Get More Buy In With Your Agency Team

podcast Nov 16, 2022

Welcome to the Agent Leader Podcast, the podcast to help you, the independent insurance agency leader, to help you gain clarity on what's most important, build consistency in the key strategies for your agency, and to make a commitment to become your best version possible. Our book, co-authored by Roger Sitkins, myself, my name is Brent Kelly, Best Version Possible, is available. You can go to sitkins.com/bvp for Best Version Possible to get your copy. We also have it available in Audible if you are a book listener and you can find it on Amazon as well. But sitkins.com/bvp is the best place to get it, so get your copy. We continue to get some great feedback on the book and love to see that agencies are implementing some of these things that we talk about in the book, and it really is the blueprint, the roadmap for agencies to become that best version possible.

Now, today, I want to share with you, this has been a conversation and a topic that it's one of those that I think is always around agency leaders, but sometimes maybe doesn't get addressed directly, and so I want to share that with you today. Even this week we were doing a sales leadership training with sales leaders and part of our Sitkins Network. Had some great conversation. This became a really big part of this. Here's the question: Why can't I get my team? Of course, with sales leaders, we were talking about producers, but why can't I get my team, why can't I get other people part of the agency, those around me, why can't I get them as excited, bought in, and to execute the ideas, the excitement that I have, right? Here I am, an agency leader. There's things that are firing me up, things that we want to do that I want to do. Why won't my team get as excited as I am, and of course, implement some of the things that we want to implement?

Of course, that's a foundational question. I always joke about leadership. Leadership would be really, really easy if it wasn't for the darn people. But how do we get our people to buy in? There's not a magic pill to this, but there is something, again, that I think is missed, is the fact that no matter how good your idea is, I mean, it could be the best idea in the independent insurance agency world that's ever been thought of, right, the best idea, but if you can't get your team, those around you to buy into it, and of course, begin to implement it's a failed idea. I mean, it's simple as that. It's a failed idea.

Let's talk today. I want to talk today. Take a few minutes and again, get a pen and paper and think about this and your agency. How can I get more people to buy in? Because again, without it, no idea matters. You think about this, and this happens in real life all the time. Maybe you've had this situation where you've had a friend or a family member, maybe they've gone on a great trip, right? They had this really cool family trip, or whatever, this trip with their spouse, or heck, maybe they went alone, right? But they had this experience and they came back and were telling you about it, and they were like, "We went here and then we saw this and then we did this and we did this," and you might have been interested, you might have been curious, you might have been happy for them, but you didn't share completely in their enthusiasm, right? You weren't bought in all the way, because guess what? They had the experience and you just heard about it, right?

That happens oftentimes, independent insurance agency leaders that maybe you have an experience, maybe you go to an event, maybe you hear something on this podcast, or something that we do at Sitkins, but it could be anywhere, and you're like, "Oh, this is it. We've got to do that. We've got to execute that. That's the thing we need to do." But what happens so often with agency leaders is that we have a lot of great ideas, or at least we think are great ideas. We have a lot of ideas. Certainly, I'm raising my hand here if you're watching my video, I deal with this, too, because as an agency leader, you are entrepreneurial. You read things, you listen to things, you talk to people. You're always looking for the next thing, the next edge that's going to help your agency.

But if you don't have any consistency, or you don't take an idea and let it develop, what's going to happen in your agency is you are going to come back with an idea, maybe it's every week, maybe it's every two weeks, maybe it's every month, I don't know, and at some point, your team is going to get it. They're going to say, "Listen, the leader's going to have a new idea. They're going to come in to a meeting or a phone call," or I don't care, Zoom meeting, whatever, "and they're going to be really excited about this new idea. But once they leave the room, don't worry, this, too, shall pass. They'll forget. They'll move on to the next thing, so let's just let this blow over and then we can go back to do all the things we've been doing, and then that person will come up with the next idea."

I just want you to think about this as an agency leader, first of all, do you have consistency around that certain idea or thing that you're wanting to do? I can think back, and this was a few years back, and I won't mention any names here, but I was working with an agency on the East Coast, more the southeast, and I started working with their production team. This is an example how buy-in, not only from a leadership perspective, leadership down, but even across departments in an agency. I was initially working with their production team and their sales leader and we had a really good few days of training. In fact, we had a few different events that built together in more of certainly a process. We believed in the power of process.

But when I came back from the first few trainings that we did, the good news was that the producers began to see some improvements with some trainings, some new mindsets, some different strategies, and they were excited about things. But there was a major problem that really was addressed during the day, but it kind of compounded as we've had further discussion. Here's the problem, the producers got it, and they were excited to take action, which was great, but they weren't quite sure how they could communicate this with their service team, the team that helps them. This is why it's a team, right? It's like the offense never talking to the defense on a football team, "Here's what we're going to do," and the defense never heard about it.

