3 C's of LeadershipJan 27, 2022
Welcome to the Agent Leader Podcast. My name is Brent Kelly, your host. Thanks so much for joining me on this episode. Excited to be with you. Excited to share some really important information and thoughts, in particular to sales and sales leadership. And I'll get to that just in a minute. I do want to highlight the purpose, the mission of this podcast, The Agent Leader Podcast, as always, is to help you the independent insurance agency leader, whatever your specific role. To help you gain clarity, to build consistency, and to make a commitment to become your best version possible.
Which, if you're watching me in the video, you can see I've got the book behind me. Our book is out, Best Version Possible. Also, our movie, our documentary movie is out as well. You can check the movie out right away. You just go and you can go to sitkins.com/vip And you can check out the movie. Again, sharing our story and the story of independent insurance agencies. And just share some of the processes and strategies that have helped agencies work. And we've got some great feedback on that.
You can also order the book at sitkins.com/bvp for Best Version Possible. So sitkins.com/bvp and you can get a book. We're going to be having an audio version come out in February. The Kindle or E-reader book is available as well. And we are getting some delays in shipping. So if you're ordered and you're waiting, we apologize, but they're coming. We promise. We'll get those out to you. I just want to get them into as many people's hands as we can so that you can help your agency and move your agency forward. So that's our goal there.
Today, as I mentioned, I kind of hinted at this. This will be a solo episode. I've got some things on my mind that I want to share. And as I'm recording this in January, this is one of our peak seasons in training programs that we run. And I've mentioned on this podcast before, at Sitkins, we run four live training programs, basically about every quarter. And they run anywhere from four to eight weeks, depending on the program. And right now we are in the busy season, so to speak, of the program delivery.
And what I love about the programs is not just that I love to train and teach and coach. I love that. I love to be able to offer some different perspectives and some strategies that people can take back and begin to win. And we're already getting great feedback. I love that because people are like, wow, this is good. This is going to help me. And they go apply them. But also, we get obviously feedback and just learning in the conversations because we do a lot of chats. We do a lot of open conversations. We do round tables. It is very interactive and conversational, and we get great feedback.
And on top of that, I continue to coach our private client agencies. And so what I want to do with this podcast is take something that I just continue to hear and talk about, specifically is in the area of sales leadership. And let me just start off. Some of you're going to go, I'm not a sales leader, Brent, so I guess I'll tune out. You could. You certainly have every right to do that. But if you are in sales of any kind, you are a sales leader because you should be handling your own Me, Inc as we talk about at Sitkins. But your own producer, your own production book of business, and you should be your own sales leader to a degree, so listen up.
If you are an actual sales leader or de facto sales leader, we'll talk about that. You definitely want to tune into this and take a listen and make some notes. And if you're an agency principal who maybe you oversee some of this, obviously it's important. Because we joke, but it's also true that net new revenue doesn't fix all of your agency's problems, just most of them. So if we can get the producers producing, and have a better system, and better leadership around that, guess what? We're going to be more successful.
And I want to start off just by saying this. If you are a sales leader, either by you were hired to be the sales leader, you have become the sales leader, you've sort of just had to, we hear that too. Let me say this. And I always want to be careful on how I want to say this because I'll have other people going, what about me? So this isn't to diminish any other role in the agency, but at least from my perspective what I see, is that the sales leadership position is arguably, but I believe is the most challenging position in the agency. Again, I'm going to get people to go, what about my position in my role? And here's why I say this. Because there's a lot going on for most sales leaders, you already are handling your own book of business. In many cases, and this isn't everyone, but oftentimes you got your own book of business. So you're dealing with that alone as a producer. And handling your book of business. Then you got to lead these people called producers who are people who have different backgrounds and experiences.
And let's face it as. As much as I love for producers and the attitude, and the mindset, and the work ethic of the best producers, they could be a challenge as people. That's just the way it is. And then of course, if you are a sales leader and you've got an agency principal or someone above you as far as that you report to, you got to report back with the numbers. You got to make sure that you're winning. So it's a really tough spot because you're kind of in the middle of everything and there's a high expectation, but here's why I want to share this podcast today. I don't know that there's a lot of great training, or resources, or tools out there in the marketplace that truly focus and help sales leaders. And one of the big reasons that our programs, one of the program is called CROFit, which is Chief Revenue Officer Fit.
