The world is getting more competitive and complicated, so it is essential to sharpen your skills to stay ahead of the game
For many years brokers have expressed concern about comparison websites and their appeal to consumers.
While it is obvious an aggregator cannot offer the bespoke advice provided by a broker, they have the advantages of efficiency and speed to draw in customers. And now, of course, further advances in technology in the form of robo advice are presenting more threats to brokers.
Understandably, the intermediary community is concerned. But being concerned is pointless if you do nothing about it.
Many wonderful things can be said about the UK broker market (in my opinion it is one of the most experienced and hard-working bunch of professionals there is) but pockets of it could be accused of being stuck in their ways. That is unsurprising, of course.
Those of us who have been around for a long time still recognise the value in the traditional sales approach: face-to-face meetings (as many as it takes), understanding customers, getting to know them as friends and establishing a relationship of trust.
All of these elements remain essential but the market is changing and, if you are not willing to change with it, you risk being left behind.
In any business it is essential to move forwards and make changes accordingly. That means not just embracing technology but assessing your entire sales process to see where you could be more efficient and effective.
While technological advances may present competition for the broker market, let us not forget there is huge competition within that market itself. So what sort of things should you be looking at?
Start with the key areas such as the customer interview. This is a crucial part of the sales process and, if done correctly, can save you lots of time in follow-up and fact checking. Are you as thorough as you need to be during that interview? Are you asking your clients to bring in all the necessary information and documentation to save having to wait around for them after the interview? Are you calling them the day before to check they are still available?
Think about your interview technique. Could you consider engaging an outside specialist to assess your customer interaction? Having someone sit in on your sales interviews to offer feedback could help you see areas where you need to improve. Have you looked at industry hints, tips and ideas to help you be better?
How are you advertising yourself and your business? Could you do more self-promotion? If you do not have an advertising budget, there are plenty of ways to promote yourself for free. Social media is a fantastic tool for letting potential clients know about your skills. Remember to be insightful and interesting in your posts, however, as opposed to simply sales led.
What image of your firm are you portraying? When customers arrive at your office, are they made to feel welcome? Does the receptionist know they are coming in and make sure they are accommodated?
How much do your clients know about your business? Do they know what services you offer? They may not be aware that you can help with their life and general insurance needs too, so make sure you let them know.
And what after-sales process do you have in place? A customer will be more likely to return to you in future if you show you are genuinely interested in their wellbeing rather than forget who they are once the commission hits your account. Follow up with a phonecall or email to see how they are getting on, and be sure to keep in touch when they are approaching the end of their mortgage deal or their GI policy is up for renewal.
Keep them up to date with market happenings that could affect them. An email newsletter is a great way to provide your clients with information and updates on products and rates, along with any changes to policies that could affect their finances.
The world is getting more competitive and complicated, so it is essential to sharpen your skills to stay ahead of the game.
If we carry on doing the things we have always done, in the way we have always done them, we will become obsolete.
Phil Whitehouse is managing director at MCI Mortgage Club