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Are You Filling Your Gaps?

leadership Aug 24, 2021
Are You filling your agency's gaps blog image

One of the stickiest concepts I’ve been sharing at our recent training and coaching programs centers on direction and destination. It starts with a very simple but powerful question: Does your current direction match your desired destination?

All too often I see a significant gap between the current direction (where you’re headed at this time) and your desired destination (where you want to go). If that is true for you, how do you plan to close the gap between direction and destination?

To better understand this concept, let’s create a graph with an X-axis and a Y-axis. The X-axis = Revenues and the Y-axis = Time. Begin with identifying your revenues five years ago, then three years ago, then your current revenue. Let’s assume you are a $4 million income agency today, and five years ago you were a $2 million income agency, and three years ago you were a $2.5 million income agency. Starting at the five-years-ago level, connect the dots to three years ago, and then to your current revenue. That represents your trend. Now extend that line (your trend) out another five years and you’ll see where your agency is headed. In other words, if nothing changes and you stay the course, you have identified your probable destination.

Next, let’s look out five years and determine your desired—not probable—dream destination. For this example, we’ll assume that you would like to be a $6 million income agency five years from today. Now draw a line between your current revenue and the desired destination. If you are like the vast majority of agencies, you’ll notice a sizeable space between current direction and dream destination.

So how will you fill the gap?

Think of gap as a double Sitkins acronym: Goals And Plans for Growth And Profit. The best gap fillers become a cultural and operational foundation for the agency. In fact, here’s what we’ve found among the best agencies we work with: (1) They’re aware they have a problem and recognize there’s a gap; (2) They have a good idea about where they’ll wind up if they just stay the course and keep doing what they’ve been doing; and (3) They know that’s not the path that will lead to their Best Version Possible. Accordingly, they’re quick to identify gap fillers, which are the foundational behaviors and strategies they must execute to align their current direction with their desired destination.

At Sitkins, our overall focus is ROI, Retaining and Obtaining Ideal clients. Yes, I know you’ve heard it before, but what have you done about it? Let’s start with retaining ideal clients.

The best strategies are to:

  • Have exit barriers in place
  • Have a continuation process that makes the renewal a non-event
  • Provide a great client experience (think Ritz-Carlton, not Econo Lodge)
  • Establish and maintain a culture of promise making and promise keeping

Doing all of the above will not only retain your current ideal clients, but it’s also likely to generate referrals to additional future ideal clients. It’s really that simple!

What about obtaining? It starts with establishing a differentiated selling process based upon your unique selling proposition (USP). In case you’ve forgotten, these are the unique and appealing ideas and things that separate you from all other “me too” competitors. It starts with a formal selling process based upon purpose (we’re here to help you), process (here’s how we’ll do it), and pay off (we’re going to help you control your total cost of benefits/risk).

This includes a mindset of no practice quoting and no unpaid consulting. Why would you go out there and provide unpaid consultation to someone whom you’ve not super-qualified, only to be told they’re staying with their current agent? You have just done a ton of work in an effort to show them how to fix the other agent’s problem, and that agent gets to keep the account! Unfortunately, that’s what happens when you don’t super-qualify potential clients up front.

It’s not enough just to have a sales process. The key is to have a repeatable sales process. In other words, you don’t do things one way one time and another way the next. A repeatable sales process is something you do every single time without exception. Agencies that have and follow a process enjoy predictable and guaranteed sales results (e.g., success). Regrettably, the overwhelming majority of agencies don’t have one.

This process should be based upon pursuing future ideal clients only, super-qualifying them up front, and taking them through a unique process. So, if you don’t have a 75%-80% closing ratio, you’re doing something wrong

Often, when we debrief lost sales with producers, we find they usually do a very poor job up front, which inevitably leads to a very poor result. For example, they don’t find out why the prospect is seeking a second opinion on their existing program, what frustrations they’re experiencing in their current relationship, or what they’d most like to change about their program, among other things.

If producers will have an in-depth conversation like that up front, then they can make an informed decision about whether to move forward. Do I really want to invest additional time and resources in this person or am I being used here? If it’s the latter, get out now! Don’t waste your time.

Making the actual sale is the easiest part of the process if you’re really prepared and you’ve thoroughly super-qualified the prospect up front. However, for young producers, it’s one of the toughest lessons to learn. They just want the activity—the action, so they’re likely to show up and hope for the best. It’s not until they learn the rules of the game that their sales take off. That’s when they really start to succeed.

The best producers understand that success hinges on the Four Ps: Preparation, Practice, Play, and Performance. In other words, they are completely Prepared prior to meetings and presentations, they have repeatedly Practiced what they’ll say, and consequently they’re able to Play at the highest level. Ultimately, this allows them to give a superior Performance. Just think about Phil Mickelson and his recent PGA Championship win at the age of 50. He prepared mentally and physically, he practiced regularly, he played at the highest level, and he gave a great performance.

In our industry, the most successful agencies constantly work at getting better. All team members are involved in continual and never-ending improvement. It’s sad when we talk to people who say they are “too busy to get better.” Somehow, they’re not too busy to keep doing what they’ve always done.

Here’s something that always jumps out at people when I speak to groups: “Your current business model is perfectly designed to achieve the results you’re now getting.” That’s wonderful if your current business model is getting you great results, but if your results are lackluster, it’s time for a change.

The best agencies adhere to a focus on skills, processes, and attitudes. They’ve identified the skills they need to master, the processes that must be installed and monitored, and the attitudes that must be instilled and constantly reinforced. What’s more, they commit to always improving those three areas.

Finally, the capstone of this concept is a culture and cadence of accountability, or as we refer to it, reverse performance management.

The outcome is a business model or plan that is actually achieved. This model should be summarized as a one-page business plan that all team members can rally around. It’s a model that makes the achievement of your key performance indicators predictable and guaranteed. Keep in mind, these numbers are nothing more than the end result of the winning behaviors and strategies.

The bottom line

Keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll get where you’re going. If your current business model has you on the right trend and heading toward your desired destination, congratulations. But if there’s a gap, then what? Will you fill it? Or will you stay the course with your current business model? Remember, hope is not a strategy. As always, it’s your choice.

The author

Roger Sitkins is the CEO of Sitkins Group, Inc., and developer of The Sitkins Network and The Better Way Agency program. Roger began his career by working in his parents’ insurance agency in Wyandotte, Michigan, and after nearly 40 years has truly become an icon in the industry. He has trained and mentored thousands of insurance professionals. Producers, CEOs, and sales managers with diverse levels of experience have benefited tremendously from his training and leadership.

Roger was inducted into the Michigan Insurance Hall of Fame in 2017 and in that same year also received the Dr. Henry C. Martin Award from Rough Notes magazine. Roger is among only six people to have the honor of receiving this prestigious award.

Recognized as the nation’s top insurance agency results coach and renowned leader for improvement, he believes that if you improve the life of one person, you improve the world. To learn more, visit www.sitkins.com.

 

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