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Sales Improvement Meetings

 

Welcome to the Agent Leader Podcast, the podcast to help you, the independent insurance agency leader, to help you gain clarity, to build consistency, and to make a commitment to become your best version possible. My name is Brent Kelly. I'm your host. It is my honor to be with you today. I cannot wait to share some of this content today. In fact, this content today is in association with an article that will be coming out in Rough Notes Magazine. If you don't know, I also participate, along with Roger Sitkins, in the Rough Notes Magazine, and we do a monthly article. This article that'll be coming out is what I'll be talking about today.

We talk so much about agency development and team development and personnel development. The number one job of an agency leader is to develop your people, and so today I'm going to talk about one aspect of this, is how to run effective, efficient, productive sales meetings. Right? How can you run sales meetings? We're going to talk all about the why, the how, the what of sales meetings.

Now, before I get into the sales meeting content, I do want to make sure that you, the agency leaders, understand we're looking for growth partners for 2023, and one of the things that we are refocusing our efforts around in 2023 is to go deeper with the growth-minded independent insurance agency leaders. We've got some great partners we've been working with for years, and we want to expand that network, and we want to go deeper with the right type of agencies.

If you're an agency, if you're looking to gain alignment, if you're looking to get your producers to be true producers, if you're looking to maximize profitability and efficiency, if you're looking to have a set offense, a sales playbook that you can truly create a differentiated approach in the marketplace, and you want to be surrounded by other great agencies that'll help you and mastermind, go to sitkins.com/experience, and book a strategy call. Just see if this is something that might be a fit for you and your agency as you move forward. Again, we would love to be a part of your growth strategies moving forward.

All right, so let's get into the content today. I mentioned we're all about development. That's what we teach, development. How do we develop people? Well, today I want to talk about sales meetings. Let's face it. For many agencies, many producers, the idea, the words sales meeting don't strike a, "Woo-hoo! I can't wait," right? It's, "I've got to go to the sales meeting. We've got to have these sales meetings," or, for maybe some of you listening to me, maybe you're not really having them or not having them regularly.

You talk about why do producers not like sales meetings. Well, I think oftentimes it's because of a lack of focus. There's not really a point to them, that the meetings themself aren't really helping them earn more business, is what it's all about for producers. In many cases, leaders may be more concerned about what they have to say rather than what the producers need or want to hear, or how can we truly inspire and affect them to greatness. Here's one last thing. I think oftentimes meetings are filled with things that could be shared in an email or a piece of paper.

We're going to talk about this today, because why should you have them? Well, I think one of the biggest reasons you should have them is because if you're a sales organization ... and let's face it, many agencies are really great service organizations that happen to do sales, versus great sales organizations that provide great service ... it doesn't have to be an either/or. It's a both/and, but we can't service great business if we don't get sales and we don't continue to replicate things that we need to replicate. Part of this is this. What makes a great sales meeting? Why have them? Well, we are a sales organization, number one. Number two, we believe in people development.

The number one goal of a great sales meeting should be that your producers leave that meeting a better producer than when they got there. If that producer ... again, you may have one producer, you may have 50 producers ... but if a producer in your sales meeting as a leader doesn't leave that meeting a more equipped and more educated, a more empowered salesperson, producer, than when they got there, then it wasn't a very good sales meeting. That's the why, right? There's a commitment to sales culture, there's a commitment to developing our people.

How do we structure? I think this is where a lot of agencies, they get stuck. I don't know. Well, first of all, these meetings should be weekly. That's spelled W-E-E-K, not W-E-A-K, right? Part of this is, "Well, we typically have a meeting, and maybe we do it once in a while and here's what happens." In the real world, we hear this all the time. "Well, we used to have them and then we skipped a few, and then we skipped some more and realized it wasn't that big of a deal, and we were doing okay anyway." That's not a proactive, structured approach. The meeting should also have a purpose. There should be an agenda to these meetings. I'm going to go through some ideas of that in a minute.

