THE POWER OF PROVEN PROCESSES
The most critical core processes needed to drive the results you want
Following a process is not a matter of pushing paper; it’s about having a goal
and getting there in a logical step-by-step manner.
By Roger Sitkins
I’ve been doing a lot of research and having deep discussions with the Sitkins coaches and other experts on the importance of having proven processes in place. By this, I’m referring to non-optional processes that create predictable and guaranteed results—when followed. However, gaining total alignment on establishing and executing key processes is one of the greatest challenges I see within independent insurance agencies.
For example, at Sitkins, we always talk about learning from your losses and replicating your victories. Because of that, one of the key processes we discuss with clients is to systematically debrief after making or losing a sale. Beyond knowing what happened, a step-by-step debriefing will help you understand why it happened and what steps you can take for a similar/different outcome. By having a debriefing process in place, you can formulate a plan for future success.
Regrettably, most agency owners, sales leaders, and producers never understand the power of proven processes. After all, in our great industry, you can wing it completely or have dozens of variations on key processes and still do fairly well. But you’ll never become a Best Version Possible agency that way.
First, you must identify the core processes your agency needs to produce industry-leading results that are predictable and guaranteed. Keep in mind, you need only a handful of processes; too many will just complicate things.
Here are some of the most critical core processes needed to drive the results you want in the most profitable manner.
New business. What is your agency’s Unique Selling Process (USP)? We define this as the unique and appealing ideas and things that separate you and your agency from all competitors. The key words here are “unique” and “process.” What makes your agency and what it has to offer different from all other agencies in the marketplace? What is the sales process you take your prospects through? (“Look, Copy, Quote and Pray” is not a process.) What is your agency’s specific procedure for the discovery, design, documentation and delivery of the insurance and risk management solutions that you provide to clients? If this process isn’t documented, reinforced and monitored, you’re simply like everyone else.
Continuations. It’s great to be in a business in which 85% to 90% of your customers will renew every year, no matter what. But what is your unique process that makes the renewal a non-event and facilitates the continuation of relationships? What do you do to turn clients into raving fans? We believe that the continuation process starts on day one of the current policy year. That’s when you determine your clients’ expectations for the year. By having a proven process—one that everyone follows—you’ll eliminate surprises for you as well as for your clients.
Referrals. What’s the easiest lead you can work on? A referral! So what percent of your clients gave you one last year? For most agencies, the answer is less than 10%. Why is that? It’s because you didn’t ask. And you probably didn’t ask because there is no reverse referral process in place. There’s no documented method that addresses how to earn a referral, how to ask for a referral, how to follow up on it, and then how to thank the person who referred you. The best producers work on this and practice it consistently. It might take years to get there, but if every producer would do this, they’d grow their business by 60% in three years or less. In fact, if they had the discipline to follow the process even for one year, they’d have more business than they could handle. But without it, they’re going to have sporadic results at best.
Day-to-day service. What’s the process for providing service to your clients? If you’ve followed my articles at all, you know that I firmly believe in distinguishing sales from service. As such, once a policy is sold or continued, all day-to-day service is the responsibility of the assigned account manager or CSR. By day-to-day service, I’m referring to everything that happens while the policy is in effect (excluding a possible “emergency in flight”).
What is your process for the service hand-off and how is this communicated to clients? For example, part of the pro-cess would be to give the client a team directory with the names, photos and contact information for service, claims, accounting, sales and other key departments. We find there’s a better connection between the client and agency service staff when photos are included. Also, clients are more likely to retain and refer to this document when it is laminated and presented in person.
Having a documented service process frees up producers to spend 80% of their time in the Green Zone (those strategies and activities that create and retain revenue) vs. the Red Zone (of reacting to things that distract from what’s important), but most people don’t do it. Instead of educating their clients, most producers still say, “If you need anything call me.” That’s a sure-fire way to get sucked into the service trap.
Claims advocacy. Typically, people use their insurance only at the time of a claim. So what is your Claims Advocacy Program? Do you simply provide an 800 number to call? The “process” at most agencies is to hand off the claim to the insurance company and wait to see what happens. Then, when the claim is settled, there’s no follow-up to the insured. While that might be all right for smaller claims (a cracked windshield, for example), it’s not acceptable on more significant claims. Particularly if it’s a major claim, someone—either the agency or the insurance company—needs to find out how the client feels about the experience via a phone call, email or claims satisfaction survey. That way, if the client has a bad experience, you have the opportunity to save the account; and if it’s a good experience, that’s another opportunity to ask for a referral.
One of the most successful agency owners I’ve ever known would call his agency’s A and B clients personally after a claim was closed to ask about their experience. He once told me that was his most important job: making sure the client was satisfied. That’s one of the main reasons they were successful. If you believe that satisfaction is crucial to your agency’s success, you must have a process to communicate with the company’s claims manager and client. If not, you’re making it easy for a client to find another agency, one that will treat them like a valued customer.
Pipeline. Among the major concerns we hear from agency sales leaders and growth-oriented producers is the quantity and quality of their prospect pipelines, followed by getting and gaining momentum towards a sale. That’s because all too often we’ll see a producer get a referral or some response from their marketing efforts, but then they drop the ball and do nothing to move their prospects into the sales process. That’s because there’s no process being followed! If you don’t believe me, just ask your producers to share their referral generating process and to role play a referral ask. They totally fall apart. Or they may say they’re too busy to follow up, which makes no sense when you consider that 80% of sales occur after the fifth contact. That’s one of the reasons 20% of producers make 80% of the sales. They persist.
The bottom line
Following a process is not a matter of pushing paper; it’s about having a goal and getting there in a logical step-by-step manner. One person who knows something about this subject is University of Alabama’s legendary football coach Nick Saban, who has led his players to six national championships. As Saban tells them, “Do your job and trust the process.” In other words, pick your goal, design your process for achieving it and then commit to it. The point is to adhere to a process that enables you to focus on the task at hand, take one step at a time toward your goal, and avoid distractions. The key is to be consistent about it.
Is your agency following a process? Has your agency established best practices that everyone follows consistently? You simply can’t afford the hit to your bottom line or overall agency value when you have multiple variations of your core processes. It all comes down to creating “The Agency’s Way” of doing business. Whatever the goal, begin with the desired results in mind and work back from there. Commit to your key processes and you’ll be amazed at the results you’ll achieve. It’s your choice.
Roger Sitkins is the CEO of Sitkins Group, Inc. After over 40 years he has truly become an icon in the insurance industry having trained and mentored thousands of insurance professionals.
Roger was inducted into the Michigan Insurance Hall of Fame in 2017. 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.