Everyone likes to win! This month the NCAA March Madness kicks off. There will be winners and losers. Those that win prep for game day in a fashion that involves a solid foundation, talented players, and determination.
Winning insurance agencies take the same approach. They build their foundation, recruit the right players, and provide their players with strategies to win. There are two strategies often thought of when looking to grow an agency: acquisition or organic growth (or sometimes, a combination of the two).
Acquisitions can be the right play for many agencies with the right financial investors behind them, but also offers challenges in maintaining a consistent marketing message. Organic growth means prepping for game day, every day, getting out there and winning business. To do so successfully, agencies need to address several core components to field a winning team.
Get your producers out there selling
Fueling organic growth starts with a strong sales culture and a platform that supports growth. What is your producers’ capacity to grow? If they are bogged down with service-related issues, producers may seem busy with the minutiae but have little time to be proactive about executing their sales strategies. Consider culling the bottom twenty percent of their book to increase their capacity to focus on new business. I recall one agency that underwent this process. Sure, at first the producers were concerned about seeing a reduction in their book. You must set up the process that compensates them for a certain run out period—twelve months—to cover their reduction in renewal compensation. Over the course of the year, the producers realized they had the capacity to grow and were able to go out and win new business, generating more commissions.
Examine your comp structure
I get it, compensation is a touchy subject. Is your compensation plan poised to drive new business or are you incenting your producers to be highly compensated relationship managers? The right incentives play a big part in this. Consider organic sales goals. Add in commission accelerators if they exceed those goals and conversely, commission reductions if they don’t.
Stoke the competitive spirit. SPIFFs, or sales contests, are one way to fuel spirited competition. Construct a SPIFF that drives the behavior that will fill their pipeline. How many new prospect meetings can they set in a day, a week? Which producer brings in the most new revenue in the month or quarter? Consider head to head match ups. Reward them with—a gift card to their favorite restaurant, a sporting event outing—it doesn’t have to just be monetary. Consider recognition during your next sales meeting. Stroke their ego and develop a culture of applause!
A true sales culture expands beyond the sales department. Everyone in the agency is responsible for the sales success of the firm. Leverage your employees’ networks. High growth firms include bonuses for account managers bringing in referrals that close or uncovering a deep or cross sell opportunity with the existing accounts they work on.
Fielding the right team
Recruiting winners is part art and part science. It starts with networking to source talent. Local colleges, career fairs and hiring interns that you can groom for a role within your agency is a good start. Do you have an employee referral bonus? Consider engaging your employees and their networks by having them post open positions on Facebook and LinkedIn. Sourcing talent should be an ongoing process to bring more talent into your agency.
Evaluating talent is critical in bringing in the right person for the producer role. There are a variety of personality tests out there that will aid in this. Consider the winning attributes…
- How strong is their business acumen? Will they be able to speak to the business challenges and exposures to connect the dots to not just insurance policies but exposure management?
- Do they like to debate and will they challenge the mindset of the prospect?
- Highly motivated individuals possess a constant need for achievement. What’s the toughest goal they ever set for themselves?
- When a sale goes south, how do they respond? Are they a true optimist and can they see opportunity around them rather than focus on what’s not there?
- When was the last time they were competitive? Ask for specific examples. Everyone speaks to how competitive they are, have them show you.
- Challenge their ego. Question their results and have them ‘prove to you’ that they are an all-star!
Telling your agency story
Foundation in place? Check. Have the right players on the team? Check. What do they talk about? Everyone loves a great story. What’s yours? Are your producers selling to the buying habits of their prospects? Based on our national survey of employers, many producers are positioning their great people, five star service and technical expertise. The disconnect in the industry is that, while these attributes are important in every business, your prospects and clients are looking for more. Five years ago, clients noted negotiating the renewal or pricing was number one on this list. It’s still important today but has fallen to number five. Expectations are shifting; agencies that understand this shift can exceed the redefinition of what clients and prospects want from their broker.
Clients and prospects are looking to their broker to understand their business operations. Imagine your producer discussing the fact that three out of four businesses that sustain a major catastrophe are no longer in business within a two year time frame—then challenging that prospect how their current broker is protecting their financial viability? A totally different, more compelling story than, ‘Can I quote your insurance?’ Arm your producers with a compelling story that differentiates them from the masses. Per a Reagan Consulting study, those agencies that invest in value added services (to enhance their story) see two times the growth than agencies that don’t.
The final part of this winning formula is targeting your marketing efforts. Have your producers identified a hot list of prospects they are focusing on for 2014? Does every business in your niche markets know who you are and understand the value you bring to the table? High growth firms are taking the burden off of their producers by arming them with an automated platform to get their compelling story out in the marketplace. Imagine being able to take ten minutes today to set up a proactive campaign that automatically touches your top prospects for the next several months with your compelling story.
What about those prospects you didn’t win last year? What has been the communication strategy? Or are your producers waiting for the next ex-date to reproach them cold? It’s all about giving your producers an easy-to-execute story, more at-bats, more referrals, to get in the game and win it!
Make every day game day. Build upon your successful foundation, recruit the right players, and provide your players with the compelling story to engage more prospects and win more business. Be a game changer!