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The Rough Notes Company Inc.



February 25
09:34 2020

Winning Strategies

By Roger Sitkins


What can you implement this year to make a difference in your operation?

If you’re reading this article, I assume you want your agency’s results to improve dramatically—that you want to win at higher levels this year than you did last year. It’s no accident that this column is named “Winning Strategies.” Obviously, we want you to win! So, as we embrace a new year and a new decade, I’d like to share what I consider to be the “needle movers” that will have the greatest impact on your agency in 2020 and beyond.

As always, there are a lot of things you can do, but what will you do? What behaviors, strategies and cultural issues will create the best results for you and your team?

As always, there are a lot of things you can do, but what will you do? What behaviors, strategies and cultural issues will create the best results for you and your team?

Here’s the truth right up front: There are always more great ideas—more needle movers—than there is time or ability to implement them. There’s always “stuff” to do. As an agency leader once told me, “If it weren’t for all these clients and employees, I could do everything you’ve taught me!”

I’ll leave it up to you to determine the biggest needle movers for your agency. To get you thinking, I’ll share, in no particular order, a few of the most common ones our coaching programs attack.

Time Spent Selling (TSS). The reality is, the vast majority of producers are part-time producers. They simply are not spending (i.e., investing) the majority of their time—their only diminishing asset—in sales and sales-related activities. You may recall my definition of a producer: one who actually produces. Due to the lack of a strong division between sales and service, producers get caught in the service trap. In order to look busy, they get involved in day-to-day service and fail to educate or empower their service partners to handle the service requests and needs of their clients. Furthermore, they don’t bother to educate their clients about whom to call for service. Instead, they’re apt to say, “Call me if you need anything.”

You may also recall The 12% Factor. The goal is to have a high-performance team of sales and service people that enables the producers to spend at least 20 hours a week in sales-related activities. Remember, 20 hours out of 168 hours in each week is only 12% of the week!

In our model of The Producer’s Perfect Schedule, there are 10 appointment slots available every week. How many appointments do your producers average every week with clients, future ideal clients, and centers of influence? Keep in mind that every hole in their calendar, every unused time slot, is a lost opportunity.

Every agency could improve their Effective Number of Producers (ENP) by a minimum of 25% without adding a single new producer in 2020. What’s your ENP? To calculate it, multiply your number of producers times the percent of their time actually spent in sales-related activities: selling, relationship management, continuation (not renewals), and pipeline development. The number you derive is your ENP. So, if you have 10 producers who average only 50% of their time in sales-related activities, your Effective Number of Producers is five, not 10. Therefore, boosting your ENP isn’t a matter of hiring more producers, but a matter of getting the producers you already have to spend more time selling. It’s really that simple.

Practice. Think back to your other pursuits in earlier days. Whether it was sports, music, theater, or something else, did you practice? Of course, you did. Why? Because you realized that those who practice get better; those who don’t, don’t. Again, it’s really that simple. That’s why I’m continually amazed by the conspicuous absence of practice in most agencies. When it comes to moving the needle, practice is one of the easiest and most effective ways to do it.

There are two main types of practice: high risk and low risk. High-risk practice is done in front of new prospects, clients, or centers of influence. Low-risk practice takes place in the office, in front of peers. As I’ve mentioned before, most producers hate practicing in front of their peers because they’re afraid of looking stupid. As a result, they don’t practice at all. But isn’t it better to feel awkward or look under-prepared in front of people you know than in front of future ideal clients? Most producers work very hard to get in front of future ideal clients but too often, they “show up, throw up and blow up” because they haven’t practiced enough or at all.

When we say practice, we’re referring to perfect practice, not goofing around practice. Perfect practice creates one of your best competitive advantages. So in order to move the needle, you must:

  • Rehearse every presentation at least three times in the office.
  • Record these rehearsals and then actually review and critique them.
  • Focus on skills practice, such as asking questions, asking for referrals, having the service hand-off conversation, handling objections, gaining control of meetings, and more.

Maximizing technology. Angela Adams, who in my mind is the nation’s preeminent internal agency operations consultant, says the average agency uses less than 50% of their automation and technology capabilities. This is an expensive mistake. To measure the cost of productivity lost due to the lack of training and actual use of the systems, look no further than your revenue per employee. If it’s less than $200,000, you’ve got a problem that needs to be addressed.

Agency Business Plan. Do you have an agency business plan that includes your vision statement, mission statement, critical success factors, and goals? Even more important, is there a one-page summary of your plan that all team members can rally around? Here’s a blinding flash of the obvious: The only way you can get everyone on the same page is if your business plan is on one page! It is crucial to clarify your plans and desired results, and present them in a way that all team members understand and can buy in. You’ll see why having a one-page plan is a huge needle mover!

Sales Improvement Meetings. Unlike typical sales meetings, sales improvement meetings are significant needle movers. My litmus test is that at the end of every meeting, every producer is a better producer in some way. Because we make practice a non-optional part of these meetings, everyone leaves with improved skills, attitudes, and abilities. What if your producers did this and only got a half a percent better every week? At the end of the year, they’d be 26% better vs. the average producer’s approximate 6% improvement.

Pipeline Development. I know you’ve heard it thousands of times. However, it’s rare to find producers who truly have more opportunities with future ideal clients than time. Every producer should have a Dream 20 list and the agency overall should have their Dream 100 list of future ideal clients they’ll be pursuing this year. Consider this: Even without any improvements in your closing ratio or revenue per sale, your sales grow in direct correlation to the quantity of your at-bats. In other words, if you get in front of more people, you’ll sell more! You’ll achieve better results even faster if you also have a compelling story of differentiation and you “super qualify” all future ideal clients.

Continuations. This is another one of my perennial topics—one that reflects the growing need to pivot from transactions to relationships. You must stop renewing accounts and start continuing relationships! The foundation of an effective continuation process is to Define, Document and Deliver. It starts with policy delivery, whereby you define exactly what your client expectations are for the year. Next, you document their expectations in a continuation thank-you letter. And last, you deliver exactly what you said you would. Confirm this in a promise/stewardship report at the six-month anniversary of the policy year. If all of this increased your retention by just 2%, it definitely would be worth doing.

These are not the only needle movers for agencies. A culture of accountability and the 3 Cs (Clarity, Consistency and Commitment) are among the many others that spring to mind.

What are the five key needle movers in your agency? I challenge you to identify them and then actually implement them in 2020.

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. 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

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