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The Rough Notes Company Inc.



April 27
07:35 2020

Winning Strategies

By Roger Sitkins


Go shallow and be average or go deep and be great

My experience with agency owners, producers, and other leaders suggests that most of     them want to get to the next level (or at least that’s what they say). We all know, however, saying what you want to do is the easy part; actually doing it is the hard part.

The gateway to the next level is about going deep versus shallow on selected behaviors and strategies that others have already mastered.

I’ve often struggled to understand what people mean when they talk about getting to the next level. What is the next level anyway? Simply put, I suppose it means getting better than you already are (i.e., improvement).

In today’s rapidly changing and digitally disrupted world, however, just “getting better” is not enough. I believe that getting to the next level is more about becoming your Best Version Possible (BVP). I’ve written about this several times over the last year or so in this column. You may recall the thought process: Close your eyes and imagine the best version possible of you. That’s who you really are (or want to be). Therefore, you need to eliminate all obstacles that are preventing you from becoming your personal BVP.

What is the BVP next level for you and your agency? You might have a clearer idea after you consider these questions:

  • What will it take for you and your agency to gain the unfair advantage in your marketplace?
  • How will you become the competition that is feared?
  • When will you stop playing small?
  • When will you finally realize that being semi-successful is a terrible trap to fall into?
  • When will you realize that nothing changes if nothing changes?
  • When will you commit to relentless preparation and low-risk practice?
  • When will you understand that fuzzy targets don’t get hit?
  • Have you ever looked in the mirror and said to yourself that you thought you’d be farther along by now (personally, professionally, financially)?

Now that you’ve pondered those questions, what is the gateway to the next level?

Over the years, I’ve found that the gateway is all about learning from others who already are playing at a much higher level than you are. So if you’re the smartest person in the room, you need to find a new room! Why spend the next decade or two trying to figure it out? Doing so by trial and error takes too long and is too expensive. I have a better suggestion.

As I write this, I’ve just wrapped up the second session of The Elite 50 Sales Mastermind group. It’s a group of highly motivated producers who graduated from my core ProducerFit program and applied to this elite mastery program. They all want to learn from, and share with, fellow committed producers. Because the collective genius of successful people consolidates and accelerates the learning process, the results have been phenomenal! Just as the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, a group of committed pros is smarter than any one of us.

To me, the gateway to the next level is about going deep vs. shallow on selected behaviors and strategies that others have already mastered. We’ve coined it the Deep Learning Experience, or DLX. It’s not about trying to implement scores of ideas at the surface level and then moving on to the next bright and shiny thing. When you are committed to your BVP, there are always more great ideas than time and capacity to implement them. With DLX, less equals more. Rather than chasing an excessive number of shallow goals in the agency, we filter down to the most important issues and execute them at the 90%-plus range.

A great example of the “less is more” concept is a one-page business plan. This is a summary of the agency’s overall strategic plan that everyone can rally around. And when you think of it, the only way everyone can be on the same page is if your business plan is on one page.

One component of the one-page plan is the list of Critical Success Factors—those “few basic things we do exceedingly well all the time.” These are the behaviors and strategies that you go very deep on and actually execute.

Examples include:

Points of Differentiation (PODs). What are the top five things—those value-added services—your agency delivers that separate you from the competition? It’s not the generic five we’ve discussed in the past, the first of which is “We give great service.” I’m referring to the five unique services you offer that distinguish you from your competitors. All of your producers should know them so well that it’s as if they have “eyelid tattoos” that will allow them to withstand an ambush. For instance, if their sales manager asked them to name their five PODs, they could do so without hesitation. Further, they could explain What’s in It for Me (the client) and provide evidence for each one, as well as know the two or three key questions about the POD that would create pain issues with their Future Ideal Client (FIC).

How deep are your PODs?

Relationships. Most would agree that it’s time everyone pivoted from transactions to relationships, yet how deep have you gone on the five kinds of relationships (Clients, Future Ideal Clients, Carriers, Team Members and Centers of Influence)? How deep have you gone with the top 20% of your clients that generate 80% of your revenue? What are you doing to turn your best clients—your raving fans—into multipliers of new business? Also, what are you doing to thank your best clients, or are you taking them for granted? What deposits have you made with them?

How deep are your relationships?

Preparation and Practice. How are you doing on relentless preparation and low-risk practice? As you develop your FIC pipelines and work hard to get in the door, how prepared are you? How much have you practiced what you’re going to present? It’s amazing to me that some producers simply show up, throw up and blow up. The best ones continually rehearse their conversations and presentations.

How deep is your preparation and practice?

The 80/20 Rule. What about Pareto’s Principle, a.k.a. the 80/20 Rule? How deep have you gone on this? I’ve been studying this for decades, and every time I look at it I learn something new. It’s far deeper than the fact that the top 20% of clients drives 80% of the revenue. It’s even deeper than the fact that the top 5% of clients represents 50% of the revenue. Where it really starts getting deep is when we realize that the bottom 50% generates less than 10% of the revenue, and the top 2% accounts for 33%-plus of the revenue. The key here is to really know your numbers and never take your best clients for granted.

How deep have you gone on the 80/20 Rule?

There are hundreds of additional ideas you could chase. As you pursue your personal and your agency’s Best Version Possible, take it deeper. It’s not just your BVP; that’s self-limiting. How about the industry’s BVP? Why not compare yourself to the best in the independent agency business overall? Look at what the best in our industry are doing and use that as your new standard.

Only you can determine whether you’ll go shallow and be average or go deep and be great.

As always, it’s your choice.

The author

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.

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

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