Joel Zwicker on the Connected Insurance Podcast presented by Agency Revolution

He’s dialed more than 17,000 agents & brokers. This is what they are telling him right now.

What’s the mood of the independent insurance agency today? What do the best of the best do differently?

To help find out, Michael Jans sought out the one person who may have spoken to more agents & brokers than anyone alive. 

Joel Zwicker talks to agents & brokers for a living. He’s had thousands of in-depth conversations – often stretching over multiple months. As a former insurance agent for 11 years and current Business Development Team Leader at Agency Revolution, Joel gets a unique insight into the psychology of today’s agent. 

Here’s what he’s discovering right now:

  • The conversation has changed in the last three years. Joel shares what he sees happening and what causes agents to think differently than they did before. 
  • Where top-performing agents are putting their attention (and, why most agents don’t think that way).
  • How more and more agents are focusing on customer experience and customer journey – instead of just getting them in the door. 

If you have time for one conversation on the state of the retail agent—and what top performers do differently—please, do not miss this podcast. Joel delivers some surprises and remarkable insight into the independent agent today, and what it takes to succeed. 

What are other agents & brokers doing to thrive? What are the biggest trends affecting the retail insurance agent & broker? What are the most important strategies and tactics you need to grow faster? Find out here in the Connected Insurance Podcast, where our hosts discuss the biggest issues affecting the independent insurance agent & broker with the industry’s leading figures.


Michael: Joel Zwicker. Joel, how are you?

Joel Zwicker: Not too bad Michael, and yourself?

Michael: I’m doing just fine. Thank you very much. For starters, if you would, full disclosure you and I go back like a million years, do you have any idea how long it is?

Joel: I think it’s– [crosstalk]

Michael: How old is your daughter?

Joel: Exactly my daughter is 12 years old, she turns 13 this fall. Of course, it’s not so well documented, but a well-known fact that one of our first engagements was one of your events in Chicago, and she was born while I was at that said event.

Michael: [laughs] I do recall. I think that was the first time that we met. You were an active client for many, many years. Then as I recall, when I was the CEO of Agency Revolution, we had the privilege of hiring you, because you had left the brokerage where you were a producer, or a manager, or both. We had the opportunity to hire you. That was a whole bunch of years ago, when was that?

Joel: That would have been summer of 2015, I left the agency or brokerage I was at. As silly as it may sound, I was obviously excited when you reached out to me, and–

Michael: Nothing silly about that, I think. [laughs]

Joel: The silly part- for me it’s very rare in life, a lot of us have that entrepreneurial spirit, we start our own businesses, but then if we were going to go work for someone else, very few of us have the opportunity to go work for a company that you believe in wholeheartedly. I certainly knew that I wouldn’t have made it to where I was within the industry without your help, your team’s help.

For me to accept that role with Agency Revolution was really a bit of a dream come true. I will tell you it was rather unique that my first trip out to Bend, Oregon to sit in the first Monday morning team meeting and look around, and all of a sudden, I was on the other side of the table. I went from client to being part of the team, and I was nervous, I’ll be honest, but I was so excited, and it was surreal.

I think it would be pertinent, and I would not forgive myself if I didn’t thank you for that opportunity. Also thank you for everything that happened for me in my business career, professional career, over the last- I guess we’re talking almost 13 years.

Michael: You’ve been a great teammember, and you’ve certainly reciprocated by making great contributions. In a moment, I need to tell people why I think this interview is really important. I will get to that in a second, but to just to follow up on what you just said, I’m not just saying nice words, you’re actually killing it in sales, and you’ve been doing that consistently for a long time. You’ve been a great contribution to the company, which I no longer own. Thank you for that.

Joel: My pleasure.

Michael: That being said, here’s what I find particularly interesting about this conversation. I’ve had now well over a hundred guests on the podcast, thought leaders, CEOs and insure tech startups, agents. You’re the first guest who I think does something unique to all of the other guests in that you talk to agents and brokers every day, all day. [laughs] Let’s say you’ve been doing that for roughly four years, I think.

You have had thousands and thousands of conversations. Part of what I want to discern in this conversation with you Joel is one, what do you think is the mood now, what are people saying now, what are you hearing now? Then I’m particularly interested in how is that different than it was perhaps three or four years ago? Boom, I’m going to throw that out and let you start where you want to and we’ll take it from there.

