By Roger Sitkins
Creating a Winning Mindset
A look at what may be the single most important factor in determining the success or failure of a business
In his 1960 best-selling book The Power of Positive Thinking, Norman Vincent Peale marketed the revolutionary idea that a positive attitude can have a profound and positive impact on what we achieve in life, both personally and professionally.
While the world has changed considerably since the book was published, I still believe in its core principle that our mindset significantly influences our results. What’s more, I believe it applies to our industry now more than ever.
Is your mindset that this is a relationship business vs. a transactional business? That you will turn over your transactions to digital technology? As simple as it sounds, this mindset dramatically changes the game for any agency that adopts it.
According to Joe Calloway, one of my favorite authors, having the right mindset is critically important. In his latest book, The Leadership Mindset: How Today’s Successful Business Leaders Think, he says, “The single most important factor in determining the success or failure of a business is the mindset of its leaders. It’s how they think that makes the difference.”
So what exactly is mindset? As defined by Merriam-Webster, a mindset is:
(1) A set of assumptions, methods, or notations held by one or more people or groups of people. A mindset can also be seen as indicative of a person’s world view or philosophy of life
(2) The established set of attitudes held by someone
I believe that in our industry, the mindset of an agency leader is reflected in the agency culture—the language and behaviors that are normal within the organization. How would you describe your agency’s mindset or culture? Do you like it?
Just listen to what your people say and watch what they do. Do their words and actions convey the Best Version Possible of your agency? For example:
- How is the phone answered at your office?
- What do your employees talk about most of the time?
- Is the overall atmosphere pleasant and upbeat or negative and depressing?
- Do the people in your agency really like each other and get along? Do they care about what they do? Do they work as a team, supporting and trusting each other? Or is there constant drama and infighting?
So much of what happens in an agency on a day-to-day basis is driven by the mindset (or lack thereof) of the agency leadership. When it comes to your mindset, what do you really believe? Are your thoughts clear and concise about what’s most important to your agency? I’m not talking about 20 or 30 “most important” things. You’ll only create mental clutter if you have a lengthy “to-do” list. Instead, focus on simplicity; simplicity leads to clarity.
One of the things we hear consistently from our coaching clients is that we’ve helped them winnow down their laundry list of things they want to do to the three things that will have the greatest impact on their agency. Prior to that, some of them had a to-do list of 50 things or more! So we help them filter down their list to the “Top three.” After that, we coach them on the actual implementation of their most important strategies.
Elements of a successful mindset
Let’s review some of the Sitkins Core Principles. After each one, ask yourself: Is this part of my mindset and does this define the Best Version Possible of my agency?
- Retaining and Obtaining Ideal Clients (ROI). Do you know the characteristics of your future ideal clients? Do you actually know who they are? Do you have a strategy to get in front of them and have a conversation?
- Four Rs Focus. This answers the question, “What’s it all about at your agency?” At many agencies we see no overall focus. No clarity. The right mindset should focus on four things: Results, Relationships, Retention and Referrals. Is that your mantra? Is that what you talk about? Is that part of your agency’s mindset?
- Full-Time Clients Only. Yes, I know you’ve heard this at least 100 times (and I’m being conservative with that figure), but is that one of your agency’s overall mindsets? Are you just order-takers with single-policy clients or is it your mindset to write only full-time clients? Plus, don’t you realize that it’s better for the client to have a single trusted advisor rather than having to deal with multiple different agencies?
- Effective Retention of 99%. Is your goal—and thus your mindset—to be in this for the long haul? Is it your mindset that you want customers for life? Your long-term clients are your most profitable clients? You know and will install the exit barriers that make it tough for clients to leave? (If you don’t know what the best exit barriers are, just write to me at Roger@Sitkins.com and ask! I’ll be happy to share them with you.)
- The Power of The 80/20. Is your mindset focused on retaining and replicating the top 20% of your clients that generate 80% of your revenue? This principle is well known but little understood. Last year, I did a presentation for the leaders of 19 different agencies, each with average annual revenue of $20 million. Afterward, I asked each participant what was the number-one thing they’d gotten out of it. One in four said The 80/20 Rule! They had never really looked at it and the impact it had on their agency. That surprised me, not only because it was a very small segment of my presentation, but also because everyone there represented very successful agencies. But the reality is, they don’t look at their numbers!
One of our latest and greatest breakthroughs concerning The 80/20 Rule is a specific strategy that enables producers to grow their books of business by 60% over the next three years. Those who implement our strategy exactly will be able to replicate the top 20% of their customers. As a result, they’ll not only see a net 60% increase in revenue, they’ll do so with 60% fewer clients than before. Stay tuned for more information in an upcoming article.
- USP and PODs. Is your mindset that you must have some form of differentiation that gets you out of the commodity game? Do you have and actually use a Unique Selling Proposition (the unique and appealing ideas that separate you from all other me too competitors) and do you have five specific Points of Differentiation, which we’ve discussed in previous articles?
- Relentless Preparation. Do you believe in practice? Is your mindset that your team will practice to win? That you will rehearse your Presentation of Solutions (not a quote or proposal) BEFORE the actual presentation—not during or after?
- Relationships, Not Transactions. Is your mindset that this is a relationship business vs. a transactional business? That you will turn over your transactions to digital technology? As simple as it sounds, this mindset dramatically changes the game for any agency that adopts it.
The book Humans Are Underrated: What High Achievers Know That Brilliant Machines Never Will discusses digital disruption and how technology has revolutionized commercial transactions. In it, author Geoff Colvin observes, “As machines inexorably become even more competent at doing machine-like things, interpersonal skills, irreplaceable skills of human interaction, will come to be recognized as even more valuable than they always have been.”
Therefore, agencies that do nothing all day but process transactions are doomed because, increasingly, those activities and jobs are going digital. The day-to-day stuff we do is going away. We must not relinquish the relationships we have with the decision makers.
- Fear of the Future. Is your mindset to cling to the past because you’re afraid of the future? Fear is known to muddle mindsets and keep agencies stuck in place, doing what they’ve always done. Or as Joe Calloway says, “If you’re successful, you know what used to work.” I see this all too often with agency principals. Too many of them focus on the wrong things! They spend every day reacting to transactions and service issues when they should be focused on building relationships and updating their business model.
Faith in the future makes us more receptive to change, which is crucial to succeeding in our rapidly changing industry. Is your mindset to accept and embrace what lies ahead? That you will redefine and reinvent yourself and your agency so that you’ll be competitive in the future? For more information about this, visit www.sitkins.com and download a free copy of our white paper, A Clear Path to the Future.
Most agencies are following a model that is broken and they don’t even know it. That’s because, as I’ve often remarked, you can do well in our business even if you’re living in the past. But in order to succeed in the future, you’ll need to change your business model and adjust your mindset.
In creating a mindset for the future, ask yourself: Does our current mindset help our agency sell more, retain more, and earn more? Does it help us become the Best Version Possible of our agency? Is this mindset crystal clear to my team?
If you answered yes to these questions, congratulations! If not, it’s time to get serious about how to proceed if you expect to succeed going forward.
Roger Sitkins is the CEO of Sitkins Group, Inc., and developer of The Sitkins Network and The Better Way Agency program. Roger began his career by working in his parents’ insurance agency in Wyandotte, Michigan, and after nearly 40 years, has truly become an icon in the industry. He has trained and mentored thousands of insurance professionals. Producers, CEOs, and sales managers with diverse levels of experience have benefited tremendously from his training and leadership.
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 five others 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.