Now, again, they're not executing every single strategy, but they need to know the overall game plan, right? Got to feel cohesive as an overall team, and so they weren't communicating, and guess what? The service team didn't really have buy-in. It's what happens is that this wasn't communicated and the service team was confused and not quite sure of, "Well, why does this even matter? Now, you're telling me to do this and I don't get all this."

This is the thing, we realized very quickly that without buy-in from leadership, from sales and service, just like I was telling you for an agency leader for us at what we do, if we don't get buy-in, or at least an understanding, you're never going to get a hundred percent buy-in, but if we don't get some sense of purpose or why or understanding around it, okay, no matter how good the idea is, it's never going to take shape, right? Any great team, any great organization, any great insurance agency understands that there has to be a holistic, an overall approach to culture and development of what we're doing. Otherwise, it's never going to get the traction that we want. The things that I was communicating to the production team and the way the production team is trying to communicate to service never really got communicated well, and actually, it created some levels of resentment.

Then we realized, okay, listen, we've got to get the service team involved, not with every single tactic, because they're not going to be part of that, but understanding why we were doing what we were doing, why it mattered to the agency, why it mattered to the client, why it mattered to the future of the agency. I will tell you, it was very interesting as this became more of a holistic approach with this agency, just to give you some examples of sales and service, and I'll go further on this, but just sales and service, there's oftentimes in sales and service, not only maybe misunderstanding, but I mentioned the word already, a resentment, or some cases, instead of cheering for each other, we sometimes even root against each other, which man, that's a really toxic culture. But by getting the why, and again, I'm just thinking as an agency leader, where maybe you've talked about what to do, but not why to do it, why we're doing it, why it matters, you're going to struggle.

When we finally got the buy-in from the service team, and again, this was a process, this was not an overnight thing, but we explained what this would mean. Instead of having to go to these meetings that they were told they need to go to, the service team began to lead them and run them, and in fact, demand them because they knew the impact it would have on the rest of the week and the client experience. In fact, sometimes we would see that with the service team, it's like, "Well, why are the producers now out of the office all the time? What are they doing? Why aren't they here?" They actually began to push them out of the office if they were in there to say, "Listen, no, your job is to go produce, go sell. I got it, right?" Instead of being worried about, hey, what promises were made, the service team was basically going, "Wait a second, we're part of this design," so it became, again, they were part of a design of something that really, really mattered.

Again, this comes back to what I just mentioned. One of the biggest things that we see in struggles with agencies is that we try to teach or train or work with various segments, departments, or even individual people and we can't figure out why the other people don't get it. I heard this, this is an African proverb, so I don't know exactly where it came from, but if you look on the internet and stuff, it typically says African proverb. It's really true. There's two choices, you can go fast, or you can go far. I believe that. We'd love to go fast and far, but if you want to go fast, just go alone. Go by yourself. Have one producer go really, really fast, have one segment of your agency go really, really fast, and you'll go fast for a while, and then you're going to run out of steam or capacity or energy because you realize, "Wow, I don't have anybody here to support me, no one else going along with my mission, my vision." If you want to go far, put the time and effort to align and go together, right? Go together. If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, figure out how we're going to go together.

Now, when we look at this, and obviously, most of you are listening to this and not watching on video, and I don't have a graphic behind me, but just imagine this, where this starts, and I've mentioned this a little bit, but let me go further in this is that when most agencies, most departments, most anybody, they want to make a change, a transformation, an improvement, where most people start is they start with the process itself, right? "We're going to do a new sales process, a new renewal process. Here's a new piece of technology, here's a new resource, here's a new system. This is the new process that we're going to be doing. This is the new thing we're going to be implementing. This is what we're going to do, this is what we're going to do, this is how we're going to do it," right?

I get why people do that, and leaders do that, but if we don't start with culture, if we don't start with any transformation, any change, any improvement with our agency of why are we doing this, what is the impact it'll have, how will it transform X, Y, or Z, if we don't really focus, and I'm talking, if it's a big change, weeks, months, and of course, ongoing around the culture, the process will never be bought in. In fact, just as a reference, I believe if you're going to start any change or transformation in your agency, any improvement, that I believe that 80% of your focus and effort as a leader in the first segment, now again, when I say "segment," could be a week, could be month, could be several months depending on the size of the transformation or change you're going after, but that initial step, the first phase needs to be 80% focused on culture. Why are we doing this? Why does it matter? Why should anybody care? That's where it should start. Maybe just an inkling of, "Here's the process that we're considering," that's about as far as you need to go.

Then as you go to the next phase, it's a little more 50/50. We're going to continue to reinforce the culture, but now, we're going to more introduce the process itself. These are some things that we're going to be doing to help support what we've been talking about. Then finally, after a period of time, the culture around this area has been established because you would consistently repeat the message as a leader or as a department or as a team to where the process is actually reinforced by the culture that's already been established. It's not that I have to fight for it.