Joel: Right now today there’s definitely a much more openness to have a discussion about communication, marketing, and doing something different within the agency that we didn’t see three or four years ago. You’d always have those good conversations, but then most were like, “Ah, that’s not for us, that’s not our agency,” we’re a little different because and the reasons we’re always the same for every agency.

Now we’ve moved towards that more and more people want to have that conversation. The people that truly think their agency is different, and they don’t need things like better communication strategy, better growth strategy, better marketing plan, what have you is far– More people are open to that conversation today than they were three years ago.

Michael: For me, the critical question is, to the best of your ability, can you answer why you think that is? I’ll throw out a couple of options, one is because external forces are changing in such a manner that people are saying, “Oh my gosh, I need to do something.” Two is that to some extent new exposure to new technologies gives them more credibility. What do you think is going on?

Because [laughs] for leadership in a software company, what you’re saying now is magic, people are more open. The question is has the market matured, or have we just been out there long enough where folks are like, “There’s some credibility behind the message.” What’s going on?

Joel: I think it’s all of the above, we’ll go with answer D on that one. I think that technology has matured. I think as an industry we’re overall generally slower to pick up on it, but we always do make the change. Now I think we’re in the make the change mentality, and I think more and more people are realizing it, it could be a fight-or-flight type of situation. Maybe they’ve started to feel the pressures of not doing anything.

If I want to provide something for whether it’s my family’s future, or I want to provide something for my future, or whatever the case is, I need to do something different because the way we’ve done it just doesn’t cut it anymore. Do you get what I mean?

Michael: All right, okay, let me ask you this one. A lot of my guests have been to- relatively bullish on the independent agency system, and part of my job is to discern how accurate that bullishness is. In other words, if they’re feeling like, “Hey, this is a channel that’s got a really good future, a really bright future.” I need to discern to some extent, are there any biases that are affecting that opinion?

Is there any confirmation bias like, “This is my career, I’m going to look for all the information that supports going in the right direction.” What I’m trying to discern is what do you think the mood of the independent agency system is like at the retail level right now, that’s motivating that openness?

Joel: I think it’s the idea that they want to remain in control. I think an agency owner wants to stay that way. In most cases, they don’t want to become a producer for some maybe larger company that has bought them, or whatever have you. They want to maintain that control of their agency, and they understand that in order to do so you need to grow. The minute you’re not growing, you’re done.

Michael: I’m going to ask you, this is a weird question maybe, but I’m going to ask you to let’s look at this at the emotional level, as opposed to the behavioral one. Again Joel, as a guest you’ve got this unique perspective, I don’t know how many agents you talk to or how many dials you make a week, but you talk to a lot because it’s all day long. Are they worried, are they excited, what do you think- kind of the emotional tone?

Because agencies are living in a world that’s a little bit different. The world’s a little topsy-turvy, the industry’s going through a lot of change. Some people would say that waters are a little bit rough, you got to navigate your way through it. In fact, I’ll even add something to what I said before, the bullishness that I hear from some of my guests is always conditional.

It’s not bullish on every agency, it’s bullish on agencies who embrace the future and who embrace the tools and the strategies that are appropriate for the modern age. For example, when I interviewed Rich Savino, National Agent of the year, again, pretty bullish on the industry, but he made it very clear, I’m quoting him almost verbatim where he said, “Not every agency is going to make the boat.” Again, I’m going to circle back to you, on an emotional tone, how would you measure the mood of the industry right now, from the agency principal point of view?

Joel: Getting back to put some credence behind your comment, you talk to agents all day, every day just for listeners. I look at this number, just to give you some perspective, I’ve made 17,000 outbound dials in the last three years. Factor that in to give you idea how many agencies I actually talk to. With that said, I do think there’s an understanding that they need to change. Now, I would say there’s a percentage that are very open to it. They have a very defined vision of what they want for their agency.

I’m always excited to have that conversation, to learn about what they see for their agency. It’s not always going to be the same. It shouldn’t be the same from agency to agency. You have that- I think there’s a level of fear, not in a fear that their business is going to go away, it’s a fear of what to do next. I know I need to do something, I know I need to make changes, I know I need to use technology, but I’m a little bit scared because it’s foreign to me.

