Spoiler alert: The biggest failure of insurance agencies is a lack of consistent processes in the most critical areas of operations.
If your insurance agency wasn’t growing as fast as you wanted, what would be one of the first options you’d consider to find that growth?
I’m guessing many of you said, “Hire a new producer." That would at least make the shortlist. And that could be a great response, but most of the time, it’s an action that ends in disaster or disappointment.
Let’s think for a moment about how dependent the agency is on the role of the producer. First of all, you go out and spend tens of thousands of dollars on this position. And then:
- You depend on them to bring in new revenue.
- You rely on them to help keep the revenue you already have.
- You need them to create enough activity to satisfy the carriers.
- You count on them to build and protect your reputation in the market.
It sounds like a lot of responsibility, right?
And you’d think with so much responsibility, there would be a VERY systematic process for bringing this new producer onto the team, educating them in the ways of the agency, ensuring they continue using your sales process in the same way you’ve established, and know the brand inside and out to represent you well.
But we know this likely isn't the case. We know because we hear it from agencies like you every day. People tell us on the phone, in person, and send confessional-type emails admitting to a complete lack of processes around the sales team.
There’s a LOT depending on this role. So how can you not have a sales process to help train producers and ensure their success?
You likely have processes for almost everything else you do
- How you hire
- How you onboard and train other (non-sales) employees
- How you get quotes
- How you handle claims
How can you NOT have a process for the one thing that makes everything else possible: the way you bring on new business? How can you not have a process to protect this significant investment? How can you not have a process in place to protect your brand?
Describing your sales process
As we interview agencies for admission into our program, we always ask them to describe their sales process. Most of the time, we hear a deafening silence from the other end. However, on occasion, we’ll get an answer.
Before I tell you about the occasional answer, think of how you would answer if I asked you to describe the first step of your sales process.
(Writer waits patiently while the reader ponders the question.)
Again, we mostly get silence to this question, but when we do get an answer, it ALWAYS describes the first face-to-face interaction the agency has with a prospect.
Folks, at that point, it’s too late. In today’s online world, studies tell us buyers are somewhere between 60% and 90% of the way to a buying decision before they ever talk with you. To win the race for new clients, understand that the sales process starts WAY before the first face-to-face meeting.
So, where is the actual starting line, and what are the critical handoffs of the sales baton?
Marketing is the first step in the sales process; it is the first conversation you have with a prospect. You may not be there to participate in the conversation actively but make no mistake; you are talking (or not) to your prospects.
Successful agencies understand the need to have marketing processes to:
- Craft a message that makes it clear how the prospect would benefit from working with you.
- Craft a message that compels the prospect to take a meeting with you.
- Consistently create content around your message.
- Ensure content can be found by your target audience on your blog, in your social media activities, on your website, and through your intentional marketing campaigns
Marketing is challenging work, but it's not optional. In today's online world, if you want to influence the buying decision, you’ll embrace marketing. If you skip this step, you won’t get a chance for that face-to-face meeting. However, when done well, marketing will make face-to-face time infinitely easier.
Filling the pipeline
An empty pipeline is a universal challenge for agencies and their producers. Creating quality opportunities doesn’t just happen; you must have a process to convert suspects into prospects.
To define those terms: a suspect is a company with whom you believe you want to do business, but they don’t know it yet. They don’t become a prospect until they know your interest and agree to participate in that conversation.
The most successful agencies leverage their marketing message and follow specific processes to put prospects in their pipeline by:
- Running cold call and email campaigns to convert the suspects.
- Generating referrals from clients and other centers of influence.
Once they have added a prospect to the pipeline, the most successful agencies pass the baton again in preparation for the home stretch of the face-to-face meeting.
Capturing THEIR story
During every sales opportunity, there are two stories to tell: yours and theirs. Sure, you need to be able to tell your story effectively (your story should be about how you work and not your history), but the importance of your story pales compared to the importance of learning their story.
The most successful agencies understand that the better they know the prospect's story, the healthier the conversation will take place when they finally have that face-to-face meeting. And:
- When you have a healthier conversation with the prospect, you uncover more of their needs.
- When you uncover more needs, you have the opportunity to filter through and identify those which are the most urgent.
- When you understand their most urgent needs, you will be able to identify the most potent solutions for them.
- When you bring an improvement plan built around the most potent solutions, you will win more.
Think about the opportunities in your pipeline right now. What do you know about those opportunities in the following areas, and do you have a process to ensure each is captured and documented?
- Industry – What are the trends, current events, and regulatory issues they struggle with, simply because of the industry in which they compete?
- Company – What are their longer-term goals and objectives? How do they define their success?
- Decision makers – In whose hands does your success/failure rest? What are their concerns? What questions do they need you to answer?
- Challenges – What about this prospect's current situation is likely holding them back?
If you don’t have unique insights in each of these areas, you aren’t giving yourself the opportunity you need to be successful. Getting new business opportunities is the most challenging part of sales; don't squander them by not putting forth your best effort and connecting with your prospects.
The most successful agencies understand that only after systematically (meaning in a process-driven approach) moving through the three phases discussed above, are they truly prepared for an effective face-to-face meeting with a prospect. But, of course, the systematic, process-driven approach must continue.
Your process cannot be about just getting quotes and showing off your capabilities binder; it needs to focus on the following:
- Gaining clarity about what their goals/objectives are in terms of their HR/benefits program. How do they define success for that investment of time and money?
- Analyzing their current situation to identify what is holding them back from achieving their goals and objectives.
- Being the architect of a plan that gives them confidence in their ability—through you—to address their current shortcomings and get on a more predictable path to success.
I hope when you read everything I’ve shared here, you see it all as logical and necessary. And, I hope you see that taking a systematic, process-driven approach is the most straightforward path to success.
However, many agencies and producers don't see it that way. I can't tell you how often I have heard producers proclaim, "I don't need no stinkin' sales process; I'm MUCH better when I wing it."
That is the most dangerous lie salespeople tell themselves. Deming told us, “If you can’t describe what you do as a process, you don’t really know what you’re doing.”
Content provided by Q4intelligence
Photo by voronaman