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What does your agency do?

Thursday, September 4, 2014
Written By
Nelson Griswold

If I asked you, “What does your agency do?” how would you answer?

If you gave me any answer other than, “We’re a sales organization,” you’re going to have a hard time growing your business.

No selling…no sales

As an agency growth consultant, I’m working with a good-sized benefits firm in the Midwest that had experienced a 10 percent drop in top-line revenue for three consecutive years. If you don’t think that’s bad, just graph out that trend…it’s a quick ride to oblivion.

Now, the owners of this firm are very smart and very talented; they just had stopped running their agency as a sales organization. The result was predictable: the firm had little selling activity because they didn’t focus on selling and had no real sales program. Consequently, they sold very few new accounts and didn’t cross-sell much at all. Fortunately, over the past eight months, we’ve helped them refocus on creating and nurturing a sales culture and have their revenue trend moving in the right direction now.

Sales is job 1

My Midwest agency client had gotten away from a key truth. Insurance agencies are sales organizations. Period. The most successful agencies know this and act like it.

I consult with a lot of insurance agencies and I can assure you that most of your competitors are not, I repeat, not operating as a sales organization. For you, that’s the good news. The bad news is, you probably aren’t either.

In support of sales

In my book, DO or DIE: Reinventing Your Benefits Agency for Post-Reform Success, I identify the four key functions of an insurance agency:

  • Portfolio
  • Marketing
  • Selling
  • Management

To maximize growth, selling must be the focus of your organization and the other agency functions must support the sales effort. Let’s look at how that all works.

PORTFOLIO – Your Portfolio is nothing more than your toolbox of product and service solutions you are bringing to your clients. As agencies become more consultative in how they sell, the range of solutions becomes more important. Consultative selling is also known as “solution selling,” so the more and better solutions in your toolbox, the more value you can bring to the client. (Critical here is having the right product & service solutions in your portfolio…many agencies don’t.)

MARKETING – Effective Marketing makes your selling easier. Marketing is nothing more than telling your prospects – and clients – about the massive value you bring your clients…those solutions to pressing HR and business problems that you have for your clients.

Good marketing not only lowers resistance to your producers when they call on prospects, the best marketing gets prospects to raise their hand and tell you they’re interested in knowing more about what you do. Effective marketing is the front end of any successful sales funnel. (By the way, most insurance agencies – if they market at all – completely waste their marketing dollars, with absolutely no clue how to effectively market themselves.)

MANAGEMENT – Management of your agency should be focused on supporting sales activity. Sales management is the most obvious example, as the firm tracks and manages producer sales activity in order to ensure positive sales results. Tragically, most agencies don’t even try to manage producers. There’s a saying in management: If you don’t measure it you can’t manage it and if you don’t manage it, it’s not important. Think about that in terms of producer activity.

But back office functions—from spreadsheeting to customer service to claims support to compliance services to technology solutions—also support sales, by facilitating the sales process or fulfilling the promises made by producers. This gets to the importance of client retention; effective selling that generates new accounts and places new lines of business can be undermined totally by a back office that under-delivers, alienates clients, and loses accounts.

And overall management of the firm should be focused on driving top-line sales revenue to the bottom line with operational efficiency to create a more profitable agency. (Sadly, I’ve noticed that while many agency owners do not manage well, even worse they allow management duties to pull them away from selling, which often takes the agency’s top producer out of production. Ouch.)

SELLING – Finally, Selling should be the cultural foundation of the agency. Agency leadership must recognize and promote selling as the rationale for the agency’s existence. Without sales, without revenue from those sales, there is no agency. And without ongoing sales, there is no growth. And it’s a universally acknowledged truth that you grow or die…you’re either moving forward or you are moving backwards. Selling is how an insurance agency grows. (While few firms are focused on selling, many firms that are get failing grades in consultative selling and cross-selling.)

Bottom line, if you’re agency isn’t growing at the rate you want, take a close look at what the firm focuses on. If your agency’s focus isn’t on selling – if your firm isn’t a fully committed sales organization – take steps today to refocus your agency on selling. Fostering a sales culture in your agency is the key to new revenue and agency growth. BOOM!

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