Michael: They need some kind of path and plan.

Joel: Yes, 100%.

Michael: By the way, if you don’t mind me asking you this. You are the first, outside of my delivery with my own client base, the first trainer in the five-level of Modern Insurance Agency methods, so to speak. Tell me a little bit about that story because I think to some extent, part of what that attempts to answer is the need for a clarity and the need for a path and plan, the need for the next step. I did get a kick out of that story you told me yesterday, if you wouldn’t mind.

Joel: Of course, here we have a great relationship partnership with the Keystone and church group. Their executive director, George Win has become a good friend and is familiar with you as well, has been a fan of yourself, Michael, for some time. I was going to their Pennsylvania partners meeting, and they reached out a few days, I think it’s actually week or so prior and said, “Hey, can you present on the idea of the five levels of the Modern Insurance Agency?” Like any good person, I said, “Yes, of course.”

Michael: Like any sales rep, “Yes, naturally.”

Joel: Like any sales rep, “Yes, of course. I can do that.” I hang up the phone, then I quickly realized I better study this a little bit. On my travels down there, I listened to that podcast, which if you’re listening to this, and you do not listen to the five levels of the Modern Insurance Agency, you need to do so. I think it’s a case study for this industry.

Michael: Thank you. That’s generous.

Joel: I get into that, and really, it really just makes a whole lot of sense. As the story goes, I get down there, had this great matter of fact conversation with a room full of- obviously, Pennsylvania agencies about where are you in that transition, but more importantly what is your vision for your agency? What does it mean to be acquired of your agency? If the answer to your question- to that question, if I were to ask you today, what does it mean to be a client of your agency, and you tell me great customer service, that’s not it. That’s not it. That’s what every single agency in the country is believed in saying– [crosstalk]

Michael: “I have a unique idea that nobody thought of before, we’re going to take really good care of our customers.” Obviously, I don’t want to minimize the importance of that. It’s just that most don’t have a comprehensive strategy with which to deliver on that. Back to the mood of the industry, my sense is, I’m looking to you for some confirmation or affirmation on this, is that there is a little bit of uncertainty, there’s still some confidence about the industry in general, some people, some anxiety but a sort of desperate desire for clarity of path and plan on how to deal with this new modern age of insurance. Does that seem accurate?

Joel: Yes, I would 100% agree with that statement.

Michael: Okay. Now that said, I have another question because now, if we look at the industry, it does divide up into some chunks and you can divide it a million different ways, but one way which has been interesting for me and interesting working with my clients is to recognize is that there are agencies that are run by boomers. This is the group that is largely looking for the acquisition or they’re waiting for the acquisition.

You’ve got agencies who are run by millennials or Gen X-ers, and they have a long strategic horizon and then, you’ve got this third group of agencies who are in transition where generation two is beginning to take over. There’s discussions between generation one and generation two and there’s a little bit of fussing about where the authority and the responsibility is, and so on and so forth. Now, you with your 17,000 outbound calls, what are you discovering? Are you finding much of a difference in generational attitude?

Joel: I do. You’ve laid it out perfectly and that’s exactly what we see. In these generational situations, it’s one of those things. The preconceived notion is that a younger generation would be more open to technology.

Michael: Let me just pause for a second, and maybe in fairness, a number of the millennial or Gen X guests on this podcast series, would typify that. They’re very comfortable with technology.

Joel: Yes.

Michael: All right. What are you finding? I’m sure it’s not universal, but is it generalization? Do you find that that’s true?

Joel: I think it’s a fair generalization, but what I do find is that there’s this roadblock in that the generation play that- we’ve been successful for 50, 60, 100 years–

Michael: [laughs] Since 1878.

Joel: Right. There’s this roadblock they’re getting from that, the current ownership or whatever the level of generation, one, two, or three when it moves. You have this almost feel like that a lot of agencies are holding themselves back. Often the next generation is in what I would call day-to-day control, but really has no authority over the agency itself.

Michael: That’s my group three, where there’s generation one and generation two, boomers and millennial.

Joel: Yes.

