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This article was originally published in the WRN Newsletter
Christine Bartholdt interviewed Brent Heilesen, Sales Director and Shareholder with Propel Insurance, based out of its Tacoma, WA office. He has been with Propel for 15 years as a surety and insurance producer, a sales coach and a mentor to new and upcoming brokers. He sits on several national boards, including Liberty Surety’s National Producer Advisory Board.Before joining Propel, Brent was the Underwriting Manager for Travelers Surety in Seattle working on large construction accounts in Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii. Prior to that, Brent worked out in the field in construction as a Laborer, Carpenter, Project Engineer, Project Manager, Estimator, and, finally, in the finance department working on mergers and acquisitions. Brent has been involved in construction, surety, and finance for a long time.
During their conversation, Brent recalled an early sales seminar that he attended. It focused on hard sell tactics and the idea that you could “close the deal” in the initial meeting with a prospect. “It just didn’t seem genuine”, Brent remarked. “It wasn’t me, and the tactics didn’t fit my personality or what I wanted others to see in me.” Trust and relationship-building became a focal point for Brent’s safes career. “It took many years and there were some legendary fails along the way,” Brent remarked, “but in the end, clients have choices on who they do business with, and most of the time they want someone they can trust and that they can talk and be collaborative with.”
Being collaborative is one of the biggest lessons learned. “I realized that you can accomplish more when you sell as part of a team”, Brent said. “I try to set my teammates up to be successful and to have a defined role when we are with clients.” Brent remarked that the clients pick up on how they collaborate, and bounce ideas off each other. Brent said that it’s part of “the secret sauce.” He recalls a prospect meeting he went on a while back and the prospect mentioned some pain points he was experiencing with his current program and relationship. “We round-tabled ideas right there in the meeting in front of him.” Brent said it was probably like watching a ping pong game with ideas and comments going back and forth. “Yes, we got the deal. I think the client was both shocked and impressed that we were trying to solve a problem and not just sell him a product or provide him a quote.” Collaboration is a huge part of what differentiates Brent’s company, Propel.
It was obvious from their conversation that Brent had a great deal of energy and passion for the business. He said he spends a significant amount of time trying to anticipate issues before they become problems, and he models his relationships around what he called a “Road Map.” Brent explained that a lot of brokers allow their relationships to become transactional over time. The hard part is to consistently bring value and be consultative with clients. “I like to talk with my clients about where they want to be in two, five, or ten years from now, and then we work on identifying the key pieces that need to be in place to get there,” explained Brent. He went on to say that many brokers like to keep certain parts of the underwriting process a complicated and a mysterious process that only they know how to manage. “That’s tragic,” said Brent. “We help educate our clients on how surety underwriters work and look at certain aspects of their business.” Brent explained that this knowledge is incredibly important as clients are constantly making decisions and often don’t understand how those decisions can impact their surety relationship and credit. “It’s about having knowledge and a good vision of where you want to go. Be strategic, not transactional,” said Brent.
From the collaborative and team-oriented selling to being strategic and focusing on the road ahead, it follows that Brent is a proponent of bringing the surety out to meet with the client. “They are a huge and important part of the team. Why wouldn’t you want them to meet with the client?” Brent exclaimed. He said there is value on both sides when everyone is engaged. He regularly invites underwriters, home office, and even claims and legal representatives to a client meeting. It’s not uncommon for Brent’s clients to know quite a few of the stakeholders and decision-makers at the surety. “We are all part of the same team,” commented Brent.
Article created by Glynnis Harvey on Jan 9, 2019