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ARE YOU PREPARED FOR TAKE OFF?

Posted By Kitty Ambers, Friday, July 12, 2013

compliments of New Tech AviationAs you may know, pilots are required to review a pre-flight checklist before beginning any flight. That's why we often watch a plane land and taxi to the gate with no problem, only to find out the continuing flight is delayed because of a maintenance issue. It's this frequent and consistent review of the equipment that keeps air travel as safe as it is. There’s a lesson in this for insurance agents and brokers.

To be successful, they need to be using a similar approach for each appointment that they go on.

During Implement for Success, the second workshop leading up to the Certified Professional Insurance Agent (CPIA) professional designation, participants are provided with several different preparation checklists.

One of these preparation tools focuses on the Diagnostic Appointment and includes more than a dozen items that should be checked. A sample copy is attached. Strong agents and brokers make this checklist a part of their take-off strategy!

Do you want to learn more about developing a consistent approach to marketing and sales? Visit http://www.aimssociety.org/?page=Designation for a schedule of upcoming Insurance Success Seminars!

Photo Credit:  New Tech Aviation

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Tags:  Agency Management  AIMS Society  CPIA designation  insurance marketing and sales 

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Have a plan. Communicate it to the team. And be organized!

Posted By Kitty Ambers, Friday, June 21, 2013

I've always known that you need a vision of where you’re headed if you want to arrive. This is true in insurance agencies and other businesses. It’s true in life in general, as well.

Recently, I had the opportunity to put the concept into action across a multi-state network of resources. Here's the story....

My eldest son, Jordan, was offered a summer internship in Nashville, Tennessee. Of course, that was great news and it represented an incredible opportunity. However, Jordan somehow needed to from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia to the company intern orientation in Cleveland, Ohio and then on to Nashville. Oh, and he needed somewhere to live in Nashville. Not surprisingly, we had a very tight time-frame in which to do everything we needed to do. Pulling it off would require planning, organization, teamwork and communication.

The first challenge was finding an affordable place for Jordan to live for the three-month internship. He and I made a quick trip to Nashville to check out options, and we quickly learned that trying to find short-term accommodations in Nashville during the summer would be no easy task. I called on my network of Nashville insurance friends. Surely, I thought, someone would have a real estate connection. How right I was! As a result of my inquiries and a positive referral from an agent friend, we secured a three-month lease in a perfectly-sized studio apartment in a great location for a college kid.

The next challenge would be to furnish the place. Because of the short-term nature of the assignment, and Jordan's need to travel between his college condo and his Nashville studio apartment, we didn't want to totally relocate all of this stuff for the summer. This is where having a basic plan and communicating it to the "team" came into play! I texted friends and family a list of what we needed and, low and behold, we gathered a nice collection of chairs, tables, dishes, a bed, a dresser, area rugs and more from across several states. Then, my dear Dad and Mom took a small "detour" from Baltimore to Southern Delaware and over to Richmond, to bring their furniture contributions in their enclosed trailer, which we would use to make the move. All of this took place on a Thursday afternoon.

Jordan - All settled in!The final challenge was the move itself. Mandatory "orientation" for interns took place in Cleveland and the assignment in Nashville was to start three days later. While Jordan was driving from Virginia Tech to Cleveland and back, we were packing things up in Richmond. On Saturday, my husband and I travelled from Richmond to Blacksburg to meet up with Jordan, his clothes and his golf clubs, for the trip to Nashville. By Saturday night, we had him moved in and had a final short list of errands ready for Sunday morning!

While all of this sounds crazy, having a game plan that our entire "team" was aware of allowed everyone to play their position. Best of all, the game had a successful outcome! We totally enjoyed our trip and our time with Jordan in his new place. We were able to have a relaxing Sunday with him, touring the city and enjoying some great BBQ!

The lesson is simple: have a plan, communicate it and be organized in the execution! This lesson applies to both business and life.

Tags:  AIMS Society  CPIA designation  insurance marketing and sales  Leadership  self-improvement  teamwork 

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Win from Within

Posted By Kitty Ambers, Friday, June 14, 2013
Updated: Friday, June 14, 2013

You may have seen the commercial. One of the NBA’s leading scorers, Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma Thunder, is having a classic dream. The game is on the line in the final seconds and he has the opportunity to make the winning shot. Instead of making that shot, Miami Heat all-time leading scorer, Dwayne Wade, appears out of nowhere and in a showing of tremendous strength, blocks Durant's winning opportunity.

Durant wakes with a start. His glorious dream has turned into a nightmare because he was outplayed. Durant immediately jumps out of bed and hits the street running. He's then shown lifting weights, training and practicing hard in an empty gym. The commercial is for Gatorade products, featured as the fuel that makes the hard work pay off.

The final scene of the commercial shows Durant with the opportunity to tie the game. This time, he rises above his opponent - D. Wade - and makes the shot. The tables have turned and Wade is now living the nightmare! The message: "Win from Within".

Have you ever had a similar dream-turn-nightmare scenario about your business? If so, here are three ideas addressed during CPIA 1 - Position for Success that can help you and your team win from within.

(1) Know Yourself – Take time to look in the mirror. What are the strengths and experiences that you bring to the playing field? Are you maximizing them? What are your weaknesses and what potential threats do they create? What habits do you have that may be sabotaging your success? What fuels you to work hard to improve in some way every day? Assess your personal capabilities and honestly consider areas for improvement. Have each member of your team do the same.

(2) Know the Organization You Represent – Most firms have a catchy tag line or mission statement. Go beyond that. What is the organization all about? Specifically, talk with your team about things like:

· What do we do well?

· Where do we have unique experience or expertise?

