REPLICATING THE RIGHT BEHAVIORS
A dual challenge to
By Roger Sitkins
During year-end reviews with my highest-performing private clients, I noticed an interesting trend. All of the most successful clients focused on two words: replicate and decide. All of them were focused on the behaviors and strategies that would create the best results in their agencies, and they’d made a commitment to replicate them many times over.
Too often (and I’m raising my own hand here) we have certain things that work well for us; things that create great results in our companies or personal lives, and then we stop doing them. Later, when we are reminded of them, we wonder, “Why did I stop doing that?”
Why do any of us stop doing something that works? Typically, it’s because we forget things, or perhaps we get bored with the basics and choose to chase the latest bright and shiny “Gimmick of the Month.” Perhaps we allow “good enough” results to be the enemy of the best. It’s tempting to revert to auto pilot when “good enough” in our business is great compared to the rest of the world.
Here are some of the behaviors and strategies that I know are extremely effective, but simply aren’t embraced as non-optional in most agencies. You may have dabbled with some of these, but you haven’t committed to them because there’s no culture of excellence.
The first one, and perhaps the most prevalent, is making an easy sale. You receive a call from a center of influence or close friend saying that they know someone who is very dissatisfied with their current agency and is looking to move. They mention that they highly recommended your agency and then give you the contact information. Often, even before you can call them, the referral calls you. After a pleasant conversation, you realize that they match up with your future ideal client profile, and your gut tells you this is going to be an easy sale. So easy, in fact, that in many cases, it’s more like order-taking.
When that easy sale is discussed internally (in a debriefing session), the producer typically responds with, “Yeah, well that was easy. It was a referral from a great center of influence, and I solved their problem.” But rather than replicating this easy sale, I see producers going back to the old hard way of selling. They have empty pipelines, they do practice quoting and unpaid consulting, and they have a low closing ratio.
Is it okay to make an easy sale? Yes, of course! But why aren’t you doing it on a regular basis? Inconsistent results usually stem from boredom and a lack of focus and discipline. These are habits—behavioral defaults. We all have them, but to be successful, we must stop reinforcing the wrong ones and replace them with the right ones. Having the right habits and being disciplined to the right things leads to great results.
The next time you have an easy sale, try conducting a formal debrief of the sale and then ask yourself, “Why was that sale easy and how do I replicate it five times?” The assumption is that you debrief every opportunity, whether you win or lose. The debrief includes a discussion about what happened during each step of the process. The goal is to learn from your losses and replicate your victories. Unfortunately, the vast majority of agencies never do this.
How about replicating your version of a great week? Of all the behaviors and strategies I’ve developed in my career, perhaps the stickiest is Green Zone versus Red Zone. If you’ve not aware of it, here’s a quick review. During the workday, there are two zones your producers can be in, the Green Zone and the Red Zone.
The Green Zone is when they are investing time (their only diminishing asset/resource) in the four money-making activities: sales, relationship management, continuations, and pipeline building. The business model we help agencies build aims for producers to be in the Green Zone 80% of the time. That dramatically increases sales capacity. The Red Zone is the service trap. It’s when producers are getting involved in day-to-day service activities that should have gone directly to the account managers in the first place.
When reminded of the importance of investing their time properly and having a great week, too often we hear, “Wow, I remember that great week I had last month. It was really exciting; I got great results.” It’s almost like looking back on an event from childhood that could never happen again. The reality for all too many is: “In the past few weeks I stopped doing my Sunday Evening Reviews, didn’t have my Monday High Performance Team meeting with my service partner, and did nothing to build my pipeline. But I was really busy.”
Think of all the things you used to do that worked and commit to replicating them. Remember, repetition is the mother of skill and habit, so don’t get bored with the basics. It’s not about chasing the latest bright and shiny fad; it’s about mastering the basics. It’s also about telling yourself the truth. Are you really doing what you said you were going to do? Are you focusing on the right issues? Or are you hiding behind activity and not demanding results from yourself and your team?
You’ve got to replicate what works. … [D]ecide what you’re going to do, then commit to it.
Now let’s look at decisions. A few years before COVID, one of my long-time private clients and friends brought his family to Fort Myers Beach (obviously way before Hurricane Ian destroyed it) for a week of family time and relaxation. He invited me and my wife to join them for dinner. We had a great time and shared lots of memories concerning the journey this agency has taken. After leaving his previous agency and sitting out his covenant not to compete, he started a new agency using all of the lessons and experiences he had with a goal of replicating what worked. He was, and remains, committed to doing the basics at the mastery level and beyond.
A few days later, Brent Kelly and I were talking about this agency and its great success. He asked me what I learn-ed from that dinner and my answer was straightforward: They made a decision and stuck to it! This is a trait I see in all of our most successful private clients. Someone or some group of leaders makes a decision and sticks to it. They do not chase the gimmick of the month.
By the way, in our year-end review with this agency, it was great to see that it went from $6 million of commission income (pre-COVID) to more than $10 million since our dinner. And it was all organic growth.
When looking at replicating and sticking to decisions, we find that a Culture of Excellence ensues. What is a Culture of Excellence? It’s an agreed-upon standard that helps define the behaviors and strategies that become the guardrails for the agency overall. It says, “This is our agency’s way of doing business.” When it comes to excellence, they’re raising the bar and are no longer accepting the old way of doing things or average results.
Incidentally, when we talk about guardrails, we realize that most agencies and producers have some version of them. However, one of the problems in the average and below-average agencies is that they may have guard-rails, but they’re traveling on a 10-lane highway! Guardrails don’t really apply when the route is wide open. Conversely, the best agencies don’t have a lot of lanes, so the ones they do have are clearly defined. Because there’s very little room to stray from the straight and narrow, they tend to stay on course.
Experience says that if you don’t define what excellence looks like, your team members will define it for themselves. Just be aware that everyone will have a different definition. While most equate excellence with raising the bar, others may be lowering the bar. This brings to mind the adage, “Left to our own accord, most of us will do the wrong things.” In our business, you can do the wrong things and still do okay. But if you’re striving for excellence, you’ve got to raise the bar on your expectations.
What used to be good enough is no longer acceptable. What you want to be is your Best Version Possible. You’ve got to replicate what works. Stop chasing the shiny new thing and decide what you’re going to do, then commit to it. That’s what the highest performers do.
Boxing legend Muhammad Ali said he despised training but did it because he loved the victories. In his book The Soul of a Butterfly, he writes, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’” He understood that you get rewarded in public for what you do in private.
Are you a champion who is willing to put in the behind-the-scenes work? Are you practicing, rehearsing, and preparing for every future ideal client? Are you replicating your victories or are you leaving excellence to chance? It’s your choice.
Roger Sitkins is the CEO of Sitkins Group, Inc. He believes that if you improve the life of one person, you improve the world. To learn more, visit www.sitkins.com.