What about duration? Well, this is up to you. Depends how many producers you have and all those kind of things, but I think you can get a lot done in an hour, right? I'd rather have a weekly productive 30-minute than none, but I think an hour is a good time. Then when do you have them? Well, everything that we talk about with our members at Sitkins is that Monday is the get-ready-to-play day, right? I mean, think about this. Certainly if you're in benefits or you're in commercial P&C, your clients are typically having their meetings, getting their weeks started anyway on Monday, so let's make Monday a day that we're having our sales meetings.

We talk about having a high-performance team meeting between sales and service. We're getting our stuff ready. We're reviewing documents. We're getting our schedule lined up, although we maybe had that done before the week begins, but we're reviewing some things as we get into the week. It's to get ready to play. Are there exceptions? Sure, things happen, but we really want this to be something that's a weekly meeting that's happening on Monday about producer development. Our commitment as an agency leadership team is to help you go get more sales, to help you be better. This meeting's going to be a big part of helping you do that.

With that being said, well, what do we talk about? I mentioned a little bit earlier that what often happens is that because there's not an agenda, because there's not a clear purpose, the meeting turns into randomness, wandering. Maybe we talk about a hit list, right? Things that could be shown in an email or delivered in a piece of paper or a quick conversation are now ... they don't apply to everybody, and all of a sudden you've got most people checking out within a minute or two of the meeting. They're looking at their watch. "How soon do I get out of here? Then I can go out and do the important stuff that I have to do."

Well, if I was part of a meeting ... and I have been ... that wasn't structured, that didn't have a purpose or a point to it, that didn't make me better or more informed of some kind when I left, then I would want to be there either, right? I mean, the same thing is true with your producers. If you're leading these meetings, what would you want as a producer? What would you want? Like I said, so often what happens is that we go and it's random, and they become complaint sessions, venting. "This person didn't do this, this carrier didn't do this, well, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, there we go. Oh, I feel better because I vented." "Did you get better?" "No, but I vented," right?

These meetings should be solution-minded, not problem-focused. Are we solution-minded? What's the solution? Now, again, it doesn't mean we don't address a problem, but are we going to dwell on the problem or are we going to focus on solutions or possible solutions to that problem? How do we win, right? What's next for us?

Let's go through some things. I'm going to talk about three things that I believe should be in every sales meeting. Quite frankly, oftentimes these are things that are not in sales meetings, or at least we run out of time so we never get to them. One of our great partners at The Sitkins Group ... we had some conversations, I do some coaching ed meetings with the sales leaders every couple weeks, and in talking about sales meetings and getting focused, one of the things we talked about is we've got to help the producers get better.

To do that, we should be doing some form of low-risk practice, which in essence is role-playing or conversations, or working on things. How do you present yourself if someone says, "What do you do?" How do you communicate your points of differentiation? What questions are you asking? Referrals, how do we earn and then ask for those in a professional, polite way that doesn't feel awkward or uncomfortable? Things that we know that if we did, we'd be a much higher-level producer and a performer and we'd get better results, because it's about practice.

This may be a bad example, but could you imagine a football team that would go out to the field for practice and they wouldn't actually ever run a play? They would just look at each other and talk about, "Yeah, last week we should have done that." "Yeah, I know, and you should do this, and here's some plays we should think about running," but we never actually practiced them. There was no reps. To me, low-risk practice should not be something that we might do.

This is what this agency did that we work with, is they began to implement low-risk practice at the beginning of every meeting. They would take one particular thing and they would do some role-play or they would do some demonstrations around it, and allow the producers to work on it, to get better. By the way, the first couple times they introduced this, the producers didn't like it. Shocking. "Oh," but guess what happened? "Oh, my gosh, I got better at this. I didn't realize how deficient I was in this area."

Low-risk practice is exactly what it sounds like. Low risk. One thing that we always say in our production trainings that we do at Sitkins is this. You're going to look stupid someplace. Where do you want it to be? Do you want it to be in front of a really good future ideal client or an important center of influence in your network, or do you want it to be in front of another producer or leader who wants to help you get better? The only thing that really gets hurt might be your ego or pride for a short moment.