So one of our programs is for just for sales leaders. We looked around like, there's not much of that. And how can we help equip sales leaders? Because one of the things that you often hear with sales leaders is, my Gosh, I've been through your program, Brent, as a producer, more of I've heard different aspects of it. I agree with it. I get it. I'm trying to transfer that to my producers, but they're just not buying in. They're not hearing it. They're not understanding it. And so we want to do our best to equip and empower sales leaders to get in the tools and resources and the type of communication to be able to attack that at a very high level. And the other part of that is obviously we get the producers through our program and they hear the message as well.
So it's a coherent holistic message that I've mentioned. But I want to hit some of the highlights. And if you're a sales leader, just to simplify this to a degree for you. And I talk at the very beginning of this podcast; clarity, consistency, commitment. It's something that I've done on a podcast about, we talk about frequently and to go back to the very root cause of the clarity, consistency, commitment is a conversation that I had with Roger Sitkins, gosh, it's probably been almost five years ago now. Coming up on five years ago. And I sat with him and before I officially began with Sitkins, we had a lot of conversations and I just try to learn and listen. As much as I can. Certainly when you have someone like with Roger's experience in the industry, you want to just get a notebook out and a pen and a paper and go, okay, hey, tell me this, and just ask a number of questions.
And so I asked Roger these questions about what makes a great producer and named great agencies? And I just keep taking all these notes. And I was thinking of my experiences and it just always came back. I said, the thing that I hear again and again, and there's depth to all of these, and I'm going to hit some of these. But the three things that always come back is the best producers, the best sales leaders, the best agencies, they've got clarity. They know where they are. They know where they want to go. And they've got a plan on how to get there. They're not just guessing. They've got clarity. There's a purpose behind it. They've got consistency that they understand that there's just a few things they have to do really well, not everything. But they don't lose focus.
And they've got a commitment. The fact that, hey, I've got to be committed to myself. It's this accountability word. I've got to be committed. And I have to make sure that I'm committed to myself, my team, to my clients, to my community. It's the old analogy burn the boat, so to speak. But maybe not to that degree, but it's the fact of, hey, this is real and this is going to happen. And we're committed to it. This is what it's going to be. So I want to go through each of those areas on today's podcast. And again, if you're, whether you're an agency leader who's overseeing a sales leader, whether again, you are the sales leader, whether you're a producer, this is just, think about the most impactful things I'm going to be talking about that are going to apply to you.
And I'll first say this, and I mentioned this a little bit earlier, is that most sales leaders weren't brought in to be a sales leader. Now, your agency, we do have agencies we work with that people are hired specifically as a sales leader. But what normally happens in most agencies is the fact that we have one of our best producers, if not the best producer it's like, heck, you can sell. You've been successful. So we're going to make you the sales leader. Which let me just start by saying this, agency leaders, please listen to me. That may not be the best option. Okay? Now again, there are a lot of variables here and I'm not going to make these broad generalizations, but I will tell you that in many cases, putting your best producer, who does things in a way that's a very high level is not always the best approach to make them the sales coach, the sales leader of the agency.
Sometimes it can be, but in many cases it's not. You think about sports. How many times have you seen a really great athlete? Really great like, my gosh. He or she was the best at what they did. And then they come to coach or lead the team or organization, and t hey're not very good there. Because one of the things that I'll start off by saying, and this is whether you were placed in that position, or you grew in that position, or you were hired for that position of the sales leader is this. There's really you think about agencies. You can either go fast or you can go far. Now the best answer is we want to go fast and far. But think about this, the best producers can go really fast. Like, here we go, I'm off. I'm running.
And we go, go get the results. But you got to take people with you. Maybe not everyone should come with you. That's a whole different discussion, but for those people on your team that again, there's potential there and there's opportunity and there's room for growth. If I just go fast, we're not going to go very far. So you have to understand that concept is will you just go fast or will you go far? And so that's the first thing to just think about from an agency perspective and what are we trying to do here? And again, fast and far is great. But sometimes if we go so fast as an individual, because, hey, this is how I did it. And this is how. Tell me about it. I don't know, I just did it. I just did this and this.
