The Two-Way Promise

Promise making in insurance agencies

Have you ever wondered how great your agency would be if 100% of your team did 100% of what they said they were going to do? Whenever I’ve questioned agency owners and C-level executives about that, their responses range from “That would be great” to “We’d grow by 20% a year” to “We’d have an operating profit of 30-plus percent and would increase the value of our agency by millions of dollars.” However, they always add, “Of course, 100% is not possible.”

Keep in mind that whenever you say or hear a response that includes “that’s not possible,” you should reply, “That’s not possible unless what?” Based on my experience, asking this question is a great filter that can eliminate a ton of head trash. People immediately laser-focus on what they’re not doing and start to see the obstacles preventing them from doing what they need to or want to do.

Even so, there are those who will insist it’s impossible to reach 100% execution. That’s why I’ll then ask them, what if you hit just 80% execution, and 80% of your people did 80% of what they said they would do? Their response: “That would still be great!” It made me wonder if most of us are closer to keeping just 50% of the promises we make (if that). Or do some people have different ideas about what constitutes a promise?

Having 80% execution is not possible unless all team members keep the promises they have made to themselves and their teammates. This is only possible when there is a culture and cadence of accountability in your agency, with promise keeping at its core. Such accountability indicates a deep commitment to honoring the promises you’ve made to yourself or someone else.

We define promise making as declaring what one commits to do. Promise keeping is doing what one said one would do. True promise keeping emerges as a moral obligation. What if everyone on your team was so committed to your business model that they felt it would be immoral not to keep their promises? Although promises are easier to verbalize than execute, we believe it’s incredibly important to keep them. So, stop talking and start doing!

A two-way street

One of the sales leadership tools we use with our members is the Producer’s Performance Agreement (PPA). It’s the by-product of a producer’s comprehensive annual planning guide. In addition to the usual sales goals, it also identifies the agreed-upon non-optional behaviors and strategies to which the producer is committing (i.e., the things they promise to do).

In discussing promise making and promise keeping with one of our Sitkins Network private clients a few months ago, it dawned on me that that PPA is really a one-way street. We have producers outline all the things they promise to do without asking the agency’s other team members to do the same. However, promise making and keeping is a two-way street. And that’s what great teams are all about—giving and taking to ensure success for all.

What promises will the producer make and actually keep? If you’re an agency owner or executive, what is your part in making and keeping promises, and what are the consequences if that doesn’t happen? If a promise is broken, establishing who owns the problem is even more important than identifying the problem itself. What promises will the account managers and overall agency make and keep to the producer? You must clarify those roles before you can expect promises to be kept.

Let’s go deeper on promise making and keeping. Think about the many New Year’s resolutions made. “This year I’m going to _________ .” Whatever their intention, the reality is that only 9% of Americans fulfill the resolutions they’ve made! Twenty-three percent quit before the end of first week and 43% quit by the end of January. That’s not very encouraging.

Is the same true of the promises you make?

Breaking promises to yourself (including New Year’s resolutions) is one thing but, normally, you are the only one who faces the consequences. But what about the promises you’ve made to others? To the ones you love? To those who depend on you? To the causes and charities you want to support? To your church? What about the promises you’ve made or should be making to your team members? What do you owe others? When we ask agency principals that last question, they tend to become very thoughtful. Typically, people never stop to ponder such questions.

So, let me ask again, how great would your agency be by the end of 2024 if 80%-plus of the promises made by your team members were kept?

Let’s look at the two-way promise as it relates to High Performance Teams (HPTs). In my Best Version Possible training and development programs, HPTs are created around the common goal of obtaining and retaining ideal clients. An integral component of all HPTs is ART: the Appreciation, Respect and Trust of the different roles team members play.

For example, do team members appreciate the unique and different roles of sales and service? Is there respect for other positions, namely the roles, responsibilities, and expertise of others in the agency? Is their trust throughout the agency? Do team members trust that the other party will uphold their end of the bargain? ART is critical to the growth of any organization but can be realized only when team members keep their promises.

One agency, different promises

To enhance agency growth, all team members should be making and keeping promises that pertain to their position.

The producer promises to:

  • Attend all scheduled HPT meetings relentlessly prepared, having thoroughly reviewed the meeting agenda sent the previous Friday by the account manager.
  • Review the relationship management calendar for clients, future ideal clients, and centers of influence.
  • Be timely on all information requests.
  • Follow the critical path of the continuation process.
  • Understand that everything is not an emergency and find ways to reduce interruption.
  • Use the CRM.
  • Provide complete, accurate and total information when asked.
  • The account manager promises to:
  • Develop and distribute the HPT meeting agenda before noon every Friday.
  • Be relentlessly prepared.
  • Help keep the producer in The Green Zone 80% of the time and away from day-to-day service.
  • Follow all internal processes.
  • Maximize the agency management system and other technologies to provide prompt, accurate and courteous service to clients.

Because beliefs often manifest as results, it’s critical to keep the promises you make to yourself and others or suffer the consequences. The former is preferrable. What’s more, promise keepers are likely to get referrals.

According to Dan Sullivan, founder of Strategic Coach, three of the four traits of being referrable are to (1) show up on time; (2) do what you said you were going to do, and (3) finish what you start. (The other key trait is to say “please” and “thank you.”) In essence, these are the promises you make to clients.

The bottom line

Because behaviors are congruent with results, actions have consequences, for better or worse. As such, it stands to reason that bad behaviors garner bad results and good behaviors equal good results.

To quote poet T.S. Eliot, “How you do one thing is how you do everything.” Are you known for making impactful promises and keeping them? If so, you’ll have a life with no regrets. Conversely, if you repeatedly fail to do what you resolve to do and constantly break promises to yourself and others, you’ll pay the price.

Are you achieving great results or disappointing ones? Are you known as a promise keeper or a promise breaker? It’s your choice.

The author

Roger Sitkins is the CEO of Sitkins Group, Inc. After over 40 years he has truly become an icon in the insurance industry having trained and mentored thousands of insurance professionals.

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 six people 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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