Avoiding Commission Breath


Welcome to The Agent Leader Podcast. My name is Brent Kelly, your host. Thanks so much for joining me on this episode. And today we're going to talk about (breathes loudly). Why did I do that? About avoiding commission breath. Avoiding commission breath. And I'll talk more about that and why that matters. You may have heard that term before. Maybe you haven't. But if you're an agency leader, you're a sales leader, a sales manager, you're a producer, you're anybody in the agency that is out to grow the agency by retaining and obtaining ideal clients, take a listen. This podcast is certainly for you. It's a big deal. And I want to make sure I address some of the key areas of how you can truly be a risk professional and avoid that stinky commission breath.

As always, The Agent Leader Podcast, the purpose is to help you, the agency leader, gain clarity, build consistency, and make a commitment to become your best version possible. In our book and movie, Best Version Possible. And the experience of the best version possible is all available. The book, you go to to get the book. We also have audio books and the Kindle version is available so you can check those out, as well as the movie, The BVP Experience. If you go to you can hear the whole story on our documentary of what we do, why we do it, and how we help agencies win out in the marketplace. So make sure you check those out.

Want to get in, by the way, this is going to be a solo podcast. This is me sharing a conversation from my heart to you. I love to do these once in a while. I'm even doing more of them as I continue to get feedback and during coaching calls. We just got done running, gosh, we're finishing up a few more, but we have run so many programs, which has been just it's exciting. And it's a great growth experience, certainly for those attending, but for us as coaches, as well with the round tables and the feedback and the conversations. But we've been doing a number of camps. And in particular, the one that's our probably the best known for is our Producer Fit program, our sales training camp that we run, and had some great conversations.

And one of the topics that came out in an area of differentiation was this. And I mentioned to the group, I said, if we're not careful, you're not careful, your conversations can sound a bit like commission breath. That's what the future ideal client or prospect, whatever term you use, is hearing. They don't hear someone who's truly asking the right questions and engaging them in different ways. They hear someone who's looking to make a sale, that commission breath. So you may have heard that term before. It's out there. I'm not the first one to use it. But I do want to talk today about what it means to have commission breath. What it sounds like. And three areas that you as an agency, as a producer, can work on to develop, to make sure that you truly are standing out and not having that commission breath that I mentioned. So again, get your mint ready. Every time that I'm going to be giving you a reason, idea, or something you could do to reduce or avoid commission breath, just pretend you're popping in the mint, right? And you're learning to stay away from some of these terms and things that we talk about.

Well, I'm going to start off by a quote that I'm guessing that most of my listeners, maybe you, have heard before from the great Zig Ziegler. Zig Ziegler was like the guy out there years and years ago giving speeches and talks, and he has so many great sayings. And one of his most famous is this. And I'm going to paraphrase a little bit, but he says this, if you help enough people get what they want, you can have anything you want. If you help enough people get what they want, you can have anything that you want. And so this really is the premise of what I'm going to be talking about today is that, listen, what is our mentality for what we do as professionals, certainly in the sales professional space? And, unfortunately sales gets a bad rap. And part of it is because people do abuse sales, or do sales I believe the wrong way. Sales is simply a transfer of an idea. It's transfer of an idea. Now that idea could come through a product or service, but it's a transfer of an idea to somebody else. And when it's done, as it should be, with the right intention that we truly want to serve and help you, well, guess what? The more sales you make, the more that you're helping other people or businesses in the marketplace.

In fact, I've read a book many years ago now, been around for a long time. It's called Thou Shall Prosper. Thou Shall Prosper. It's a book written by Rabbi Daniel Lapin. And in this book, he's got different principles on money. It's a great read. But one of the things that really that I remember just off the top of my head from this day is that he talked about dollars. That when you earn money, what those really are, are certificates of appreciation. When you do the right thing for people and you make sales, you are getting the return, truly a certificate, money of appreciation. Thank you for doing that. So if we're doing this and just to start this off, if we are approaching sales and conversations in that matter and not, what can I get, but how can I give? And Zig Zigler said, if you just help enough people get what they want, you can have anything that you want.

