An agency owner named John called me up and said in a very sober tone, “We need to double our new business, can you help us?”
John told me how he is the top producer and had just inherited the job of sales manager. He told me that they had a nice agency, over 50 years old and a lot of really good people.
When I asked how many of them were contributing to new production, he said, “only a few.”
“Why?” I asked.
John told me that their agency has been run for almost 20 years by the same leadership team. He referred to it as “old school.” He said that the leaders are great community guys, know everyone and are very concerned about how they are perceived in the community. Firing someone for a lack of production would give them a black eye, so they haven’t fired an underperforming producer in almost 20 years.
He said they didn’t have much of a hiring process either. If a client had a son or daughter graduating college, they’d gladly offer them a job. As a result, the agency has a lot of people on the payroll not producing very much.
Employees have an agreement in place to start buying agency stock from current leadership in about three years. If they can turn this thing around, this next generation can make a lot of money, too. If not, it could be a tough 10 years trying to pay off the note.
With that, I gave him a five-part plan.
Part I, Motivation
I told John he quickly needs to determine who’s got some “fire in the belly” and who doesn’t. And for those who do, he needs to put on growth steroids. Most producers have never thought about how much money it takes to fund the cars, universities, weddings, plus their own retirement. Some are not motivated by money, but they are scared of not having money. I gave him a three-part process that is guaranteed to scare people and create enough pain for them to pay attention to how they are going to grow their books.
Part II, Time Utilization
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with renewals after being in the business for five-plus years. Most producers have a handful of large accounts and a basket full of small accounts that make very little money and waste a lot of their time. That’s one reason they aren’t prospecting like they could.
I suggested he have his producers print a list of all the accounts. Let them do the analysis, then put their results up on a big screen for all to see. Producers will discover that about 80 percent of their revenue comes from only 20 percent of their accounts. Thus only 20 percent of their revenue comes from 80 percent of their accounts.
It’s not unusual that most producers can write one or two more of their large accounts to replace the small accounts. In so doing, they get rid of a huge part of their workload … and are now freed up to sell and make more money.
Part III, Differentiation
Have producers write down what they believe makes them different from their competition. Have them put their names on it. Write them all on a whiteboard. Then play a little game. Have the producers role-play as if they are the buyers. Read these things off to all the producers one at a time and have them vote on it. If it is unique or could be leveraged as different, keep it on the whiteboard. If not, erase it.
This accomplishes two things. One, it helps them discover that what they thought makes them different isn’t different at all. And, this is why selling is so hard for them. Second, it opens the door to creating differentiation, which could help them and give them something concrete to sell, not just fluff.
Part IV, Confidence
John agreed that confident people outperform those who are not confident or have to fake that they are because of the culture. There are two things that create confidence — skills and knowledge. When people know what to do and how to do it, they have confidence. When they don’t, they might fake confidence, but that’s all it is … fake. Fakers generally have excuses for why they aren’t selling.
To create confidence, an agency needs a sales process. Then producers need to role-play it over and over until it becomes second nature. I suggested he think about his athletic career and how much time he spent in the weight room, watching film, studying his play book and at practice. Without the hard work, it’s arrogant for anyone to think they have it down.
Part V, Accountability
Most agencies do not have a culture of accountability. They just let underperformers linger until they die of starvation and quit. It’s expensive to operate that way, and it kills morale. Here is how to implement the 3 Cs of accountability.
- Contract: Have something in writing, an agreement. Now they have some thing specific they are responsible for.
- Count: Accountability requires a counting system. If producers are supposed to make 100 dials, or go on four appointments a month, and the agency doesn’t know if they did or didn’t, then there is a problem.
- Consequences: The most important piece ultimately is the consequence. If a driver got a speeding ticket but never had to pay the ticket, it’s not likely the driver’s behavior would change. Consequences drive behavior change.
Get your producers motivated. Help them eliminate low payoff activities in exchange for high-value activities.
Finally, create a culture of accountability with a system that has consequences defined in advance and takes the emotion out.
Do these things and you will double your new business.