And then people are like, I don't really know what they're talking about. I don't understand the concepts. I feel a little left behind and guess what? Instead of empowering and equipping your producers, you begin to abandon them. And all of a sudden they're like, forget it. I'll just have to figure this out on my own. And that's obviously not a great formula for success. So let's go back to the three Cs. And I want to identify these and just give some thoughts around. So number one is clarity. And you think about an agency overall, it's the same thing as true with the sales department, whether there's one producer or there's 10 producers, or you got 50 producers. But we've got to have clarity around what is the culture? What are the expectations? What is okay, and what is not okay.
And some things that I'm going to get into is critical success factors. But the other part of this too with clarity, and this takes some work is by individual producer, a great sales leader isn't going to not only just talk about the culture and the basic expectations of the agency. By the way, many agencies couldn't really define what those are. What is specifically expected from the producer role? We got to sell. Okay, but give me more clarity. What does that mean and look like? You go sell. So there's a gap in communication, but some of this is going with the producer certainly deeper and understanding, not just what to do, but why? Why do we do what we do? Get the explanation. Why is this our approach?
We talk a lot about culture and process with agency leadership. The culture is the why? It's the language and behaviors that are normal in the agency like, this is our culture. This is our why, this is our purpose. We have to follow it. And then there's the process like, here's specifically what we do in a process. And so often, and we just start with the process and we don't talk about the culture and what happens is, guess what? People don't buy-in. And part of that comes back to clarity. And if people don't buy-in, it's a really difficult situation. It's never easy. Even if there's some success, it's not easy. It's kind of this fight. So a big part of clarity to me as a sales leader is not just why you do what you do as an agency, but why would they want to be a successful producer?
Why would it matter to them? And you may be thinking, okay, Brent's getting fluffy. But let me tell you something. There's so many examples of this and I can think back to many years ago now, but after our second child was born and I started spending more time probably eating out than I did working out, leave it at that, and started to notice that I was getting very out of shape and getting a bit overweight. And I remember it's like, hey, I got to lose weight. That was the goal. And I would start and stop, and start and stop. Because guess what? The idea of just losing weight, yes, it was good.
It made sense. Technically it made sense. I need to lose weight. I need to get in shape, but guess what? When the behaviors became hard like, so I can't eat that, or I shouldn't eat that, or I need to move, or I need to get up earlier? We could name a number of behaviors on this, but then I would, whatever, it's not that big of a deal. Until I remember seeing someone who was about 15 years older than me at a basketball game that was really struggling to get up the bleachers. And this isn't to pick on this person, but I just saw it. I just visually so it like, wow, if I don't change my behaviors, I am going to be that guy. I'm going to be a middle-aged dad who struggles to get up bleachers, who doesn't have a lot of longevity or mobility or energy.
A number of these things that are important to me and what does that mean for my kids and my grandkids? And just being able to bring energy and effort to the workplace. All that kind of stuff hit me. And so what I would challenge you as a sales leader and why I say this is that to get the right behaviors, we've got to be clear on why it matters. Why does it matter? And just sit down with your producers and you don't have to go, we do an exercise called seven levels deep. It comes from Dean Graziosi, Millionaire Secrets. I think is the name of the book. I may have got that wrong, but Dean Graziosi and he talks about seven levels deep and we've done that exercise. It's a very powerful exercise, but at least go two or three levels deep with your producers.
Certainly if you're talking about clarity of goals, that's where you start, what are the expectations? Not just made up, but like, hey, what are your goals? What do you want to achieve this year? And then just say, hey, listen. Not if, but when you hit this goal because we're going to do this, we're going to help each other. Why is that going to matter to you? Why is that so important? And allow them just to talk. And if they say, it would matter because of this. Great. Tell me why that's so important to you. I would do this. Tell me more, what does that really mean? And so then as a sales leader then you can be able to tie the why to the actions. And we're going to get into that with consistency, but then when all of a sudden, and by the way, they're human, right? Producers.
So they're going to make mistakes. They're going to fall short. There's going to be bad weeks. They're going to be maybe bad months. You've got to get back into it and say, listen, when we talked you told me how important this was because it was going to mean that to you in your life. Has something changed? Has anything changed? And that's a really powerful statement. Going back to my workout analogy. And I had people around me and I told them that, in fact, I want you to hold me accountable to this because what's really important to me is longevity and energy for what I really want to do and who I want to become as a father and as a leader. And you get away from it and they go, Brent, is being a great father and leader has that changed? And you just go, no, you're right.
