Industry Trends

5 Ways to Build Better Relationships


The best businesses are built on relationships – ones that go beyond transactions or contracts. It’s easy to say, of course, but harder to do. You have to move beyond your day-to-day duties and take the time for the little things that can make the biggest difference.

If you want to build better relationships with your business, here are five simple things you can do today:

  1. Make the most of technology. The software and networking tools we have for customer relationship management can do a lot of wonderful things, but just like a hammer in the tool chest, they have no value if you never use them! Use the fields you have to take good notes and search for common ground – the better you know the person, the better you can relate to them, and the more likely they are to work with you.

  2. Be an idea merchant. Don’t just work on the case or project your client has put in front of you. Think of ways they can find their next case, too. The more we share ideas, the more opportunities we’ll have to make a positive impact on their business.

  3. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers. It happens to me all the time – I’ll call someone up to talk about one thing, and they’ll ask me about another. I can’t know it all, but luckily I always know someone who does! Don’t be afraid to bring up a topic or idea just because you’re not an expert. Connect them to the people on your team who can help.

  4. Call someone and say, “I was just thinking about you.” This is so simple, yet so powerful. If you have an idea that you think would help someone else, then chances are they’d love to hear it! No matter the subject, they’ll appreciate the reminder that you cared to think of them.

  5. Be dependable. Tell people they can rely on you. Don’t keep it inside – say it! “You can count on me. I’ll get it done for you.” That’s what people want to hear. They want to rely on you to be there for them when they need it.


None of these ideas are complicated – they just require a little time, effort and forethought. Try just one of them today, and tell me if you don’t notice a difference in how you interact with your clients.


About the Author

Tim Ash is known as a visionary in the financial services community. He is an industry leader who envisions a future where insurance is easy, affordable and an essential part of a sound financial plan. As CEO of Ash Brokerage, Tim has fostered an environment of success with team-focused empowerment and client-centered service. He has built a culture where people not only believe in what they do, but more importantly, they understand the reason behind their efforts. Everyone at Ash Brokerage knows their work makes a difference — in the lives of their clients and their communities.


SSI: It’s the PSI of Your LinkedIn Profile


It’s winter in the Midwest. Brr – I’m not a fan of the cold at all, what about you? My husband, however, is a tire manager for a major tire distributor and if the weather is really hot or really cold, he loves his job … why? Depending on the temperature outside, a tire can be underinflated or overinflated and folks bring their cars in to get services, thus causing sales. Guess what? Your LinkedIn account is exactly the same way.

You can stop by the Sales Solutions site of LinkedIn and grab your Social Selling Index easily by clicking here: (Being transparent, mine is 73.) 

So, what does this number mean?

The Social Selling Index (SSI) is the pounds per square inch (PSI) of your LinkedIn profile tires. LinkedIn measures your influence on their platform and rewards certain behaviors. Today, we will kick around their suggestions and make sure you’re doing everything you can to keep your SSI at the right PSI and get the most mileage on your account.

Branding – yeah, it’s pretty important

When you go into your LinkedIn profile and fill it out, yes, that step helps you be found, but that’s not branding. A shiny new paint job on a car doesn’t make a Pinto any better of a vehicle, right? If, however, you fill out the profile the way your client would consume the information, then you’re thinking like a brand! This encompasses everything – not only what you put into your profile (aiming for it to be filled out completely), but also thought leadership, value-added content, consistent posting, interacting with others, and skillset endorsements (which is a sore spot for registered reps, I know!). Basically, go big or go home.

The heat is on

I attribute my lower SSI (it was 93 at one point – yikes!) because I momentarily lost my mind two years ago and connected with people I didn’t know well or even do business with – see, I make mistakes too! Every car has a limit on how many passengers it can take on the journey, and so does your LinkedIn profile. Now, I have to work on correcting this – gah!

If you’ve ever watched a racecar, did you ever notice during down time the driver swerves the tires back and forth? You can’t create heat for the tires when going slow, so LinkedIn wants you to leverage their warm environment by providing you with a succinct way to search and find the best leads.

Value – you have helpful stuff to share

Whether you join a group (and trust me – there is a group out there for everyone!) or you’re posting updates and using the Publisher feature of the platform, only do this if your intention is to add value. If I asked you to name a beautiful car, you’ll have a variety of answers. If I ask you to name a trustworthy car though, it’s probably not the same car, right? LinkedIn is the same way. People are looking for someone they can trust who will add value immediately to their situation. Respect this and LinkedIn will reward you.

Building a relationship is easier than ever

One of the things I see most often is the lack of colleagues connecting in an organization – huge mistake. Huge! Connect with each other and leverage your ability to get in front of more people.

Also, how many of you need to get to decision makers? The gatekeepers are still out there. Well, what if you can get a referral into someone? All of this can be accomplished through LinkedIn and if you use their platform, they reward you through the Social Selling Index.

