Sales results are often a point of contention for organizations, benefits agencies in particular.

New business goals are usually the result of producing a number that will make the accounting department or sales manager disappear. Producers typically “commit” to growing by 10% or writing $100,000 of new business without considering the goal.

To make matters worse, not only is there rarely meaningful thought put into the goal, there is rarely a plan of how these pretend goals will be met. The final straw is put into place when the accountability for following the pretend plan to hit the pretend goal is non-existent.

Yet we wonder why we rarely hit sales goals. 🙄

And, leadership’s immediate gut reaction to a producer who has missed their goal is almost always to attack the tactical issues.

  • How many calls did you make?
  • How many prospects are in your pipeline?

Bottom line results start at the top

To drive predictable sales results, agencies must address the cultural issues within the organization first.

Leaders who lead by example

In most agencies, the leaders still have sales responsibilities. If the leaders aren't doing the right things, nobody else will either.

First improvement step

The leader must establish a well-thought-out and detailed personal sales goal. For example, break a total new business goal of $130,000 down into 1 "Gold" account of $40,000, 4 "Silver" accounts of $15,000 each, and 6 "Bronze" accounts of $5,000 each. This immediately makes the sales goal more real and attainable.

Accountability

Every other position in the agency is held responsible for driving their respective results. Producers (because everything else depends on the revenue they produce) should be held more accountable than anyone.

First improvement step

Have regular check-in calls with each producer—ideally weekly, but no less than monthly. The producer should come prepared to answer the following:

  • What is your new business year-to-date?
  • What is the number of opportunities and revenue currently in your pipeline?
  • How many opportunities did you add since the last check-in?
  • How many existing opportunities were moved forward since the previous check-in?

Have everyone in the proper role

I don’t care how hard you try; some people aren't producers.

First improvement step

Test all producers (current and future) to determine their alignment with a sales role. There are several good tests available, but our favorite is Omnia.

Admittedly, it may seem odd to test your current producers but don’t let that stop you. If a producer performs to your satisfaction, you won't act based on test results that indicate misalignment. Still, you would gain insight into helping them succeed at an even higher level. For those current producers who are struggling, this type of test will help to either identify a path to improvement or another role.)

Properly define success and celebrate the progress

In each step of your sales system, define success as getting the prospect to the next step. Celebrate each of these victories, not just the final sale.

First improvement step

Define and document the steps of the sales process you expect a producer to follow in your agency.

Producer confidence

Selling is a transfer of confidence; confidence that you are offering a better solution, but you can't give away what you don't have. Ensure your producers build and maintain a high level of sales confidence.

First improvement step(s)
  1. Provide your sales team with a defined sales process that is measurably different from your competitors. (hint – to provide confidence, it should be based on off-renewal conversations and not dependent on quoting).
  2. Regularly measure and discuss the health of each producer’s pipeline.
  3. Focus on the problems you can solve rather than the products you have to sell

Proactive vs. Reactive

We have to better plan what we will do to drive results instead of focusing on what has already occurred.

First improvement step

Provide your producers with an annual planning guide, insist it is thoughtfully completed, and then use it to review their progress throughout the year.

Understanding the “why”

Until a producer truly understands their motivation (hint: It should never be about the money. Money should be the result of a commitment to the real “why”), it will be difficult, at best, for them to push through the inevitable challenges that come with a sales role.

First improvement step

Ask each producer, “When you lay down at the end of one of those days that provide your greatest sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, what are you thinking about that caused it to be such an amazing day?”

Build your foundation first

You and your sales team will never reach your potential until you lay the proper cultural foundation. No amount of tactical, process-driven responses will ever make a sustainable difference. The difference you are looking for and need lies in creating the right culture.

One final improvement step - Which of the seven cultural issues made you most uncomfortable about your current situation? By sharing your answer with someone on your team, you are much more likely to take corrective action.

 

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