In the face of consolidation, shifting markets, an evolving workforce, and increasingly varied customer demands, the brokerage business model must adapt. Vantage founder and CEO Alex Panlilio and Executive Chairman Anthony Gruppo believe that the insurance sales process can no longer be purely transactional and focused on closing, but rather that successful brokers are converting to a more consultative model that better integrates sales and services.
Panlilio states “you have to make sure service doesn’t become the stepchild of your sales process. It’s probably even more important than sales—what good is getting a new client if you lose them after a year? But if you have high retention, there’s a smaller hole you have to initially fill in before hitting your organic growth target the following year. And that’s really about making sure your clients are properly served. You don’t hire a broker to buy your insurance; you hire them to fight your claims and manage your risk. That’s mostly on the service side of the relationship.”
Gruppo adds “it’s an integrated system of sales and service working together, improving the relationship, and improving the product. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Why haven’t people done it? It’s because we put up a barrier between sales and service, and sometimes service people feel inferior and have drastically different fixed compensation structures.” To resolve that, Gruppo proposes that firms should work to tie compensation to both sales and service, rewarding both retention and sales. “Then,” he adds, “people are much more creative about finding new solutions. But when you put a barrier between sales and service systems and the systems don’t talk, the client suffers.”
Panlilio also believes a firm should not stop just at bringing down the barriers between sales and service; the culture and environment should enable and facilitate collaboration and transparency of appropriate information across every department in the firm. A foundational aspect of this concept, he notes, is recognizing the core functionality of each department while allowing members of each team to “cross-train” with other departments, providing them with further knowledge and context for their role. “You make better decisions when you have an expanded viewpoint of the bigger picture,” he explains.