Michael: Okay. There’s fussing around in those agencies. Are you seeing that in some cases in those agencies, the millennials are saying, “Yes, let’s be a modern agency and use modern marketing, modern technology, modern communications.” Maybe the boomers are saying, “Yes, but I don’t want to reduce my margins and spend money.” Is that some of the issue?

Joel: Yes, I agree wholeheartedly. The boomer, the way I would say, what I was always taught, it’s funny that the boomers get there, I’m sure under this pretense, and I’m sure somewhere along the line, they have this thought, “In order to make money, you got to spend money. You need to invest to grow. You need to do these things.” I think they forgot that. They’re almost in this, “Hold on for dear life, get me through the next 5, 10 years so I get a good buyout offer and then I can go play golf.”

That’s fine, but the difference is you make some strategic changes or additions. It’s how you run your agency today and that can pay two, three, four times in a very short period down the road. If you have decisive marketing plan, organic growth plan and how a really- customer experience roadmap, that agency is going to be much more valuable in an acquisition– [crosstalk]

Michael: Okay. Yes, critical point. I’m going to reiterate that one, folks, if you got agency A and agency B and they’re the same size, but agency A has been growing at 5% a year and agency B has been growing, you pick a number 15%, 20%, 25%. The same size, when the acquisition partner comes around and looks at the two, agency B is worth a lot more money because it’s a much better investment so it demands higher valuations.

I know we’ll often think of marketing in terms of increased income, but if you can get that track record organic growth going for a few years– The better you are at it, the higher the valuation you’re going to get on your agency. End of story. I’m going to step off the soapbox. Okay– [crosstalk]

Joel: It is true. I agree, and I’ll jump on your soapbox for a moment. I think that– I don’t think I know. I think we get in our own way. It’s not that hard. We just need to get out of our own way for a moment and develop that customer experience. People buy the customer experience. I still hear agents talk about price, this carrier’s got a better rate. I got the best rates.

One thing I’ve always said to myself when I was at the frontline agent level, there’s only one person that price truly matters to and that’s me, the person selling it. If I take that out of the equation, then it doesn’t matter at all, and people will buy from you, when your experience is what they want. Understanding that whatever experience you develop may not be for everybody.

Talking about this podcast series. Recently, we had a podcast guest on Jamie Trovato. He’s a prime example. How he has a very defined customer experience that he wants to build within his agency. Is it for everybody? No, absolutely not. You’d be foolish to think that you can be everything to everybody, but he has very defined- so his prospects, his customers know what to expect, and that’s what they get at every single step of the way. His agency grows exponentially, and will continue to do so, because he provides that at every step of the way.

Michael: Okay, so let me ask you a question. Based on your 17,000 outbound phone calls, and lots of conversations with agents, obviously you encounter agents who are struggling and agents who are quite successful. All right? Okay. Successful. I want to define that. Let’s say good organic growth, better than average organic growth, not necessarily that they’ve been around for 100 years, therefore they’re bigger and they have 25 producers.

Right now, which agency has a better track record of organic growth? To the best of your ability, what do you see as the distinctions in either, or both, attitude and behavior between the ones who are stuck and the ones who are not?

Joel: The ones that are stuck. Nothing frustrates me more- and I’m passionate about this industry. Yes, I get some skin in the game because I’m obviously working for a technology company that’s working with agents every day, but I’ll tell you– [crosstalk]

Michael: No, this industry has been your life for a long time.

Joel: Exactly, and I’m here because I’m passionate about– There’s nothing that frustrates me more than when I am on the phone and I am talking with an agency owner or principal and they say, “Joel, we got to make this quick. Because I got 7-1 renewals coming up.” Or, “I’m working on a renewal that’s coming up in 30 days.” That is the problem. We get in our own way.

If you’re an agency owner, and you’re worried about working on a 7-1 renewal or 7-1 renewals, or 8-1 renewals, or whatever the date is, you got to take a step back and realize that there’s got to be a better way. It’s an old statement, Michael, I know I heard you say from the first time, the first time I ever heard you say anything, you need to work on your business, not in your business, and it’s amazing how that continues to happen. That is the stumbling block. You’re in your own way.

