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Delta Business Solutions » Fresh Ideas

Be a ‘Risk Manager’

Be a ‘Risk Manager’

Posted October 10th, 2012 by Spence Bowthorpe with No Comments

In case you haven’t noticed, insurance agents are being DE-VALUED in the marketplace.

First of all, the internet is making insurance quotes easy and fast. Anyone can spend a half hour online and get multiple quotes for your auto, home, or life insurance.

Secondly, insurance is becoming commodotized. Spell-check is telling me that’s not a word… okay, I made it up.  What does it mean?  It means that people’s perception is that all insurance is the same.  That there’s no difference in coverage, no differentiation in how you purchase it, and no difference in how claims are handled.  The only difference?… you guessed it… PRICE.  (Remember, this is the customers’ perception.)

Thirdly, BIG advertisers, REALLY BIG advertisers… like Geico and others, are sending a repeated (and repeated, and repeated) message to the marketplace… “You don’t need an agent, just make a phone call to us and save 15%.”  People are being brainwashed and indoctrinated with the idea that the ONLY thing that distinguishes one insurance policy from another is price.  And, that agents are merely order-takers.

Okay, here’s the fourth and final blow: many agents are doing nothing to combat this insipid, calculated, and life altering shift in the market! What are most agents doing?  Here’s my list:

  1. Offering free quotes.  When a client calls, they get a free quote, that’s it.  Nothing else to differentiate the agent.  If he/she is not the lowest price, they’re done.
  2. Making an annual or bi-annual contact with clients. Don’t get me wrong… contacting clients is a good thing.  Most agents have no contact with their clients other than an occasional birthday card, calendar, or… even worse, a solicitation or advertising offer. People are looking for value… not low price, not upsells, not surveys, calendars, or birthday cards… they’re looking for expertise, advice, tips on things that matter to them.  —More on that in a minute.
  3. Selling insurance.  What? Isn’t that what an insurance agent should do? NO! You don’t sell insurance!

Okay, to keep this under 20 pages, here’s the short version:  People face all kinds of risks in their lives and property.  An agent can’t insure everything.  In fact, look at the diagram below, insurance can only influence one of four quadrants of risk.

An insurance agent is able  to help clients ‘Transfer’ a few of their risks.  Who is going to help them with the other 75%?

Who can teach them how to avoid certain risks, how to reduce certain risks, and how to manage some of the risks they must retain? Who can make sense of all this?

Here’s the answer: a trusted agent who understands it all and has solutions for everything… not just insurance solutions.

If you’re a restoration contractor reading this, you are in an incredible position to bring value to your agents who refer business to you.  You have the knowledge and tools available to you right here.

Agents who work with you will get more leads and make more sales, have loyal clients, be different and distinctive in the marketplace, and have lower loss ratios.  You’re clients will flourish in their insurance business.  Is that a brand you’d like to hang your hat on?  If so… talk to us.

Organic Growth

Posted July 21st, 2011 by Spence Bowthorpe with 5 Comments


As I speak with restoration contractors across North America, I hear a chorus of voices wanting fresh ways to find new leads, prospects, and new clients.  We talk about numerous market channels that can be pursued including direct marketing to the homeowner (usually the most expensive and least productive marketing channel), agents, adjusters, plumbers, residential property managers, HOA Associations, commercial building managers, and so forth.  We also frequently talk about the value of past customers and ‘mining’ our existing database, very important.  And this is likely to yield more and better leads than most other channels.

Here’s another twist for you to think about.  How about ‘organic marketing’?  Here’s what I mean.  Whenever you get a claim or job referred to you, have a system for identifying and contacting the major stakeholders involved in that job.  Who are the stakeholders?  — Anyone who has an interest in the outcome of the job, and anyone who has the potential to refer work to you in the future.  For example, on a typical residential claim there is the home owner, the agent, the adjuster.  If a condominium, there is the HOA President, the Property Manager.  If a commercial project, the building manager, the tenants, the building owner, the janitorial and maintenance company serving the building.

Let me give you an example of how this might work.  We receive a residential claim for water damage.  Our technicians respond and learn that the customer has had a water heater break and has damage extending into two rooms.  As we visit with Mrs. Jones, the homeowner, we learn that she is particularly agitated about damage to her scrapbook collection that was in boxes on the floor (we call this ‘the emotional tug’).  As part of our service system, one of our staff has responsibility to immediately identify the agent on any incoming job, they learn that the agent is someone we’ve not dealt with recently.  A call is placed to the agent by one of our marketing staff.  They let the agent know that we were called on the claim for Mrs. Jones.  We share what we have learned about the cause and extent of damage and assure the agent that the mitigation is in process.  We also mention Mrs. Jones’ emotional concern about her scrapbooks and suggest that the agent might want to give her a call to reassure her, empathize with her loss, and let her know that he cares.  The agent is impressed and appreciative for the phone call and the opportunity to connect with the insured.  We let them know that this communication is ‘standard operating procedure’ at our company.