Again, the spirit of low-risk practice is not to belittle people or make people feel stupid. It's to empower people to say, "Listen, here's a skill that we can get better at. Let's work on it." Just like running reps on a football field or a basketball court, or if you're a musician, can you imagine just looking at sheet music but never actually playing the instrument? Right? We've got to do some practice.

I think so often it's just missed. "Well, they're going to figure it out on their own." Well, okay, and by the way, can you practice on your own where you actually make yourself worse and not better? What if you practice the wrong habits versus the right habits? Just think about the power of what happens in that. To me, the first thing is some form of low-risk practice. Again, we walk through a number of scenarios with our clients on things to do, and we have a full agenda on this that they can customize, but think about this for you. Are you doing low-risk practice?

Number two, maybe some of you are doing this next one, this is a little more common, but a debrief of a success or two or a key loss or two. We can replicate victories and learn from success, but we can also certainly learn from our losses. Let's start with the success, because I think that's the obvious one. Most producers are okay sharing the success. "Here's what I wrote. Here's why it worked. Here's how big it is. This is how cool I am." Again, I'm being tongue-in-cheek, but let's face it. There could be some truth to that as well, versus taking a success, "Hey, Sheila, you wrote this great account this last week or two. Walk us through the process of how you did it. What were some key things you learned?"

What can the other people in this room learn from your success," versus hiding our success? Again, not that it's done intentionally. I don't mean it that way, but let's face it. Especially if you've got numerous producers in your office, it can be a great advantage, because you can accelerate learning by sharing success. "Tell me what you did. How did you do that? What was the key objection that you faced and how did you overcome that?" Right? Share the knowledge.

Now, the flip of this is also talking about our losses, our failures. Most producers don't want to talk about this, but let's be clear here. Part of your job as a leader is to be open and transparent in the fact that we're all going to fail. We're all going to miss out on an account. We're all going to do something stupid. We don't want to repeat it, though. The only mistake in doing something stupid is doing it again.

If you did something, again, not even stupid, but just you didn't write an account ... something fell apart, something didn't work ... let's talk about it. "John, you were working on this nice account. It felt like things were in the right place in our conversations, but it ended up going back to income or it went to another agency. What happened? Let's walk through it."

Now, we actually have a form we work with our clients on that's a debrief form that actually has all these different questions you could go through, and it's really interesting. Oftentimes you'll see with producers, and sales leaders to a degree, is what'll happen is we didn't write an account and we'll blame the client or the potential client, or we'll blame the market, we'll blame the carrier. "Well, I had everything, but this is what happened. Because of that, I didn't write it," or, "The client screwed me," right?

Again, there can be some truth to that, but when we go through a debrief form, what we typically find is there's an area or two or three that quite frankly we just didn't do right. We didn't get out early enough, we didn't qualify, we didn't understand who the true decision-maker was. I could go through a whole bunch of scenarios, but we just ask ourself questions, and this is a really great learning experience to do in a sales meeting.

By the way, a sales improvement meeting. If I didn't say that before, a sales improvement meeting. What are we doing to improve that? "Well, here's what I learned. What I realized is that I never asked these two or three questions that I should have. I never qualified this, and that's probably where I got stuck. If I would've done that differently, I could have made a difference," which is really good, because guess what it does? It reinforces to that producer of how to improve next time, and you have three, five, ten, fifteen, twenty other sets of eyeballs and ears that are going, "Oh, I don't want to do that either." Just understand the fact that a big part of the sales meeting ... again, you don't have to go through everybody ... but pick an account or two to do that.

By the way, the lo risk practice, if you're not doing the one-on-one role playing, to go back to that, you know, "I don't have enough time to do all that," you certainly can have hot seats, right? Meaning that, "We're going to have two or three of you demonstrate how to do this. You just don't know who it's going to be." Like the pop quiz when you were a kid. "I don't know if it's going to happen today, but if it does, I need to be ready." It just creates that culture. We expect you, right, to be ready. If you're not ready, well, guess what? Then if you're called on, you may look a little silly in front of your peers, which again is still better than looking silly in front of your best clients or future clients. That's a big one there, of sales.

