Silos are common in insurance agencies because of the two distinct teams that make up the organization: sales and service. To create an environment where your company can perform at its peak, it’s time to focus on an often-daunting issue: team members working well together.
We’re not talking about liking each other and wanting to hang out after hours. It’s about respecting one other and the role each person plays, the contributions they make, and the responsibilities they uphold. Knowing each person's role is a key part of creating this foundation so your team can play nice together in the sandbox.
It’s not necessarily easy to instill new ideas and ways of working, we’ll give you that. You have to be dedicated to the belief that this is the right way to work, and then you must continually reinforce it until it becomes a habit for everyone and they own it as “the way we do it.”
Why aren’t cohesive teams the norm?
B2B service-providing companies have the potential to suffer from poor organization and ego-driven structures.
They typically rely on outside salespeople to bring in new business. When there is a structure with salespeople and service people, there is a tendency to group them into the A team and B team, which is a quick route to creating poor results and a culture driven by feelings of “us against them.”
We’ve seen many cultures set up this way, and we’ve also seen those same cultures struggle to achieve the results they envision for themselves. They want big revenue numbers, but if there is bad blood and disagreements between the teams responsible for managing the client accounts, things will not flow smoothly.
To run an organization that delivers an excellent and seamless client experience, the whole company must be committed to a cohesive team approach. The best organizations we’ve worked with create a culture where they engage their service team as a core part of the sales process. They bring the account managers into the later-stage sales conversations and defer to the account team to begin establishing the move-forward and onboarding steps, gently removing the salesperson from the day-to-day responsibilities.
This is not a rub on salespeople. Instead, it should be a recognition that each person or team has a particular role to play. When played well, responsibilities get distributed among the group and reduce pressure on any one person.
Accountability and consequences
We talk a lot about accountability because it’s the one thing that separates the wishers from the doers. Having expectations of your team is a great start, but expectations are meaningless if there are no accountability and consequences to go with them.
One of our oft-repeated Q4i-isms is that the behaviors you tolerate may as well be the behaviors you promote. If you allow anyone on your team to perform below expectations, you are signaling to the rest of the team they can also get away with poor performance.
The best performers want to be part of a culture of accountability, one that comes with consequences when expectations aren’t met. They realize if they have no accountability or consequences, they aren’t that important to the organization’s success. And if some people don’t have accountability and consequences (say, the sales team), yet others (say, the service team) do, it will create conflict, reinforcing silos and “us-against-them” attitudes and behaviors.
The reality is that high-growth companies have accountability and consequences at a high level; it’s why they attract the highest achievers in both sales and service, which is also why they are high-growth.
Create a team structure for high performance
The client is only concerned with results that come from having the right people performing the right roles in which they are the most skilled. The salesperson does not need to be, nor should be, the expert for all things. The client should get the correct information in a timely manner, and your business should have multiple contact points between the two companies. We strongly encourage working as a cohesive team to deliver the best experience and support from the right place.
Work toward this structure by creating high-performance teams (HPT). A high-performance team is a tight-knit group of people with specific roles and complementary talents and skills. They are aligned with and committed to a common purpose – the client’s success. The team is highly focused on its goals and can achieve superior results through collaboration, typically outperforming expectations.
You may think of your entire organization as a high-performance team, and depending on the size of your company, that may be the correct answer.
A team may include a salesperson and an account manager or two. Or maybe it’s a division or a department. The teams should be composed based on the organization's central focus, the work to be done, and the best method of execution that breaks down any silos. So, they will likely be multidisciplinary teams. As your team grows, consider breaking down high-performance teams into smaller groups where the teams can manage themselves.
Goals and roles
Think of your HPT as a small, contained business. The business must have goals they are working to achieve, such as new business written, client and revenue retention, account upsell, etc.
The business must also have people playing distinct, non-overlapping roles so they have the bandwidth to cover all the responsibilities their business requires. You may find you need a “CEO,” “President,” “CFO,” etc., to make your business function as well as it should.
Solution partners as a part of your team?
As a salesperson’s book of business grows, it becomes more difficult to continue selling new business because the growing book creates service demands and eats away at prospecting and selling time. This is a natural evolution, but it doesn’t have to derail a career or a growing organization.
When clients have a problem, they want it resolved as quickly and efficiently as possible. They don't care who fixes the problem. Enter: solution providers.
If working with third-party solution providers is a core part of your business (carriers, TPAs, etc.), you should leverage that relationship to your advantage. Instead of instructing clients to always call you or your service team, offering your partner’s contact information is entirely appropriate for the first line of help. It’s the most direct method of getting the client’s questions answered. If the client does not get a satisfactory answer, they can reach out to you, and your team can dive into it.
Depending on the type of solution provider and the relationship you have with them, they may or may not be a part of your high-performance team, attending regular meetings. If it’s a carrier with a service team answering calls, then likely not. But if you’re working in a more intimate environment where your solution provider plays a role as a member of your team, then it would make sense to include them in your regular planning and review sessions.
Get along to grow
Make “getting along” a priority at your company, and you’ll produce results that are the envy of your competition. We’re not sure why this isn’t how everyone works, but it’s not. There are too many silos, too much infighting, and a lack of communication that derails the best of intentions.
Detail, document, and communicate the expectations of your culture and what you want your client experience to be, and then organize your team around those expectations. Set the example, check in on the teams, see how it’s working, and make adjustments as necessary. Encourage good behavior, sharing examples with the rest of the company of how a cohesive team should interact. Your team will be more productive, happier, and satisfied with their work. And what more could you want than a happy team of employees who love their jobs?
Okay, revenue is the target, but that follows when you have a really awesome team. 😀
Photo by lacheev