You will notice that this style of organic marketing has two main components:  1] A system of identifying and contacting stakeholders on every job, 2] a process of serving each stakeholder in a way that clearly communicates the message of our core values and also solves core problems for the stakeholder.

In our previous example, our process conveys these messages:   “We are quick and efficient and we always keep our agents informed.”  “We connect insureds to the agent and reinforce the agent’s value to their clients.”   We didn’t tell them our brand messages… we showed them.  Our standard processes of doing business communicate our brand messages to our clients.  Let me say that again, “Our standard processes are the way we communicate our brand!”

And you thought branding was all about your logo and brochures!

Remember this important fact:  your brand is your reputation.  And you don’t get a reputation by what you say, you get a reputation by what you do and how you do it.

Here is the formula for branding success:  Find out what they want…, go and get it…, give it to them.

Pay Attention

Posted January 14th, 2011 by Spence Bowthorpe with 1 Comment

If You Sell Anything, Pay Attention

—by Dan Coughlin

Selling is convincing another person that the value you have to offer is worth the value you are asking in return.

That’s it. It’s no more complicated than that.

Every Sale is a Value- and Values-Based Interaction


There is no such thing as a transaction. In the history of business no customer has ever bought a product or service so that a company could have another transaction. Every sale in every industry is a value- and values-based interaction. Every potential customer is asking two questions:

  1. What will I receive for my investment? (Value)
  2. How will I be treated before, during, and after the sale? (Values)

The heart of selling is figuring out the value the customer wants or needs and determining how that person wants or needs to be treated before, during, and after the sale in order for him or her to consider this to be an outstanding interaction, one that is worthy of the investment he or she will be making.

The Three Critical Words in Selling: Observe Life Carefully.


Selling is not a script any more than building a relationship is a set of pick-up lines. Great sales people don’t trick, manipulate, or cajole people into making a purchase. Neither do they strong-arm, frighten, or intimidate people into making a decision. Instead all great sales people do one thing extremely well: observe life carefully.


“All great sales people do one thing extremely well:  observe life carefully.”

By observing other people they begin to understand the value and the values their desired customers want and need. One of my favorite quotes is from David Ogilvy in his book, Confessions of an Advertising Man. He wrote, “Creative people are especially observant, and they value accurate observation (telling themselves the truth) more than other people do.”

Great salespeople tell themselves the truth about the value and values that other people truly want or need. Mediocre and poor salespeople tell themselves what they want to believe about other people. One time an acquaintance asked me to join a country club. I said, “I don’t play golf and I travel quite a lot. When I’m home I like to be with my family.” He tried to convince me why I needed to join his country club. Finally he admitted that he was the chairperson for new memberships and he needed to “sell” five new memberships to hit his goal. Considering that I could care less about his goal never seemed to occur to him.

Stand Back and Watch People


Remember that insight comes from sight. One of the most effective ways to understand your desired customers is to go watch them in action.

If you run a restaurant or retail store, take a seat about fifteen feet from where your customers get greeted for the first time. Observe what the interaction is like. My consulting experience in the restaurant and hospitality industries has taught me that the first two seconds are critical to the success of the long-term customer relationship. If the customer is greeted with a relaxed smile, good solid eye contact, and a friendly greeting, the odds of that customer experience going well are dramatically improved. In these scenarios the customer tends to be much more patient if something goes wrong later with the order or the meal. On the other hand, if the employee grunts at the customer instead of saying hello, does not make eye contact, and does not smile or relax with the customer, then the customer tends to be much less patient if something goes wrong later with the meal or the order.

Recently I spent four months studying Terry Michler to see what insights I could gain from him on improving the business performance of a group. It turns out I learned a lot from him. Terry Michler has won more soccer games than any coach in the history of the U.S. at the high school, college, or professional level. As the head soccer coach at CBC High School for 39 years, he has won over 800 games and six state championships. Terry Michler is not a screamer. He doesn’t yell out instructions to the field. Instead he spends the entire game scanning the field and looking for details that most people never see. He is looking for the theme of the game as opposed to the plot. He then shares his observations with his players at half-time and after the game. In the end, he’s trying to “sell” his players on a specific style of play that he calls “attacking ball possession soccer.”