It hit you square in the eyes. So start with clarity of why it's so important. Secondly, so let's move into consistency. And again, these all tied together and there's a lot of nuances to them, but consistency. And to me, if I was going to write one word down next to consistency for sales leadership, it's helping producers get focused. Focus. A great acronym for focus is Follow One Course Until Successful. Just, I would say in working with now hundreds and hundreds, and probably getting close to thousands, I'd have to add them up with producers. And now of course, working with so many sales leaders. One of the biggest things that we see even with high-level producers is what causes them to fail, or struggle, or plateau is a word called distraction. They get distracted. This could be distracted by too much service work.
It also could be distracted by too many emails. It could be distracted by too many thoughts in their mind. It could be distracted by thinking they got to do 57 things. So they lose focus. And when you lose focus, you lose energy, you lose energy, you lose where you're going and your results. And so we've got to help them. So just a couple things that I want to share on focus. I want to first start off about you as a sales leader. Again, whether this is your main role or your a de facto sales leader, there should be a consistency in a focus around a weekly sales meeting. Weekly sales meeting, not W-E-A-K, but W-E-E-K, weekly. Now, what is the main goal of a sales meeting? To come in and complain about how the carriers aren't fair and how a client was a jerk? Because that happens.
Like, can you believe the rate increases? My gosh, I agree. It's terrible. And we just sit and talk about things, honestly, in many cases that we can't even control. You know what you can control, your behaviors and your actions. So here's something to consider, a weekly sales meeting. In fact, I believe this not only should be weekly, but every week should be focused on a skill development. Yeah. You're going to talk about some numbers and updates on all kinds of stuff, absolutely. But if every weekly sales meeting, if you just did some level of skill practice, or how to best ask for a referral, how to ask certain questions. Something we call an executive briefing, but how to present yourself here, you just did something. And we could go through a whole list of things. But if we just did something and we call low risk practice.
Meaning that no one gets hurt except maybe our feelings, but that's okay. It's okay to mess up in a private room with other people because that's how we get better. Just like if you practice a musical instrument or anything else, or out in the football field or basketball court, if you practice, you're going to mess up, but it's okay to mess up there. We just don't want to mess up in the game. At least we want to prevent that, or eliminate that, or reduce it, the best that we can. So low risk practice. And then I also think every week in the weekly meeting, we should be debriefing; either a big success. Why did it work in debriefing a failure? Why didn't it work? We can learn so much from both success and failure. So consistency in a weekly sales meeting, because what I often hear as sales leaders is, gosh the pressure is on.
My gosh, I got to come up with new content. I got to come up with a new story. I got to come up with this big rah-rah. Those are great if you can do that, but guess what? That's not everyone's personality. And that's okay. The biggest thing is what you want to see in weekly sales meeting is that your players, the producers become the star of the meeting, not you. So just by saying, hey, listen, next week we're going to be working on X. And if you got a big group, you don't have to have all 40 people or 10 people do it. Just have a couple. And guess what, if a couple people have to do it and they don't know who they are, everyone needs to practice. At least that's the goal. It's kind of like the old pop quiz when you were a kid.
So make sure you do that. But also let's highlight every week, hey, we had our best one of the week. Let that producer/person pocket. And have people ask questions. Hey, we had a failure and this isn't to beat this person up, but only we're going to get better and try to prevent this in the future, so learn from it. So what happened in this? Where do we fall short and guess what? Everyone gets better because the number one goal of a sales meeting is that the producers leave the meeting a better producer than when they arrived. I'll say it again. The goal of the sales meeting, I would call a sales improvement meeting is that every producer leaves that meeting a better producer than when they got there. And so often we missed the point. It becomes just a bunch of numbers and some complaints.
And then off we go and we're like, yes. I had to do it. And no, again, that happens, but you got to break it out. Because if I should, if I'm a producer and I'm really committed to my growth, and I know when I come to that meeting, even if I don't like it some days, because guess what? I'm busy and I have things going on, I know that I'll be a better producer. I'll be okay with that. Because deep down, I want to get better. And if I don't then I probably shouldn't be at the agency. All right. So there's that part. And then as far as consistency, what do you need to focus on with your producers? There's not a lot of things, honestly. One of the things that you've heard, I talked about with Roger or some of our guests that I've had on this podcast is just getting in the Green Zone.
