Every independent agency has experienced meetings with carrier reps that fell flat. With the current hard market conditions, it’s more important than ever for independent agencies to strengthen their relationships with their carriers and reps. So what can you do to make your meetings and overall relationships with carriers more productive and fruitful for both sides? HawkSoft’s Director of Carrier Relations, Jerry Fox, shares some tips on how to approach carrier relationships based on his years of experience on each side of the table.
In this article:
- Approach the relationship as a partnership
- Keep in mind each rep's communication preferences
- Come to meetings prepared
- Ask the right questions
- Use technology to improve productivity with the carrier
Approach the relationship as a partnership
Your relationship with a carrier rep should be an equal partnership, rather than the carrier dictating the agency’s processes. Both parties are working toward the same goal: more clients and policies. Approach meetings with your carrier rep as open discussions on what each side can bring to the table, and don’t be afraid to ask questions, provide additional context, or advocate for your needs. Even if a rep is used to working with agents in a more directive fashion, this will help signal that the relationship is a two-way street.
Keep in mind each rep’s communication preferences
Just like your clients, all carrier reps are different and might prefer different methods of communication. Some may prefer to hold virtual meetings instead of in-person ones, for example. Understanding each rep’s preferences and being willing to communicate in the way that’s best for them can improve their responsiveness and build the relationship. Jerry notes that in his experience, meeting virtually doesn’t lessen the relationship and may actually cut down on distractions, but he recommends both parties be on camera as this makes it more personal and easier to build the relationship as you would in person.
Come to meetings prepared
Carrier reps may be used to dropping by the agency for ad-hoc visits, but for a meeting to be truly productive, both parties need time to prepare. Stress to your rep that their meetings with you should be scheduled in advance. Ask what they’d like to discuss and create an agenda before the meeting so you can both come prepared to speak to those topics and you won't have any surprises on the day of.
One important aspect to determine beforehand is what reports or data to prepare for the meeting. It’s vital to have real numbers on hand when talking to your rep so you can make decisions that are based on data rather than opinion. Here are some of the numbers Jerry recommends preparing for each meeting.
Data to provide carrier reps
- Carrier’s rank/position at the agency (by premium volume)
- LOB ratios such as:
- Auto vs. Home
- Commercial lines vs. personal lines
- Niche or other lines important to the carrier
- Quote vs. bind ratio (percentage of those who quote that actually bind the policy)
- Have specific quote examples ready with comparisons to other carriers if that carrier isn’t performing well – this is powerful in demonstrating why you may not be able to write the amount of business they’re looking for.
- This is especially important for new or niche markets – the carrier might not have the context they need about the market and competition yet.
Ask the right questions
A meeting with a carrier rep shouldn’t be one-sided—in addition to sharing information about your agency, you should be asking questions to understand the carrier’s current and future direction so you can find clients that are the best fit. Here are some things Jerry suggests asking:
- What LOBs is the carrier doing best in, and what are the premiums?
- What lines are they looking for more business in?
- What are their plans for the future?
- Are they currently taking rate?
- Are there any LOBs they will be discontinuing?
- Are any restrictions being added for personal or commercial lines?
- Do they provide downloads for all LOBs?
- Make sure they understand how critical it is for the agency to receive downloads on all lines. The carrier may be able to work directly with your management system to add downloads for additional LOBs, such as for agriculture policies.
- Do they offer any co-op funds your agency can make use of, such as for marketing?
- Do they do book rolls?
- Are there any changes in your contacts at the carrier, especially for underwriting?
- It’s important to make sure you have the most updated information so you can maintain a direct line to important contacts.
Use technology to improve productivity with the carrier
Having real-time data and immediate transactions between the agency and carrier is vital for growth with the carrier. Make sure you’re aware of any digital tools or connections the carrier provides aside from policy downloads, as well as those your agency management system may offer. Ask for training if needed—taking an hour or two to learn at the outset may help your agency save countless hours in the future.
Jerry shares these areas as the top places where tools may be available to transmit or autofill client and policy data, saving agencies from tedious data re-entry and possible E&O risks:
- Billing inquiry
- Policy lookup changes
- Payment upload
For example, HawkSoft’s included HawkLink for Google Chrome tool can be used to flood client and policy data from HawkSoft into any website in Chrome—including carrier websites. Hundreds of sites are already mapped in HawkLink, allowing agencies to flood data with a single click. Jerry has worked with many carriers to ensure their sites are mapped in HawkLink, and an agency can always create their own mapping if a site doesn’t have one yet, which will then automatically be used when they go to the site in future.
HawkSoft also offers API integration with many partners that offer solutions in the carrier space, such as tools that capture a customer or prospect’s current insurance policy data, provide carrier-connected mobile apps for the insured, or rate claim handling and service across carriers.
While incorporating new tools into the agency’s processes may take a little effort, it can have a huge impact on your business with carriers.
Care about carrier relationships
Your relationships with your carriers are one of your agency’s most valuable assets, and they should be handled with the same amount of care you give your clients. Approaching your interactions with carrier reps with the appropriate level of thought and preparation can help nourish active and healthy partnerships for years to come.
Autofill data to carrier websites with HawkLink
Learn how to use HawkLink for Google Chrome to easily autofill client and policy data from HawkSoft to carrier websites or other websites in Google Chrome.