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Selling good decisions: agents and brokers will be more successful if they demonstrate they know just as much about their clients as they do about financial products.

Clients have always wanted their brokers or agents to be people they can trust. That's because what they are buying is not merely a financial or risk management product, but the right decision about what combination and structuring of products and services they should have for their unique situation.

To stand out among competitors, brokers and agents must go beyond being technically expert about the products and services that are available to clients. They must become experts about the clients themselves. The value brokers and agents present to clients should not be merely that of an intermediary for the acquisition of insurance or other risk and financial products and services.

Brokers and agents are seen as experts on the products and services they offer but are not generally thought of as having significant knowledge and insights about their clients. Clients want to be sure that they are buying the right products and services for their circumstances and that they have not overlooked a financial or risk area with which they are not familiar.

Broker and agent professionals must deliver to clients the ability to understand, evaluate, and select among the options available to address their particular financial or risk situation. The agent/broker must be seen as more than just someone who is proficient at executing the product transaction on behalf of the client and be responsive to their questions, but also as a professional the clients can rely on to counsel them on how to reach the best decision about the financial products and structures available to them. This requires more than expertise and technical knowledge of the products and services available but also a deep understanding of the client, their situation and their knowledge of the available products and services. Those who can do so will be the professionals clients will prefer.

To deliver fully for clients, agents and brokers must go beyond technical product and service expertise and become experts on the clients, whether the clients are individuals or businesses. Brokers and agents are sought out by clients to help them make and implement important financial decisions. The more the broker/agent can demonstrate knowledge of the clients and their needs, the better they can leverage their technical product/service knowledge for the clients' benefit, and, just as important, the more the clients will feel they can trust and work with the broker/agent.

To accomplish this, the broker/agent must do his or her homework. They must research the client to identify the client's circumstances, likely financial and risk needs and experience with financial and risk management principles, tools and techniques.

For individual and small business clients, most of this information can be obtained directly from the client. The process of collecting the information should be viewed as an opportunity to demonstrate to the client the broker's or agent's desire to provide the best service possible and as an opportunity to exhibit financial and risk management expertise.

For larger business clients, much of the information may he gotten from public sources, including analyst reports, news articles and executive profiles. The more prepared the broker or agent is with knowledge about the client, the more impressed the client will be.

Applying information about the client in conjunction with the broker's/agent's financial and risk management expertise should be done, at least in part, with the client's active involvement in the thought processes. This has two significant benefits. One, the client is more likely to recognize and appreciate the broker's or agent's expertise when they see it in action. Two, the client will feel there is more of a partnering relationship with the broker or agent through working together. This also assists the broker or agent to refine his or her understanding of the client's financial and risk knowledge, as well as needs for finance and risk products and services.

For the broker/agent, being viewed as a trusted adviser to a client can lead to an expansion of the business transacted between them, increased referrals and improved client loyalty. To achieve the status of trusted adviser is not easy and requires research, refined consultative skills and time with the client.

The effort is significant, but once achieved, the status of trusted adviser benefits both the client and the broker/agent.

Gregory Hoeg, a Best's Review is a senior vice president of Willis Group Ltd. He can be reached at
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Comment:Selling good decisions: agents and brokers will be more successful if they demonstrate they know just as much about their clients as they do about financial products.
Author:Hoeg, Gregory
Publication:Best's Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2006
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