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The Rough Notes Company Inc.



August 27
07:39 2020

Winning Strategies

By Brent Kelly


With a laser focus on seven core areas, your agency can acquire and keep your Future Ideal Clients

The greatest challenge for agency leaders today isn’t technology, tools, or competition—it’s focus. I think speaker and author Darren Hardy said it best: “In a daily barrage of distractions, the one who can focus the most wins.”

Obtaining information isn’t the problem. With digital technology, we have access to knowledge and resources in seconds. The problem lies in distilling all of it into a few key ideas that you can execute.

Once you’ve set aside a slot on your calendar for you and your team to rehearse, you’ve made a commitment. If it’s not on your schedule, it won’t happen.

It comes down to clarity on where you’re going, consistency in the critical behaviors that will get you there, and a commitment to stay focused. I believe there are seven core areas that require an agency’s sustained laser focus. To keep things simple, all of them start with the letter P:


What’s your mission? Author Simon Sinek asks: “Why do you wake up every morning, and why should anyone else care?” It’s a simple yet powerful question.

What’s your agency’s mission? Why do you do what you do? When I ask this question of agency leaders, they usually respond with a blank stare. Take time to think about what your agency represents—and what it doesn’t.

What’s your vision? Humans are moved by emotion. Insurance professionals don’t want to just do something; they want to be part of something that matters. That’s why vision is so important. Where do you want to be in three years? Does that excite you and your team?

Purpose is the heartbeat of your agency. It’s the energy that is pumped into your organization, your clients, and your community.


Do your behaviors support your desired outcome? If you’re a producer, you should be spending most of your time producing. But if you’re an agency leader and your job is to motivate your staff, is that how you spend your days, or are you engaged in other activities?

Are you spending your time primarily on results-based functions or activity-based functions? If you look at your calendar, will it show that you’re spending most of your time doing things that produce results?

If your calendar is filled with empty spots, chances are you will fill it with activities that won’t necessarily contribute to your agency’s growth.

Does your agency have a high-performance team or a high-maintenance team? High-performance teams maximize their unique strengths and abilities that generate positive energy. They also choose to spend their time preparing rather than repairing. They know where they’re going and what they’re doing each week. They communicate proactively.


Do you understand and apply the 80/20 Rule? If so, you realize that 20% of your input in the right areas produces 80% of your output. The key is to figure out what that 20% is! Once you’ve determined where to focus your time and energy, you’ll be able to achieve 80% results with just 20% effort. That’s a pretty powerful return on investment!

On the other hand, if you treat everything the same and give every task equal weight, your output will stagnate, even as your input increases. Have you ever noticed that probably 20% of what’s on your calendar accounts for 80% of what you accomplish? It’s a matter of prioritizing.

The same applies to your agency’s accounts, carriers, and even its producers—the top 20% will produce 80% of agency revenue. Know where the imbalances lie and position yourself accordingly.


Are you consistent with your pipelines? While most agencies talk about marketing to prospects and suspects, the best build pipelines based on Future Ideal Clients (FIC). These are the clients they really want (the top 20%). They don’t guess; they know. Have you defined your FIC?

Do you have a targeted strategy to attract them? Keep in mind that if you market to all, you market to none. Do you specialize in specific niches, or is your agency a generalist that writes all lines of business? If you’re targeting everyone, you’re targeting no one!

The bottom line is that specialists always make more than generalists because there are fewer of them. In our business, specialists speak the language their target clients want to hear, rather than using insurance lingo.

Are you asking for referrals? If you want to build pipelines, referrals are the best way to do it. Are you consistently engaged in prospecting activity? As an agency, are you making deposits that will earn referrals from your best clients? Are you constantly practicing how you’ll ask for them? Your best clients really want to help you. It’s up to you to let them.

Points of differentiation

Have you defined at least Five Points of Differentiation (PoD)? This is a must if you want to differentiate yourself in the marketplace. When making their sales pitch, most agents default to a generic spiel: “We have the best people, the best service, competitive pricing,” and so on. You may think it sounds reasonable as it comes out of your mouth, but to the client, it’s the same “insurance speak” they hear from everyone else. You must pivot your focus from quotes and transactions to risk advice and relationships.

What do your PODs mean for the client? Too many agencies focus on what they offer and how they are the best choice, without sharing why this is important to their client. People buy emotionally and they buy for their value system, not yours.

What questions will you ask to reinforce these PODs? The best POD questions are those the FIC has to stop and think about before answering (i.e., What do you mean? How does this work? Is it something I need?). They’re doing the talking, not you. This puts you, the producer, in a position of power by allowing you to control the conversation. This does not mean you’re doing all the talking! It means you’re asking the right questions to elicit responses that will reveal what’s important to the FIC.


Do you have a defined and effective sales process? I’d say that fewer than 20% of agencies have a defined and effective sales process (other than Look, Copy, Quote, and Pray). What is your agency’s way of doing business? Does your team know?

Do you have a defined relationship-continuation process? This is not about renewing accounts, it’s about continuing relationships, which requires being proactive. What does the client want and expect? This must be defined, documented, and then delivered.

Are you making more deposits than withdrawals? Have you identified areas in which you can make deposits to strengthen the relationship (handwritten thank-you notes and birthday cards, for example)? Do you have a proactive service calendar that you and the client agree on? What have you done to earn your client’s business for another year?

Is this process continually refined and reinforced? You should always be learning new things and making modifications as needed. Are you always looking for ways to improve how you do business, or are you doing the same things you did 10 years ago? As an agency, you need to continually discuss and reinforce what works, and modify what doesn’t.

Professional development

Are you committed to being the best professional possible? What are you doing to enhance your professional growth and development? Are you making the most important investment you can make—the investment in yourself?

Are you preparing for your next opportunity? Preparation is your ultimate competitive advantage. Whether it’s your next team function, connecting with your future ideal clients, or meeting with a major influencer in your marketplace, you must invest time to prepare.

Are you consistently practicing key skills? I’ve never seen a Broadway actor take the stage without having first spent months in rehearsal. So why would you face your audience without having repeatedly practiced your craft? It seems obvious, but skills practice is a major obstacle for many agencies.

When I ask agency leaders if it’s important to practice the vital skills of questioning, active listening, asking for referrals, and so on, I always hear an emphatic “yes!” When I ask how often they practice these skills, however, the answer is much different.

Rehearsals can’t be something you do as an afterthought or if you can find the time. They must be included on your calendar as part of your weekly schedule. Once you’ve set aside a slot on your calendar for you and your team to rehearse, you’ve made a commitment. If it’s not on your schedule, it won’t happen.

While none of these ideas is new or complex, all are critical to the success of your agency. Yet for some reason, agency leaders often choose to ignore them. They’re aware of them, but they lose focus and never achieve their true potential. Some of you, however, will take action and execute the Seven Ps. If your agency is among them, you can expect to experience phenomenal results.

The author

Brent Kelly, vice president of The Sitkins Group, Inc., is a motivating influencer, coach, and speaker who has a passion for helping independent agencies maximize their performance. He spent 15 years as a successful commercial lines producer and was named one of the top 12 young agents in the country in 2012. To help your agency gain clarity, build confidence, and improve culture, please contact Brent at or visit

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