What does that give you as an agency leader? Buy-in, right? Buy-in. That's what we're looking for is to get buy-in because listen, how hard and how long do you want to fight to implement change and improvement? Do you want to just continue to fight against things that's really an uphill battle? Even if you do get some small things, if you never get the culture part established, or the why, which is the DNA of the agency, how long is it really going to last? How effective will it really be? I mean, it's like people that go on these crash diets and they just try that. It's kind of a gimmick of the month, "I'm just going to do this and we're going to go head first into it and damn the torpedoes."

Then what happens? They may have success for a few weeks and then what happens later? They go back to where they were because they never got to the depth of why it really mattered to them, why it really was established. You can use this for lots of different things. If we don't get that right, then we'll never get the buy-in with ourselves in that example, or certainly with the team that we work with.

Now, my mom, when I was a little kid, had a great saying, I loved it. Well, actually, I think I say I loved it, I didn't really get it until I got older, but now I love it. Here's what she said. She said, "Brent, those convinced against their will are of the same opinion still." I'd say, "What?" She said, "Those convinced against their will are of the same opinion still." You can try to convince people on your team of what you're going to do. "Well, that's just what they should do, Brent. That's they need to do what I say." Well, maybe. I mean, no one's forced to do anything.

Again, do you want to convince people against their will who are probably of the same opinion still? They may give you lip service. Or do you want to find ways to connect with people and say, "Listen, this is an important part of our culture, here's why this matters"? Even if you know it's going to have an effect on that person on your team who may not like some of the changes in behavior or strategy or process or technology, even if they don't necessarily like it, hopefully they at least understand why you want to do it. Again, they may not all love it. The point of this is not that every single person, "Oh, my gosh, I love it. I get it." No, you're still going to have pushback, but at least people understand there is a rationale behind why we're doing this.

Now, I would also recommend this, too, this is part of getting buy-in. Look for third-party credibility, or however you wanted to decide, people outside of yourself. There is this undue pressure that we often see with leadership that, "I've got to do all this." I've mentioned this before, but I want to share it again, you've got to find other champions. In fact, this came up on our team call, our sales leadership call this week, trying to find team captains or champions on your team who do buy into the message and are having success, so they're hearing a different voice, a different example. Same overall culture in the message, right? A message, but it's from a different voice. Certainly, people on your leadership team, people that head departments, maybe it's a producer or another professional who's having great success in area because they've already bought in, or they're doing some of these things, right?

Certainly, we talk about find third-party credibility with coaches and consultants, and yes, that's what we do, but it's a big part of that because there is a challenge. We see it oftentimes with agencies where the leader has these great intentions, but finally they hear it maybe in a different way, in a different way explained, and they go, "Oh, now we get it," so find advocates around that. Find advocates around that.

Here's how I'm going to wrap it up. Again, I just wanted to get on here because it's a really important concept we talk with sales leaders this week, and the challenge they have is, "Gosh, I'm just not getting great buy-in," but here's something I want you to think and consider. Your success as a leader is not measured by your ideas, right? Your success as a leader is not measured by your ideas. It's measured by your ability to have your team execute those ideas.

Your success is not, "I got a bunch of..." No, it's not measured by how many ideas. It's measured by your ability to have your team execute those ideas, AKA results, and if you want to get results, if you want to execute on things, you need to put the time, effort, energy into where some agencies skip around, some agency leaders of what can I do to establish true culture and a purpose behind this to have people understand so that I can get greater buy-in, that people want to come with me, right? People want to come with me. You can't just call yourself a leader, right? Leaders have followers and that's a challenge. But leaders have followers. If you start walking out in front of a group and there's nobody walking behind you, you're not a leader, you're just someone out taking a walk, right? Understand that, how can I think about this? Where in my agency today am I struggling with buy-in? What do I need to do as a leader to communicate and reinforce the culture that'll best establish that?

All right, with that, I wish you all the best in your agency. Listen, we want to continue to help agencies become that best version possible. I mentioned the book. We're going to be coming out and we're already in play with this podcast is released. A good chance I've already done some workshops and webinars, but the best version possible experience, which is the experience to help you as an agency create a proven roadmap to walk you and your entire team, right, your entire team to the best version possible experience to help you get the results, to help you align, to help you get your producers in the green zone, which is where they produce, to help your agency understand the power of 80/20, to leverage that at the highest level, to create a client experience that your best clients want to find more best clients for you, and to have a true selling system, a true playbook. These are the steps, the processes, and there's four of them that we're going to walk your agency through. If you want to learn more about that, reach out to us. We're here to help you become that best version possible. Take care. All the best to your success.


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