#SitkinsIsTheSolution

Two BORs Before Lunch - Producer Success Story with Kristen Schoenberger

podcast sales Sep 30, 2021
 

Brent Kelly:

Welcome to the Agent Leader podcast. My name is Brent Kelly, your host. Thanks so much for joining me on another episode of the podcast. And I have a very special guest. If you are an agency leader who is thinking, "Gosh, I've got a newer producer, someone coming to my agency. Is success possible? Is even accelerated success possible?" Well, I've got someone here who's got some great stories to share. I've got Kristen Schoenberger with HDH HUB with us today, and she's gone through our Sitkins program last year. Actually, it was early this year, I should say. Right, Kristen?

Brent Kelly:

So she'll be our special guest today. Kristen, I'll get to you just in a minute so you have a formal introduction and can share about your background and some of the things that you've done and are doing currently in your role. Also, I want to mention too that again for this podcast, if it's providing value to you and your agency, really would appreciate a subscribe or a rating. We are doing these podcasts not just audio, but if you're watching me, you know this, video as well. So my special guest, you can already see here on the screen. But we're doing audio and video so would love a, again, rating or a subscribe to have more agencies hear the message that we share on this podcast.

Brent Kelly:

And also, if your agency wants to learn more about what we do, a great starting point is to do a transformational scorecard. This is an agency scorecard just to get a footprint of “is my agency on the right track? Are we doing some of the things that we need to be doing?” And if you just go to sitkins.com/scorecard, sitkins.com/scorecard, you can take that scorecard and we'll give you some instant feedback on your results. So with that, Kristen, are you ready to have an incredible discussion today?

Kristen Schoeneberger:

I'm ready.

Brent:

All right. So again, Kristen is with HUB HDH. Now you're in West Virginia. Is that correct?

Kristen Schoenberg:

Correct. Morgantown, West Virginia.

Brent Kelly:

All right. So tell the audience a little bit about yourself, your background, your experience, whatever it is you want to share and I may ask some follow up questions. But the floor is yours, Kristen.

Kristen:

Oh, thank you. Thanks Brent. Thanks for having me. So I spent about 11 years at a direct writer doing commercial insurance. We were pretty strict on what we'd write, keeping it in certain lines of businesses, certain industries. We did employee benefits up until 2018 when the market kind of changed with the ACA, so it was a great experience. I learned a lot. And then came through COVID and started reevaluating my book. I had inherited 38 clients and I'd grew my book to 92 at my previous employer, and just re-evaluating like everybody did during COVID. And I thought, "What else is out there?"

Kristen:

So I started kind of looking around and I always was curious about the broker side. So I truly love employee benefits, and unfortunately my direct writer that I was with had kind of cut that out of our portfolio. I kind of explored the world of the brokerage side and I talked to a few brokers and ended up at HUB HDH in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was perfect timing. They wanted to expand South into the West Virginia market, and I was based here in Morgantown and was familiar with the state and covered the state for my previous employer. I started there in December 2020, and it's just been great ever since.

Brent Kelly:

Awesome. It's always great to hear the story. By the way, are you a Mountaineer fan then, by the way?

Kristen:

I am. I am. I do have a brother that went to Pitt so I have to be careful, but I am a Mountaineer fan. Yes.

Brent Kelly:

Okay. Well, I know that's a big deal out there. Well, it's always interesting and part of it too, people have asked us before like, "Well, you just work with PNC." And as you experienced, Kristen, we do work a lot of PNC agencies and agents, but we also have a lot of benefits producers. And obviously that's your background and your love and your passion. So you started in December officially with the agency, as you said, and obviously your background leading you there. I'm going to ask you a question that again, to be honest, wasn't really prepared before, but I'm just naturally curious about it. And that is what's been the biggest surprise to you?

Brent Kelly:

You move from that captive world to the agent broker side of things in December, and here we are recording this in the end of September. What's been the biggest surprise to you in the last nine, 10 months?

Kristen:

I would have to say the team. The team behind you to support you. We talk in Sitkins about the perfect handoff. Where I came from, I was soup to nuts the whole team, as you would say. So it's a trust factor, and learning to understand the process, I think is the biggest thing coming to the brokerage world that I was just floored by. The amount of resources and the people that support you. So as a producer, you truly can be a hunter, and you can go out, and you can sell and do what you do best and then hand it off to your team. It's a seamless transition, so that's awesome.

Brent Kelly:

It's interesting you said that and not surprising. We hear that quite a bit obviously. I always joke, Kristen, with independent agency leaders or professionals in general. I say the best part of being independent is that you're independent. And the hardest thing about being independent, is that you're independent because there's a lot of choices you could have. And obviously, with your agency and the focus there is, they've embraced the service handoff very much at a very high level. And it's again, very similar. I use sports analogies all the time because at least for me, they're easy to understand. The quarterback hands the ball off or throws the ball in. We've got these different roles.

