This episode comes to you from the Trusted Advisor Vault. Recorded before the world crashed into a pandemic, Ken Bull gives us a look into the daily life of an Iroquois Regional Manager. Join us “On the Job with Ken Bull,” as he shares his secrets for creating great long-term relationships between our Carriers and our Members. To see more of our RM’s daily life, make sure to follow us on our social media pages.
Edwin K. Morris (4s):
Welcome to the trusted advisor podcast brought to you by Iroquois group. Iroquois is your trusted advisor in all things insurance. I am Edwin K. Morris. Our guest today is Ken Bull and he’s been with Iroquois for over 13 years. Before Iroquois, he worked with American Reliance in claims, underwriting, and marketing. He also served in marketing roles with Mercer, ARI, and Zurich small business. Early in his career, he had stints with home insurance and Aetna as an auto claims adjuster. So what’s this big idea I hear you have. What is that?
Ken Bull (43s):
When I started working at Iroquois, one of the things that I was told by one of my managing partners, Phillip Dawson, was to, when you go out in the road to visit agencies, the best way to, to be most effective is to do joint, joint travel, where we travel with the company representatives from, you know, various carriers that we represent. By bringing them along with us, they help show that we are together as a group, you know, supporting that agency rather than Iroquois coming in and saying, well, let’s, you know, I’m going to show you what happens with this carrier and, and, well, I’m not so sure what happened here or, Oh, I’ll, I’ll have to get back to the rep.
Ken Bull (1m 25s):
We’re coming in as, as a team. And we’re working to help that agency do the best they can with that market. It’s been quite effective because I’m on the same page with the market. And I don’t want to take away from the fact that, you know, we try to establish relationships with the Iroquois member, the better off our relationship becomes. And it becomes like a nice little
Edwin K. Morris (1m 46s):
It’s a package, right? You’re bringing a package of asset base and resource. All I can think of is like WWF tag team wrestling. You know, it’s a tag team, or to have the representation as a side-by-side partner. You’re saying this idea hadn’t existed before?
Ken Bull (2m 2s):
I, you know what Iroquois has been around since 1977 and we’ve evolved over the years. I think it’s been around. I took it to heart, I guess maybe when I started out as a venture for me, new venture for me, you know, I was 42 years old when I started, I wanted to make sure I hit the ground running. I just listened to the leadership, you know, did everything. Pretty much they would tell me this is the best way it’s going to be successful. I would basically listen. And, and I think it’s important for people, whether you’re 56 years old, like I am, or if you’re just coming out of college, it’s important to listen to others that have the experience and have it be successful. So I took that to heart and I’ve continued to do that.
Ken Bull (2m 44s):
And my success, I’ve been successful by doing it. You know, I have a new relationship, a couple of new relationships this year. Not only do we go out and do joint visits together, we also do joint calls. A lot of that’s done as well. So it’s not only on the road, it’s joint calls. We might not do a joint call or a joint visit, but we will do a analysis over the phone. I have monthly calls with our top core carriers, maybe what we call developmental core carriers that we’re trying to build up to a core carrier. We will have calls and to keep an eye on how the progression’s coming. We want to make sure we’re getting more premium for each carrier and that the agency’s happy.
Ken Bull (3m 25s):
And also we want to make sure that the business that we are promoting is, has good experience, good loss ratios and things like that.
Edwin K. Morris (3m 33s):
Well, explain to me what the sales pitch is to get a carrier bought onto this idea. What was the rub? What, what was your biggest hurdle and pitching this to a carrier to say, let’s go
Ken Bull (3m 45s):
Well, really, there’s no hurdle because they’re, they’re very excited about doing that. We’re like, the way it was explained to me and I, and I now use this term as well, or this phrase is, we’re a marketing rep for free for the carrier. When I called the, the marketing rep for the carrier. And I say, Hey, I want to go traveling with you. I make the appointment so that they have a whole day that I’m making the appointments for them. And they’re happy to go out with me. They know that we’re working together and the numbers that they’re generating through us count towards their numbers, which means they’re going to get a promotion or they’re going to be rewarded for that. But our agency visits, I want to mention is basically what happens is a, you know, I make a phone call and I say to the principal of the agency, I say, Hey, listen up, it’s Ken bull.
Ken Bull (4m 29s):
I want to come out and visit with you with the Travelers. Let’s say, for example, their representative, they’ll say, Oh, when? And I said, I give them a time. And I do that for like four or five appointments with that carrier and with this particular agency, usually one thats needs a little help or maybe one that’s doing really well and how we can get more business. And then I set it up throughout the day. And then either we travel together. Usually it’s, we’re following each other in the, in the car, but we will travel together. Sometimes if they’re in proximity wise or close by we’ll travel together, and then we can talk in the car and discuss some things. You go to each visit. And basically I just go in and I kind of try to keep my mouth quiet because it’s really between the carrier and the, the member.
Ken Bull (5m 10s):
There’ll be times where I can jump in. Sometimes there’ll be a small business marketing rep that will say, you know what? This is what we’re doing in small business, but there’s a middle market arena that I might jump as hey, how about middle markets? Even though that small business rep doesn’t know much about the middle markets, I can, I do chime in here and there. And then sometimes when it’s just Iroquois business, I’ll ask the rep to, Hey, listen, I’ll be out in a minute and I’ll talk about Iroquois business. Or if it’s not a competitor of the carrier, we’ll also discuss it while I’m there. And it’s good because I’m really glad the carriers come with me because they understand how Iroquois works. In fact, I have one rep. She actually helps promote Iroquois to the members and even sometimes with prospects.
Ken Bull (5m 55s):
So she’s been very helpful in, in promoting Iroquois herself, another advantage for us co-travelling.
