Discover hidden treasure
In his quest for growth, a local agent tries everything but overlooks the important things
By Tim Sawyer
A business fable:
Once upon a time, a local insurance agent was on a quest. He wanted to grow his agency.
He believed that he could not accomplish the kind of growth he wanted by himself, so the local agent hired top-notch outside producers. He decided that it made sense to agree to their contract demands because this would obviously lead to incremental organic growth. After all, these are seasoned insurance professionals, fully capable and willing to pursue strong organic growth. Right?
For some reason, it didn’t pan out.
Next, the local agent started buying Internet leads. He calculated the ROI with the assumption that the inside producers would convert the leads at a rate of 10%. After all, these are motivated, seasoned insurance professionals, eager to write more business. Right?
For some reason, it didn’t pan out. So he stopped.
Then the local agent decided to build a new Web site complete with eye-catching videos. He even spent thousands of dollars a month on search engine AdWords with Google, Yahoo!, and Bing to get in front of online insurance shoppers.
After thorough research of online consumer behavior, he calculated that consumers visiting his site directly would have a higher closing rate than third-party leads. After all, his people would have no problem working with “hot” prospects. Right?
For some reason, it didn’t pan out. So he stopped.
One day, the local agent received a call from a friend who had requested a homeowners and auto quote from his agency. His friend was concerned because several days had passed and he had not heard back from the representative. The agent thought to himself: “This can’t be true. After all, our staff members are seasoned insurance professionals. Right?”
When he questioned the staff member, she replied matter-of-factly, “I sent your friend an e-mail letting him know I had his quotes ready. I never heard back from him, so I assumed he wasn’t interested.”
To that the local agent responded: “So he’s not returning your calls?”
“I never actually called him,” the staff member replied. “He told me to e-mail the quotes and he would let me know. To be honest, I know if he shops around he could get better rates, so I didn’t want to be pushy.”
The local agent was stunned. He could not believe that this staff member did not understand or appreciate the importance of follow-up and persistence. After all, she was a seasoned insurance professional. Right?
The local agent thought back to his early days as a new agent. His mentor had taught him the importance of basic sales skills such as a warm friendly voice, the art of rapport, adding value, overcoming objections, and most important, asking for the sale. His mentor would meet with him often and encourage him to work on his sales skills every day.
Then he thought about the way he interacted with his own staff. In his 10 years of running the agency, he had never spent time with his staff the way his mentor had spent time with him. He realized that he had never provided any organized sales training. He did not offer any rewards or recognition to keep his people motivated. He just assumed they were “wired” to sell and that they knew what to do.
Besides, he wasn’t comfortable with the idea of correcting the behavior of long-term staff members who had been so loyal. What if they were offended?
And then it hit the local agent like a ton of bricks. He was doing everything he could to increase traffic to the agency’s Web site and phones, but it never occurred to him that his staff lacked adequate training and motivation to meet the demands of the modern consumer.
He also discovered that 70% of his entire book was made up of single policies, due to the “just give them what they ask for” service culture that had developed over the past 10 years.
The hidden treasure
The local agent changed his approach. First, he made a commitment to himself to spend more time focusing on strategies that would actually lead to sustainable growth.
He paid careful attention to his sales process, he met regularly with his staff to listen to customer/client interactions, and then role play the “correct” way to sell and serve the modern consumer.
He started to value his people more, and they became more enthusiastic in their approach to selling.
The entire culture began to change as he increased his dedication and passion to build a world class sales culture.
He had finally realized that a business can’t initiate sustainable organic growth without a leader who is relentlessly committed to organic growth, the development of staff, a positive culture in the agency, and the positive attitudes of the team.
That was the opposite of what his focus had been in the past—on the tools and leads. The more important focus was people and process.
He also discovered that growth does not occur because of one thing. Growth occurs when there is constant improvement in every area of the agency. Opportunities will never lead to sustainable growth without the right leadership, tools, people, process, measurement, and motivation.
Tim Sawyer is president of Astonish Results, a digital marketing firm based in Rhode Island. He has trained hundreds of insurance professionals in every aspect of the business with a focus on leadership, digital marketing, and best sales practices.