Brent Kelly:

They are both vitally important, but they're different. We want people to be in their unique abilities, as we talk about. And that comes from Dan Sullivan to do the things that you're wired to do, that you love to do, and as you said, to go out there and be a hunter. The beginning of this podcast, one of the main reasons, and there's a lot of reasons you're on this podcast with me, Kristen, because you, going through our program, you just had a bubbly personality, we could tell you were a growth-minded individual, you're committed to success and getting better. And so I just want to tell the story a little bit about how part of this came.

Brent Kelly:

So we were going through the program and I guess Kristen it would've been last winter, right? We were in like January, February, somewhere in there. I can't remember the dates. We do interactive live virtual programs. So I get an email half hour before one of our programs from Kristen, and she says, "I want to apologize. I'm not going to..." I'm paraphrasing this. "I have to apologize. I won't be able to attend the session today. I'm completing two BORs." Is that right? Something like that.

Kristen:

Yes. Yeah.

Brent Kelly:

Tell me that story if the audience can hear it, and tell us about those accounts that you wrote, and then maybe just some examples of how you got it or what that looked like. The floor is yours.

Kristen:

Sure. So at my previous employer, things were very rigid. You had your territory, you stayed in your or territory, you didn't move. So the brokerage side is much more relationship driven. When I was at my previous employer, I worked with a larger company in West Virginia. They had over 500 employees. And what that meant to me as an agent was they had to come out of home office. I wasn't allowed to write them. So while they were a client of my company, they weren't my clients. But being that large of a company down here in West Virginia, they wanted boots on the ground.

Kristen:

So whenever I had the opportunity at an association event or a meeting, I would reach out to the owner, say hi, ask him how he's doing. "Is there anything I can do for you? I know I'm here local in West Virginia." And he would take me up on it. Whether it'd be safety classes or just meeting with his top executives to discuss life insurance or other products. So I spent 10 years helping someone that I never got paid for. I always thought in the back of my mind one day, this will pay off. I don't know when, I don't know how, but it's going to pay off.

Kristen:

So then I moved to HUB, and he was the first phone call I made. And I said, "You have 2,400 employees, how's your healthcare going?" And he said it's a disaster. "My people have no communication with our broker, the broker has not answered questions in over three months, we need help. Can you come help?" And I literally had one lunch with the HR team, and he called me a... It was almost two months later. So it wasn't immediate, but two months later he called and said, "You better send me that BOR. I need to sign it." And then little did I know, he had a small security company on the side that had about 400 employees, so I had to take that one as well.

Brent Kelly:

So what were the size of those groups again, Kristen? Make sure the audience heard that.

Kristen:

2,400 and 400.

Brent Kelly:

Yeah. So that was a pretty good day, right?

Kristen:

Yeah. Not bad.

Brent Kelly:

Well, it's interesting because as people, I'm sure are listening to this like, "Well, yeah. It was 10 years and she had that." But think about the takeaways from that. It doesn't have to be 10 years, but a big part that we talk about too, and you heard this in the program, are these relationship deposits, and continue to earn those relationships and the long term approach to it. And sometimes, we can do those things and they happen in a year or two or less. And sometimes maybe they are five to 10 years. But I would ask anybody listening whether it's two years, five years or 10 years, is those relationships deposits worth a 2,400 group? Well, I would say probably yes in that.

Brent Kelly:

Just a kind of a second to that, because it's one thing to have the relationship, but it's another thing to say, "Okay, well, you've got a relationship. You still got to go earn it." You still have to be able to have things in place. So outside of just the fact that you've had the relationship for that long and earned it and of course moved to a spot where you had an opportunity then to take that over, what else went into that? What did you and your team have to do to make that happen?

Kristen:

It's been a lot of work. We signed the BORs in June, and it's been work. We've had many meetings and put in a lot of man hours of totally taking their whole system and revamping it and making it work for the company. It's not about what you think's best or what you think would work for them, it's about really sitting down and listening and saying what's not work, what is working, and then taking the not working part and making it work for them. So from the enrollment system, their enrollment management system, they were trying to rush 2,400 employees through in one week, and that just wasn't working.

Kristen:

And it became frustrating on the side of the HR team. I always tell the HR departments when I walk in, my job is to make you look like a rock star. That's my number one goal here. They don't care how much you know until they know that you care. It's that old saying. They could look at me as just another insurance broker coming in trying to make a dollar, but that's why I really like employee benefits because it gets to a problem. You're dealing with people's hearts and health, and it really gets to the heart of people.

