If you are a freelance agent considering joining a network, you probably want to know what networks can offer you. Access to the top 10 carriers is often the top priority on an agency’s wish list. It therefore stands to reason that you should look for a network that can attract the best operators.
What do carriers want? Operators turn to networks for six main reasons: access, reach, quality, collaboration, agility and organic growth of new business. It turns out that what’s good for the carrier is also good for the agency. Let’s take a closer look.
If you’re a freelance agent struggling to gain access to top carriers, you might be surprised to learn that carriers can also struggle to gain access to freelance agents.
Yes, insurers often have high filing requirements which can become a barrier for agents trying to use more than one market to do what is best for each client. At the same time, carriers that use independent agents are absolutely dependent on those agents for sales. Therefore, they are looking for top notch agents who can sell their products wisely and efficiently.
A great network connects carriers to quality agents who aren’t usually part of their distribution network. It’s a win-win.
The reach is to cast a wider net. You can’t sell to prospects who don’t know you. Well, it’s the same for carriers.
Carriers may not be present in all cities of all sizes in all states. Independent agents offer carriers the opportunity to be represented in a greater number of agencies so that they can penetrate the market effectively. Also consider how freelance agents can be the “tip of the spear” in regions experiencing dramatic growth.
Operators can use the networks to access and expand into cities and other areas where they would otherwise not have a presence. This allows carriers to extend their reach and, conversely, helps agents who sell the carrier’s products. With the help of specialized carrier training to guide them through the process, as well as local mentorship from their network, these agents can enter and enter markets where they may have had limited previous experience.
“There are many traits and characteristics necessary to become a successful agent,” says Gerald Ladner, vice president – strategic agency partnerships and external affairs at State Auto Insurance.
“The insurance industry evolves like all other industries. Changes happen all the time, and it’s essential to stay current with state policies and regulations and meet continuing education requirements. Good agents are committed to keeping up to date and understanding all aspects of the products they sell, as well as how they fit into a client’s risk management needs. They must also anticipate new trends and opportunities,” he explains.
Carrier production requirements can be frustrating, but carriers use them because they want to work with agents who have what it takes to succeed and who will represent the carrier well in the marketplace. Specifically, they want agents who write smart deals and have the business acumen, knowledge, and cross-selling skills to get ahead. Creating media production requirements is one way to achieve quality. Working with networks is another.
Network agents have access to a wealth of training through carrier and local network mentorship, helping them stay at the forefront of the industry. Guidance and coaching from experienced network leaders means that agents who work with networks tend to operate at a higher level to generate better quality business for carriers, which can be positive for agents and carriers alike. .
The networks continually take the pulse of the industry to see what’s happening now and to predict what might happen next. To do this, they need information from many sources, including carriers.
While networks certainly benefit from the influence and connections of the carrier, carriers also benefit from the information the network offers.
Agents are another key piece of the puzzle. They are the feet in the street — the ones who make the sales and take care of the customers and their needs every day.
When agents have a problem, the network can contact the carrier to find a solution. Networks act as an intermediary between carriers and agents, facilitating an efficient process that produces real results.
Rodney Ledford, vice president, national partners, for small businesses at Chubb, explains that Chubb started working with a network because they wanted to see how they could benefit from a strategic partnership. “It’s really a great partnership with a lot of collaboration.”
“With crisis comes opportunity,” says Joan Woodward, Founder and President of the Traveler’s Institute, Traveler’s thought leadership and public policy platform. She explains that the market is moving fast, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. “There is this real window that you have to take advantage of at the moment. It’s a good time to go out and grow,” she says.
The insurance industry can sometimes move slowly, which is a problem when insurers need to expand quickly into a new niche or geographic area. Wasted time is lost opportunity.
By working with a network, carriers gain the agility to grow and pivot quickly. Agents also benefit. If a new niche market emerges, an agency has a much better chance of seizing the opportunity through its network of access to products and services.
“Sometimes it feels like chaos, and the proliferation of changes can be overwhelming,” says Woodward. “But I truly believe there are great opportunities for agents here. It’s critical that they seek out resources that can help them stay abreast of changes in our industry – both what affects us now and what awaits us in the years to come,” she adds.
Marc Behrhorst, national relations manager for Safeco and Liberty Mutual, agrees that agents need to adapt. “You can either accept and adapt or get crushed,” he says. “Investing in the business and looking for ways to diversify are definitely good endeavors for agencies to consider.”
By providing agencies with market access, training, and coaching, an effective network can help agencies achieve organic growth of 20% or more.
Agents aren’t the only ones hungry for this growth. Carriers want it too. When they roll out national growth plans, a network partner can help them execute.
As Ledford explains, “When you expand nationally, different geographies have different product needs, CAT exposures, and competitive environments.”
A national network with a ready and skilled distribution force can help carriers quickly enter new markets.
If you want to find the best network, look for one that appeals to the top 10 carriers by providing access, reach, quality, collaboration, agility, and organic new business growth. If the network is good for the carriers, chances are it’s also a good partnership for your agency. It’s a win-win.