A blueprint for assessing and realigning your growth strategies
Getting the results you want depends largely on the strategies you have in place and how well you implement them. Consistency is equally important. Is your strategic approach sporadic or systematic? If you’re sporadically implementing your strategies, you probably won’t get great results. Conversely, you’re sure to get great results if you can identify the right strategies and implement them systematically. That’s a big “if,” because many agencies will implement the wrong strategies.
Please don’t forget the definition of insanity: doing the same things repeatedly, looking for a different result! Your current strategies are either working or not working. What isn’t working today won’t magically start working for you tomorrow. That’s because it’s not working for a reason! Either you have the wrong strategy or you have the right strategy, but your team members aren’t buying into it.
Therefore, if you want something you’ve never had before or are not currently achieving, it’s probably time for a strategic adjustment.
Signs you need a strategic adjustment
- You know it’s time to change your strategy when your goals and actual results don’t align. For example, something needs to change IF:
- You assume your agency’s sales approach differentiates you from the crowded marketplace, yet your producers keep hearing, “You insurance people are all the same.” Obviously your message isn’t as clear as you think.
- Your goal is to consistently raise your revenue per client, but you’re actually seeing a decline in revenue per client. That’s certainly the case for many independent agencies today, because of a reduction in personal lines commission rates.
- Your objective is to have 100% full-time clients (those who rely exclusively on your agency for all their insurance needs), but your producers and internal team are still “order-taking” new single-policy clients. Unless they’re creating full-time relationships, you can expect to see new business “coming in the front door and going out the back.”
- You’re aiming for organic net new operating revenue growth of 15%, but you’re barely matching the current average growth rate of 4%.
- Your strategy is to have overflowing prospect pipelines that allow super-qualifying and
walk-away power, yet your producers are averaging fewer than three new business appointments per month with quality prospects.
- You envision a totally paperless agency, when in reality there are tons of papers and files on staff members’ desks.
I could offer many additional indicators, but I’m hoping these will spur some thoughts in your mind. The bottom line is that if you’re not growing, not achieving great results, not having fun, and not growing agency value, something has to change and change quickly!
What’s on your strategic wish list?
A great question to ask—and one I ask frequently–is: “If you could start your agency over today and change anything at all by waving a magic wand, what would you change?” In other words, what new and non-optional strategies would you put in place? Every time I ask this question, I hear responses like these:
“I would either become or hire a great sales manager.”
Whether it’s good or bad, sales management has a significant impact on overall strategic implementation. Left to their own devices, salespeople typically make the wrong choices and decisions. They’re much more likely to get great results under the direction of a true Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) who implements a culture of accountability.
Even among Best Practice Agencies, only about 15% report having effective full-time sales management. No wonder so many agencies have such low growth rates! Without a CRO, how can you expect to grow significant revenue?
At agencies that have a CRO, you’re much less apt to find profitable producers subsidizing unprofitable producers (something that happens at about 99% of agencies today). What you’re much more likely to find is an abundance of skill-building and practice sessions. Remember, pros in any sport practice for a reason. Furthermore, every producer would achieve net new sales of at least $100,000 per year.
“I’d make the use of my agency management system and overall technology non-optional.”
Maximizing an agency’s investment in technology has a ripple effect on the entire operation. For example, maximizing the productivity of the service staff dramatically boosts the revenue per service person. It also helps to greatly improve the client experience. For it to work, however, it’s imperative that everyone maximize the system as it relates to their job responsibilities.
Unfortunately, only about 50% of the system is used at an average agency. To make matters worse, insurance carriers have continued to push an increasing amount of work to agencies, while reducing the rate of compensation. Combined, these factors may explain why most average agencies have seen modest, if any, gains in overall productivity and revenue per employee. The ones that are getting superior results are typically those that are fully using technology.
“I’d be a true learning organization.”
To do so requires an investment of time and money that exceeds the minimum continuing education seminars and recertification classes. A true learning organization embraces the idea that one must out-learn the competition to out-earn the competition. This means investing at least 2% of agency revenue in training and education (which would be non-optional). If you’re not continually improving and learning new things, you and your revenue will stagnate.
“I’d provide a great client experience.”
This is not complicated! In fact, it’s the foundation for the Better Way agency, in which we outline exactly what each and every client will receive. Period. This includes:
- Up-front Risk Survey.
- Annual Review (or at least an opportunity for one).
- “Wow” Experiences. These are the special touches and moments you create that make clients say “Wow!” What are you doing to personally engage your clients? Every client should have such a great experience with your agency that they will be eager to offer a referral, even though you never ask for it. Think what would happen if they asked! Here’s a litmus test for you: What percentage of your clients gave you a referral last year?
- Personal Letters and Notes. Being high tech doesn’t mean you can’t be high touch, too. If you’re going to pivot from a transaction-based to a relationship-based agency, it’s just as important to connect personally with clients as it is to maximize technology. Do you formally thank your clients for continuing their relationship with you? If not, your clients may feel taken for granted. After all, they’re spending money with you. Shouldn’t you acknowledge your appreciation for their business? The same is true of “welcome aboard” letters to new accounts from the agency president or CEO.
- Claims Follow-ups. After a major claim, it’s imperative to follow up with the client (via a survey and/or phone call), asking for feedback about your service and their experience. This is an excellent opportunity to let selected clients know how important they are to you and how much you value the relationship. Also, assuming you get positive feedback about the client’s experience, a claims follow-up is one of the best times to ask for a referral.
- Director of First Impressions. Have you ever called your own agency and been horrified by how the phone was answered? What are you doing about it? Have you ever told your people exactly how you want them to answer the phone? Having a friendly, professional voice to greet callers is a great way to ensure a positive first impression. Otherwise, you’re facilitating a random, sporadic customer experience up front.
“I’d have an Agency Advisory Board/Trusted Advisors Team.”
I’ve talked about this frequently, yet fewer than 1% of agents schedule annual meetings with their own key advisors. This group should include the agency principal(s), and their CPA, attorney, wealth manager, and banker, as well as the agency consultant or coach (if they have one). Together, they discuss how the agency is doing and where it’s going.
Beyond providing valuable planning and perpetuation tools for the agency, these annual meetings can help owners identify personal goals and timelines, while offering insights on how to meet these objectives.
In addition, I strongly suggest that you facilitate this kind of meeting for your top clients, whether over lunch or some other private gathering. Clients will appreciate your efforts, which in turn will strengthen your relationship and encourage referrals.
If you’re not achieving the results you really want, it’s time to adjust your strategies—or possibly your team. There is a Better Way to do business!
Roger Sitkins, CEO of Sitkins Group, Inc., is the nation’s number one “Agency Results Coach.” In addition to establishing The Sitkins 100™ and Sitkins International, he is the creator of The Vertical Growth Experience™. His latest offering is The Better Way Agency, a web-based training program that shows agency owners ways to make significant improvements in all areas of the agency. To learn more, go to www.thebetterwayagency.com