A lot of insurance agents attend industry trade shows and conventions to meet and mingle with their own customers and to find new ones. This can be very fruitful. However, your clients frequently host their own business development events for current and/or prospective customers. Examples include tours or orientation programs; shareholder events; or holiday parties at their offices, factories or warehouses. They may also sponsor civic or charitable events, such as Little League games, 5K races and fundraisers for nonprofit organizations. Participating and being visible at these events can provide multiple advantages for you:
1. Customer insights. Perhaps most importantly, these events can help you get to know your own customer better, as key managers and personnel are often in attendance. Developing relationships with people throughout the organization can provide important insights into what’s going on within the organization and may help you gain access to critical decision makers for initiatives you want to pursue, now or in the future. “Know Your Customer” is an important mantra in the financial services field. Increased access and sources of information can enhance your ability to deliver better service.
2. Demonstrating your commitment. Attendance at client events is another opportunity to demonstrate that you care about your customer and that you are committed to their success and your overall relationship. An event can sometimes be scheduled at an inconvenient time or out-of-the-way location, making your presence even more appreciated under those circumstances. To the extent that you provide support (in the form of volunteering time and/or financial assistance), the more your participation will be recognized.
3. Identifying prospects. Client-sponsored events can be an excellent way to prospect for more customers. Of course, you need to be careful and discreet in this area, but networking and relationship development are always facilitated when the parties involved have something in common (you as a service provider to the client, and the customer’s own relationship with your client). Even simple introductions and discussions about the event you’re both attending can be helpful, natural ice-breakers.
How do you find out about such events and secure an invitation? In addition to asking your client directly, you might want to check the company’s activities or events calendar on its website. When you identify an event you wish to attend, reach out to the company contact. (Admittedly, this may be tricky for events where your attendance would be unusual.) Be honest about your intentions, explaining that this is a way of getting to know the business better as well as a business development opportunity for you. Certainly ask how you and your firm can provide support, either for the event you are asking about or – if that specific request is turned down – for a future event. You can’t get an invitation without asking, and your chances will improve if you demonstrate that you’re willing to give something in return for the opportunity.
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