the referrals you want it’s probably because your clients don’t believe you deserve them.” Focus. Be great at something.
Be sure that you will make your clients look like geniuses for referring you. That’s the lifeblood of any great business.
4) How does a sales professional find the right balance between persistence and annoyance?
Prospecting is all about timing and fit. If you have the right prospect for your business benefit, then setting a meeting is all about getting the timing of your “ask” right. The only way you can find the right time is to keep checking for it at reasonable intervals.
In my experience with advisors asking, the first step is ensuring you have the right prospect – I say in your natural market, where you have natural influence. Then, if the timing isn’t right, ask if you can check back again say in a couple of months. If that’s OK, you can be persistent without being annoying. Keep them on your email list.
Connect with them on LinkedIn. Prove your value. Show them you know what you know. Be their source of information in your speciality. Remember also that persistence is a function of inspiration – like the I in ICON Protocol. If you are inspired by your work, you will be inspiring to prospects too. You’ll also be less annoying because that belief will come through.
5) How can Insurance professionals and other businesses use social media to build their business?
I’m using a lot more social media today than ever but I am far from an authority on it. My clients are starting to use Facebook Live to tell their story and have their own little 2-minute “television show” on a regular basis. I am too.
I believe you can do this without running afoul of compliance but be sure to check. I’m surprised at how many advisors have little or no LinkedIn profile. They also have few connections too. People, this is a free prospecting system at your finger tips. It makes “playing around on the computer” productive work! That’s if you do it right.
I spend a lot of time helping advisors get their story right for LinkedIn. Join a few LinkedIn groups (MDRT, MDRT Aspirants for instance) and take in some excellent information online too. Lots of help out there if you look for it.
Jim Ruta is a best-selling author, speaker and coach with a difference – he actually did the job at the highest level.
Jim is the former executive manager of one of Canada’s most successful insurance and investment agencies – with over 250 advisors. He has highlighted major conferences like the MDRT Main Platform and online and network media worldwide. His unique ICON Protocol™ reveals the timeless rules top advisors follow to lead the industry.
Jim is the “Master of ICON Protocol” and delivers practical ideas and perspectives that inspire you to be better today.
Follow Jim on Facebook Live and LinkedIn for lots of great business building ideas. Check out www.JimRuta.com for all the ways he can help advisors be their best.