So let's just start off by... And just thinking of situations out there that I'm sure you've dealt with. Because if you've ever had a conversation with a salesperson or some type of interaction with a salesperson and they didn't verbally say that they needed commission or that's why they were having the conversation. Or they were supposed to say something, they may not have directly said that. But you could tell that they were in it for them or their company and not for you. And again, you can feel it. There's a presence around it. The commission breath, you can smell it.

And I'll tell you, it is also a common problem in the insurance agency world. With producers in particular, obviously. And you know, some of the things that it may smell or sound like or feel like are things like when you hear things like, we'll give you a really competitive quote or we can get you a really good deal. Hey, we're a full service agency. We can help you with anything. So no matter who they are, what they want, we can help them, right? Oh yeah. We got that too. We got that. We got that. We got that. Oftentimes commission breath can sound a little bit like, let me tell you all the tools and resources that we've ever used, or we have potentially access to. Let me tell you about this and this and this and this and this and this and why it's going to benefit you even though I've never asked you a question. So there's kind of that list selling. And the big part of this, and I just mentioned, this is overall it's that there's too much telling. Too much telling people what they should think or what you think they should think or how you think they should feel versus slowing down and asking questions with purpose.

So I want to go through three things to think about. Now, this is not the end all, be all list, right? I know there's more than this. But there's three things that jump out to me in my experience. I spent 15 years as a producer in the marketplace. I spent several years after that working with agencies across the country. And now almost five years with Sitkins working with hundreds of agencies and hundreds and hundreds of insurance producers. And so now it's not just my experience, but what are the best doing? And what are people that are struggling, what are maybe they doing? So I want to put this all together for you to think about some things that really jump off the page to me. So have your pen and paper ready.

Number one is this. This is the first thing I would say to avoid commission breath. Is to truly know your value and own your model. So know your value and own your model. So I want to start with the know your value. And oftentimes you can hear this in talking to producers in particular, whatever title it may be. You give yourself the title, the advisor. But whatever it is, those are out there to grow and earn relationships and produce. But you'll hear things like, well, I'm just an agent. I'm just a producer. And right away, I can tell you, and typically these are newer, younger agents or producers, or maybe newer in the game, is that they don't really know their value. And they position themself immediately more as a commodity or they position themself as just another person. Because gosh, we know there's a lot of them and we know that insurance is kind of stinky, right? All those things. That's where they come across. And one of my favorite quotes that I heard years ago is this. That if you don't place a high value on yourself, rest assure the world will not raise the price. If you don't place a high value on yourself, rest assure the world will not raise the price.

So, one of the terms that we use and we see oftentimes in the insurance agency world is the term quoter and floater, right? There are a lot of agencies, a lot of producers that are truly quoters and floaters. And what do I mean by a quoter and floater? Well, exactly what it sounds like. They do a lot of quotes and they float. Quote and float, quote and float. And it's just how many transactions. How many quotes can I get regardless of if it's a fit or do we have the tools and have I asked the questions. Hey, you got a pulse. You have maybe a checkbook, I'll get you a quote. Just give me a shot. I'll get you a quote. And so the question is, are you a quoter and floater, or do you truly, truly see yourself as a risk advisor that develops deep relationships? A risk advisor?

In fact, one of my favorite, this is so simple, but so powerful in our sales mastery program that we run. One of the top producers there, and I may have mentioned him before. In fact, he's been on the podcast. But his book of business has been around 4 million in revenue. Not premium, revenue. So doing some things the right way. One of the things that he said is, listen, my two things that jump out at me is number one is when I made the switch to start to truly win in the marketplace, I saw myself, felt myself, and acted like a business consultant. That's what I did. I'm here to consult with businesses to help them do what? To help them move their business forward. How can I help you move your business forward? Because that's my mindset. That's where it starts. Yes. There's going to be tools and resources and things and risk transfers and all that we have to get to. But at the heart of it, I'm a business consultant and you can be a personal risk consultant that is helping to move business or people forward in their business or lives.