· How diligent are we at collectively building relationships through our communication and problem-solving abilities?

· Where do we – collectively – need to improve?

Involve everyone in the organization in this effort. The viewpoints from the positions your team members play can provide tremendous insight.

(3) Take Action – Like Durant jumped out of bed and hit the street to begin training harder, adopt a sense of urgency. Based on what you have gleaned from your assessment of yourself and your organization, get to work! Make a plan that leverages strengths and minimizes weaknesses – both personally and as a team. Determine who plays which position(s) best, develop a disciplined and consistent approach to training, keep score, communicate lessons learned from wins and losses, and keep practicing!

"Most people have the will to win, few have the will to prepare to win," says Bobby Knight. Be among those who are diligent about preparation and watch your team Win from Within.

When you're ready to get to work, we hope you'll include the AIMS Society and our CPIA Seminar series as your training partner! Visit www.aimssociety.org for more information and a schedule of upcoming events.

Tags:  AIMS Society  CPIA designation  insurance marketing and sales  Leadership  self-improvement  teamwork 

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Intentional Networking to Boost Retention

Posted By Kitty Ambers, Monday, June 10, 2013

In today’s business environment, service expectations are high. Communication is immediate. Everyone has heightened knowledge and information. What sets businesses and people apart is the relationships they build and, more important, maintain.

Kitty Ambers, AIMS Society Executive DirectorI recently had the opportunity to take part in the Insurance Journal "On Point” podcast, hosted by Peter van Aartrijk and Rick Morgan from Aartrijk. One of the things we talked about was the importance of good relationships.

Networking is a key part of relationship-building, and it’s one of the concepts we address quite thoroughly in our CPIA insurance education program. In its simplest form, networking is outreach. It involves getting out in front of people and trying to educate them on everything from who we are and what sets us apart to how we can help them solve a problem and why we’re a good resource to do so.

Networking concepts are the same, whether you’re talking about a business-to-business scenario or whether we’re dealing business-to-consumer. It’s really all about building relationships and educating people. How we choose to network and the tools we choose to employ or deploy within our organizations can be totally different, based on demographics. By that, we mean demographics of the communicators and of the people we’re trying to reach.

Networking can involve face-to-face outreach and interaction, like taking part in BNI meetings and Chamber of Commerce or Rotary events in our local communities. The same concepts apply to all of the social media tools that are now available, and how they apply to, perhaps, a different audience. That’s just one part of the puzzle—often the pre-sale part.

Once a policy is written, the whole sales cycle begins again, as we look to re-earn the business and renew the account. Even after the sale is made, networking continues to take place. It’s often less intentional, though. Once we’ve brought on a customer, we continue to interact in a number of ways. We continue to educate, and we continue to have opportunities to build relationships. Unfortunately, we also have an opportunity to destroy relationships.

Anyone can mess up an existing relationship by how they interact with a client. It could be the way somebody answers the phone. It could be how a loss control person interacts with a client. It could be what happens as a claims rep settles a claim. That’s why it’s important to be intentional about networking, education and relationships with existing clients, and not just new ones.

This is a concept that our Certified Professional Insurance Agent (CPIA) education participants find valuable. And it’s one that resonates with principals, as well. They realize that it can take up to four renewals before an account starts generating true profit for an agency. So while networking is important in creating relationships and in boosting close ratios, it’s an equally important skill when it comes to maintaining relationships and bolstering retention rates.

Tags:  Aartrijk  AIMS Society  CPIA designation  Insurance Journal  insurance marketing and sales 

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Reminder: It Starts at the Top!

Posted By Kitty Ambers, Monday, June 3, 2013

If you’re ever in Independence, Missouri, you may want to visit the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum. There, for under ten bucks, you’ll be able to check out exhibits, see displays, and get a deeper insight into Truman, his presidency and more.

As you pass by Truman’s desk, be sure not to miss the sign at the front of it, which offers a popular lesson in leadership: "The Buck Stops Here.” It’s a phrase that Truman became known for and it recognizes that, ultimately, the person in charge is responsible for whatever happens—good or bad. However, it’s a reactive motto.

Its proactive cousin might be, "The Buck Starts Here.” In that phrase lies the leadership lesson that the person in charge needs to set the direction for the organization. Few successful principals would argue that taking ownership of the agency’s direction is vital to maximizing its value.

This effort begins with a vision. What does your organization stand for? Where is it headed? What will success look like when you and your people live out the vision? While others in the organization can—and should—help in spelling out the vision, in the end, it’s the principal or owner who is responsible for institutionalizing it.

Once a leader formulates the vision, the next step is sharing it. Make sure management understands the vision and how it affects day-to-day priorities and activities. Be certain that all employees understand it, as well. Find opportunities to share and reinforce it as often as possible, and to inspire your people to live it out. The vision needs to be crystal clear in the minds of all employees.

With a clear vision, it’s possible to create a mission statement—a public-facing statement that clearly and succinctly defines your organization and its purpose. The statement should be short, memorable and, most important, measurable. It serves as the foundation for your action plans and provides the benchmark against which you and your staff can execute, monitor and adjust your plans.

This may sound simple. On paper, perhaps, it is. In reality, it requires constant attention. Successful leaders practice consistent discipline in order to maintain focus on the vision and mission. Much of their success involves constantly working on their own leadership skills.

Success also calls for a relentless approach to finding, recruiting and retaining the best talent. In addition, it requires regular reinforcement of the vision and frequent training and education to equip staff to live it out.

By taking a deliberate approach to the notion that "The Buck Starts Here,” you can find success and realize maximum value within your organization.

Tags:  Agency Management  AIMS Society  CPIA designation  Leadership 

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