In years past, the SSI appeared to be this arbitrary number which meant little to many users of the LinkedIn platform. Now you have some insight on how this works and can work on measuring your influence. If you need assistance, let me know.


About the Author

Sheryl Brown knows firsthand that social media can amplify your value proposition — and she wants to show you how. As manager of Advisor Engagement Services at Ash Brokerage, she assists advisors and employees with their own social media strategies, and she has been influential in developing a strategic online presence for Ash Brokerage — one that connects to both clients and advisors, positively impacts practices and creates communities aimed at improving the industry. 

Random Thoughts: Digging Deep


I fashion myself an athlete (although some might add the "ex" prefix) having enjoyed sports my entire life. Like many people, I started off playing team sports at a young age. From age 5 though my high school years, it seemed every weekend of every season was taken up by a baseball, basketball or football game. 

Much of what I am today came from learning how to be a good teammate, understanding the value of physical and mental preparation, striving to win but learning to handle loss, and testing my abilities against others. I was lucky enough to continue my football and baseball careers through college but, as they say, "All good things must come to an end."

After college, I transitioned to tennis as a way to keep competing. Growing up, tennis consisted of watching Wimbledon on TV then running to the local courts with my brother to try and duplicate the exploits of Connors, McEnroe or Borg. I never took playing seriously until I decided to join a local USTA team. 

I found the "mano y mano" nature of singles tennis fascinating. Testing yourself against the guy across the net is a test of skill and will. (And does anyone else find it curious that this is the only sport where you help warm up your opponent?) Your body and your mind are constantly working to see if you win and move on. For me, a typical match would last three sets and run for two hours. It was a great workout and a test of my ability to take a shot and keep getting up. It definitely made me dig deep. 

Back in 2012, I can still recall watching DIG DEEP taken to another level at the Australian Open Men's Singles Final. Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal played five sets for 5 hours and 53 minutes before Novak was able to win the last set 7-5. It was the longest Grand Slam final in history and ended up finishing at 1:30 a.m. 

During the match, especially in the last two sets, there were times when it looked like both players were done. While they are physical marvels, it was their ability to stay mentally connected and competitive that made this an amazing event to watch. At one point the announcer said these two men were, “Redefining what is supposed to be humanly possible.” 

Isn’t it amazing how our minds and bodies can do more than we thought possible? We’re not all going to be professional tennis players, but we can find a way to dig deep and finish the game strong. 


About the Author
As executive vice president of life sales distribution, Bob Klein is responsible for all of Ash Brokerage’s life, long-term care and disability income insurance sales. He is driven by his desire to help others get the most out of their natural gifts, and he gets the most satisfaction from seeing others grow and succeed.

Random Thoughts

5 Tips to Organize your Social Media for 2016


So you’ve decided to add social media to your marketing arsenal for 2016 – woohoo!  I’m so happy to hear this. You might be wondering, “What are some best practices for organizing my social media efforts for 2016?” I have some great tips for you!  


1- Calendar Your Efforts

Seems simple enough – get a calendar and start to look at all the dates you could talk about financial planning, wealth management and insurance in the coming year. If you calendar your efforts, you will be much more organized with your thoughts, and it won’t seem like social media marketing is this overwhelming task. 

For example, have you considered …?

  • Monthly Themes. February is American Heart Month. You could go to the American Heart Association website and find LOTS of material to talk about this topic with your audience. What about October with Breast Cancer Awareness month? The National Breast Cancer Foundation has a wonderful website with lots of material you could share. This is a great way to repurpose someone else’s content (be sure and give them credit) and provide valuable information and resources about a particular topic.

  • Events. What about Super Bowl 50, which is coming up on Feb. 7? The 88th Academy Awards is coming on Feb. 28, 2016. You could talk with your audience about their favorite team or ask them about the movies they’ve watched – are any of them ones you should see? Starting a real conversation with your audience is a way to engage them and learn more about them as clients.


2 – Graphics

You want to use as many graphics as you can in your social media marketing. When you use pictures, your potential engagement increases. However, many people do not know where they can get free graphics to use.

I can tell you using Google as a resource for graphics is a BAD IDEA!  Many of them are copyright protected, and we don’t want you to get in any trouble! My social media buddy, Amy Vernon, recently published an awesome article in Inc. magazine on “7 of the Best Sites for High Quality, Free Stock Photos.”

I can tell you I personally use Flickr Creative Commons a lot. Most of the graphics you see in my blogs are from there. I was excited when Amy published this article (and I shared this with my LinkedIn followers) as she pointed the way to new places I didn’t know about! Pretty much everything you need, you can find on one of these seven sites.


