Believe it or not, we are already to that time of year that we need to be planning for next year. It's crazy how fast a year can pass!
My hope is that every agency and producer reading this post is already in the middle of planning for sales success in 2013. Unfortunately, my guess is that many of you aren't. I also guess that many of you will never get to that planning. This isn't just a wild, pessimistic guess on my part; it's based on too many conversations I have had with agencies considering joining our network.
As part of our interview process, I will ask them to explain how they approach producer planning. The answer I hear most often is, "Oh, we do that. Every one of our producers knows exactly how much we hope they write this year." That isn't a plan. That's nothing more than a wish.
I believe that the producer planning doesn't happen for three main reasons.
- It takes time and it's hard
- As an industry, we have been reasonably successful without doing it to this point
- At a certain level, agencies are afraid of their producers and don't want to force the accountability that a well-done plan provides
If you struggle with the first reason, contact us and we'll help you make it easier and less time consuming. If you struggle with the third reason, watch for a future blog on how to address this problem.
Today, I wanted to mainly focus on the second reason, the thought that planning isn't necessary.
Thinking like an investor
If you are an owner/executive in the agency, I want you to stop thinking about the employer/employee relationship with your producers for a moment and instead look at them from the perspective of an investor.
Producers tend to think of their book of business as their "Me, Inc." (a perspective I admire and promote). Now, think of each "Me, Inc." as an investment opportunity. You aren't going to write a check for stock, but you will write (are currently writing) a check to pay for the infrastructure, procure the necessary resources, and provide the staff to help support that "Me, Inc."
What's the first question you normally ask before making an investment? Of course, you want to know what kind of ROI you can expect. You want to know how that business is positioned for success. You want to know what their plan is for growth and profitability. Those are responsible questions to ask. If a potential company couldn't answer those questions to your satisfaction, you would never make the investment. So, why wouldn't you have the same questions and expectations for the "Me, Inc." of every one of your producers?
And to producers, you are an investor in this too. While you aren't writing checks, your investment is actually something even more precious – your time. Do you have enough confidence in your own "Me, Inc." and in its ability to provide the appropriate return on your time investment?
If you were a bank/investor looking at your "Me, Inc.", would you write the check or make the loan? Would you be comfortable in your Plan, and ability, to deliver an ROI?
It's a cruel joke the industry has played on you. Because the financial reward for mediocrity has been so high, we have been able to largely get by without planning. Those days are now over. If you don't call the bluff, the industry will have the last laugh.
ROI will no longer happen just because you show up. You have to plan to make it happen, Producer by Producer.
Photo by Michael Manzano.