A sense of urgency generally means focusing attention on immediate, high-priority areas of importance and concern. In today’s highly competitive environment, professional salespeople are advised to “act with urgency.”
But what the heck does that mean? Certainly you can overdo it: If everything is important, then nothing is important. The way I define it, urgency applies to any and all activities directly or indirectly related to the acquisition or retention of client business. Of course, you will need to make your own judgment calls as to which activities fall into this category. My rule of thumb is, when it comes to serving the client, “when in doubt, assume it’s urgent.” Moreover, this attitude applies if you are dealing directly with a client as a broker, or indirectly as an underwriter and/or other member of any team that provides services to a client.
An inability and/or unwillingness to treat client matters with a sense of urgency, or a careless indifference toward such matters, might eventually catch up with you and result in loss of business and an impaired reputation. People tend to remember bad service more than good service and will not hesitate to share those views.
So, what are some examples of what it means to act with a sense of urgency? Here is a sample, far-from-all-inclusive list. Having a sense of urgency means…
1. Being timely when you need to be responsive. Imagine you’re having a conversation with someone and you ask them a question, the answer to which is important to you. Now imagine that the person ignores you for several minutes or otherwise gets distracted or starts texting. Your reaction might range from confusion to annoyance to outright anger. Now imagine that you email someone to ask them a question, the answer of which is important to you. You don’t hear back for days, weeks or even longer. I think you know where I’m going with this. Don’t ever let that happen. Being timely in your response doesn’t necessarily mean answering within minutes. But it does mean communicating in a time frame that is sensitive to the other party’s needs. If you don’t yet know the answer, respond anyway, if only to explain where you are in the information-gathering or decision-making process and provide an estimate when a satisfactory answer can be expected. Then rinse and repeat: Provide regular and periodic updates so your clients know you are working on their behalf.
2. Proving the value you bring to your client and your organization every day. The world is evolving quickly and nothing is a given anymore. Just look at the auto industry: Manufacturers are planning for a day not far in the future where traditional car buyers will no longer buy cars. Insurance buyers have multiple options and are getting smarter at evaluating alternatives. What do you bring to the table that is special, important, relevant and different? Unless you can pinpoint and articulate that to the key stakeholders you work with, your position in your organization and/or with your clients may be jeopardized.
3. Acting as if a client’s insurance and risk management program is their most important priority. Because it is. A random, unexpected event is what insurance and risk management is for. Without proper planning, such an event can be catastrophic, potentially eliminating a client’s ability to achieve any or all of their personal, familial and/or organizational objectives. (I’ve said this in prior columns, and continue to invite a challenge to this proposition. I haven’t heard from anyone yet, but the challenge is still open.) Yes, embracing this belief means looking your clients in the eye and making this case to them, without shame or reservation, but with plenty of proof relevant to their specific circumstances.
4. Understanding that critical gaps in a client’s insurance and risk management program need to be closed now. Identify these gaps and explain to your client the potential consequences of these deficiencies and shortfalls. Of course, you have to adjust your approach to the temperament, mind-set and expertise of your client. But most economic entities (again, individuals, families and organizations of any size) invariably and inevitably have gaps in their insurance and risk management programs, if only because economic, social, regulatory, political, competitive and other conditions are constantly changing. I assure you, if you look hard enough, every economic entity has these gaps. You have to make a decision (and help the client in this regard) as to whether those gaps are sufficient enough to warrant action, what action has to be taken and when it needs to be accomplished (usually sooner rather than later).
5. Explaining how you and your team provide the necessary knowledge and experience to address clients’ challenges and problems. Insurance and risk management challenges faced by commercial accounts typically require a multidisciplinary, team-based approach. The identity, role and responsibilities of each member of your team, and how their individual and collective skill sets align with the customer’s needs, should be clearly communicated.
6. Being professional in the way in which you go about your business. Conveying a sense of urgency is not screaming that the sky is falling. It is explaining in a calm, concise and thoughtful manner how your solution meets the unique needs of each client and what you and your team will do to assume accountability and responsibility for addressing those needs.
I’d love to hear your reaction to my columns and ideas or suggestions you have. Please email me.
Find more Account Development Tips here.