WHAT DO YOU REALLY WANT?
Assuming you know, are you
willing to pay the price?
[I]f you try to sell someone what they need but they don’t want it, they’re not going to buy it!
By Roger Sitkins
What do you want?
Whenever I ask that question at our various training and development programs, I almost always hear, “I want more.” While that sounds reasonable, it invariably leads to my next question, “What do you really want?” There’s a tremendous difference between what you want and what you really want.
You may say that you want this or you want that, but when it comes down to it, there’s no compelling reason for you to go out and work to get it. Sure, whatever it is might be nice to have, but it’s not something that you feel you must have. What you really want is what you can’t live without. In other words, it’s emotional (want) vs. intellectual (need). According to leadership expert John C. Maxwell, you must get clients to tell you what they want and then give them what they need. Otherwise, if you try to sell someone what they need but they don’t want it, they’re not going to buy it!
What most people really want is freedom in some form. For example, the freedom to escape the traps (think The Seven Deadly Traps, which my August 2019 Rough Notes column discussed) that are holding them back from becoming their best version possible. Freedom can fall into any number of different categories, ranging from financial freedom to time freedom, relationship freedom, energy freedom, and so much more.
Assuming you know what you really want, are you willing to pay the price? This reminds me of a quote I heard years ago: “The person at the top of the mountain didn’t fall there!” This echoes the idea that the view from the top is better because it’s less crowded.
What you want and what you do (your behaviors, habits, strategies) must be in complete alignment to earn and achieve whatever it is that you really want. In his classic, Good to Great, author Jim Collins writes that “a visionary company is 1% vision and 99% alignment.” Are the things you’re doing on a daily basis congruent with what you’re trying to accomplish? If so, then you have what it takes to get there. However, if your own actions and those of your team members are not aligned, you’re not going to get where you want to go.
That’s why the first step in our programs, aimed at agencies and individuals becoming their best version possible, is alignment. All agency functions must be aligned with one common goal (what you really want). For our clients, the goal is to retain and obtain ideal clients. To accomplish this, they must acknowledge and appreciate the different roles everyone plays to reach a single shared goal. As varied as the roles may be, each one is critical to attaining a common goal. Imagine an orchestra in which every member had a different sheet of music. The results would be disastrous. Unfortunately, that’s how it is in many agencies.
Let’s focus on your overall agency. What do you really want as an agency? More important, how will you get there? You may recall one of my recurring themes: Your current business model is perfectly designed for you to achieve your current results. However, if those aren’t the results you want for your
agency, what do you really want? To answer that, it’s
crucial to first gain clarity on the following questions:
- Where is my agency today and what is its current business model? (Is there a business model?)
- Where do I want my agency to go and what is the business model that will take it there? (And no, it’s not just a matter of selling more insurance.)
- What options or paths are available to help me achieve what I really want?
The agency owners we work with tell us they want three main things:
- Organic growth at industry-leading rates
- Operating profits of at least 25%
- Enhanced agency value
Of course, wanting and getting are two different things, so let’s take a closer look at each of these “wants,” and the keys to achieving them:
Organic growth at industry-leading rates means a growth rate of at least 15% or more. To achieve that, you’ll need a unique selling process that separates you from your competitors, pipelines that are overflowing with future ideal clients only, and producers who spend/invest 80% of their time in the Green Zone (money-making activities).
Operating profits at 25% plus. Remember, we do not consider contingency/profit sharing or investment income as operating revenues. Here’s the secret to earning a 25% profit: You can only spend 75%. It’s really very simple.
Enhanced agency value is straightforward: Every $100,000 of increased profit is worth 12 to 14 times enhanced agency value. What if you only received 10x enhanced agency value? That’s still an additional $1,000,000 of value. If you have high organic growth and you’re operating at a very high profit margin, you’re going to enhance the value of your agency.
Now let’s get back to your business model. Your current results and current business model are intertwined. Your model may not be intentional, but it is the way your agency does business. Everyone shows up, does their own thing, and makes a very good living, but it may not be intentional. It could even be hysterical activity on the way to the grave.
After a discussion about what agencies really want vs. their current results, someone asked me, “What is the business model in under-performing agencies and why is it allowed to continue?” I thought that was a great question. It’s also very easy to figure out if you look at their model. Invariably, it is characterized by the following bad habits:
A focus on Red Zone activities. Their producers spend most of their time in the Red Zone (the Service Trap) vs. the Green Zone.
Undeveloped pipelines. They have prospect pipelines that are barely dripping and far from overflowing.
No USP. They lack a unique selling process. As a result, there’s more order-taking than selling.
A lack of full-time clients. Instead, they have part-time clients. They’ll take the order for a package policy, but not workers comp. They’ll take an order for the auto, but not package in the homeowners. Basically, they’ll only sell what their clients say they want—and nothing more.
Profitable accounts subsidize unprofitable accounts. They’re not aware of it because they’re doing okay overall, but they’re doing some things that lose money. Don’t believe me? What would happen if you lost the top 2% of your customers? For most agencies, that’s 33% of their revenue. Similarly, these agencies have profitable producers subsidizing unprofitable producers. They have too many quoters and floaters vs. producers who take their career seriously.
There’s a lack of personal accountability. This is probably the cornerstone. People are not held accountable to do what they said they were going to do. What also happens is that sales managers will latch on to the latest gimmick and announce, “From now on, we’re going to do it like this.” But once they leave the room, the producers roll their eyes and think, “This too shall pass,” and will continue doing things like they’ve always done them—sporadically and without oversight.
How great would your agency be if everyone did what they said they were going to do? What if they did just 80% of it? It’s unlikely that anyone is going to do anything 100%, so why not take off some of the pressure and aim high without shooting for perfection?
If your agency model looks like the one in this column, you’re probably not getting the best possible results. After all, semi-successful still looks pretty good in our great industry. You really don’t have to do much to get fairly good results. However, going back to Jim Collins’ book, he reminds us that good is the enemy of great. And in my world, “good enough” is the enemy of your Best Version Possible Agency.
Are you willing to start your agency on the journey of being its best version possible or will you settle for “good enough?” 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 and in that same year also received the Dr. Henry C. Martin Award from Rough Notes magazine. Roger is among only six people to have the honor of receiving this prestigious award.
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.