We continue to explore the story behind our insurance agency software partners. In this post, we talked with independent insurance veteran Cheryl Koch. Cheryl founded Agency Management Resource Group to help independent agencies “achieve their goals and dreams.” With that motivation in common, we work with Cheryl and her team to educate and equip agencies for success.
When she was introduced to the Partner Platform team, Cheryl Koch saw an opportunity. Equipped with a wealth of training content for independent agencies, she knew she had just what so many Partner Platform agencies needed: personalized education. After holding our first “Ultimate Producer School”with Cheryl and her team, it was clear her expertise was the perfect fit.
I spoke with Cheryl to hear about her wealth of experience in the industry and how she connected with the Partner Platform community.
How did you first connect with SIS and the Partner Platform team?
I got connected through Mary Eisenhart-Belka of Eisenhart Consulting Group. Mary and I were business partners for several years, and she is an excellent judge of character. She was raving about Partner Platform – the people and the system. After hearing so many good things from her, I looked into you all. I realized there are a lot of things we do here at Agency Management Resource Group that would benefit the independent agencies connected through Partner Platform. Partner Platform serves our target audience, so I asked Mary to connect us, and here we are.
How do you collaborate with SIS and the Partner Platform community today?
We decided to start with our wildly successful Ultimate Producer School and Ultimate Account Manager School.
The Producer School is designed for people who are new to P&C sales. We do both a commercial and a personal lines school, but the one we did for SIS was focused on commercial lines. The 10-day in-person school is a blend of technical insurance knowledge and sales skills. Even if someone has been in sales in some other industry, most people know insurances sales is different and needs unique training.
Drawing from our experience selling insurance and owning independent agencies, we offer training on the technical side of the business and the specifics of insurance selling. It’s focused on understanding terminology, what to look for in coverage, and how to have conversations to grow your book of business.
The Account Manager School is a three-day in-person session. It’s what we call “line of business agnostic” because it can apply to individuals working with nearly any type of coverage. It’s a unique program because – as far as I know – we’re the only ones who offer it. It used to be that when a new account manager was hired, they’d attend training sponsored by the company. But companies have stopped providing that training. Instead, they get trained by “the osmosis chair” – they have to learn on the job, on their own. Since independent agencies lack the resources to do this essential training, we started our own.
You have unique experience in the insurance industry. What do independent agents gain from working with you over a big-name firm?
I’ve only ever been an independent agent my whole life. I understand that emphasis on the word “independent.” Being independent is an agency’s greatest strength and Achilles’ heel all at the same time. They are fiercely independent to the extent that they serve their communities’ unique needs, yet they’re resource-strapped and unable to do training in a meaningful way. That’s why they relied on the insurance providers to give that training for so many years. When those programs went away, they were left with nothing. Some states – some state associations – do some training, but it’s just insufficient.
What we want to do is provide programs that fill that void in the market. Where they could find these resources in generic sales or project management training, we provide targeted insurance training. These are not huge agencies – they’re people owning and running a small business, and they just don’t have the resources and network to train people. Especially with so much new technology, there is so much more producers and account managers need to know than they did ten years ago. And, when they’re expected to know more, there is less available. That’s where we come in.
What do kind of feedback do you hear from the agencies you work with?
Many tell us the training gave them exactly what they needed to succeed. In the Producer School, we hear that it’s a game-changer to understand the sales process and understand coverages and how to look for specific gaps in endorsements that are needed to protect clients. We’re relentless in ensuring our clients know what they’re selling. We want them to come out knowing exactly how to assess coverage. There’s no excuse for going out there and messing with people’s financial life when you don’t know whether you’ve got a good fit for what they need or not. We’re proud to help producers be prepared in that way.
For the Account Manager training, we get feedback along the lines of, “it changed my life.” Not just “it changed my profession” or “it changed my job,” but “it changed my life.” That’s because account managers are so often overlooked and undervalued. We have so much respect for that job because we’ve done it. We feel privileged to give them the respect and education they deserve to succeed.
What are some common issues you help agencies navigate?
Agencies are overwhelmed – especially their account managers. That job has just gotten bigger and bigger, and technology was supposed to help, yet it hasn’t. In many cases, technology alone can’t drive that change. With multiple insurance companies coming at them with their technology solution and their own agency’s management system, they also have all these other applications to understand and use daily. They’re overwhelmed by what it is they need to know.
We understand that agencies need to identify and address their overall process issues before adding technology. Too often, agencies have attacked problems the other way around, adding technology without addressing overall operations. That just means they have bad practices that are now happening faster. It doesn’t address the problem. We work to identify and address operational issues and look for practical solutions.
How would you describe the experience of collaborating with SIS and the Partner Platform community?
It’s the perfect match. Partner Platform agencies are precisely who we serve and, as small agencies, need what we were providing. They’re a ready-made market!
Beyond the perfect customer march, the team at SIS is the best. Everyone is easy to work with, meeting all the expectations I came with, thanks to Mary. She also raved about the Partner Platform system, so I expected nothing less than impressive. The same is true of the community – all the individuals we had in our first Producer School were great. Everyone was engaged and asking questions. It was a great group.
Find out more about how you can enroll in our Account Manager and Producer Schools and how the Partner Platform can serve your agency: get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 800.747.7005, Option 6.