And a big part of this is you got to stop practice quoting. Now, this is one of the mantras that we have at Sitkins. In fact, we have posters that say, no practice quoting. No practice quoting. We don't need to practice quote. Now, if you started a month ago or whatever, and okay, fine. But outside of some of that, you don't need to practice quote. Are you truly qualifying these accounts? Because when you qualify and you're saying things like, I'm not sure if there's a fit. Well, guess what? You don't smell like commission breath because you're not just trying to get a sale. You are truly understanding if there's a fit. My goal in this appointment is to better understand how you and your company manage risk. I'm going to share a little bit about our unique process. And at the end of this conversation, we can determine if there's a fit and we want to continue to move forward in these discussions. Does that sound fair enough?

That is not a sales commission breath type of statement or question. It is truly trying to position yourself and understand how you are going to again, knowing your value and owning your model. And a part of own your model is what are the rules you're going to play by? Now, you got to set the rules. Many of you know, if you listen to this podcast, I am a father of five kids. And I will tell you in raising five kids, and now, right now they're 18 to the age of four, but certainly the younger ones, but even the older ones to a degree, like when you're playing games with them, if you don't establish the rules of maybe a game they haven't played before, or they're learning, like they will change the rules on you. Why? So they can win. Like, well, I don't like that rule, dad. No, here's the way I play. It's like, no, no, no, no, no, no. That's not the rule. That's not how I play. Well, that's how I play.

So upfront the same way for you as an insurance producer and again, for all the leaders listening to this, when you're working with your producers in particular, is are you establishing base rules of how you're going to play the game? Is there a specific process you're going to follow? Is there certain rules around decision making? Is there certain rules around the timeline? Is there certain rules on how many competitors you're going to play against? Now I can give some of my thoughts on it. Now, again, there's such a variety and the different types of insurance and niches and all that. We get that. But the bottom line that I want to share is just know the rules you're going to play by and live by them. Because if you play by whatever rules and whatever you feel like that day or whatever the person you've talked to, you're going to drive yourself crazy. Plus if you don't establish rules, if you don't have a process, if you don't have a way of doing things, you smell like commission breath. Because obviously if you have a process, all you really want is just money. You just want to get me a quote again, as I said earlier.

So number one, the first thing on there, again to recap, know your value and own your model. What does that look like to you? But believe in what you do. Stand for something. That's foundational. So let's get a little more tactical here. And this again, this isn't going to be surprising, but just think about where you as a producer or your team is positioned.

Number two is consistent pipeline development. Consistent. Consistent pipeline development. There's a reason why I paused there. One of the things that we see, and we teach us in our programs, is that there are ups and downs in sales cycles, as far as producers or the results I should say. That you have like a good quarter, bad quarter. Good quarter, bad quarter. Could be a good month, bad month. Could be a good half year, bad half year. And the reason why is well, depends on the sales cycle. But what happens is as you build your pipeline, you begin to make some sales. Once you get some sales, one of the first things that we ease up on is what? Prospecting. Pipeline development. We forget. We take it for granted. Then we go, oh crap. And then it's too late again. We've got to go back and go back again.

So the question I would ask you, would ask any producer. I'd ask any agency is how important is a full pipeline to a producer's success? How important is a full pipeline to a producer's success? Well, the answer is very. On a scale from one to 10, I'm guessing you would answer right there at top close to 10. But then the second question is how do most producers truly invest in their pipeline development? In consistent pipeline development? Would it also be a 10? If it's a 10 of importance, should it not be a 10 in consistency? Every single week what is my pipeline focus this week? Here's a shock for all of you. The best producers we work with, make pipeline development a mandatory action every week. It's not when it's convenient. It's not when I feel like it. Now they may go about it in different ways.As you've got larger books of business. Certainly there's different things they can do. They can certainly lean on their clients and referrals and replication that we talk about all the time more often. But the point of it is they've got stuff scheduled of pipeline development. Now get the weeks that they're working. There's off weeks. There's vacations. There's holidays. We get that. But when they're in the game, when they're in the game, one of the things they're going to be playing in that game is pipeline development.

So what does a full pipeline mean? Seems like a pretty obvious question. Well, it means more opportunities than time. When you've got a full pipeline, you've got more opportunities coming your way than you have time, which is a pretty good place to be. It also means you get better results.