In my book, Find a Way to Win: Management Insights from Terry Michler, America’s All-Time Winningest Soccer Coach, I asked him why selling this style of play to his players is so important in terms of winning.

He said, “Confidence and control!!! When you can play in such a way that the other team struggles to keep up, you have a distinct advantage. Soccer is a game determined by your ability to use the ball. Ball possession and attacking with ball possession give you that advantage. Some teams practice possession soccer, but they don’t play attacking ball possession soccer. In soccer, ball possession is NEVER an end product. It is the MEANS to the end. As the Dutch would say, the key is ball possession in order to build a controlled attack that leads to goals. Our focus is not merely on ball possession for the sake of ball possession. That does NOT lead to goals.”

Step back and carefully watch your customers and desired customers. See what you can learn from them about what they truly want and need in order to achieve their desired outcomes.

What is Obvious to You May Not Be Obvious to Your Customer


Last year I coached a seven-year-old indoor boys soccer team. Before the first game I brought all of the boys together. I said, “Tom, you play goalie. Joe, you play right defender. Matt, you play left defender. Ben, you play center midfield. Adam, you play right forward. Nathan, you play left forward. Ok, here we go.”

The boys ran out on to the field. Then Joe came running back to me. He said, “Coach Dan, I’m in kindergarten, and we haven’t covered our right from our left yet. Can you show me where you want me to play?”

What is obvious to you may not be obvious to your customer. Look at what you are saying from his or her perspective. See if it makes sense to the customer. If it’s not easy and intuitive for your customer, he or she may very well move on to your competitor.

Consider Customers from Multiple Perspectives


When you observe customers and desired customers, there is a lot to look for. Here are three questions to consider as you watch them. Pay attention to the details that your customers are communicating to you.


What decision-making personality does the potential customer primarily have while considering your product or service?

Does the person want to make a quick decision and move on? (Quick decision-maker) Does the person want to feel good about you and the product or service you are selling? (Emotional decision-maker) Does the person want to see how this purchase logically fits into his or her life? (Logical decision-maker) Does this person want to determine that making this decision is the right thing to do? (Conscientious decision-maker) Understanding the person’s personality needs in the particular situation where he or she is thinking about buying from you is a very important part of observing. Listen and watch for clues that might indicate the individual’s personality needs at that moment. Don’t assume that every customer has the same decision-making personality needs or that one type of personality is better than another or that a person will always have the same personality needs in every situation.

What is the person’s economic frame of mind?


Is the person in a penny-pinching mood or an extravagant state of mind? In 2006 some people wanted to spend an extraordinary amount of money for a new home and in 2010 the same people are searching for homes at incredibly low prices. As you sell, it’s important to understand where people are at in terms of their desire to spend money. Emphasizing the luxurious feel of a new watch won’t work when the desired customer is consumed with saving every dollar. Emphasizing frugality when the person wants to feel like he or she is splurging on a special occasion won’t go over well either.

People aren’t rushing to buy the new iPad because it’s the cheapest e-book reader around. They want to feel that they are treating themselves to the latest and greatest piece of technology.

Is it a want or a need?


Does the person want your product or service or need to have your product or service? The more you understand your desired customers, the better your chances are of seeing what they truly need. Once you see why they need your product or service, you will be in a much better position to convince them that the value you have to offer is worth the value you will be asking for from them.

Over time I’ve come to understand that an iPhone is a “need to have item” and not a “want to have item.” Somehow Apple has observed me for a number of years. They know that I’m not really in my office every day. My “office” is on the road in hotels and airports and conference centers and cars. Consequently I need everything from my office with me. Essentially I need the internet, e-mail, mapquest, a way to take notes, a way to record my ideas, photos of my family, and some good music. So now I carry my entire office in my pocket. They understood me by observing thousands and thousands of people like me. They didn’t run a focus group. They observed life carefully and created what people needed.

Selling in Multiple Industries


In the past month I’ve given keynote speeches for four extraordinary companies in four different industries. Rockwell Collins is a world leader in technology for airplane cockpits, Essilor is the world’s leading provider of eyeglass lenses, Kiewit is one of the nation’s largest construction companies, and Midwest Litigation Services provides court reporters for a wide array of lawyers. Four totally different companies in four completely different industries. Yet they are leaders in their field because they each work to understand what their desired customers truly need.

