When I talk to producers who are frustrated with their results and overall balance in life, I think the real issue is that they’ve lost their freedom. Specifically, they’ve lost the freedom to do what they want to do, when they want to do it. Even the younger ones talk longingly about “the good old days,” when they had more freedom. But the reality is that with 24/7/365 access to data, people and products in today’s digital world, workdays seem to never end.
I recently gave a speech in Toronto to the Worldwide Insurance Network Group (WING), which included independent insurance brokers from 20 different countries. It was a great learning experience for me, and it reinforced my belief that the world’s best brokers love the collective genius of brainstorming with other super-smart individuals.
During my opening comments, I asked if any of them were experiencing some loss of freedom or perhaps were falling into some traps. Even in such an elite group, more than two-thirds of the brokers raised their hands.
I believe there are Seven Deadly Traps that producers fall into: time, money, energy, relationships, commodity game, annual renewals, and technology. Let’s look at each. I’ll describe the trap, and you decide whether it looks too familiar.
Time. This is your only diminishing asset. When you lose time, you can never get it back. Too many people are “busy being busy” all day. They constantly confuse activity with results, so despite being constantly busy, every year looks the same with the same results. These producers have fallen into what I call the Service Trap and spend significantly less than 12% of their time in sales-related activities. (You do remember The 12% Factor, don’t you? If not, we need to talk.)
Money. The average producer does pretty well because, as we all know, it’s a great industry. When compared to the vast majority of their family and friends, things look great. However, the majority are semi-successful and far from attaining full financial freedom. In fact, most of them are working way too many hours for way too little return. Are you among them? To find out, divide the amount of money you’ve earned in the last 12 months by the number of hours you worked. If your Return On Time (ROT) is less than $250 per hour, we need to talk!
Energy. Because they’re not staying within their unique abilities (thank you, Dan Sullivan), most people feel drained when doing things that they simply don’t love doing and/or lack the factory-installed equipment to do at a high level. They wear way too many hats, most of which don’t fit very well. You are either generating energy or you are draining it. What percentage of your time is spent doing things you absolutely love to do—things that create energy for you and get great results? If it’s not the majority of your time, we need to talk!
Relationships. I often remind my readers that there are five types of relationships to manage: Clients, Future Ideal Clients, Carriers, Team Members, and Centers of Influence. The 80/20 Rule lends itself to all but one type, your team members, all of whom I hope you value. (Further, I hope you tell them as much, because silent gratitude is no gratitude at all.) You’ve got to know your Vital Few versus your Trivial Many in the four other types. If you’re like most, you’re trapped spending way too much time and energy on the trivial many relationships. When you do that, you aren’t investing/making deposits in your best relationships. Remember, less equals more. And if it doesn’t, we need to talk.
Commodity Game. Most producers will claim that they don’t sell on price only, yet when quizzed about what makes them unique, they come up empty. Oh sure, they might say something like, “We give great service and represent all of the top carriers,” but that’s almost always followed by the kicker, “and we can save you money.”
I’m not saying there’s absolutely no room for the commodity sale, but if you’re in that game, you’ve got to be fully immersed in it. When done properly, it can be very profitable. But if you are just dabbling, I urge you to be cautious, because typically, it’s a great way to get trapped into practice quoting, part-time clients, unpaid consulting, an abundance of transactions, low revenue-per-client, and diminished retention. If you’re stuck in the commodity game, maybe we should talk!
Annual Renewals. Other than the bottom 50% to 80% of clients that get “renewed as is,” the top 20% have an annual event known as the renewal. From everything I’ve read and heard, I don’t think it’s a stretch to assert that most of your top customers—namely business owners and CEOs—hate the renewal process. It’s definitely not something they do with their other trusted advisors. (Could it be that maybe they don’t consider their insurance agent a trusted advisor?)
Have you implemented the Continuation Process (that I’ve shared several times in this column) or are you still doing the 90-Day Dance around renewal time? Those who have a Continuation Process in place know the objective is simple: You don’t renew accounts; you continue relationships. Conversely, the 90-Day Dance is a study in hysterical activity on the way to the grave.
If you’re still renewing accounts rather than continuing relationships, maybe we should talk!
Technology. There’s an absolute addiction to distraction in today’s world. People are so quick to respond to the relentless onslaught of “rings and pings” from phone calls and email, it’s a wonder they have time to do anything else. And despite the vast number of productivity-enhancing apps, agency management systems and other high-tech tools at their fingertips, overall, most producers and their agencies never maximize what’s available. In fact, many of them use less than 50% of their agency automation systems. This underutilization of technology cripples staff productivity and revenue per employee. If you’re not making the most of available automation, maybe we should talk.
One way or another, everyone’s career eventually comes to an end. The point is to leave with no regrets. Just keep in mind that if you don’t escape these traps, you can still be semi-successful but never experience true freedom.
In life, you either have regrets or re-greats. I often mention a cartoon I noticed at an agency in White Plains, New York, on one of my first consulting jobs. It showed two older people on a porch in rocking chairs, one of them saying, “One of life’s greatest regrets is to reach age 65, wake up and realize you never reached your potential, and then realize it’s too late!”
Regrets are for the semi-successful —those who had major opportunities others didn’t have, but who chose to simply coast along. Re-greats, on the other hand, are for those who establish Non-Optional Behaviors and Strategies (NOBS) and consistently hold themselves accountable to do what they said they were going to do. They achieve great results and provide for everyone and everything that’s important to them.
If you’re going to put the time in anyway, you might as well be great at it. That’s the Best Version Possible of you, and it’s waiting for you to arrive!
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 five others 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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