DEVELOPING INDUSTRY RELATIONSHIPS
WITH OTHERS AND CLIENTS
How can you find a superhero team to achieve common goals?
By Jeremy T. Wittenbaum
I had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Sean Givler, senior vice president of commercial lines at The Cincinnati Insurance Company. I asked him what piece of advice he would give to an energetic, hungry, and coachable incoming insurance producer. He put his head down, thought for a second, then looked back up and emphasized the need to have a superhero team surrounding you.
But where does this team originate from? How do they assemble to reach a common goal? These two questions can apply to building relationships with others in the insurance industry as well as with clients.
I’ve learned that I might not always know the answer to the question I’m being asked, but if I know where to go to find the answer, I will always find my way. The key is to have a bucket of resources that you can reach out to when you do not know where else to go.
This bucket of resources does not magically wash ashore. A lot of time and effort goes into filling up that bucket.
The first resource I put into my industry bucket is a fellow independent agent located in New York City. I blindly reached out to him on LinkedIn in December 2020, not thinking anything would come of it. Just nine minutes later I got a message back saying he’d love to set up some time to meet with me. Since then, he and I communicate often and bounce ideas back and forth. He is a second-generation insurance advisor at his family’s agency.
I have connections like this with other agents in a bunch of cities around the United States. As our agency is licensed in 43 states and Washington, D.C., there are times when I connect with agent colleagues and ask for advice when we have a client in their neck of the woods.
There are many other ways to fill up your industry bucket without blindly reaching out to other industry professionals. One way is to reach out to and become familiar with the contacts at the carriers you represent. I am lucky in the fact that I’ve worked for two fantastic insurance companies and can use the relationships I’ve built at each company to my advantage. That’s one thing about the insurance industry I’ve learned: Most people are willing to help you. Don’t be afraid to ask.
Another piece of advice is that this industry is large but extremely small at the same time. As you begin to build your network, you will find connections between two people that you would never have imagined. This ties into the theory that we are six or fewer social connections away from one another and why LinkedIn is such a useful resource when filling your bucket. Attending a few carrier events and putting a face to the name you work with is imperative in the process of curating your industry relationships.
Next, once you fill up your industry bucket, how do you assemble everyone to reach a common goal? We are currently in one of, if not the, hardest insurance markets ever. Insurance companies are strengthening their underwriting guidelines; raising rates due to inflationary pressures, nuclear verdicts, and underwriting losses; and asking more questions than ever.
The key as a producer is making sure you get the carrier to achieve the level of comfort level your agency team has with a risk. The insurance company cannot help you with what they do not know.
In my time as an underwriter at Cincinnati Insurance Company, I worked with one producer who sent in 10- to 15-minute videos with his submissions. He fully explained the risk and the exposures involved with their operations. Sometimes he even went out to his prospective client and included pictures of the location. His storytelling is what made the insurance company’s comfort level jump to where it may not have otherwise been.
Sometimes it’s as easy as picking up the phone and calling an underwriter about a new risk. This simple yet seemingly lost tactic is becoming a lost art. Remember, you are your brand. Showcase your skills.
with clients can be tricky and can be compared to walking along a tight rope.
You want to build relationships with your clients,
but when is the right time to step forward and take
that initiative so you don’t fall flat on your face?
Now, let’s switch gears and move to the client’s point of view. Developing relationships with clients can be tricky and can be compared to walking along a tight rope. You want to build relationships with your clients, but when is the right time to step forward and take that initiative so you don’t fall flat on your face?
I am still new to the agency side in my advisor/producer role. However, I have already developed relationships with a plethora of our client base and centers of influence in the Cincinnati area.
The most difficult part about making relationships with clients is getting started. At our agency, we sent out an email to all clients announcing my employment at S P Agency, Inc. This prompted some clients to reach out to me, which in turn allowed me to formally introduce myself. To build onto this generic email, we posted all over social media about my employment at the agency. The social media posts resonate more with the younger generation, where there is the largest insurance knowledge gap.
Your clients are a part of your superhero team. We have a relationship with a roofer in town who acted as a superhero for us on a Friday night when it was pouring down rain and a client needed their roof patched so the building would not sustain large amounts of damage. Your clients will call on you in times of need and you will call on your clients in times of need; it is a two-way street.
Insurance is not a topic taught in most schools. If I did not go to school specifically for insurance, I would have no idea what type of insurance I need to buy, where to buy it from, and how to buy it.
When we are approached by someone for insurance purposes, the goal is not to find them the cheapest priced option and hope they buy it. Rather, we assemble to discuss their current insurance program, understand their pain points, and provide a comprehensive program to better protect the individual, family, or business’s current and future assets.
There are levels of insurance that those commercials on television won’t tell you. As you march on in your insurance career, your knowledge will help develop relationships with your clients. They will trust you and the recommendations you make regarding their insurance program.
From there, the relationship between you and your client becomes like a well-oiled machine. You begin to understand how they operate, and they understand how your team operates. Make sure your client is familiar with everyone at your company whom they would need to ever contact.
To wrap up, to succeed in this industry, you need a superhero team that will come together to achieve a common goal. It may take some time to find the right team to find success with; however, once that team is assembled, watch out, because that’s when the fun begins.
I am lucky enough to be able to work with my grandparents, father, and uncle every single day. Part of my superhero team was already assembled at the onset of my career.
The insurance industry is large, but you will find out how small it really is. Find your niche, develop relationships with industry professionals and clients, and make sure to have fun in the process. The relationships you build will sometimes last a lifetime and run through multiple generations.
Jeremy T. Wittenbaum is a third-generation personal/commercial insurance advisor, working alongside his father, uncle, and grandparents, at S P Agency, Inc., in Cincinnati, Ohio. He graduated summa cum laude, in three years, from The Ohio State University in 2022 with a degree in insurance, and currently holds the AINS and ARM designations. He spent a total of two years working for two insurers: Berkley One (a W.R. Berkley Company) and Cincinnati Insurance Company. Jeremy loves insurance and looks forward to helping his clients solve all their complex insurance problems.