Michael: Okay, so let me ask you a question about this. Because it has to do with the size of agencies, so typically as an agency gets larger, the responsibilities of, allow me to call them the CEO, the chief executive officer, their responsibilities become so broad that they really generally do get removed more and more from their own, “Book of business.” That’s sad. I also wonder, and we’ve had guests on this podcast series, who even at a relatively early stage in their career decided, “The growth is not me being an insurance agent. The growth is me being an insurerpreneur, regardless of size.” What the small agent does is generally going to be drawn more into insurance work not exclusively, so are you finding that that attitude of being an entrepreneur, an insurerpreneur, as I like to call them, that that’s a core distinction between success and less success, or failure?

Joel: I would have to agree with that. It’s not that a small agency can’t carve out that time, and the difference is, as I just stated, I pick up the phone, and someone says, “I’m busy working on whatever, 01 renewals, so I can’t talk.” What I would love to hear is, “Hey, Joel, right now is not a good time because I am working on a couple big renewals, but on Thursday afternoon is when I really work on my business. Can we schedule some time to chat then?”

Michael: Fair enough. Okay.

Joel: To me, there’s an agency. That can be a one or two-person shop. They’ve carved out, they’ve managed their time to work on their business.

Michael: Do you remember back in the day, let’s go back 10 or 15 years, people would show up at a boot camp, and they’d talk about how, “I’ve got Wednesday afternoons carved off.” Or, “No phone calls.” Maybe they work in a satellite office or something, but it’s pure. Even a small agency, it’s pure business building. It’s not one by one policy work.

Joel: Absolutely. It was funny. I mentioned this conference, we talked earlier about this little conference I was at, and in the midst of that conversation, I brought this up. One of the agency owner said to me, “Where do you find time to do that? Let’s be real here. I have an agency to run.” I pointblank put it to him, “Well, you found your time to get here. You found your time to get here and spent two or three days–“

Let’s be honest, we’ve all been to insurance related events and they can be great. There’s what? 30, 40% hard work and then maybe some time to have some social time. Let’s let’s be honest here. It’s all about time management and finding the time. If it’s important to you, you’ll find the time.

Michael: That’s a constant classic for entrepreneurs obviously, isn’t it? In fact, I have it sitting on my desk, I pulled it out of my bookshelf the other day. When was this written? In the early ’60s, Peter Drucker’s, The Effective Executive. Essentially, one of his key themes is that in the book, most executives get very little done, and you can find out who’s an effective executive by examining their calendar. It’s all about their schedule. Where do they spend their time? How much control do they have over it? Seeking hacks in time management systems is a non-stop process, isn’t it?

Joel: Absolutely.

Michael: All right. I think you might have some insight on this one, as well. There are some awful myths that– At least one or two that I would like to bust, and I’m sure you run into them. Let me give you an example. Conversation I had, this was a few years ago back when I was there in Bend, Oregon. I think it was with Justin and he got off the phone, he was really just– I could tell by the look on his face, he was just going nuts.

I said, “What’s up?” He said, “Well, I just talked to a prospect, and they didn’t want to communicate more with their customers, because they’re worried that if they say “insurance” to their customers, or make them think insurance, the first thing they’re going to do is, they’ll want to start shopping.” Actually it’s every call, the actual term was, “We don’t want to poke the sleeping bear.”

In other words, the paradigm of their relationship with their clients was that they were a sleeping bear and that they would hurt them. They were afraid of them. Still run into that mythology that is a dangerous relationship with the customer base?

Joel: Certainly not as much as you used to. You still get into this, “Well, hey–” I call my clients prior to renewal and my response is, “Yes, you’re still out there just looking for your money. That’s where your relationship is at this point in time. It’s in between, it’s where you can build a relationship and this whole notion of poking the bear is quite frankly ridiculous and I’m happy to have the conversation.

My days as an insurance agent, are a prime example of that, I think back is, I do recall the time that I was all excited that I had this new solution. That I could email all my clients easily and effectively, so I created a masterful or what I deemed a masterful email to send out to 20-some thousand email addresses that we had. I click “Send” and was all excited that I was able to perform said task. It was about two or three minutes after that, that I got a phone call from another broker in one of our other offices and they’re like “How many emails did you send out?” I’m like, to everybody.

Michael: To only 20,000.

Joel: To only 20,000 and at that point she informed me that I had misspelled everything, including my own name. Literally, everything- I had made some edits and I didn’t save them and I misspelled everything and then it was all about the reaction. I was able to quickly get another piece of communication out there advising everybody, I can’t spell and engage with our customer base.

