How Well Did Agents Cope With COVID?

Both brokers and carriers give themselves high marks on retaining and servicing existing policyholders. But new business is a different story.

How well have insurance-industry sales teams coped with Covid-19? In a complex industry, where brokers and carriers each have client relationships, have sales and service teams been able to maintain and expand relationships? We set out to explore those questions with a focused survey of brokers and carriers, conducted in March 2021. The full report, Insurance Relationships: Obstacles and Action Areas, written by AchieveNEXT’s Ed Wallace and Jennifer DeMello-Johnson, VP of agency services at Amerisure Insurance, can be downloaded here

Some headlines:

  • Both brokers and carriers give themselves high marks for the ability to retain and service existing policyholders, despite the disruptions of the pandemic year. 
  • A third say they are fully confident in this area, and a negligible 2.5% say they lack confidence.
  • Writing new business has not been as easy. One in 10 lack confidence, and just over a quarter describe themselves as fully confident of their capabilities. 

What accounts for the difference? Processes play a role. Much of the business of servicing existing clients is organized, automated and buttoned down. Selling is more often ad hoc and individualized and, respondents say, often inconsistently handled — a problem when work moves online. Technology also matters, especially when brokers and carriers use different systems that do not communicate with each other. Incentives are a problem. Nearly one in five -- 17.5% -- believe that sales compensation plans are actually misaligned with company goals, and there can be clear tensions between brokers and carriers. 

Compounding these challenges is the difficulty of establishing new relationships in a hybrid environment. That hypothesis resonates with what we have seen at AchieveNEXT, where we offer sales and business relationship training as part of a suite of human-capital services. My colleague Ed Wallace, co-author of the study and author of The Relationship Engine, says, “Across industries — and insurance is no exception — we see people who are superb at one-on-one selling or at working the room but are fish out of water when it comes to hybrid selling. At the same time, a lot of people who are great at selling online and on the phone need help turning transactions into relationships.” 

In fact, according to Jennifer DeMello-Johnson, “We are recommending that our agency partners adopt a 50/50 balance between one-on-one and virtual for the balance of 2021.” 

See also: ITL FOCUS: Agents & Brokers

One thing for sure is that legacy sales models will need to evolve in a way that works on technology, processes, and skills together, and that crosses broker-carrier borderlines.  

Click here for a copy of Insurance Relationships: Obstacles and Action Areas

Thomas Stewart

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Thomas Stewart

Thomas A. Stewart is the chief knowledge officer of AchieveNEXT, which helps individuals, teams and enterprises reach the next level of performance through a combination of peer-to-peer networks, research and human capital solutions.

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