Business Development – What is Your Approach?

As the old saying goes, “there is more than one way to skin a cat.”  The same thing could be said for the various ways that insurance agencies and agents approach the subject of developing new business.  Some rely mainly on referrals from existing customers, others buy leads from business information firms, and still others (although probably not many any more) use direct mail and cold calling.  However, the real key to the success of any business development approach is whether you can consistently convert a prospect into a customer.

I recently came across an article in a legal publication that proposed an unlikely model for that aspect of business development, but one that once you thought about it made a lot of sense.  His name is Winston Wolfe.  Fans of the movie Pulp Fiction will instantly recognize that name.  He was the underworld fixer who was sent to dispose of a dead body.  From his approach to that task, comes three principles for successfully converting a prospect into a customer.

First, Mr. Wolfe solves problems.  In fact, that was how he introduced himself to the characters played by John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson.  That certainly got my attention more than a recitation of his qualifications would have.  Second, Mr. Wolfe asks questions and listens, instead of talking about himself and his qualifications.  He gathers information so that he can then offer a solution to the problem at hand, which is the third principle of successful prospect conversion.  The potential customer is much more likely to give their business to the insurance agency or agent who can offer a clear explanation of a sensible solution to the customer’s problem, as Mr. Wolfe did for the problem he was faced with in the movie.

Hopefully, you will never be faced with the same situation as Mr. Wolfe, but his handling of that situation illustrates three key principles for successful business development that any insurance agency or agent can readily adapt to their interactions with potential customers. 


Trusted Choice Chopper-What do you think?

The long-awaited airing of the episode of American Chopper, in which the motorcycle built to honor Trusted Choice for its support of the charity favored by the star of that show, Paul Teutuls, Sr., will be featured, arrives on Monday, September 17, 2012.  The episode will air at 9 p.m. EDT on the Discovery Channel.

I will be watching and I hope you will, too.  For those of my readers who do watch the show, I’d like to know what you think of it.  Please post a comment with your thoughts on the show.  I’d also like to know what you think of Trusted Choice using this show as a way to advertise its brand.  Is it an appropriate way to reach the target market for the brand or has Trusted Choice “missed the boat” with this effort?

Georgia’s YAC Does It Again

First the Big I’s education program and now the Georgia Young Agents Committee has come away from the IIABA’s Fall Leadership Conference with a prestigious award.  As with the education program, Georgia’s YAC was given the highest honor possible by being named the 2012 Outstanding Young Agents Committee of the Year.  Georgia’s YAC has a long history of winning IIABA awards and just last year won the Outstanding Young Agents Meeting award.

Congratulations go to Ash Smith, who was the chair of YAC during the time period covered by the award, as well as to Brooks Zeigler, the Vice Chair, and Kelli Dean, the Secretary-Treasurer, during that time, and the other members of the board of directors and committee chairs.  The future of the Big I is in good hands with these outstanding young agents and its strong Young Agents Committee in general.

Can an Employer Limit Political Speech by its Employees?

Now that the political conventions are over and the traditional presidential campaign season has begun, employers may be wondering what, if anything, can be done about political activity by their employees.  This subject is especially relevant during this campaign season given the closeness of the race for President and the clear divisions between the candidates on both social and economic issues.  In light of the passions that can be raised by political discussion, employers may be concerned about discussions that could adversely affect employee morale and interfere with the conduct of their business activities.

To begin with, contrary to what many people may think, the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech does not apply to private businesses.  That guarantee applies only to government agencies and other government-run entities.  However, the National Labor Relations Act does give employees of private businesses some rights.  They may engage in solicitation for political causes and the distribution of political materials on the employer’s property, so long as neither activity occurs while the employees involved are supposed to be working or in working areas of the employer’s business premises.  In addition, an employee is free to engage in political activity of any kind on his or her own time away from the employer’s business premises, as long as such activity does not interfere with the employee’s performance of his or her duties on behalf of the employer or the conduct of the employer’s business.

An employer can prohibit the use of its equipment, e.g. computer systems, e-mail, and internet access, for political discussions and solicitations or limit such use as it sees fit.  For both legal and practical reasons, no distinction in such rules should be made based on the political content of the discussion or solicitation.  As with all other employee policies, any such rules, along with the possible penalties for their violation, should be clearly communicated to employees in advance of their implementation.

IIAG Education Program Given Diamond Award

A big shout out to the IIAG and its education department for being given the highest award possible for its membership education program at the IIABA Fall Leadership Conference that just ended.  This year’s conference was held in Atlanta, so it was fitting that Georgia and three of its neighbors were given the Diamond Award for their membership education programs.  Only one other state association, New York, was included in this highest award category.

Each state association’s membership education program was ranked using nine separate criteria, including, types of classes, designation programs offered, professionalism, collaboration with other education providers, and innovation in presentation and other areas.  The director of IIAG’s membership education program is Stacie King and the program is coordinated by Schonna McKinney.  The next time you see either one of them, please remember to congratulate them on a job well done, and don’t forget to take advantage of the award winning education programs offered by IIAG, three hours of which online are now available at no charge to all IIAG members.

Insurance Certificates

For those of you who follow this Blog, I am sure you noticed that there were no posts last week.  One of the reasons for that omission was that I was in the process of writing an article for the next issue of the IIAG’s quarterly magazine, Dec Page.  I chose as my topic for that article Insurance Certificates, which continue to be a problem for insurance agents in Georgia even after the January 2011 issuance of a directive by the Insurance Commissioner and the passage of a statute by the General Assembly later that year on that subject. 

Apparently, many general contractors and project owners, including some government agencies in Georgia, have still not gotten the message that insurance certificates are for information purposes only and will have no effect on the provisions of the underlying insurance policies.  They are still asking for certificates that state the recipient will be provided with prior notice of any cancellation or changes in those policies.  The new statute specifically addresses this situation by stating that, “A certificate holder shall have a legal right to notice of cancellation, nonrenewal, or any material change, or any similar notice concerning a policy of insurance only if the person is named within the policy or any endorsement and the policy or endorsement requires notice to be provided. The terms and conditions of the notice, including the required timing of the notice, are governed by the policy of insurance and cannot be altered by a certificate of insurance.” (emphasis added)

For more information on the contents of the new law on insurance certificates click here and if you want to see a form letter that I helped draft for use by IIAG members who are faced with demands for insurance certificates that are contrary to the provisions of the new law, click here.