The reaction we got from that was very positive to the point where obviously if he would say, it’s good to know this comes from a real person and all those positive feedbacks, but I think to bring it back to your question is if you’re- the worst-case scenario in anything you do with respect to proactive communication. If you think of it this way, the worst-case scenario is that you have the opportunity to have a conversation with your client.

If that’s the worst-case scenario, that’s a pretty good scenario. That’s what I truly believe, that there’s still lots of people out there that maybe get analysis paralysis or are so worried about things and at the end of the day, I think it’s important that you do something, start the ball moving, have a conversation, if it’s wrong, if you don’t quite get it to the right people or if something goes horrendously bad, like you spell everything, including your own name wrong, it’s okay. You have the opportunity now to continue to have a conversation and without conversations, relationships are never built.

Michael: Got it, okay.

Joel: We are in a relationship business.

Michael: All right, so speaking of that [laughs] I want to just dive into that one a little bit. The nature of this being a relationship business. Do you find that the most successful agents that you work with, obviously you’re familiar with the ACOR model, attract, convert, optimize and retain. On one hand, there is a psychology, almost a knee jerk reaction that says, in order to grow we need more leads so we get more customers, and yet on a really careful strategic analysis the low hanging fruit and the biggest leverage, the best leverage where small investments become large return on investment comes from the latter part of those- the four-stage marketing process, making relationships richer and deeper. Do you find that your most successful clients, the ones that you talk to or work with, is that something that they’ve thought through and that they get?

Joel: Yes.

Michael: I’m talking about maximum customer lifetime value. Once they become a customer, they’re on the best lists they possibly could be, which is your customer list. I’m curious, what are- and I’ve got stories about this, there was the incident where once I taught a workshop on the value of retention, which is really pretty phenomenal. You know the spreadsheets, like the million-dollar spreadsheet. The easy million spreadsheet and it shows, this is what happens to your 10-year cumulative income.

If you boost your retention by just a few points and it’s like amazing and then right after that I said, now I want everybody to vote on what do you most want the next workshops to be on. I gave everybody three votes, three little red dots, and they went up and they put them up on a flip chart and you know what the answer was. Lead generation, lead generation and because it seems like no matter what you do, there’s something built in about the excitement of new leads and new customers, and there’s a superficially conceived strategy that that is the only path to growth. It is a critical part of the path to growth. I’m curious what your sense is of the industry now about depth of relationship versus customer acquisition?

Joel: It’s funny that everybody likes it. There’s nothing sexier than new business. Everybody likes new leads. That’s an interesting thing in the world to talk about, but the reality–

Michael: Well, yes and if somebody gets a new customer, let’s say that Bob closes a new customer, maybe a bell rings or everybody pats them on the back and it’s great. Somebody renews like, where’s the bell? It’s like they got a download, 57 of them got renewed and they got downloaded into the agency management system last night and where’s the bell? Where are the 57 bells?

Joel: There should be, so the sexiest thing in the world is new business, and yet you can call agents- as I’ve done, agency after agency and virtually everyone will tell you that our biggest source of new business is referrals, which makes sense. This is a relationship business. We take pride in our referrals and they close easier and all these types of things, but what’s rather funny is that very few agencies–

The agencies that get it spend time on building the relationship and that inevitably creates a lot of inbound new leads, because they- rather than having five or 10% of their client base as raving fans as nines or tens if you will on an NPS score, you started building the relationship from one end of your book of business to the other and rather than five or 10% of people out there positively talking about you, now it’s 15%, 20%, 30%, 40% of your clients are raving fans of your agency.

Guess what? You’re going to grow. I’ve had this theory for a long time and we discussed it yesterday that an agency would do well in principle- and I understand to actually do this, to me, some people may think I’m too far out there, but understanding just the idea of shutting down the idea of new customers.

Let’s not look for new customers for the next year or two, let’s focus on building the relationship with our existing client base. Let’s make sure that we have the processes and the procedures and the customer experience in place. We make sure that the people that have just home have home and auto or renters, people that are commercial have the appropriate coverages that we round out these accounts, that we have the contact and we really build that relationship.

