An effective process consistently produces the right results
The Process. These two words represent the core of Nick Saban’s coaching philosophy at the University of Alabama. Arguably the greatest college football coach ever, Saban credits The Process with being the guiding force in enabling him to win five national college football titles.
What is The Process, and how does it relate to you and your business? The Process represents Saban’s building blocks for creating a champion. It requires obsessive attention to detail, a commitment to making daily progress, and a “we before me” mindset. It is a principle that emphasizes preparation and hard work over consideration of outcomes or results. It is process management for running a sports program that requires each player to buy into a series of behaviors. Sound appropriate for your firm?
Saban formulated “process thinking” as it pertains to football with the help of psychiatry professor Lionel Rosen while Saban was the head coach at Michigan State University. In the fall of 1998, Saban was desperate. It was his fourth season with the Spartans, and 4-and-4 Michigan State was slated to travel to Columbus, Ohio, to play undefeated Ohio State, the number one ranked team in the nation.
“The Process is about what you have to do, day in and day out, to be successful. We don’t talk about what we’re going to accomplish; we focus on how we are going to do it.”
With guidance from Professor Rosen, Saban opted for a radical change in the way he prepared his players for the game. He told his team not to worry about winning the game. Instead he instructed them to treat each play independently—to focus solely on what needed to be done to maximize their potential on each snap of the ball. And as soon as a play was over, he mandated that it be wiped from memory.
Saban was creating a mindset of perfecting performance, play by play, as part of a process. The outcome of the game took a back seat to the execution of the task. A 24-point underdog, Michigan State upset the Buckeyes 28-24. The Process was born.
“The Process is about what you have to do, day in and day out, to be successful,” Saban says. “We don’t talk about what we’re going to accomplish; we focus on how we are going to do it.” Focus on process and execution, and the wins will come.
Process and process improvement
Process is best defined as “the sequence of interdependent and linked procedures … a series of actions or steps taken to achieve a particular end.” An effective process consistently produces the right results. Process improvement, on the other hand, is the proactive task of identifying, analyzing, and improving on existing business processes within an organization. Its goal is to close performance gaps to stimulate growth, profitability, and shareholder value.
Much like Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide, it is imperative that you have processes for mission-critical areas within your agency. And within each process must be a series of steps that are understood, practiced, and executed by members of your team. You will gain clarity and confidence as you identify, map, model, and execute processes.
Tom Motamed, the recently retired chairman and CEO of CNA Financial, says, “Agency leaders must appreciate the importance of process improvement, especially as it relates to culture and brand.” As you embark on process improvement initiatives, ask yourself these three questions:
- Are the processes clearly defined, understood, and aligned with my objectives?
- Are ownership and performance accountability established for each process?
- Are the processes streamlined, consistent, and standard?
The coaching and consulting work we do at Beyond Insurance involves six key processes designed to drive top-line growth of insurance organizations. The processes revolve around differentiation, innovation, and transformation. They are:
Process #1—Customer Loyalty Benchmarking
In today’s challenging marketplace, it is essential that you develop the capacity to define, measure, and manage customer loyalty. The “loyalty effect” is created when your customer becomes an advocate of and evangelist for your offerings. Loyalty is the key to profitable growth. Research substantiates that a 25% to 100% increase in profits results from just a 5% increase in customer retention. Firms with the highest customer loyalty typically grow at more than double the rate of competitors.
We have developed a step-by-step process to help you gauge how customers feel about your customer experience journey. Your ability to benchmark customer loyalty translates into organic growth indicators including, but not limited to, retention, cross-sell opportunities, and referrals.
Cross-selling is one of the easiest and most effective means of marketing. It is a key component of growth, profitability, and agency value because it increases customer retention and decreases the likelihood of switching to a competitor.
Although most steps in our process involve exposure identification encompassed in a client-focused “discovery process,” the stewardship review has proved to be the most opportune time to cross-sell. The stewardship review is designed to confirm that your agency’s insurance and risk management strategies, goals, and objectives are aligned with those of your client. We recommend that the stewardship review be conducted at the six-month point of the renewal process and be focused on deepening customer relationships.