Like, what do I need to focus on? Above anything else beyond all the strategies and some of the things that you want to work on, it's like, am I just getting in the game? So some things to focus on. We look about the four money-making activities, but here you go like, how am I doing each week in focusing on sales and sales appointments? Sales conversations. How am I doing every single week in pipeline development? That should be a focus every single week, ongoing thing to be consistent with. How am I doing in proactive relationship management? With my best clients and centers of influence. It could be some of my carrier partners, certainly my high performance team. But how am I doing in relationship management? And then of course, continuations. And I'm not talking about reactive service, how did you do in reactive service? No.
How are you doing in making sure that you've defined document and delivered continuations and continuation process with your best clients? For a producer, it should be really those four things. I got to be having sales conversations and sales appointments, pipeline development, proactive relationship management, and a continuation process. And we go deep in all that in our programs, but you get the point just on the podcast. Like, that's it. That's the four things like, how are we doing? And what happens is we lose sight of that. We get into all this other stuff. And by the way, that stuff's going to happen, but it can't be during green zone time or pay time. So that's consistency. If we can just say, hey, just stay consistent, focus on that. That's it. Just do that and you'll be fine. And we see that all the time with our producers, and with the sales leaders.
How did you do it? How did you get the success? I just got them focused. We just talked about the vital few things that matter. The vital few things that matter and we were very consistent. Which leads to number three is commitment. This is the hardest part. This in fact, just recently we did our sales leadership training program and session two is all about accountability. And I've seen agencies that I've worked with that have put all the pieces together. We've talked the right talk. We've even begun from a leadership position to walk the right walk in certain areas, we're doing some of the necessary things. We're getting the right processes in place, all that good stuff. And you go, this can't fail. We're going to be great. But you know what, they never established upfront? Commitment and accountability.
They never officially defined, and this kind of goes back to clarity as well, but never really defined the specific goals, roles, expectations, most importantly, the behaviors that would be required and agreed upon to have success. It was just kind of taken for granted. Okay, we've got this, we've got that. We've got that. Now go kill it. And then they'd come back and, My gosh, they're not doing all this stuff. Here's a question I would ask. Hey, did you define specifically what it was? Not really. Did you document the agreed upon behaviors and actions between the producer and yourself? What is it? What does it look like? And by the way, there's going to be a certain standard and things that we call non-optional behaviors. But this is something we want the producer buy in. Any growth-minded producer and you sit down and say, listen, my goal as the sales leader is to help you shine.
My goal as a sales leader is to help you win. My goal as a sales leader is to help you make a bunch of money and do some great stuff with your family, or community, or whatever it is. Going back to the why? That's my goal. I want to help you win. If you win, I win, we win. So let me help you win. So to do that, let's figure out specifically some of the behaviors that we know, I know, and you know that if you do them regularly and we commit to it, there's accountability behind it. You'll win. Are you good with that? Just think about this. If you're a producer and you don't want a coach to help you get better, and hold you accountable doing the right things, again, it may not be a really good fit. So let's define what it is.
Let's document it. Now, with our programs, we have a Producer Performance Agreement that we give all of our members and we talk through as a template. And it's huge. It's hugely critical. And it's really important. And I will tell you the agencies that finally go, okay, we're ready to do this now. They're like, wow. Not only has this helped us have better conversations because what we want the sales leaders to do is coach, not chase, coach us to have better conversations. It's helped us to grow our business, help us retain the better producers because they actually like the fact that they're getting better. And here's the weird thing that's happened. It's helped us recruit because we're talking to other producers, if you want to bring someone in and guess what? We have a blueprint or we have a process, we have a system, we have an agreement that we go through that we know if you do these things and we help you, you're going to be better.
And isn't that what great producers want? Yeah, they do. Yeah. They want their freedom. But one thing that I believe in all the time is that structure equals freedom. You give people some basic structures, some basic guardrails as we call at Sitkins, they can super shine because guess what? We help them keep them focused. So there's a document and of course, then you just got to deliver it. And the last thing I'm going to talk about this in the commitment is again, these all overlap. But we believe and we see this time and time out is that if you as a sales leader can just have a monthly one-on-one conversation with your producers, how do we do that? Agreed upon. We've got an agreement in place. We have some performance metrics that we talk about and I don't just mean numbers.
