EBA article: To Win Accounts, Stop Competing

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Employee Benefit Advisor, August 10, 2017

By Nelson Griswold


I recently wrote about how small local agency David Rine Insurance in Akron, Ohio, took a 3,000-life group away from the national house incumbent and the large regional brokerage that had been promised the letter of record. Rine won the account by showing huge cost savings for the client and by accessing the CFO to tell that story.


Certainly Rine’s win against overwhelming odds is noteworthy. However, a much bigger story exists here, a key inflection point for smart agency leaders who can recognize the new opportunity. Since writing the Rine story, I’ve been asked repeatedly how little David Rine Insurance beat these large players.


The funny thing is, Rine didn’t beat these firms. It simply isn’t possible for a small agency to beat these larger firms. Play by their rules, compete against them head to head, and they win every time. Competing doesn’t work — even against agencies your size. Smart agency leaders are reworking their strategy to stop competing with other firms in their market.


But if Rine didn’t beat the national incumbent or the big regional shop, how, then, did they take away the business?


You’ll find a clue in the CFO’s comment to the Rine team after he was shown the strategies, resources and results that Rine delivers for the employees and for the company, including in this case with more than $1 million in savings in year one alone:


“I’ve not seen any of this from our current broker, [huge national house] or [big regional broker], to whom we just verbally committed the AOR.”


Derek Rine didn’t have to beat these bigger firms; he wasn’t even competing with them. In fact, the big shops couldn’t compete with him. Rine had moved into a place where the other firms weren’t even playing.


Make your competition irrelevant


Using innovative strategies and cutting-edge resources (that the bigger agencies don’t have yet) to deliver impactful results that the CFO values, Rine is making even the top national firms irrelevant.


Rine is rendering competitors irrelevant and growing their book exponentially by adopting some key principles of NextGeneration Benefits Firms:


  • Collaborate for success. Small to mid-size independent can no longer go it alone. David Rine Insurance is part of a national mastermind network of innovative and forward-thinking agency leaders who consistently win business from the bigger agencies and average more than 25% organic growth annually. These agency leaders meet quarterly to collaborate on proven growth strategies and agency best practices and to innovate solutions to their challenges and problems.
  • Rewrite the rules of the game. Rine doesn’t compete directly with other firms, avoiding the status quo trade-off between cost and quality of benefits. Moving into the C-suite for strategic conversations, Rine ignores the status quo rules and shows the CEO or CFO a value proposition that reduces the benefits spend while improving the benefits.
  • Innovate “next practices.” Industry “best practices” simply maintain the benefits status quo, which is becoming unsustainable. Rine and other NextGeneration Benefits Firms are developing “next practices” that truly change the game for employers and employees. Using strategies and tools for cost-containment, employee engagement and business efficiency, they deliver meaningful results to the client, not renewal increases.


If your agency is struggling to compete and grow, it’s not your fault. The status quo model is obsolete. Embrace the new opportunity, become a NextGeneration Benefits Firm, and begin to make your competition irrelevant and start winning larger groups to grow your firm exponentially.


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