Process #3—Stakeholder Intimacy and Relationship Management
This is a formula to deepen relationships and enhance intimacy with key stakeholders, namely clients, carriers, employees, centers of influence, prospects, and your community. The process responds to these five questions:
- Why is this category of stakeholder so important to my agency?
- What is the stakeholder’s primary need?
- What is my agency doing now to deepen the relationship and enhance intimacy with the stakeholder?
- What additional strategies might we employ?
- What will be the outcome?
Relationships don’t just happen. They evolve over time. And quality relationships are rooted in rich soil consisting of a blend of mutual trust, respect, and shared values. When fully grown, relationships produce bonds and connections that enhance both parties’ opportunity to succeed. Research indicates that 88% of executives view the strength of client relationships as the primary reason revenue goals are achieved.
Process #4—Consultative Sales
Much like a physician, an independent agent must consult and diagnose the risks facing the prospect or client before “treating” with insurance products. “Consult” is best defined as “exchange views, ideas, or information in a discussion.” To “diagnose” implies ascertaining the cause and nature of the disorder based on the symptoms. A doctor cannot appropriately treat a patient without first consulting and diagnosing; it is no different in the world of insurance and risk management.
In The Challenger Sale, Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson convey that “surveys of customers consistently show that they put the highest value on salespeople who make them think, who bring new ideas, who find creative and innovative ways to help the customer’s business. In recent years, customers have been expecting more depth and expertise. They expect salespeople to teach them things they did not know.”
Beyond Insurance recently unveiled the Intelligence Quotient for Risk Management, a quantifiable risk assessment tool that consists of a systematic process to help the agent better understand the risk issues that face an organization. It also benchmarks performance against ideal industry standards and facilitates the design of risk control and mitigation strategies.
Process #5—Prospect Research and Qualification
A strategic prospecting system starts with developing a clear picture of your ideal prospect supported by a strategy map to determine:
- The industry and product knowledge you must gain
- Where to spend your time and energy
- People who are willing to connect you to the ideal prospect
- Products, services, and resources needed
This system is best supported by a compelling value proposition, risk assessment process, phone and first interview scripts, social media strategy, and pipeline management plan. Our model empowers agency leaders and producers to design and build a prospect pipeline process that includes a referral network of enthusiastic clients, centers of influence, and carrier representatives who are primed to assist.
Last but not least, your prospecting system must include metrics to keep activities on track.
Process #6—Brand and Brand Management
A brand consists of a name, design, style, symbol, process, and behavior of people, used singularly or in combination, that distinguishes one provider from another in the eyes of the customer. Although ways to a strategic personality for an agency can be created in many ways, we suggest that you feature a risk assessment process supported by a trademarked name.
The process of brand and brand management involves developing a promise, making the promise tangible, and maintaining it. It also involves analysis and plans for how you want the brand to be perceived in the market.
Your agency’s brand is also viewed through the values, behaviors, beliefs, attitudes, and underlying assumptions shared by you and your team. It is the outcome of a set of rules for working together and is so powerful that it shapes your work environment, business relationships, and ultimately how your customers view you. We use an eight-step process to define employee behaviors (fundamentals) that drive success and establish rituals that affect brand.
Your process improvement efforts will have a profound impact on your life. “The scoreboard has nothing to do with the process,” Saban says. “In each possession, you look across at the opponent and commit yourself to dominate that person. If you can do this … if you can focus on the one possession and wipe out distractions … then you will be satisfied with the result. There are two pains in life. There is the pain of discipline and the pain of disappointment. If you can handle the pain of discipline, then you’ll never have to deal with the pain of disappointment.”
The power of process!
Scott Addis is the CEO of Beyond Insurance and is recognized as an industry leader, having been named a Philadelphia finalist for Inc. Magazine’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” award as well as one of the “25 Most Innovative Agents in America.”
Beyond Insurance is a consulting firm that offers leadership training, cultural transformation, and talent and tactical development for enlightened professionals who are looking to take their organization to the next level. Since 2007 the proven and repeatable processes of Beyond Insurance have transformed organizations as measured by enhanced organic growth, productivity, profitability, and value in the marketplace. To learn more about Beyond Insurance, contact Scott at