I don't just mean that you walk in and go, okay. Here's my goal for the month. Or again, we can look at a bunch of different KPIs, but here's where some of my things, here's what I did and the sales leader goes, okay, good on that one. Those two you need to get better at next month. Okay. I got it. There's no change. So this comes back to saying, hey, listen. The next 30 days, Mr. or Ms. Producer, the things we've talked about and agreed upon what are going to be the most, let's just use to the three most important behaviors that you've got to really dive deep and do well at? I need to do this. I need to do that. I need to do that. And talk to them and coach them through. Great.
What does that look like? What does that mean? And then next month they come to you with that. And you're able to not just chase numbers, but improve behaviors, improve actions, to be able to inspire in a way that they have agreed upon and you understand. That is powerful coaching. That is powerful leadership and that's the commitment. But we have to agree upon that upfront. And we see again, with agencies that we work with and the sales leaders, it does a couple things. It empowers them greatly and it also allows them to breathe, because most sales leaders on something like this, don't like to sit and chase numbers all the time. I don't know. Maybe you do. But they want to say, listen, we know that the behaviors will drive the numbers. And by the way, by the time you get numbers, in many cases it's already too late.
Those are lagging indicators for the most part. Now we've got some leading indicators we can look at, but they're lagging. So let's talk about specific behaviors and action, because we know if we just do those things consistently we'll win. So those are my three Cs for sales leadership. If you can't tell, I'm passionate about this because going back to what I said at the beginning, sales leadership is really challenging. I'm saying these things. I'm reading off a piece of paper. These come from experiences, come from work with agencies. We see this all the time. It can be done. It can be done really well. It makes a big difference for the agency, and success, and results, and all that good stuff. But, and by the way, it's not complicated. Understand the culture and the mission and the why of the agency and the producer, find the very few things used to do exceptionally well, consistency, the vital few. And then define what that is, put it in writing and every month have a conversation about it.
That's kind of it. And I mentioned weekly sales meetings, but there's just, that's nothing that goes, wow. I could never grasp that. Simple does not mean easy. And I know that. It is not. So part of this is if you're listening to me right now and you are, okay. Whether you're watching me or listening to me, of the things that I mentioned, what's jumping out of you? Where do you need to start? Maybe you've got great clarity, but you've gotten away from consistency, right? Maybe you've you've got consistency, but you've never really defined the mission, and the culture, and the why's? So for you, what's most important? Maybe inconsistency, you're not running sales meetings, or at least not effectively. Maybe you've never defined specifically what it is.
Maybe it's time to get stuff in writing right. I know with producers you've had for a long period of time they come in and say, hey, listen. We're going to start to have more accountability. It's not probably the best, most exciting thing that people want to hear. But when you come in or you begin to have conversations about my goal, my role, my job is to help you win, to improve you to go do everything possible that you can want to do in life, and be wildly successful. If you go with that mindset, this is like the Zig Ziglar quote from years and years ago. If you help enough people get what they want, you can have anything you want. All right. If you help enough people get what they want. So that mindset knowing that, you know what? I may not always like what the person tells me because they care about me.
I may not always like it, but deep down, they know that they will do anything they can to help you win. And when people know that deep down and they want you to win, they'll fight for you. It won't be perfect. It won't be easy, but they'll fight for you.
So hope this episode is helpful for you. Again, whether you're an agency leader and you're the principal overseeing everything, you are the sales leader, de facto sales leader, or if you're a producer. Part of this are pretty, we don't do this. You can do a lot of these things on your own. You can set your own standards. You can look yourself in the mirror and go, I'm going to be accountable to me. On some of these things.
So let's hope this is helpful for you. If this podcast in general or this episode or others, please share, subscribe, follow, whatever the platform is, do what you got to do. But we'd love to continue to share this message of agency leadership. As I mentioned earlier, our book is available, sitkins.com/bvp and order copies, send to your friends, colleagues, whatever it may be. Then also if you want to watch our movie. It's a very powerful segment of how we work with agencies, and our process, and our strategies. Just go to sitkins.com/vip. With that. I wish you all the best and your success. Thanks for listening.
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