InsurTech Ohio Spotlight with Peggy Klingel
Peggy Klingel is the former Director of Startup Engagement at Allstate. Peggy was interviewed by Andrew Daniels, Founder and Managing Director at InsurTech Ohio.
Peggy, how has your experience in both startups and corporate influenced your career?
“My background is in innovation, sales and business development across diverse industries. I focus on accelerating innovation, developing value-generating strategic partnerships and building sales teams to drive growth in large and small companies.
While cultures are different with startups and corporations, what I do has been similar in both. The key is building the right team and being aligned on what we’re working to achieve.
The process starts with problem identification. I meet with people inside and sometimes outside the company to get their feedback. When I joined Allstate, in addition to meeting internal stakeholders, I spent time with startups and accelerators to understand the ecosystem and how Allstate could support it.
I work with stakeholders to develop a strategy, get buy-in and build the team to execute the plan. Then I communicate throughout execution. This helps maintain relationships in case we need to adjust the plan.
I will say while the process is similar, startups move faster. They schedule meetings faster, don’t need to build PowerPoint decks for briefings and are masters at prioritizing time for decision making.”
What are some of the most important things startups should think about when vetting a carrier partnership?
“Ideally, both the startup and the carrier are vetting each other. It’s more an art than a science.
First, there needs to be alignment on goals for the partnership. Radically different cultures are coming together, but that risk can be mitigated. A clear statement of work and other contract terms lay a foundation for the relationship. Awkward conversations may need to be held to understand each company’s priorities. For example, startups shouldn’t assume certain volumes are going to occur, and carriers should be open about the challenges they may have faced in the past with new technology.
Second, startups should spend as much time as possible with the IT team to understand the carrier’s current technology and resources. Don’t expect that it’s easy for them to connect to your Application Programming Interface (API), for example. Legacy systems and limited resources can make the simplest of functions complicated. The best projects start with these relationships developing during the sales process, so there are fewer surprises as the project launches.
Third, establish a communication framework to continually review the health of the relationship. Key Performance Indicators (KPI) should be identified and tracked. Regular review meetings should occur to revisit strategic goals and discuss industry trends to confirm teams are still focused on similar goals. Just because everyone was aligned when an agreement was signed, doesn’t mean that continues for years. Relationships need to be developed across multiple levels at both companies and actively maintained.
With alignment on goals and strong relationships, strategic partnerships will have the foundation to weather the zigs and zags that inevitably occur as new trends emerge and adjustments need to be made.”
How should a startup think about finding an internal champion?
“Finding an internal champion is the holy grail of selling. We probably wouldn’t need as many salespeople if we had more internal champions that got us in front of the right people and provided good coaching and feedback on the process.
The challenge is that many people want to help, but they’re not good champions. People are happy to refer you to other business areas if they can’t figure out what to do with your solution. That can lead to months of demos leading nowhere.
The key is to understand which group is most likely to benefit from the solution. Look for contacts in that business area or someone that knows the right person in that business area to make an introduction.
Then, if you get to the right group, contacts may not understand their internal processes for getting technology, security and other approvals needed to navigate the procurement process. They aren’t onboarding new partners on a regular basis, so it’s new to them. Ask questions to understand their history with partners, and determine if your solution is solving a problem big enough for them to have budget and resources to evaluate and onboard it.
They have a lot of competing priorities, and you need to determine where your solution fits in that hierarchy.”
What is your advice for startups looking for partnerships with large carriers?
“First, be clear on exactly what you can provide and how it benefits the carrier. Examples and statistics on how you’ve helped others are good if you have them. Knowing how to structure a simple pilot without technology integrations is also helpful. Don’t pitch a wide-ranging solution hoping something you mention will trigger a response.
Startups are getting better at this. When I first joined Allstate, we got a lot of claims-platform startups pitching the whole solution. If we were replacing our claims platform, that would require a Request for Proposal (RFP), encompassing months of work and procurement would run the process. We’re usually looking for a distinct capability to meet a specific business need, not a platform replacement.
The second piece of advice would be to explain what makes you unique. Carriers are getting a lot of inquiries, and solutions start to look alike, even if they’re not. Be able to articulate why you’re better than what they already are doing and the other solutions they are encountering.
Third, ask questions. Be deliberate in preparing for meetings. In addition to planning the presentation or demo, determine what you need to learn during the meeting. This includes questions on their existing technology, their approval processes and history of partnering with technology providers.
You can learn a lot from the responses. If they haven’t partnered with anyone before, they probably don’t have many answers. This means it will be a slow process that may or may not get to the finish line internally. It doesn’t mean you walk away, but you know it may take a while to get through the sales process.
Remember that you’re assessing them as much as they’re assessing you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You need to understand what they’re expecting as much as they need to know if you can deliver. You’re on a journey together and need strong communication to set a solid foundation for a partnership.”