Six Ways to Improve Your Insurance Agency

Top Leaders Adhere to Core Commitments

There are literally scores of strategies and behaviors that agencies can implement in their quest to achieve great results. However, I’ve found that the greatest results come from focusing on a few selected strategies. The opposite is also true: The more things you chase, the fewer things you catch!

Chasing too many strategies certainly doesn’t provide clarity and focus for your team. Too often what they’re chasing becomes the “flavor of the week,” prompting the staff to think, “Don’t worry, this too shall pass,” because they know you won’t stick with it.

During a private presentation to a group of agency principals recently, I was asked to identify the traits I see in the best agency leaders. Because it’s such an extensive list and because I believe that less is more, I narrowed it down to the Key Core Commitments of great agency leaders. In case you’re wondering, my definition of a great agency leader is “one who achieves consistently great results.”

As simple as that sounds, what does it really mean? A few favorite quotes come to mind:

“Execution beats talent every time!”

“Don’t complain about that which you allow.”

I’m especially fond of the latter one, which is from John Burroughs, an American naturalist and nature essayist who spent time here in Fort Myers with his friends Henry Ford and Thomas Edison.

What are some of the behaviors in your agency that you allow and yet constantly complain about? You continue to tolerate these behaviors despite the fact that they inhibit great results. What commitments have you made but never followed through on?

With the ongoing commoditization and digital disruption in our industry, it’s more vital than ever to commit to results-oriented strategies and behaviors. Here’s what I believe are the top core commitments of great agency leaders.

  1. Change the game. Producers and all client-facing team members must stop giving quotes, selling a commodity based on price only, and handling day-to-day service transactions, and focus instead on becoming risk advisors. As a rule, they should be investing 80% of their time helping their clients and future ideal clients with risk advice and risk planning and implementation. This applies to personal lines, small commercial, large commercial and benefits.
  2. Master the mundane. Yes, I’m referring to Blocking and Tackling 101, the core Sitkins Strategies that you’ve read about many times but perhaps haven’t yet mastered. Maybe they’re on your “Someday I’ll” list (the least desirable isle to inhabit!). True agency leaders and top producers have mastered the mundane, and therefore they do the basics better than their competitors. They have a clear vision of how to accomplish their objectives and are relentlessly prepared for every opportunity. Does this sound like your agency?

To find out, here are some questions to ask as part of your agency checkup at your next sales or general meeting:

  • What is our agency vision or mission?
  • What’s unique about our agency?
  • Why should people buy from us?
  • What’s our 30-second commercial?
  • Who’s willing or able to stand up right now and ask me for a referral?
  • What percentage of your presentations have you rehearsed?
  • Who has with them their list of future ideal clients?

As mundane as it may seem, I’ll bet the vast majority of agencies would fail this checkup. Furthermore, I’ll bet that most agency leaders couldn’t answer those questions!

I’ve often said, “Never ask a question that you don’t want to hear the answer to.” Well, here’s my question for you: “Have you and your agency focused on mastering the mundane, or are you still looking for that magic pill?”

  1. Create a culture of accountability. Those who create and implement a culture of accountability win, and those who don’t, lose. It’s that simple and straightforward. As frequently as I’ve discussed the basics of accountability, they bear repeating. Is everyone on your team doing what they said they were going to do? If not, why not and why are you allowing that? Are you clear about team members’ roles and responsibilities? Do you have a monthly or quarterly Reverse Performance Management meeting with each employee? Does each employee have an ongoing improvement plan?
  2. Embrace technology. In the course of my career, one of the most powerful statements I ever heard concerned the impact of technology on business. The message: In the future, what you currently get paid for you may be doing for free (or you might be replaced), and what you currently do for free may be the only way you get paid. Actually, that prediction is already coming true for our industry.

Just think about the role of the average agency today. Most are little more than middlemen who take risk from their clients and pass it through to the insurance carrier (e.g., risk transfer). The average agency simply assists in the purchase and placement of insurance and provides reactive client service. Ultimately, these agencies add little value to the transaction, as consumers are starting to discover.

These days, technology is handling many of the transactions that used to be handled by agency staff, and it’s multiplying dramatically every day. That’s why you must become a risk advisor. That’s the true “value-added service” you provide. What’s more, it may be the only way you get paid in the future. (Can you say “digital disruption”?)

  1. Embrace relationships and the client experience. I can’t overstate the importance of being aware of digital disruption and the need to differentiate your agency in a crowded marketplace. Doing so requires a thorough understanding of your clients and their specific needs. This means getting as close to them as possible.

In defining the client experience, how do you want them to feel after you’ve spent time with them? Have you documented this? Have you conducted training around it? Have you made any “secret shopper” calls to discover how your clients or future clients experience your agency? For example, has a client ever shared with you a piece of correspondence sent by one of your employees, only for you to discover that it’s poorly written and rife with grammatical errors and typos? How do you think that reflects on your agency?

  1. Use the power of the 80/20 Rule. All too often, I encounter owners who still believe this rule doesn’t apply to their agency. When is the last time you did an 80/20 analysis of your clients? What about your carriers?

In the unlikely event that you really want to shock yourself, take a look at your Super A clients, the top 2%.  Don’t be surprised that they represent approximately 33% of your commission income. Also, don’t be surprised that the top 20% of your carriers generate 80% of your commission revenue. Talk about the Vital Few vs. the Trivial Many! It’s time to take action in these areas.

The bottom line

There you have my top core commitments. These are the strategies and behaviors that will allow you to sell more, retain more and earn more. As always, it’s your choice.

The author

Roger Sitkins, CEO of Sitkins Group, Inc., is the nation’s number-one “Agency Results Coach.” He established The Sitkins Network™, a territorial exclusive network of high-performing agencies, and The Better Way Agency, a web-based training program that shows agency owners ways to make significant improvements in all areas of the agency. To learn more, please visit www.sitkins.com and follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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