This is shocking, right? Just shocking. When you're full pipeline, you have better results. Well, what does that really give you? When you've got more opportunities than time and you're getting great results because your pipeline's full, what does it really mean? It really means that you can do some of the things more confidently that I talked about in the first one, which is to know your value and own your model. You can say 'no' more often with more conviction and more clarity. You can be choosier. You can be more selective, whatever term you want to use. You have the power. The power and the confidence that comes with that power to say, you know what? I don't believe this is going to be a good fit. I don't play this way. It gives you that power. And just think about that.

What does that give you? Well, I said it already. Confidence. So if you could develop your pipeline every week, I'm going to give myself more chances, more at bats with the right people I want. Or again, when you're starting to figure this out more opportunities in general, then I can begin to filter. And if you've ever told, and I'm sure many of you have that are listening, but if you ever told a prospect or as we'd say a future ideal client, although those are less likely because we've identified people. But if you're talking to a prospect or future ideal client, and all of a sudden you realize the way they want to play the game or the way they think about things or how their decision making's going to be, or it's just a risk that quite frankly is not a good risk for you and the agency, to be able just say, listen, I appreciate this conversation. I don't think you're going to qualify for our program or you don't qualify for a program. Or I don't believe this is going to be a fit, whatever term you use. There is substantial power.

In fact, what typically happens, we ask producers and maybe this happen to you, if you do qualify or dequalify a prospect and they don't fit, what typically happens is wait a second. You mean you're not going to give me a quote? You're not going to work with me? No, no. It's not a good fit. It's not a good use of your time. We're very selective on who we work with. We want to make sure we value your time and our agency's time and resources. So consistent pipeline activity can be based around future ideal clients.

And number three, the last one I want to share with you on this solo podcast. And I've talked about this and with my guests on many of our shows. It's about relentless preparation and practice. If you want to avoid commission breath, sounding like every other salesperson or insurance producer, well be relentlessly prepared. Do your homework. Do your work ahead of time. So often producers, they truly do, they come in and they wing it. Ah, I'm going to have a meeting with this person. I'm going to have a conversation here. And they, outside of maybe grabbing a piece of paper or a couple little two minutes of looking through something, they don't do the prep work. They don't practice. And as we say at Sitkins all the time, your preparation and practice is your ultimate competitive advantage. Of all the advantages you have, this is your ultimate. To be truly prepared and practice.

And by the way, what's one of the top things to prep and practice on? Asking great questions. Asking great questions. In fact, maybe this should be number three. I mean, relentless prep from practice on what? Questions. Questions open new files We talk about the fact that it gets people to think different. Questions show that you care. I care enough to ask these questions. Questions show that you're prepared, at least the good questions. That you've done your homework. That you understand them at a deeper level. Their business. You're committed to getting to know them better. And even the word that I used last time, preparation and practice for you as an individual breeds confidence. There's a theme here, right? Hopefully you're seeing that. When you know your value and you own your model, you get confidence, right? When you have developed your pipeline, it gives you confidence. When you're prepared and practiced, it gives you confidence.

See, one of the things that I believe in is there's a lot of tactics and things around sales and conversations. But I think sometimes we forget the human nature, what's really going on in people's hearts and minds. It's a big part that I love to talk about in performance. It's about performance. It's about the result. It's not, well, here's this tool thing to do. Those are fine, but why do some people do it and some people not? Why do some people succeed and some people not? And there's a variety of reasons there, but some of it's so much of this comes back to confidence. And when you prepare and you practice, it breeds confidence. And when you have confidence and you do your prep, it avoids that commission breath. This person, this individual, this agency truly cares and wants to better understand me and my needs, not just make a sale.

In fact, one of the things that we love to work with producers on and agencies on is if you ask enough and you're prepared enough and we walk people through some roadmaps on this, but if you ask enough people the right questions, risk-based questions, and I'll talk about some of these. Give you a few examples and then I'll wrap this up. But when you ask enough of the right type of questions, what'll happen is the future ideal client will design their insurance or risk management program. They will design the program that they buy from you. Now listen to my words again. If you ask enough, you're prepared and you've got a roadmap and you're rehearsing this, you ask enough of the right risk-based questions, the future ideal client will design their insurance program, a risk management program, that they will buy from you. So part of this is the preparation. Are we truly taking the underwriter's view? What is the underwriter's view?

