When I was still working inside an insurance agency, I received an urgent-sounding call from “Jim,” one of my producers, asking me to go to lunch. Several potential scenarios went through my mind as I told him, “Of course, let’s go.”
We settled in at our table, and I could tell something was bothering him and that he was uncomfortable with what he was about to share. I finally pushed the issue and asked him, “What’s going on?”
He said, “I need to talk to you about ‘Cindy.’” Cindy had been hired on to be Jim’s account manager about six months earlier. From the interview process through her first six months, I had never heard anything other than rave reviews about her. I couldn’t imagine what she had done to upset Jim so much.
This is a problem?
He finally put it out there, “Here’s the deal, my clients aren’t calling me anymore. When they have an issue, they go straight to Cindy. Most of the time, I’m not even aware of anything until it’s been resolved.”
I was beyond confused. “Jim, THAT’S your problem?! You’re upset that your clients trust Cindy enough to go to her for help?! You should be up on this table doing a freakin’ happy dance!”
Jim didn’t see it that way; he was genuinely distraught. He was the classic example of the producer who tells his clients, “I’m your guy. If ANYTHING goes wrong, call me, and I’ll take care of it. I don’t care if it’s evenings, weekends, whatever. Just call, and I’ll jump right on it.”
Good intentions get in the way of exceptional results
I get that this is a well-intentioned offer. Producers are out there making promises to prospects and feel a great deal of responsibility to ensure those promises are kept. But this “call me with everything” message is wrong for so many reasons.
First of all, day-to-day service issues shouldn’t be the producer’s responsibility. In a true sales organization, the job of the producer is to produce business. Says so right there in the title.
Second, the producer isn’t the best person for the job. The same traits that make someone a good salesperson often get in the way of being a good service person. They just don’t have the attention to detail. I mean, what if a squirrel ran across the path in the middle of a service issue? 😏
Finally, the producer is one member of a team filled with people who specialize in keeping things going smoothly and fixing stuff when it breaks. You don’t expect the person who sold you your car to also repair it when it breaks down. Your clients are no different.
Bottom line: prospects and clients don’t care who fixes their problem as long as it’s fixed. They likely find greater confidence knowing they have an entire team on their side.
Find the sweet spot
I know some agencies take this idea to an extreme, and the producer completely leaves the picture once a deal is sold. That may work for some, but I’m just not a fan of that approach either. In my opinion, there is a sweet spot between the extremes of the call-me-for-everything and the you’ll-never-see-me-again approaches.
I once heard a producer’s responsibilities described as take-offs (selling new business), landings (renewing the business), and emergencies-in-flight (service issues that threaten the relationship). I love that description.
I’m not suggesting producers never get involved in service issues; it just shouldn’t be the day-to-day issues. Here’s the thing, when a producer plays their proper role on a complete team taking care of the client, there are way fewer issues that crop up and threaten the relationship anyway.
Train the client
The most effective producers I see don’t merely use the rest of their team effectively once a prospect becomes a client; they include their team during the sales process. By bringing in the rest of their team during the sales process, they bring more detailed explanations of key issues, build the confidence of the buyer, and set the table for a smooth hand-off when the prospect becomes a new client. It’s easy for the client to go to the right person for help because they already know one another.
Even if you have fallen victim to the call-me-for-everything relationship with current clients, it isn’t too late. Simply retrain those clients.
The next time you get a call from a client looking for help, simply say, “We have someone on our team who specializes in helping with these issues, he/she is better equipped to handle this than me. I’m going to pass the details of your situation on to him/her, and they will be the one following up with you. I’ll check back in to make sure everything went well.” After a time or two, guess who the client will start going to directly?
Now, go prepare for your next take-off.
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Photo by Sergey Nivens