Running a business is more complex and complicated than ever before. Business owners everywhere are being challenged to invest in new resources at an unprecedented pace. This reality is especially true for benefits businesses. However, the financial pressures being faced by today's companies leave little margin for error when making such investments.
Successful investments start with an understanding of why the investment is being made. The most successful agencies drive success by having a clear vision of the agency they must become.
They can describe in detail the resources, skills, behaviors, talent, growth, profitability, etc., they are committed to having. The vision is extremely clear in the eyes of leadership, but they also make the ongoing communication of the vision to the entire team a relentless obsession.
Because of this clarity, they are immune to the bright-n-shiny syndrome in their weaker competition. Those agencies constantly chasing the next bright-n-shiny idea find their team fighting against any change and whispering behind leadership's back, "Just wait. This too shall pass."
In the meantime, the best agencies successfully make the next investment in their future. Because their team understands where it fits into the big picture, they have the advantage of their team fighting WITH them to put it in place instead of AGAINST their new idea.
Successful investments include an investment of time
Almost every agency owner is willing to get out the checkbook, but the best agencies understand that you can't write a check as an answer, at least not to the most critical questions. When contemplating an investment, the most successful agencies get out their checkbooks and calendars. Don't spend the money if you aren't willing to spend the time to ensure a successful investment.
The examples are commonplace, but let's use one of the most obvious: hiring new producers.
Agencies looking to grow will invest tens of thousands of dollars into a new producer. This is a position on whose shoulders the success of the business rests.
- The agency depends on this position to bring in new business.
- The agency also disproportionately depends on producers to help keep the business it already has.
- How the producer works in the market affects the reputation—the very brand—of the agency.
- The type of business brought in and the promises made to those accounts determine whether the agency will be profitable.
And yet, most agencies have no plan, training program, or time committed to help ensure the success of their new producer. Seriously??!!
Successful investments are planned for
Before ever making an investment, whether hiring a producer or acquiring a new solution, the most successful agencies plan for successful onboarding or implementation.
In the case of a new producer, the core of the onboarding plan is a well-defined sales process. Such a process allows them to attract the best talent in the first place, provides confidence to the producer, and it also allows for a focused investment of time.
The sales process is the foundation on which the agency will be able to build a successful producer through proper training and coaching. With a strategy and plan in place, everyone's confidence (the producer, the rest of the team, and leadership) grows exponentially.
In the case of acquiring a new resource or solution, the implementation plan focuses on the problem it will allow them to solve. Average agencies learn the features and benefits of the new solution but stop there.
The most successful agencies recognize that it is simply scratching the surface. They commit to identifying, studying, and emphasizing the elements that will be most important to prospects and clients.
- What problem(s) does the solution help solve for clients?
- What are the challenges that clients face that make this a common problem?
- How will the client's business improve once this problem is solved?
- What will be the negative financial and/or operational impact on a business that ignores this problem?
- How will this solution be implemented (step-by-step) when a client needs it?
- What question(s) need to be asked to determine if a prospect or client has this problem?
Not only do the most successful agencies take the time to answer these questions, but they also document the answers and use them as reference materials. They set aside time to regularly study the reference materials to ensure they understand them at the level their buyers need.
The bottom-line recipe for a successful investment = Purpose of the investment + Dollars for the necessary resources + An implementation plan + A commitment of time.
- Reevaluate an underperforming investment. Identify what parts of the recipe are missing (Purpose? An adequate financial investment? A defined plan? Your time?) and what you can do to make it successful.
- Envision your next three investments. Identify what next three investments you need to make and what you need to put in place to feel confident making each investment.
These key steps aren't about instant gratification, but if you take the time to build a solid foundation and invest wisely, your ROI will soar to new heights.
Photo by puvasit