Forget the commodity game and focus on differentiation
During a recent private Producer Fit program, I experienced one of my world-famous BFOs (Blinding Flashes of the Obvious). It hit me as I spoke to a group of mainly young producers that they probably hear the following repeatedly: “You guys are all the same.”
My BFO: What must you do to stop trying to prove to the world that you’re not? If that’s something you hear on a regular basis, you’ve got a problem!
Most agencies know they should differentiate. However, most don’t. They’re strictly playing a commodity game. Furthermore, most are simply like everyone else—average. That means they’re the best of the worst and the worst of the best, as close to the top as they are to the bottom.
When producers and agency owners are asked why someone should buy insurance from them, they typically have the same responses: “We have the best service, the best people, we represent all of the major carriers, we’ve been in business for 100 years and we can save you money!” Isn’t that what everyone else says? (I sure hope I’m not repeating what you and your team say.)
Here’s a quick litmus test. Right now, stop reading for a moment and ambush several of your agency team members. Just ask them, “Why should people buy from our agency?” I hope you don’t hear the typical tired responses I just mentioned.
I think it’s time to stop proving to the marketplace that you’re like everyone else and start proving that you are different. That you are better, that you bring more value, that you provide a better client experience than your competitors.
Speaking of client experience, I’d like to share a memorable one I had when I was flying home recently on Delta. As I was boarding and approached my seat, I noticed a neatly folded cocktail napkin on top of the armrest. A handwritten note on it read “Mr. Sitkins, thank you so much for flying our airline. Welcome back! We really appreciate your business.” It was signed “Crystal (the flight attendant) and The Crew,” and had a pair of those plastic junior pilot’s wings (you know, the ones they give to children) attached to the bottom.
Others in my section also got a note and wings, and we all started talking about the amazing gesture. Everyone thought the same thing: What a nice touch. I realize it was a paper bar napkin and a plastic pin here, but for the flight attendant to take time to write a personal note to each passenger in her section was truly remarkable. It created a “wow” I won’t soon forget. Now that’s a great client experience!
Believing is proving
A big part of proving that you’re not like everyone else starts with what you and your agency believe. What’s your vision for your future great agency? That’s something I often ask agency owners, key producers and senior managers. I believe that we either have a job or a mission. What’s the mission at your agency that everyone rallies around? Most agencies don’t have one.
What mission do you as an owner or manager have for your agency? Keep in mind, you are a role model for your agency. You can’t say one thing and do something totally different. It is crucial for a leader’s words and deeds to be congruent. This starts with your “What,” “How” and “Why.”
What you do: You help your clients control their total cost of risk.
How you do it: Your unique process that provides a great value proposition for the client.
Why you do it: The outcome your clients will experience. What’s your mission? What’s the experience you want for your clients? (I hope it’s not, “Well, we give pretty good reactive service and we save them money.” That makes you like everyone else!)
Things to stop doing
If you don’t want to be like everyone else, here are some of the things you must stop doing:
Giving Free No-Obligation Quotes. This includes having a website that says “Click Here For a Free Quote!” Everyone else is doing it, and in too many cases it’s a big waste of time. There’s no follow-up. Typically, consumers click as directed and never receive a response.
Saying You Can Save People Money. Stop telling your prospects you can save them money. There’s absolutely nothing unique about making that claim.
Allowing Part-Time Clients. When a customer calls in and asks for a quote on a homeowners or business policy, how do you react? Do you talk to them about the rest of their account? Or do you give them a quote and “take their order”? That’s what everyone else does, which may explain why only 10% of personal lines and 51% of small, select commercial lines customers are full-time clients.
Over-Promising and Under-Delivering. Everyone else does this. They’ll meet with the prospect and hear complaints about the current agent: They’ve never done what they said they’d do; they’re never around; and they never call. But do your customers say the same about you and your agency? Are those the very things that you’re over-promising and under-delivering? If you say you’ll do a Service Calendar, but there’s no accountability, all you’re doing is setting yourself up for failure. You sound just like everyone else. And if you’re not even doing a Service Calendar, you’re even less than everyone else.
Having High Customer Turnover. Does your agency have a culture of clients “coming in the front door and going out the back”? Is the agency’s attitude that you win some, you lose some, but overall you’re okay? That you’re so busy it doesn’t matter? That’s how everyone else operates.
Being Too Busy to Get Better. If you don’t want to be like everyone else, you need to stop being too busy to improve. Also known as the No-Time-To-Train Syndrome, it makes zero sense for any business. How can you possibly have people working for you whom you’re not training on a regular basis? That’s like owning a professional sports team with players who don’t have time to practice!
Treating All Clients the Same. As we’ve discussed before, we believe that all clients should receive the level of service they pay for. But what we see in most agencies is a lack of differentiation. There’s no distinguishing the Vital Few from the Trivial Many clients—they’re all treated the same. However, a large percentage of accounts should not be getting the same level of service that only the very best accounts deserve. In fact, the bottom 25% of your clients should probably be handled by an insurance company service center. They generate less than 10% of your revenue, and you’re most likely losing money handling them in-house.
Allowing Producers to “Wing It.” If we continue to let producers go out and do their own unscripted thing in front of prospects, taking notes on a legal pad and giving free quotes, what does that say about the agency brand? That’s one reason people say we’re all the same. And that’s the image producers project when they don’t have a process.
The bottom line
Remember, the public perception of insurance agents is that you’re all the same and it’s all about price—a perception driven and reinforced by your major competitors spending billions of dollars on advertising.
It’s time to eradicate that perception and prove that you and your agency are not like everyone else.
Are you prepared to do that? It’s clearly The Better Way!
Roger Sitkins, CEO of Sitkins Group, Inc., is the nation’s number one “Agency Results Coach.” In addition to establishing The Sitkins 100TM and Sitkins International, he is the creator of The Vertical Growth ExperienceTM. 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