3 – Time 

When are you gonna do this stuff? Make the time on your calendar to make sure it gets done. Seems like a no-brainer, I know. Also, who is going to do this stuff too? I suggest taking 20-30 minutes each week and working on the next week’s material. If you feel REALLY eager, then work a couple of weeks in advance.

As you do more of this, you will naturally start thinking about more themes, events and ways you can be creative – this may take more time, too. Time is an important consideration in doing social media well. You don’t want to be rushed, but I’m also quick to remind you don’t want to spend too much time doing this either.

Find a good balance, but start with at least 20 minutes each week.


4 – Project Management Tool

You really do need a project management tool to organize everything for a variety of reasons. My favorite for this is Trello.  My top reasons are:

  • It’s free. I love free – don’t you?
  • It’s collaborative. You can assign (and rescind) as many people as you need to work on a project.
  • It’s accessible. You can use this from a desktop as easily as you can from a mobile device.
  • It's adaptable. As their website says, it’s “Infinitely flexible. Incredibly easy to use. Great mobile apps. It’s free.”  What more can you ask for, right?


5 – Social Media Management Tool

You need to manage social networks and schedule messaging because you can’t do it all in real time. The best tools for this are Buffer and Hootsuite.

I’m particularly fond of Buffer as it’s incredibly easy to use for most financial services professionals. However, you will need to pay to schedule more than 10 things out. I’m on the Awesome Plan and pay $102 per year – it works great! Hootsuite has a free version that will be enough for what you need, but its interface is not as user-friendly. Pick your poison. It’s not a matter of Buffer and Hootsuite arm wrestling for your business – each has their own functionality, but I would still pick Buffer each time to make it easier for you.

Using these five tips to organize your social media will give you a great start for 2016.  If you have any questions, I welcome you to contact me for some help.


Sheryl Brown knows firsthand that social media can amplify your value proposition — and she wants to show you how. As manager of Advisor Engagement Services at Ash Brokerage, she assists advisors and employees with their own social media strategies, and she has been influential in developing a strategic online presence for Ash Brokerage — one that connects to both clients and advisors, positively impacts practices and creates communities aimed at improving the industry. 


social media

Random Thoughts: Capturing the Big Picture


Someone once said everything new is just a recreation of something that has been done before. In this innovation-based world, that’s a bold statement, but it rings true for me. 

A couple of year ago, my wife Suzanne and I were fortunate to be invited to a business conference in Maui. Though I tried to sell the point that seven consecutive business dinners for an introvert like me is hard work, I quickly learned that when the word "Maui" is in any sentence, attempts at sympathy are not appreciated. 

The whole program was terrific, but one thing that stood out for me was the keynote speaker, Dewitt Jones. Dewitt made his fame as a photo journalist for National Geographic (which we learned the cool people just call "The Geographic") but found a path to early retirement as a keynote speaker. He had a terrific style, ably managing to blend his photographic skills with a motivational story line. For those Facebook fans out there, he has created a group called “Celebrate What's Right with the World” where he captures a photo a day of something that inspires him and allows others to do the same.

In describing how he took such magnificent photos, Dewitt talked about how important it was to put yourself in the place of most potential so you are prepared when the opportunity reveals itself. That may be the time of day to get the right light for your shot, or a location that has the best subject matter. But, Mr. Jones also stressed the importance of training your technique so you’re ready to take advantage of that opportunity. 

As a sales person, this might mean using your tools to make sure you are seeing the brokers with the best potential to sell the products you have to offer, then having your sales pitch honed so that, when the right buying signs come your way, you can pounce. For an underwriter, this might mean boning up on certain market segments that the reps in your region favor so we have a better chance of closing those key cases. A marketing professional may reach out to sales to better understand how brokers might think about a certain concept so that we are best positioning our messaging for success. 

You get the point: We could play these analogies out for all our roles. Train your technique ... put yourself in the place of most potential ... be prepared for the opportunity to reveal itself.

Dewitt also told a story about two masons in the 14th century. A priest saw them working away on a pile of stones and asked the first what he was doing. The mason respond he was "chipping stone." The priest nodded and moved over to the other mason, who seemed to have a more chipper attitude (see what I did there? Chipper!), asking him the same question. That mason responded he was, "building a cathedral." No wonder he was in a better frame of mind. While his colleague was slaving a way at a pile of stones, this mason had the big picture in mind, resulting in a purpose for his work. 

Think about that in your own life. When a friend or colleague asks you what you do, how do you respond? It may be, "I'm an actuary pricing group products" or "I manage a voluntary product portfolio" or "I assess medical risks." What if, like the mason who builds cathedrals, we said, "I help people protect what they love about their lives by managing life's emergencies"? Each of you do that in a different way...

I encourage you to re-look at life through Dewitt's eyes and find that moment in each day that you are excited about and can capture in picture or prose. And, find your cathedral. If you’re willing, please share it with me and I'll do the same in future notes.