If you are in need of a certified baby sitter for an infant or even a restaurant for an important dinner meeting, are you going to open the phone book and select the first name you see listed in that section? No, because that is not how services are selected for those things that we hold dear to our hearts. The same holds true for business services.
If it is an important service for which we are shopping, we often ask those people that we trust and who have provided good references in the past for advice. A word-of-mouth recommendation is the best form of advertisement a business can receive, says Jack Landers, a commercial insurance broker with Westland Insurance Brokers. The key to being successful is to be the first person all your clients want to recommend. To become that person, you may need to go beyond your job description for clients and help them become successful in overall business.
Smart Business spoke with Landers about the importance of networking with clients and how helping develop a client’s success leads you to your own personal success.
What does being in partnership with clients mean?
Being in partnership with a client means being part of that client’s team. If you are in an industry, such as insurance, where you work with many different industries, networking can be very easy. As you develop a relationship with clients, you get to know their areas of expertise and are able to recommend them to other clients in the future.
As an insurance broker, being in a partnership means far more than shopping for a customer’s insurance coverage and pricing. A partnership requires working to develop a long-term relationship with a client. It goes beyond providing insurance policies, risk management and account servicing. It is necessary to offer your expertise and general knowledge that a client can use to enhance their business. It becomes a partnership because, if done properly, one can help his or her own business grow while helping a client’s business grow.
As a partnership develops, you will likely become a trusted member of a client’s team and will often be utilized for advice or references. You become more then just his or her insurance broker; you become a valuable resource and asset.
In what ways may clients utilize my knowledge or services in a partnership?
In a true partnership, there are endless possibilities. One may be asked to refer accountants, banks, limo services, corporate catering or even a toxicologist for the life science industry. The point of such a relationship is to become too valuable for your client to replace. For example, there may be other insurance brokers in the world offering similar plans and programs, but you should strive to be the one your client cannot or does not want to survive without. By taking the extra step to make recommendations or to help with nonwork-related services, you become the partner that business owners know they can turn to when they have a question about anything.
How can being in a partnership benefit my personal business?
It is a win-win situation because when your clients are asked who they use for a service, such as an insurance broker, they will immediately recommend you. There is no better form of advertisement than word-of-mouth. People usually only trust respected friends or business individuals they admire for such recommendations so, if they recommend you, it may very likely increase your personal business. If you are going above and beyond for a client, he or she is simply not likely to replace you with the competition.
Are there other networking methods you recommend?
Absolutely, one can join networking groups or clubs. But choose wisely. The group needs to fit your personality, schedule and interests. This will help you relate to others around you and lead to the greatest results.
San Diego has many networking groups and clubs that range from specialty organizations for different industries to Chamber of Commerce groups, BBB, business lead tip type groups, etc. As the members of the group get to know you and your company better, they now become your ‘sales team.’ If you are networking properly and are a competitive businessperson in your industry, your ‘sales team’ is likely to recommend you to others, free of charge. The return on investment with these groups is indicative of how active you are in the groups but simply cannot be matched in today’s market.
Do you only refer your clients?
Not always. But the more you know about your clients’ goods and services, the easier it is to refer their business first. Everyone wins: Clients receive business without the costs of direct advertising, you are happy to help each business prosper, and you likely keep them a client for years to come.
As they say in sales, ‘the best compliment is a referral.’ The referrals clients give back to you should be handled with TLC and appreciated.
JACK LANDERS is a commercial insurance broker with Westland Insurance Brokers. Reach him at email@example.com or (619) 584-6400.