by Nelson L. Griswold
File this under “Man Bites Dog.” It’s that unusual. You possibly won’t believe what I’m about to tell you…but it’s entirely true.
I was having dinner in Texas with our client and Agency Growth Mastermind Partner Will Heavin, an extremely progressive & successful owner of a benefits firm in Corpus Christi. When prompted by Tina Durand, his top producer, who was at table with us, Will told me about what he and his agency do to show their appreciation for their primary carrier partner. I was stunned and basically speechless… to the extent that is possible with me.
The story that Will told me is, in my substantial experience, unprecedented and unheard of. This agency owner has turned the usual broker/carrier relationship on its head. And his business is profiting greatly from it. All as a result of doing the right thing.
Will’s firm is a major player in the small group market in their part of Texas. Humana is the dominant small group carrier in this area.
One year, when in Green Bay for Humana’s annual Broker Experience event for their premier agencies, instead of being taken to dinner by Humana, Will took all of Humana’s small group account executives, sales reps and underwriters out to dinner, a treat for all of the work they do to support his firm.
Let me ask you what you do for your clients to show them your appreciation? What do you do to demonstrate how much you appreciate their trust and loyalty? How do you show your gratitude?
Yes, you read that right…the broker took the carrier staff to dinner. As I said, not the usual order of things. Outrageous, actually.
But that’s not all. Over the years, Will and his staff have been highly creative in giving back to Humana’s home office team as a way of saying “Thank you.”
Another year, they commissioned a poet (where do you even find a poet?!) to write a poem for each of the Humana departments – underwriting, account management and sales – and presented each with the poem done in calligraphy and beautifully framed.
Then there’s the year that Will and his team took about 40 (!) Humana small group executives out to an elegant dinner in Green Bay…complete with harpist! And Will even flew in a sales trainer he had utilized with his producers to provide the program for the execs. He then presented the executives with a crystal award that celebrated “The Spirit of Partnership.” Indeed.
Yet another year, Will gave each underwriter a jewelry necklace that was custom made by Tina Durand in his office, who creates fine jewelry as a hobby. The necklace was presented personally to each underwriter in a beautiful jewelry case engraved with the underwriter’s name. Can you imagine the reaction of the Humana underwriters?
Tina told me that she only has to say, “This is Tina in Texas” when she calls underwriting and every underwriter knows who she is. And do we think that Will and his agency receive every possible concession available on underwriting?
Very useful. But that’s not why Will does what he does.
When I asked Will if I could write about what he has done for Humana, I assured him that no other agency would copy him. His response? Will said, “I wish more people would treat others like they deserve to be treated.”
So what should be your takeaway from Will’s outrageous behavior? Well, no, don’t think you have to treat your carrier partners to fine dinners.
But let me ask you what you do for your clients to show them your appreciation? What do you do to demonstrate how much you appreciate their trust and loyalty? How do you show your gratitude?
At the very least, you should start by sending every client a handwritten thank you note. Consider sending your clients a book or audiobook that they would enjoy…perhaps on their hobby, a business leader they admire, or investing or some other aspect of personal finance. Or maybe a motivational book that has inspired you. Include a note of gratitude for their business.
What about an appreciation event for your clients? One broker in Philadelphia hosts an annual client event that features the Philly Phanatic, the beloved mascot of the Major League Phillies baseball team. Attendees can get their picture taken with the Phanatic… standing in front of a backdrop that is branded to the agency. The broker frames the pictures and sends them to his clients. I wonder how many homes and offices proudly display that agency’s name and logo?
For your group clients, you can provide all the employees with a treat. A benefits firm I know delivers fresh, hot-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies (in agency-branded tins) every month to all of their clients. Not surprisingly, the clients eagerly anticipate their adviser’s monthly visit.
Another of our agency clients hires a massage therapist to set up for the day at the offices of her best commercial clients. Every employee gets a free 15-minute massage…and the owner gets an hour-long massage.
For your best clients, think about treating them to an elegant dinner out. One benefits agency owner I know invites four to six couples from his “A-List” clients to dinner at a top local restaurant… where he arranges for a private tour of the kitchen and for the chef to come by the table before each course to describe the upcoming course. What a unique and fun experience for the guests…and all thanks to their benefits adviser. Think they’ll remember him…and tell their friends & colleagues in other firms about the fantastic evening he provided? Be sure to include your spouse…you take the relationships to a new and more personal level.
Showing your gratitude and appreciation to your clients can be as simple as sending a handwritten thank you card or as elaborate as a client appreciation event. You can invest as little as the cost of a greeting card or the cost of a fine dining experience for 12. Your choice.
But I do urge you to choose to show your appreciation regularly to your clients. They are, after all, the reason for your current – and future – success.