Are you reading this while surrounded by empty cubicles? Is every email you send lately met with an out-of-office reply? Do you get the feeling that nearly everyone on your team has relocated to lakeside or poolside “desks”?
The insurance industry as a whole seems to hit a fever pitch leading up to 7/1 renewals only for a mass exodus of PTO users to seemingly vanish after the Fourth of July. Rather than see this as the “slow season” for brokers, this time of year presents an unusual opportunity: now is the perfect time for you to sharpen your skills and ramp up your competitive advantage.
“No matter how many years in the insurance industry a professional has, the slow end of summer can catch you off-guard by disguising the impending demands of a busy end of third quarter,” says Matt Keeping, Head of Distribution for Foresight Commercial Insurance. “Especially in the wake of COVID-19, the way people work in a typical day, week, or month, has changed—likely for good. Brokers would be wise to throw the old calendar year formula out the window and see ‘slow season’ as a chance to get out ahead of the competition.”
Foresight has put together the following tips to help you seize the end of summer days and put them to great use.
CE can sneak up on you if you aren’t careful. Rather than wait until you have to cut it close and take whatever courses you can find at the last minute, set aside half a day this summer to research the kind of CE courses you find interesting and compelling. According to a study reported in Psychology Today, people who reported being “uninterested” in a task or subject were less likely to succeed, while their “interested” counterparts not only were more successful but also kept a higher level of focus, longer.
Not sure where to start? Many Department of Insurance approved courses are searchable on sites by line of business and state. Kaplan offers one such resource here. You’ll also be able to see which courses are offered live and in-person, or as a recorded webinar—and if you feel extra productive, you can go ahead and get a few CE courses done during these quiet summer weeks!
Because of the demanding nature of the sales lifecycle, insurance professionals tend to put their “marketability” tasks on the back burner. But, as Keeping reminds brokers, “as digital interactions have replaced many in-person interactions until COVID is a thing of the past, your Linkedin profile and other online representations have become more critical than ever.”
Set aside a full day this summer to work on your digital branding. Local photographers are largely eager for business, as the last year and a half has been less busy for them with people booking less in-person appointments. Schedule a headshot appointment, and send the photographer some examples that match the style you are looking for. If your brokerage has an in-house marketing team, ask for some guidance or a template that you can provide. Don’t forget to inquire if a photo session is something that might be covered within your department’s budget.
Additionally, do away with the notion that updating your resume is code for “seeking a new job.” Taking the time to update your CV is an investment in a wide range of opportunities beyond a new job, such as getting considered for speaking engagements at trade shows, being considered as a subject matter expert in media and press opportunities, or pursuing appointments to board of director seats at organizations you are active in.
“Your Linkedin resume is largely tied to unearthing connections and opportunities that benefit you in your current role,” Keeping says. “Additionally, prospects who do their research will check whether your profile is current when assessing whether they want to work with you.”
Taking a step back, if you find yourself among the population of professionals who still do not have a Linkedin profile, it is very much worth reevaluating that decision. “This industry is about relationships,” Keeping points out. “If you are entirely absent from a space where relevant and important conversations are constantly occurring, that stands out for the wrong reasons.”
Whether you keep a physical Rolodex on your desk or diligently log every client interaction in a CRM like Salesforce or HubSpot, chances are you haven’t had the time to go through and make updates in a while — if ever. One surefire way to make a big impact on the accuracy of your data is to go into your email, filter by or search for any “bounceback” emails you have received in recent months and years, and make the necessary changes in your database. Many companies discontinue email accounts if an employee has left the business entirely, which will trigger a bounceback or error message. In addition to removing the now-irrelevant contacts from your database, take a moment to reach out to the company and find a new name you can connect with. You may unearth an opportunity to win back a lost account, or a chance to broaden your portfolio with a business.
This can be a tedious task. In all likelihood, if your team has interns or entry-level team members who are around the office this summer, they are probably eager for something to do (more on that in the next section). Ask if you can delegate some of this work to them. Explain why it matters, and how it will help shape future opportunities, and consider showing your appreciation by ordering lunch for the day or taking them to a coffee.
As pointed out in the section above, if you are feeling like summer is slow, then your Millennial or younger generation interns and employees are probably bored to tears by the crawling pace.
“Sadly, when onboarding new talent during ‘busy season,’ many insurance professionals feel like they don’t have enough time in the day to invest in making sure new hires are fully read in on industry trends, the fundamentals of a transaction, why certain processes matter, etc.,” Keeping says. “The end of summer can be your opportunity to identify high potential talent and spend time together identifying any gaps to their learning or training.”
Consider allowing someone you are mentoring to listen in on a sales call, or asking them to help you prepare resources for an upcoming opportunity. The more peripheral access you allow new talent to your business, the more they will feel like a shareholder in the team’s success.
An unexpected benefit of your investment in newer talent is that you may learn something, too. According to the Center for Creative Leadership, “Millennials are both high tech and high touch… Consider setting up reverse mentoring programs so your digital native Millennials can help more experienced, but less tech-savvy, workers.” In fact, if you are one of the aforementioned professionals without a Linkedin profile, there is most certainly a Millennial in your office willing to help you with that! Demographically, Millennials like to feel appreciated and acknowledged. Whether you send a complimentary email to their supervisor about their help, or work with your HR department on issuing more formal accolades and rewards for big wins they assist with.
You may not be able to get to every suggestion on this list, but investing in any of these areas is sure to help you for months and years to come. Consider adding some of these tasks as annual items in your calendar, so that you are revisiting them in the summer. “And remember,” Keeping says, “the slow period between Thanksgiving and Christmas will be here before you know it! That’s yet another opportunity for you to focus on your development and jumpstart your productivity.”