Many names or labels have been attached to independent agencies throughout the years: Mom-and-Pop (a literal description of my parents’ business); Lifestyle (corporate and personal finances are commingled to support a comfortable lifestyle); Plateaued (working hard and doing okay, but clients are coming in the front door and going out the back, and every year looks about the same); Growth-Oriented (understanding how to retain customers at a high level while also maintaining an organic growth rate at two to three times the national average); Aggressive (it’s all about selling new accounts to the exclusion of taking care of the old ones); and many more than space permits.
In categorizing agencies, I basically believe there are three kinds: Platinum, Gold and Silver. I’d like to challenge you, as one of our readers, to think of your agency as described below and determine if you’re a Platinum, Gold or Silver Agency. (You’ll notice there’s no category for Bronze, a.k.a. the Rusted Agency.) In this analysis, we’ll be using the 80/20 Rule as a foundation for categorizing your agency.
As I’ve often discussed, when we analyze agencies’ books of business, we find that the “A” accounts (the top 5%) generate 50% of the operating revenue, the “B” accounts (the middle 15%) generate 30% of the operating revenue, and the “C” accounts (the bottom 80%) generate 20% of the operating revenues. Similarly, the 80/20 Rule can be used to categorize agencies:
- The Top 5% = Platinum
- The Middle 15% = Gold
- The Bottom 80% = Silver
Now we’ll examine three areas of critical importance to agencies: Overall Strategy, Pipelines, and Sales Playbooks.
This is also known as an agency’s brand in its marketplace. It’s how the agency’s 4 Cs—Clients, Colleagues, Carriers and Community—view it. When someone says the agency’s name, what do people think of?
Silver Agencies (The Bottom 80%)—Primarily these are what I call the “Quoters and Floaters.” To them every account is a great account; they do lots of practice quoting and provide a ton of unpaid consulting. They believe that lots of activity means something good could happen eventually. After all, if they throw enough stuff against the wall, something is bound to stick! Their websites emphasize “Free Quotes.” As a result, their days are consumed by reacting to incoming calls and emails. They have no plans other than “being busy.” They retain about 85% of their clients and have organic growth of about 4%. This yields a decent income and allows them to do “OK.” As I always say, it’s a great business!
Gold Agencies (The Middle 15%)—They’ve achieved the status of Trusted Advisor to their clients, who consider them on par with their CPA, attorney, wealth manager and banker. Gold Agencies do a pretty good job of coverage gap analysis and provide excellent reactive service, as well as some proactive client services. They have retention of 90% or higher and true organic growth of 5% to 7%.
Platinum Agencies (The Top 5%)—These agencies are indispensable risk partners with their clients. Everything they do revolves around assessing and managing their clients’ risks. They’re relentless when it comes to managing their clients’ total cost of risk and improving their clients’ risk profile with insurance carriers. They take the underwriter’s view on every account and know how to make their clients more attractive to carriers. Simply put, their clients swear they couldn’t live without them or run their business without them. As a result, they have retention of 95% and above and organic growth of 10% or higher.
How would you categorize your agency?
If you’ve followed me at all, you know our sales performance coaching stresses the importance of having (a) pipelines with Future Ideal Clients (FICs) only and (b) more opportunities than time.
Silver Agencies have no real pipelines. They are aggressively waiting for the phone to ring or their computer to ping. When asked who their top 20 prospects are, they’ll reply, “I don’t know; they haven’t called or emailed me yet.” No need for a CRM system—there’s nothing to put in!
Gold Agencies have a CRM that is somewhat populated and used by most of the producers. Their pipeline is filled primarily with suspects and prospects, but not FICs. Their marketing efforts consist of drip campaigns and social media, and overall they are doing pretty well.
Platinum Agencies have pipelines overflowing with FICs only. They know exactly what a future ideal client looks like and have each identified by name. Further, they have specific Targeted Accounts Strategy Plans that guide them to a first appointment.
How would you categorize your agency?
Silver Agencies have no idea what a sales playbook is. But if they did, their playbook would probably consist of a yellow legal pad, copious random notes and the Old Way of Selling (yes, you know it—Look, Copy, Quote and Pray). They play the commodity-based price-only game. The reason they think people should do business with them is that they give “great service!” They wing it and get away with it.
Gold Agencies have annual planning sessions and goals for each producer. Producers are held semi-accountable for reaching their goals, which about 50% of them meet or exceed. However, they have no sales playbook.
Platinum Agencies have a three-phase sales playbook that is strictly followed by every producer. The three phases are:
Prepare. Have you ever seen a pro football team take a week off from practice before playing in the Super Bowl and then show up on game day, hoping for the best? Similarly, you can’t expect to win the insurance game by winging it; you must have a strategy. For instance, producers should have an Account-Based Marketing (ABM) strategic plan for obtaining the first appointment with true FICs. Also, while preparation should be an ongoing, daily activity, practices and rehearsals should be scheduled on a weekly basis.
Play. Now’s the time to get out there and meet with FICs and Center of Influence Networks (COINs) and start telling your story. What makes you unique in the marketplace? What’s your process? (If it’s Look, Copy, Quote and Pray, you shouldn’t be in the game!) Finally, what’s in it for the FICs? Why should they do business with you?
Stay. To stay in the game, your goal should be to achieve 100% effective retention while simultaneously growing your revenue. This means cultivating clients for life by providing a superior client experience. To do so, you must establish a continuation process and a model for keeping and exceeding promises.
How would you categorize your agency?
The bottom line
The good news is that all the behaviors and strategies followed by the Platinum Agencies can be replicated. They’re not as different as you’d think. These strategies and behaviors are basic common sense (which, according to Voltaire, isn’t so common). If you want to attain Platinum Agency results, you have to replicate their behaviors and strategies. First you have to know what to do. Next you must commit to doing it, and finally you need to have the discipline to do it. And therein lies the main difference among agency categories: Discipline!
As we always emphasize in our producer programs, we can never want it for you more than you want it for yourself. Are you a Silver Agency that has no desire to improve and go for the gold? Are you determined to achieve Platinum Agency status? If so, I urge you to download a copy of my latest white paper, Clear Path to the Future, by visiting www.sitkins.com. Although it’s not meant to be a detailed roadmap to success, it will definitely point you in the right direction.
As always, it’s your choice.
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, visit www.sitkins.com.