Let’s focus on that for the next year or two and the reality is, I have not talked to an agency yet that didn’t have an acre of diamond sitting right in front of them where they could grow an excess of 20% by simply focusing on what’s already there and then in theory, if you open the doors back up to new customers in a year or two, you’d have more than you could ever handle, purely based on the positive reviews and the positive referrals and the positive coming from your existing client base that people will rush to your door, and I can assure you, the last thing they’re ever going to ask you for is a quote. They’re going to want to do business with you because of the experience.

Michael: Let me just share a very short conversation I had immediately before this podcast with a client who is in the process now, we’re working on helping them hire a marketer, and some of my questioning, my thinking was around what do you want the marketer do? They wanted the marketer to generate more foot traffic to the store. What I encourage ultimately, I said, “Look, you’ve got to own the decision about which direction we point this marketer, but you really need to be responsible for the decision.”

You are largely saying that you want this marker to focus on the front end, not on depth of relationship, all I’m going to ask you to do, mr. Client, is just beat that idea up so much that it survives and it either survives you beating it up or it doesn’t. Some ideas should get really any strategic idea and that’s strategic– Clearly they’re engaged in a strategic initiative.

After the conversation, and again, I’m not going to tell them what to do, but it’s my job to encourage them to beat their own ideas up because we tend to believe our ideas before we conduct a thorough analysis on them. Again, I would encourage everybody to do that and in fact, I know, they’ve got 10,000 clients with a 1.5 policy per customer count and the retention is such that they are sitting on an acre of diamonds. Boom, I’m just going to reiterate what you said. I have one last question for you and it’s a hard one because the answer is short, okay?

Joel: I’m ready.

Michael: It’s the billboard question. Essentially, let’s say- because I know that you’re a guy who is passionate about the industry. You’ve dialed 17,000 agents. You’ve been an agent or a broker yourself, you love this industry. I think you’re relatively bullish about it, with the same caveat that a lot of my guests are. It’s like not everybody’s going to make the boat, I sense that from this conversation.

If you were going to deliver a message and it’s on insurance highway, everybody’s zipping down at 85 miles an hour and there’s a billboard, so the message needs to be short if you’re going to make it. What do you want to say, a non-commercial message that inspires action. What would you want to say to the principles of retail agencies here in the U.S. and Canada?

Joel: Wow, that’s tough. My short and sweet to that would be while everybody else is turning right, make sure you go left. That would be the big thing. Make sure you’re moving.

Michael: So are you emphasizing like, be distinctive in the marketplace? Is that what you’re saying or what?

Joel: Yes, absolutely, define your experience. What does it mean to be a client of your agency? It’s not going to be the same as somebody else’s. It doesn’t have to be, to be successful.

Michael: I think you and I are going to agree on one thing that yes there’s more than one appropriate answer to that, but the sleeping bear is never an appropriate answer.

Joel: Absolutely.

Michael: Ignoring customers is never an appropriate answer. Delivering ongoing meaning and delight, it would seem, is always the appropriate answer, and the manner in which you deliver meaning and delight is obviously going to be very very local, very very personal, very very intimate.

Joel: Absolutely.

Michael: I just added Burma-Shave signs onto your billboard there. All right, Joel, it has been a pleasure talking to you and I do appreciate this. There are certain assumptions. The clients that I talk to in my private client group and the mastermind group that I operate, I never think that they are genuinely representative of the industry as a whole. I tend to think I attract a certain kind of agent.

So I really appreciate you sharing your perspective on the state of the industry, and I hope it’s useful for our clients to get a sense of what are other agents and brokers saying these days and what are agents and brokers doing to get to the next level. I really appreciate your insight on this. Now, that said, I always ask my guests if somebody wanted to reach out to them and ask them a question, how would they do that? I’m going to let you provide whatever contact information you want.

Joel: Yes, I am always open to a conversation with anybody that would like to connect. I think you can always e-mail me. It’s [email protected] that’s [email protected]. or you can catch me on LinkedIn. Search up Joel’s record, there’s not too many of us out there. So last name is spelled Z-W-I-C-K-E-R and connect with me there and I’d be happy to have a conversation.

Michael: Indeed. All right, Joel, you’ve been terrific. I appreciate your time, and of course, congratulations on your incredible sales. Good work.

Joel: Thank you.

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