Well, we have to go, if we are going to go to market, we've got to make sure that we go through the underwriter. What is the underwriter's view? What are the questions they would be asking up front? What are they thinking? What do they want? What do they not want? And by the way, it's a great approach to take to your future ideal clients and say, listen, one of the things that we are very focused on is that we represent you to the marketplace, not the other way around. We represent you to the marketplace and here's how we do it. And this is why I need to ask you some of these questions. Now again, you can have your own approach to that. I'm just going through some ideas on this. But you want to make sure that you understand and know their business as much as you know your own business.

Now think about that. People care... They expect you to know insurance. Anybody can take an insurance license and pass it and sell insurance. I hate to say it. Maybe not everybody, but let's face it. In most states, they're not overly complicated. But when you really understand the needs, the wants, the desires, the concerns, the profits, the clients, the employees of someone else's business or livelihood, well that's when you avoid commission breath and that's when you get success.

Also, part of this is ongoing skill development. I just, I shouldn't be amazed and I'm very passionate if you can't tell. That it's just amazing to me that the skill of communication, I mentioned questions, is so vital for insurance producers, insurance agency success. And the analogy is it's no different than if you're a professional in basketball, you probably work on dribbling the ball and passing the ball and shooting the ball and some of the basic fundamentals on defense, right? Although you're going to advance, the basics must be there. You can't do certain crazy spin moves in basketball if you can't dribble. And I'm amazed that insurance producers try to move their way up the food chain, so to speak, work on larger accounts, better accounts as they should, but they don't develop and fine tune the skills of communication, the basic, but must skills of communication.

How do I become a better questioner? How do I develop skills of active listening? How do I begin to present with influence? How do I use my tone of voice? What does my physiology look like? Those are basic fundamentals of skill development. And just think about this. With most producers, if I said, listen, share with me your 30-second commercial. Or if I ask you what do you do or what it's all about, what would you tell me? And many of them would struggle. When you go into your first appointment, how do you set that up? What does it look like from the beginning? Well, I look at their stuff and then we copy it and then we go back and we get quotes. And then we pray that we do a good job. Listen to avoid commission breath. You have to be relentlessly prepared. Relentlessly prepared.

So you want to avoid commission breath? I just gave you three things to consider. And by the way, those are simple, but they're not necessarily easy. They take some work. So again, it's a recap. You want to avoid the stinky commission breath. You want to stand out. You want to become the point of comparison in your marketplace. Well, first of all, know your value. Understand that you do have great value in the marketplace. And part of that is owning your model. Like, who are you? And what do you stand for? If you don't stand for something, well, why would anyone else think you stand for something? So what is it that you own and as far as your value?

Number two is consistent, consistent, consistent, consistent pipeline development. This should be part of your weekly plan. Where am I develop my pipeline this week? So I'm not playing catch up. And when you get that, guess what? You have the power of 'no'. You have the power of confidence around that 'no'.

And number three is relentlessly prepare. What does that mean for you? How can you begin to... When I say relentless, start where you're at but move up. How can I prepare better this week? What am I not preparing for? How do I prepare at a higher level? What skills do I need to develop?

You do these things. You're going to reduce if not avoid commission breath, and you're going to truly stand out in the marketplace and be positioned as an indispensable risk partner, which is a pretty darn cool place to be. So with that, Hey, thank you for being a listener, got some exciting things upcoming on the podcast. I'll share more about that in the near future. But appreciate that if this podcast or this one today, or any of the ones that we do on The Agent Leader Podcast add a value to you or your agency, please subscribe. Also, we love a rating. We're trying to grow this podcast consistently as we move forward. And also, if you want to take a look at our book and learn more about us at Sitkins, go visit our website. A lot of information and resources there. Go to We want to help you and your agency become its best version possible. With that, I wish you all the best in your success. Thanks for listening.


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