Let me take a guess, you are BEYOND crazy busy, right? And, while all of your busy-ness is important, it probably doesn’t really feel like it’s moving you forward does it? You probably even find yourself wishing/hoping/praying that you had time to stop and have actual, strategic-level discussions with your clients or – how crazy is this – go out and actually sell something new. Am I right?
Instead, you are:
- putting together RFPs
- building, editing, and re-editing spreadsheets
- following up on service issues
- manually pouring through receivables to make sure you’re receiving your commissions
- tracking compliance issues
- writing emails to clients
- scrambling to prepare for upcoming renewal meetings
- and this list could go on and on
What do all of these have in common? They’re all very transactional activities that take way more time than necessary because they are way too manual. And, worst of all, none of these get you any BONUS points with your clients. It’s all important stuff, but it’s also all nothing more than their minimum expectations of you. Worst of all, it is keeping you from being able to go beyond expectations and truly WOW them.
We all get it (sort of)
By now, we all understand that “technology” has become an integral part of the relationship you have with your clients. Increasingly, you are having technology conversations with them and you are being expected to put the right technology solutions in place. This has become a critically important part of what you deliver to clients; they need the efficiencies created by the technology solutions.
But, just as important as the technology solutions you take to your clients is the way you need to be leveraging technology internally with your own team.
What business are you really in?
Every business, including yours, has transactional activities that have to be attended to; if they aren’t, everything starts to fall apart. However, any time spent in transactional activities is time stolen from more valuable, strategic activities.
Too many of you have the misconception that you make money by selling products (insurance, technology, etc.) to your clients.
Let me point out, selling a product is simply a transaction that can be performed by anyone; it offers very limited added value on your part.
You must realize that you aren’t in the product business, you are in the advice/results business.
It’s the advice you give around the needs addressed by any particular product, paired with the results you deliver through effective implementation of the product, that is the root of your real value.
This is the real reason any particular client chooses you and your team to be the one who receives the commission on the product in the first place; they have greater confidence in your advice and your ability to deliver results.
And, obviously, the more time you and your team are available to give the right advice and deliver the right results, the more valuable you will be to your clients.
You have to start using technology to automate as much of the transactional activities in your agency as possible to free up your team and make sure they are available to give the right advice and deliver the right results.
It’s all about the process
There are so many automation opportunities. But remember, technology by itself is rarely an answer. It’s simply a tool to automate and create efficiencies for activities otherwise done manually. And, in order to automate the activities, those activities have to be organized. You need an efficient and documented process as your starting point.
Start by thinking about any activity that anyone in the agency does on a recurring basis and establish documented processes for each. Some specific areas to consider:
- renewal processes
- quoting activities
- servicing issues
- client/stewardship reporting
- social media
I realize establishing processes may sound daunting, but it’s really pretty simple. The next time someone on your team starts down a recurring-activity path, simply have them write down what they do at each step. By the end of the activity, you have a documented process. No, it’s likely not perfect, but it is documented and you can start evaluating each step for improvement opportunities.
From manual to automated
Once you are comfortable with the process (it will NEVER be perfect), evaluate it for opportunities to automate. Maybe you will be able to automate almost the entire process or maybe you will just be automating reminders, specific steps of execution, or simply using project management tools for tracking, focusing, and being more public with communication.
Regardless, any automation will give you and your team back some of that advice/results time you need so desperately.
The cost of action and inaction
You might be thinking that this sounds like an awfully expensive proposition, investing in technology. However, I’m guessing you have a lot of opportunities to automate with technology systems in which you have already invested, such as your CRM, your agency management system, etc.
And, if you don’t already have technology solutions in place, there are many out there that are very inexpensive or even free. A couple quick examples:
- HubSpot offers a free CRM
- Asana offers free and low cost project management
- Outlook can be used for prospecting activities
- Plugins for your website can help automate marketing activities and are generally inexpensive
But, the real question you need to ask is, “What is the cost to my business if I don’t automate? What is the cost to my business if my team isn’t out there giving advice and delivering results?”
Now, THAT is an expensive proposition!
It’s not the technology stupid
The real goal isn’t to be automated; the real goal is to be giving your clients the right advice and delivering the right results; the goal is to be out there selling new business. Technology is nothing more than a tool that can free up your time for these critical activities.
But, there are also other opportunities to free up your team’s time beyond technology. For example, look to the carriers to help reduce service load, and look for other opportunities to outsource services. Both of these can get your team out of transactional activities and into strategic activities.
The bottom line: Identify anything you do repeatedly, establish processes/procedures for each, and identify where automation (or other partners) can make the execution easier and less time consuming.
If this has caused more questions than it provided answers, give us a call. We would love to discuss this in more detail. After all, your future may depend on you getting this figured out.
Photo by quinntheislander