Brent Kelly:

That's fantastic. If you didn't write that down, audience, please write that down, again, however phrase you want to use it and the world you're in. My job is to make you a rock star. That is so powerful. I know in our elite program, Kristen, we had a gentleman he talked about it. He said my only job is to help businesses. How can I help them move forward? And that's just a different way of saying it. Again, they've got real problems, real issues and frustrations. And when you come to them and say, "Hey, my job at the end of the day is to make you a rock star." I would have to guess there's a pretty strong emotional trigger to that.

Brent Kelly:

Of course, you're going to back it up with what you do when you mention the hard work, but that is fantastic. That to me is a mindset and an emotional deposit that you're making immediately on how you do things differently versus not what we can get, what can we give? I do want to just back up just a second because I think there's something here that I don't want to miss as you said that. Although you had background experience from where you came from, and you started in December which by the way happened to be probably the height or the worst of COVID. I would have to guess. The dark winter of last year. So it's a tough time.

Brent Kelly:

So even though you had the background and you had the relationship to a degree, I can tell you, and I'm sure you could probably attest this as well, is that many producers would say, "I'm not quite ready yet." Or, "I don't know if we should do this yet," or "I don't know if I should make that call today." Did you have any of those doubts before you went in there? And maybe you didn't, but if you did, what were they? And if you didn't, what gave you that confidence?

Kristen:

And I think this speaks to HUB and HDH in particular, I was a little nervous because I'm newly entering the employee benefit space after three years of not touching it at all. So it's something that I was nervous because I don't know the products out there. I was still getting back into the swing of the healthcare market. But I took Chet Rhoads, my president, to that lunch with me, and just phenomenal. Having someone sit next to me at that lunch table that can talk the talk while I fill in the relationship gap, it just speaks to the team approach. I couldn't have done this without my team. And although I was the new girl on campus, they welcomed me with open arms, and said if you have the relationships, we have the knowledge and the resources. Let's make it happen.

Brent Kelly:

Okay. So agency leaders, listen to what she just said. And I know some would go, "Well, we're structured different or whatever." I always say this, what's the number one job of leadership? And certainly if you look at what's the number one job of sales leadership? Oftentimes people will say things like, well it's to make sales or grow sales, which certainly is the outcome we want. But I truly believe the number one job of a sales leader is to develop and grow your sales people, your sales team. And a big part of what you said, Kristen, was to empower and equip you to be successful.

Brent Kelly:

And you already have a lot of the tools, and again, just talking to you, and people can see you and hear you that you're a friendly person to talk to, people can get along with you. I don't sense you being difficult to like in any means.

Kristen:

I hope not.

Brent Kelly:

Right. No, you're not. But the big thing is though, as a leader, how can I help this person grow faster than they would on their own? So one thing that you put in there is the idea of team selling. And certainly there's a part of mentorship in there as well because I'm sure knowing Chet, been part of our programs for a long time, could say, "Hey, what about this and what about that? And how can you get better here?" So, again, it's kind of a quick aside here to all the listeners out there. As a leader, what are you doing to empower and equip your sales team to take steps that they necessarily couldn't do as fast on their own?

Brent Kelly:

And it's not that you couldn't do it and you wouldn't do it, it's just that you could accelerate your growth. And the big thing to me is how do we compress time? So I thank you so much for sharing. I think that's a very powerful story that you shared in what happened there. And by the way, kudos to you because you still had to do the work. You still had to do the leg work and you still had to pick up the phone and have the courage and confidence to say, "I don't know if I'm fully ready, but I'm ready enough."

Kristen:

Yeah. And I've learned so much. I've learned so much about the process and everything through it, so it's been a great experience.

Brent Kelly:

Awesome. Awesome. All right. So just a couple more questions to pick your brain for the audience, because again, it's exciting just to hear your journey and some little things that you're doing. Obviously you went through our program, again, it was late winter or early spring. I don't know exactly. Sometime February, March, I think, it finished up. Just from your perspective, and I'm curious on this too, from your background and then coming in December and then all of a sudden you're in the middle of COVID, and you hop on this Sitkins training and stuff, and now Roger and myself are saying things and you're learning from other peers around this program. What was the biggest takeaway or takeaways that you got out of that program?

Kristen:

I have to say the schedule and the red zone green zone that you guys hammer to us. It seems so simple. It does in theory. But I think once you really get into the swing of your everyday job and what you're doing, coming from a place where I was not only the producer, but the account executive, the servicer, the Jack of all trades, it's hard to let go control sometimes. And so on the broker side, there's a lot of emails that I know are meant for my service team or meant for someone else. I'm just copied on them to be in the loop, be aware.

Kristen:

So really giving the time back to myself to go out and find new prospects, new clients, that is something that Sitkins really promotes and makes sure that you're spending your time doing what you need to do for your job. So that has changed my world because coming into the brokerage world, I had no clue how to really be a producer with a team behind me. So that kind of helped me define what I need to do.

