Developing a sales and marketing plan, part 1

By | November 5, 2006

Sales and marketing plans are an essential element of strategic planning and one tool that leading agencies use for the proper management of their business. Many carriers often require that an agency have a sales and marketing plan to receive “preferred” status.

So, what are the basic ingredients to a well-written sales and marketing plan? Like most other plans there are three steps: A.) know where you are, B.) know where you want to go, and C.) map out how to go from A to B.

The best starting point is to first define the agency’s “personality” or the book of business. This will define what to look for from existing carriers and the selection of new carriers to represent.

Start by finding out what the split of business is along each line: personal, commercial, life, group benefits and program business, etc. Then calculate the average size of account for each line. Also, how much of the agency business comes from the top 10 and top 50 accounts? Finally, analyze the distribution of business and identify the top five industries.

Calculate the current percentage of the overall book by line of business and for the top industries or niches. Is the mix of business healthy for the agency? This is a judgment call for the owners. Niche selling is usually more profitable, however, it is also riskier.

Write down future targets next to the current composition. This thought process is what separates the entrepreneur from the average person.

It is important to also perform all these same steps for each producer in the firm. The big picture is good for identifying the trends, however, the detail on each producer will define how the journey will take place to get to the goals. It is the individual producer goals that define what the agency can expect for overall agency goals.

In addition to repeating all those steps, each producer needs to define what they like to sell and what are their centers of influence. This will help to understand what the producer will focus on and what leverage they might have in sales. Producers that can lean on relationships or follow their passion will succeed.

The analysis of the producer’s top 10 and top 50 accounts plus reviewing the most common industries in that producer’s book will define what they like to sell and his or her expertise. These should be the initial areas of focus for future growth.

How much can you grow?

It is easier to create a sales plan from the bottom up. Overall new sales goals for the agency should be determined by the sum of new sales goals for each producer.

An experienced producer in a typical agency should generate at least $30,000 to $50,000 in new commission dollars each year. For large firms with large accounts, the amount would be much higher, maybe even $75,000 to $125,000, or more in new commissions.

The process begins with each producer stating a target new sales goal. Is that goal reasonable? If not, what adjustments need to be made?

The initial target goals for each producer are analyzed and then verified or adjusted by assessing the following: the producer’s hit ratios and attrition rates, the potential for new business leads, the producer’s average size of account, and how much time is available for new business calls and for visits.

Producer hit ratios (new business sales to new business quoted) of less than 25 to 33 percent costs the agency a lot of time and money. Often, the producer fails to pre-qualify the prospect. Sometimes producers just are not approaching businesses that match up with the products the agency has expertise in writing, or accessing markets that are competitive.

Calculate the attrition rate for the agency and each producer. The goal should be around 10 percent or less attrition for the typical property/casualty insurance agency. Higher attrition rates are usually an indication that the business the agency writes is transient and either the clients are price shopping or not good risks.

The time a producer has for new business sales is directly related to how much time the producer spends on servicing existing accounts. Producers who can delegate work will find more time for new sales.

The producer’s level of interest in the products and clients, centers of influence and desire to make sales commission also influence the time that is created or available for new sales. A producer that is “engaged” will make the time for new business sales. Those that lack motivation will focus on servicing accounts.

After adjusting the initial target goal for each producer based on time available, hit ratios, attrition rates, niches and centers of influence, a good, solid number will appear. The overall agency goal is then the sum of each individual goal.

Create the roadmap

If all the steps above were followed, then the roadmap is basically done. The roadmap lists the steps required to make the adjustments explored during the self-analysis and the goals setting phase. These steps are organized into action plans. Part 2 will explore the creation of action plans, compiling the sales and marketing plan and then the implementation of the plan. Remember, firms that incorporate an annual planning process tend to be more efficient, more profitable and highly valued businesses.

About Catherine Oak and Bill Schoeffler

Oak is the founder of the consulting firm, Oak & Associates, based in Northern California and Central Oregon. Schoeffler is an associate of the firm. Oak & Associates. Phone: 707-936-6565. Email: catoak@gmail.com. More from Catherine Oak and Bill Schoeffler

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