New Year’s is fast approaching and you know what that means? Well, it means a couple things.
First, there is the very real possibility you are going to wake up with a hangover. No, not THAT kind of hangover! Okay, maybe that kind too, but that’s not what I mean. You are going to wake up hungover from the wild time that was 2018, specifically 4th quarter.
That hangover is going to lead to the second thing that happens on New Year’s Day, which is to make resolutions. You know, the list of everything you are going to start doing to make 2019 less crazy and more successful than past years.
But, you have it wrong. Your 2019 resolutions shouldn’t only be about what you are going to start doing, they should be about what you must STOP doing as well. A few suggestions if I may.
You and your team are a privilege
Stop believing every new client is a good one.
Nothing will slow your growth (especially profitable growth) more than accepting every client willing to sign a BOR.
We regularly evaluate books of business at both the agency and individual producer levels. The results are surprisingly consistent. When we look at the bottom half of a book of business by case count, we see that half of the accounts only generate between 6% - 7% of total revenue. On the other end of the spectrum, the top 5% by case count generate around 30% of total revenue.
Stop wasting time with those low-end accounts in 2019. Instead, focus on replicating your high-end accounts.
As an EXTREME example.
If you replicated your top 5% of cases three more times (assuming your book profiles like most), it would result in 120% of your total current revenue (30% of current revenue x 4).
And, if you let go of your bottom 95% (not suggesting this, just drawing an extreme example), you would end up with 20% of your current case load (5% of current case count x 4).
Stated a bit more succinctly, this results in a book of business that has 1/5th the number of cases generating 20% more revenue.
While this may be an unrealistic example, analyze your own book to see what is reasonable and gain an appreciation of just how little financial reward you are receiving for a disproportionate amount of your time.
You have TWO jobs
Stop waiting for opportunities to find you.
As a producer, you have two jobs: keep the business you have and to get the business you don’t. You have a team to help with the first job. Stop getting in their way.
As a producer, in the most literal sense, the second job of new production is your primary responsibility. Yet, empty pipelines are the biggest challenge most producers face. We have already discussed the second biggest challenge which is keeping the wrong opportunities out of their pipeline.
The answer to both these challenges is to be more intentional. You need to be intentional about what your target prospect looks like and turn away from all others. You also need to be more intentional in blocking out time for prospecting work.
If new production is your primary responsibility, and it is, then allocating time for prospecting MUST be a priority. Determine how much of your time should be spent on sales-related activities. If you work a 50-hour week and you need to spend 2/3 of your time in sales-related activities, then make sure 33 hours are blocked out on your calendar for prospecting and sales efforts. EVERY. SINGLE. WEEK.
It takes a team
Stop telling every client, “I’m your guy/gal. Call me with anything and everything.”
I realize this is sensitive topic for many of you. I understand, and respect, the emotion attached to the level of service you provide your clients. But, humor me for a moment and hear me out before dismissing the idea.
When you tell people “I’m your guy/gal. Call me with anything and everything,” guess what happens?
They do just what you suggested and you become overly burdened with service issues. Worse than that, while I completely understand your motivation and intent, you aren’t serving the best interests of your clients.
As absolutely committed as I know you are to providing a high level of service, the service game is a team, not individual, sport. And, for the benefit of your clients, your definition of ‘team’ must include your co-workers and also the carriers with whom you partner.
A majority of the service issues clients have are rather commonplace. When they face these issues, they simply want the quickest, most accurate answer they can get. Despite your need to feel needed, they really don’t care where the answer comes from.
This is exactly where you need to expand your definition of the team you have assembled on behalf of your client. It MUST include your carrier partner. And, if you don’t trust your partner to help service the needs of your mutual clients, you have even bigger issues to deal with.
For most of their questions/issues, the 800 number on the back of the card will get them both the fastest and most accurate answer. Think about it, whoever answers that call has probably already answered the same question 10 times that day alone.
Besides, if they call you first, chances are you are going to turn around and call the carrier yourself. This adds unnecessary time for your client to get their answer.
The key is to take the time at the beginning of the client relationship, or the introduction of a new carrier, to introduce them to their entire service team.
- Introduce both your internal team and the carrier team to set appropriate expectations
- Help them understand the role played by each
- And teach them how and when to contact which player for what issues
And, when it comes to setting these communication expectations, explain it as follows,
“We are here as your advocate and to make sure your plan works as smoothly as possible. We partner with carriers who can help us deliver that experience. For most issues, the fastest way to get your answer is to call the 800 number on the back of your card. HOWEVER, if they aren’t responsive or if their answer doesn’t make sense, the second call should always be to our team. We’ll take over from there.”
Beyond this being the fastest, most accurate way for your client to get an answer, it will also distance you from answers they don’t want to hear. If they come to you and the accurate answer is one they don’t want to hear, guess who they associate with that negative news? Here’s a hint – You looked at them in the mirror this morning. Let the carrier own the negative answer and you have a chance to be the hero by intervening.
Even when it is appropriate for the client to call your office, don’t tell them to start with you. Just like the carrier has a service team most appropriate for a majority of the questions and service issues your clients will have, you also have an internal service team whose job it is to handle the questions and service issues for which your clients need your agency involvement.
Don’t try to be the hero. Let your entire support team do their job, a job they are WAY better prepared to do than you are as the producer. Do so for everyone’s sake, especially your clients’.
Think of your role as a producer this way: Your primary role with the client is setting strategy and making sure the client sees improved results. Your internal team’s primary role is to execute on the strategy and service the clients. As a producer you should focus on take-offs (selling new business), landings (renewing existing business), and emergencies in flight (service issues that legitimately threaten the client relationship).
But it’s SO hard!
Of course these suggestions are hard. Stop your whining and be honest with yourself about how hard it is to not do them.
- Building a book of business with too many small accounts producing too little revenue is way harder than building a book of business that allows you to focus additional energy and effort on those accounts most worthy of your energy and effort.
- Being intentional about your prospecting/sales effort is going to give you a level of confidence you will never attain by stressing over an empty pipeline.
- Spending unnecessary time on service issues better handled by others is a waste of your prospecting/sales time you and your agency can’t afford.
No, your sales job isn’t easy – it’s why you get paid the big bucks. While you may never make it easy, you can definitely make it easier by finding the discipline to stop doing the things that make it harder than it needs to be.
And as you read this, if you find yourself already making excuses, then put “stop making excuses” at the top of your list of 2019 resolutions.
Photo Credit: Sergey Nivens