The last one ... again, I think many sales meetings do have this, but I think it still can be done better ... is a review of market conditions and coverage issues. Part of this is not just looking at a hit list, but really having some conversations about where are some areas that maybe we could have some competitive advantages. Maybe it's market, maybe it's condition, maybe it's a trend, maybe it's a unique coverage that someone was able to utilize in a way. Again, could that be shared with the entire sales team? Of course, right? Of course it could, and we can learn a lot.

The big part of this ... and I haven't used this term, we use it in other places ... but is to unleash the collective genius of your sales team. Unleash the collective genius. Let's say you've got a sales team of 10 producers, and we never talk about these things together. "Well, I don't want to interrupt them. They're really busy." Guess what? One hour a week to get your people together to do some skill improvement, to debrief wins and losses and to share what's really happened in the market in coverage, think about that.

The power potentially of that one hour, that, "I got better at my craft, I learned something from someone else that they messed up in or made a mistake, or there was a hurdle they didn't overcome in their sales process that now I want to be able to do this, and lastly is I just realized there's a certain coverage thing that I've gotten away from, or there's a market out there that we have in our office that I quite frankly forgot about or haven't tapped into." Whatever it is. I mean, it could be a number of things, but that to me is so, so important, unleashing the collective genius.

Those are the three things. You talk about the why. Well, because you're a sales organization. Because that's what sales organizations do is we get better at sales, and to do that, we have sales improvement meetings. I just love that term. I know it's a slight shift in the words. Sales meeting? No, sales improvement meeting, because every time we have a sales meeting, our producers leave that meeting a better producer than when they got there.

How do we do it? We do it weekly. We do it with purpose. We have a set duration, and we don't just skip them because it's inconvenient. This is part of our culture. Again, typically you want to have these on a Monday when you're getting ready for the week. What do we do? Low-risk practice, debrief, tapping into market conditions that we can share to unleash the collective genius.

Now I'll just ask you one of the things, and going back to the whole top thing. In the recent best practice study, Roger Sitkins and I did a podcast several episodes ago about reviewing the best practices study. We talked about some of the agencies. These were the larger agencies, there was 45 of them, 20 million in larger agency revenue. They say, what does it really come down to? Well, people, culture, leadership. People, culture, leadership, and what do they really worry about when they worry about profitability? Well, if you want to improve profitability, you improve your people. To improve your people, you improve your producers. To improve your producers, you have sales improvement meetings, where every single week we are doing something to get our producers a little bit better than they were the week before.

I believe this. I heard this from John Maxwell years ago. There is nothing more powerful than compounding consistency, again and again and again and again. Now, obviously each of those, again, each week we're getting a little bit better, whether it's a half percent, a percent, whatever terms you want to use, a little bit better. Think about what your agency will look like with compounding consistency of sales improvement meetings three months from now, six months from now, one year from now, two years from now. You'll look back and go, "I don't even recognize the agency that we were, because we continue to grow exponentially." That's the power of compounding consistency. That's the power of having sales meetings, sales improvement meetings, with purpose.

As I said earlier, we are looking for growth-minded agencies, agencies that do truly want to be a growth agency and are looking for continual, never-ending improvement. We're looking for partners to work with, and again, we are not a fit for all agencies, just the agencies that truly are committed to that best version possible. If that's your agency, if you want to learn more, again, to have a strategy call to say, hey, would this even be a fit, is there something there that this partnership could help, we would love to have a conversation with you as a starting point to see if you qualify for our private client group. Go to sitkins.com/experience. That's sitkins.com/experience.

Hey, thanks for listening to this podcast, adding value to you, your life, your agency. Would love a rating and review. Share it with other agencies. Our commitment to you is to help agencies truly become that best version possible. Thanks so much for listening. I'll talk to you again next time on the Agent Leader Podcast. Take care.

 

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