Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks a lot like work. – Thomas Alva Edison
When it comes to growing your insurance agency, there is no silver bullet, no magic pill, no easy button; there is only determination. You have to be determined to grow no matter the obstacles in front of you, the baggage you drag behind, or the disruption that might blindside you.
Yes, it’s hard work, but guess what, you have no choice. Fortunately, while there is no “easy” path, there is a predictable path to follow and it’s built on 3 P’s – Priority, People, and Process.
Growth must be a priority. Sure, you need to still focus on keeping the business you have, but that CANNOT be at the expense of new business.
Shockingly, growth is not a true priority (with accountability and consequences) in most agencies. Not only is growth necessary for the obvious revenue reasons, it also keeps the team’s energy high, validates your value proposition, allows for further investment, and creates opportunities for everyone in the agency.
How can I tell it’s not a priority?
- Agencies allow producers to become complacent. Producers should ALWAYS be expected to produce; not simply produce until they have a large enough book to satisfy their own needs.
- If something is important to you, it’s on your calendar. I know renewal activities are there, but where is the consistent time for sales activities?
So, what do growth PRIORITY agencies have in common?
Producer goals – High growth agencies set aggressive (yet realistic) and meaningful new business goals.
Plan of execution – Nothing happens predictably without a plan and producers have to plan for how they will hit their goal. The plan should address:
- Key Performance Indicators / Book of Business Analysis
- Identification of ideal client
- Specifically identified suspects and prospects
- Personal marketing / brand management
- Time management
The focus of the plan must be around the behaviors that will drive improvements in each area.
- What was your greatest success this week?
- What was your greatest challenge this week?
- How many new prospects did you add to your pipeline?
- Of the prospects already in your pipeline, how many did you move forward?
- If you can only accomplish one thing over the next seven days, what does it have to be?
- Did you accomplish your one thing from last week?
Sure, this conversation will sometimes uncover issues that require more than a 10-minute discussion, but schedule that as a separate meeting. Keep the weekly check-in to 10 minutes.
Accountability – If growth is truly a priority, there has to be accountability for those responsible for making it happen. Don’t excuse producers because “They are paid on commission and only hurt themselves if they don’t sell.” The behaviors you tolerate may as well be the behaviors you promote. What would happen if an account manager continually missed his/her retention goals?
We really suck at this part. Most every agency owner is a salesperson himself/herself. Salespeople are the WORST people to be hiring other salespeople. The interview becomes a competition on who can sell whom. Unfortunately, most of the time both sides lose.
Hire the right people – They MUST be a cultural fit and have the proven ability to sell in your environment. Bring in a professional interviewer if you must, but DO NOT take this responsibility lightly.
Re-hire your best talent – Hire additional service people to free up the time of your proven salespeople. It’s a much more predictable path than hiring another producer.
Feed the tigers – Producers are stewards of your resources and time. Disproportionately provided access to those who have proven they will utilize them effectively.
Compensate the right behaviors –Pay a reasonable amount for renewals, much higher for new business, and SIGNIFICANT bonuses over an aggressive threshold.
Most agencies have no defined sales process around which to train and develop their sales team. And, for those rare agencies that do, they see their sales process as beginning with the first face-to-face meeting. At that point, it’s too late. In today’s online world, a buyer is 60% - 90% of their way to a buying decision by the time they meet with a salesperson.
High growth agencies recognize the importance of a sales process and, more importantly, they recognize it begins WAY before the first face-to-face meeting.
Marketing – This is the first step of the sales process. Your marketing message is the first conversation you have with a prospect.
You must have a process to craft a message that makes it clear how you deliver value/results to your clients and gives the prospect a compelling reason to take a meeting with you.
Pipeline –You must have processes for how you use email and cold calls to create prospects as well as for how you will generate referrals from clients and other centers of influence.
Documentation – The more completely you understand the story of the prospect, the more likely you are to win their business. You must have a process of how you uncover and document that story.
Face-to-Face – Only after you have created and followed processes for the first three steps are you truly prepared for your face-to-face meeting. And, that process CANNOT be about collecting a census and getting quotes. Your face-to-face sales process must:
- Define the goals/objectives of the prospect in terms of their HR/benefit program
- Identify what is currently holding them back from achieving those goals objectives.
- Align your solutions with the needs you identify as holding them back.
- Define effective implementation of your solutions to ensure they achieve the improved results they need.
As I said at the beginning, there is nothing easy about growth; it requires purposeful determination. I’m guessing I haven’t shared anything here with you that you don’t already know, but I hope I have structured in a way that you now have a path on which to focus your determination. After all, I can provide you the direction, but you must be determined to take the journey.
Photo by Mark Huguet.