I studied each company in-depth before speaking to them, and I came to realize that each of them does a remarkably good job of observing their desired customers and then creating solutions that meet their needs. Whether you want to improve sales as an organization or as an individual salesperson, the first and most important step is to observe life carefully. Determine what your desired customers want and need. Then clearly explain why the value you have to offer is worth the value you are asking in return and demonstrate the values they want to interact with.

About Dan Coughlin

Visit Dan Coughlin’s Free Resource Center on Business Acceleration at www.thecoughlincompany.com. There you can sign up for his free, monthly e-newsletter, The Business Acceleration Newsletter.

Dan Coughlin teaches practical and inspiring ideas on how to improve business performance. He is a business keynote speaker, management consultant, executive coach, and author of four books on leadership, sales, branding, and innovation. His books include Accelerate, Corporate Catalysts, The Management 500, and Find a Way to Win. His clients include GE Capital, Prudential, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Marriott, Boeing, Abbott, Toyota, Subway, Kiewit, Denny’s, and the St. Louis Cardinals.

Losing Sight of the Forest

Posted October 15th, 2010 by Spence Bowthorpe with No Comments

Here at Delta Business Solutions, we launched MyVideoToolbox back in May.  We were so excited about all of the fabulous features, we devised ways of unloading everything on people all at once.

Building A Steam Engine for Referrals

Posted August 30th, 2010 by Brent Bowthorpe with No Comments

Today companies are looking to create a buzz like never before. Getting recognition and publicity has always been an objective of companies, but the tools and the possibilities have changed and the results are more evident. The common vernacular is “going viral.”

It’s Not the Hamburger

Posted August 13th, 2010 by Spence Bowthorpe with 1 Comment

Do you know anyone who can make a better hamburger than McDonald’s?  They sell hamburgers, right?  They’ve sold billions, right?  People go there every day to buy their world-class, delicious hamburgers.  I was there just the other day enjoying one of those tasty, succulent burgers that only McDonald’s can do best.

Beyond Customer Service!

Posted July 26th, 2010 by Spence Bowthorpe with 1 Comment

Getting everyone in the agency to support the strategy for the overall customer experience

By W. L. Richárd, CIC, ARM, AAI

(as published in the January 2009 issue of Rough Notes magazine)

Forget customer service. You’d be spending your precious time and resources in the wrong place. Now let me explain, customer service is an important ingredient of any agency’s success. In fact we spend a great deal of time talking about what it is and how to improve it! But customer service is only a small piece of the bigger picture that agents should be worrying about.

For example, would you focus on washing your car while the car needed brakes, tires and gas?  Hopefully not.  

Huge Ad Spending by Insurance Giants

Posted July 26th, 2010 by Spence Bowthorpe with No Comments

By NBrown

Ad spending by insurance providers hit an all time high in 2008, approaching $3.5 billion! While ad spending figures for 2009 are not readily available, the big two of Geico and Progressive combined spent close to $1.9 Billion in 2008, roughly the GDP of a small country.

2008 Ad Spending By The Numbers:

Geico – $622.7 million – Adweek.com

Progressive – $470.4 million: Adage.com

The Myth Of Relationship Selling

Posted June 26th, 2010 by Spence Bowthorpe with No Comments

by Rich Harshaw

The second you quit being the ‘best deal’ for your customer, he’ll drop you like a hot potato. Regardless of how many lunches you’ve bought him or birthdays you’ve remembered.

Every business we’ve ever consulted tells us the same thing about their sales force. They say that their industry is different from all the others and the only effective way for their salespeople to sell is to build buddy-buddy relationships with their prospects and customers. We hear it from printers, bankers, jewelers, accountants, industrial equipment manufacturers, office equipment distributors…and every other industry that sells stuff.

The Black Hole of Relationship Marketing

Posted June 13th, 2010 by Spence Bowthorpe with No Comments

I’ve had people pat themselves on the back for their fantastic ‘relationship marketing.’  They are justifiably proud of the fact that their owner or ‘super sales rep’ gets out there and makes friends, establishes relationships, and gets the loyalty of numerous customers.  The charisma and social skills of the sales rep brings business in like crazy.  Wow.  What could be better?  How can we get all of the sales reps to do this?

One problem.  Someday the sales rep leaves.  Or the owner wants to step back from the daily selling and relationship-building.  The new guy, though competent, can’t maintain the relationships.  He says, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”  Sales dwindle, relationships falter, loyalty flies out the window.