Edwin K. Morris (6m 0s):
And it’s that design of a really simple concept called win-win. It is like you’re helping each other. There’s nothing but positive coming out of this.
Ken Bull (6m 8s):
You know, I’m glad you mentioned. That’s a great point. One thing I, I bank on and I’m sure that Iroquois leadership would agree with this is that at the end of the day, your, your job is to help people, right? You’re trying to help an agency maximize their revenue and to grow their agency. And as long as it’s not something that’s, what’s the word I’m looking for that you’re promoting some, someone else. My philosophy is if you can help an agency, no matter what it is, let’s say I can help them with a carrier. I’m going to help that agency and say, Hey, listen, have you tried this? You know, something that might not be within the Iroquois fold, you know what we’re trying to accomplish. If you can help a member maximize revenue, hopefully within the Iroquois group, But if not, if you can help them, it’s going to come back.
Ken Bull (6m 55s):
And it’s going to show that that Iroquois is trying to help that agency regardless of what we have in our arsenal. So
Edwin K. Morris (7m 1s):
That’s a great philosophy because that networking of just people and purpose will always pay dividend. And it builds your own personal character. Let alone your financial incentive.
Ken Bull (7m 13s):
Yes. You know, you want to, you want to make sure that you’re doing everything you can for Iroquois, but if you can help that agency, it’s the right thing to do. I mean, number one is always, what’s the right thing to do. And then secondly, it does come around and I’ve, I’ve experienced numerous times where it comes around and it’s rewarding.
Edwin K. Morris (7m 26s):
It reminds me of an old sales adage, and I may even have it completely wrong. But how I recall it is Gimbel’s doesn’t sell Macy’s or something like that. There’s some story. Somebody goes into the one store and says, Oh, we don’t have that. But Gimbel’s across the street has it. And a manager heard that and felt threatened because, Oh, you can’t send customers across the street, that’s our competitor. But they gain customer satisfaction. So that person came back because they trusted that person. It’s not easy. The translation of the hard numbers to the soft numbers is hard to track. And I think you are on track in your philosophy of what you’re doing, because it absolutely makes perfect sense.
Ken Bull (8m 5s):
Yep. It’s good. Because the one thing, again, getting back to the co-travel, which is what we’re discussing is the relationship is what you’re trying to build. And the more you touch an agency, the more you touch a carrier, the more you touch colleagues, the trust, the way you’re trying to do business and just knowing people, it’s just, you know, if you like somebody you’re going to do business with them,
Edwin K. Morris (8m 24s):
If one of your listeners to this podcast right now says, I I’ve never, I don’t even know what this is, but I want to get involved. What would their expectation be once they call you?
Ken Bull (8m 33s):
Oh, well, I would say when, when are you available, I mean, you know, obviously there’s going to be, if you said, I need to speak, see you tomorrow. I might already have a busy schedule. But if that gentleman calls me over, that woman calls me over and says, Hey, how can I get involved? Then I just pick a time when, when it fits in. Yeah. It’s, it’s important to keep your calendar up to date because then you can be more efficient with what you’re trying to accomplish
Edwin K. Morris (8m 57s):
Going back to the, the question I had. So what is their expectation? So brand new customer to this concept of the partner visit, what should they expect from this, from this initial engagement, what do they get? What, what should they expect?
Ken Bull (9m 12s):
Well, what they should expect is they’re going to get more knowledge about a carrier that you’re dealing with. There could be some things as far as compensation, from an Iroquois standpoint, why it’s better to be with Iroquois than to have that carrier on their own because we have more compensation that’s offered. The fact that you have me to be a go-between. If there’s, a lot of times, members call me up and they’re, they’re mad at a carrier for whatever reason, then they can bounce it off me and they get their steam out and then they can come together on their own. They could call the carrier and discuss what their concerns are.
Edwin K. Morris (9m 43s):
So you’re a bit of a counselor?
Ken Bull (9m 45s):
Yeah. Well trusted advisor’s probably the best word. Yeah. I think we are a trusted advisor and each agency can use this as they see fit. Once, one thing is very important about Iroquois. We’re a very loosely run network. What I mean by that is that we don’t come in and tell an agency. They joined Iroquois. They’re not, there’s no equity position. They’re not told what to do. They don’t have to put on, put up an Iroquois plaque. The whole point is to try to help them maximize the revenue and do it independently where there’s, there’s competitors and no disrespect to any other competitor, they just have different models, is that this is the way we operate. And I think everything we’re talking about kind of all comes together in a nice little package to help you a write profitable business for yourself.
Ken Bull (10m 29s):
We’re just there to help you out and try to help you, advise you properly. And you can take the advice any way you want,
Edwin K. Morris (10m 37s):
Which gives them the freedom and the ability to flex any way they choose. Yes.
Ken Bull (10m 43s):
Right? Yeah. And it’s, you know, they can choose to take on every carrier. I have a lot of members that have a lot of carriers through us. And then there’s some that use us just because they want to take some of their business and throw it through us because they’re growing their business. Even though they already had a direct appointment, they’d come through us, but they’re not losing any commission. They’re just earning the profit sharing. And then we still can be an advocate for them, but they still run their business as they see fit.
Edwin K. Morris (11m 9s):
Well, thank you. And best of success to you in 2020.
Ken Bull (11m 12s):
Thank you very much. Have a great day.
Edwin K. Morris (11m 15s):
Thanks for listening to this edition of the trusted advisor podcast brought to you by Iroquois group. Iroquois, your trusted advisor for all things insurance, and remember get out of the office and sell. This program was recorded live at the Cohen multimedia studio on the grounds of Chautauqua institution. I am Edwin K. Morris, and I invite you to join me for the next edition of the trusted advisor podcast.