Brent Kelly:

Thanks for sharing that. And again, everyone has different backgrounds, how they come into that, and how they see that and agencies are structured differently. But at the very basic core, and I love that. We always say it's simple. It's not always easy sometimes to do some of the things that we talk about, but it's simple to understand. The idea is that basically we try to keep things so simple, Kris, and maybe remember this is that the definition of a producer is one who produces. To do that, it's like, "Oh, well. Ha ha ha." But the question that we always ask producers is how much are you actually even in the game?

Brent Kelly:

You find like, "Well, geez. My role is to bring new business into the agency." Whatever title. You could say you're an account executive or relationship whatever, producer, advisor, I don't care what title, those are fine. But at the end of the day, the reason why you're there is to obtain and retain great clients, future ideal clients, and keep your best clients. And so we find that, geez, that's their role but they're only spending maybe half the time at best. Maybe even a quarter doing that stuff because they're caught up in everything else.

Brent Kelly:

That concept of green zone red zone is pretty simple. If you're in the green zone, you're doing the right stuff. If the red zone, you're doing non sales stuff, which by the way, there's a time and place for that, but it's not usually 10:00 AM on a Tuesday or whatever that may be. Thank you for sharing that. All right. Here's my last official question to you, and again, I appreciate your time and energy for being on this with me. Again, I know that you've officially started December with your background. If someone were to come to you, and again, obviously benefits is your passion, your background, and what you do, but it could be any insurance professional or young insurance producer in this case.

Brent Kelly:

And they said, "Kristen, I know you just started, but you're off to a pretty darn good start and you seem to have a few things figured out. What's one piece of advice you would give to me to help me be better?" What would you say?

Kristen:

I would say don't lose yourself. I think sometimes especially, I'm sure you see in sales training, sales training can be kind of rigid. It can be somewhat robotic, somewhat say it this way. Don't say it this way. But I think as a salesperson, you have to remember what makes you unique and be genuine. I think people can tell if you're genuine or if you're not, if you're there to make a quick buck, or if you truly care. So through all the sales training that I've been through, it is phenomenal. ProducerFit was an excellent six weeks. I want young sales reps to know take your sales training and make it your own. Don't lose yourself in all of it because that's what people are truly going to connect with.

Brent Kelly:

That's awesome. Great, great, great advice and authentic advice too. So I appreciate that. You heard us say this, Kris, in the program. The easy part is to sit in for a few hours. We used to run programs six weeks, now I run them eight weeks. Whatever the thing is. And then of course we do some follows and all that. That part of it is the easy part like, "Oh, yeah. That's something I should do. That's a model. That's a new idea. That's a strategy I should implement." Whatever it is. The hard part's going out there and actually executing it.

Brent Kelly:

Well, you close the book and it's like, "What's next?" And I think what you shared is so powerful because we use a term called flexibility without dilution. I don't know if you remember us saying that or not, it's been a while. Flexibility without dilution, which is simply this, there's a core strategy. Don't miss the point of why we're doing it or why you're doing it, and then have some flexibility around it. It's your unique experiences. It's the way that you communicate at the highest level. It's some of your passions and things. Those all need to be intertwined, and I think you're spot on.

Brent Kelly:

People can see fakeness. The term that I heard on a different podcast, I think it was called Selling From the Heart was don't have commission breath. People could smell commission breath. So this idea of like, why am I really here? And what you said going back to that is my job is to make you a rock star. That's a different approach. My job is to get all these people on this plan and get this through and to the finish line. And by the way, I'll make some good money because of it. There's a totally different mindset on that.

Brent Kelly:

So I appreciate your viewpoint, and I think any new, medium, old, however you want to define experienced producer, can really get some great, great insight from that. So thank you, Kris. And it was awesome to have you on the podcast. I know our listeners are better for it. I just want to wrap up with just one final thought again, is that if you're an agency, whether you're looking for one of our individual programs or certainly our inclusive model where we allow all aspects of your team to learn about our unique processes and systems and strategies, and I think a big part of this Kristen, mindset, just to get you thinking a little bit different and thinking bigger, we'd love for you to have a conversation with us to see if it is a fit for your agency.

Brent Kelly:

And our all inclusive model of sitkins.com/aim for our inclusive model. Sitkins.com/aim. Kristen, any final words that you want to share to the audience before we say goodbye?

Kristen:

No. Thank you so much for having me, and good luck out there.

Brent Kelly:

Thank you. Thank you. Well, hey, good luck to you, and we'll definitely stay connected, obviously, knowing your organization very, very well. So thanks all, and thanks for being a listener. Take care.

 

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