The first part of this two part series described the self-analysis of the agency’s book that must precede an effective sales and marketing plan. This is accomplished by reviewing each producer’s book for the type and size of accounts and analyzing what industries or other niches exist. The producer also needs to evaluate their primary areas of expertise. What have they successfully written before and what centers of influence do they have?
This first part allows the sales force to understand the current composition of the clients, products skills, and areas to exploit. The next step is for the key players in the agency to brainstorm ideas of where they now want to go and how to get there.
Create the map
Compiling the individual producer goals creates the sales and marketing map. Using the data already collected, each producer can then set goals based on their sales ability, resources, time and expertise. Producers need to set “a stake out in the ground in front of them.” This goal will include how much new business will be written and what specific types of business will be approached.
The map shows the starting point and the finishing point out at that “stake in the ground.” It is up to the producer and sales manager to define and revise the path that is followed. Adjustments might include ways for the producer to improve their hit ratio or how the agency will create a new program to exploit a producer’s talent. These steps should be organized into action plans.
Action plan development
Action plans state the current issue, the future goal and then lists a few key tasks or milestones along the way. The action plan needs to clearly define the person responsible for each step and the time frame to complete the task. These action steps are the step-by-step directions for the sales and marketing map. Keep in mind that the end result should be fixed. However, the path to reach that goal can be revised and altered along the way based on what seems to work best. The sales and marketing plan should be an ever-changing document.
The plan and map are only as good as its monitoring and management. Tracking progress and holding people accountable is what ensures reaching the end result. The focus needs to be on “the stake in the ground,” while being flexible on the path followed. Therefore, performance is evaluated by an understanding that the path is not straight. There will be some setbacks and changes will need to be made along the way.
Monitoring should be done by the sales manager. Each producer needs to be prepared to describe his or her past results, project what is in the pipeline for the future and describe what has been working and what improvements are needed. The sales manager’s role is to work with the producer to make any adjustments necessary to keep going in the right direction.
Adjustments to the sales and marketing map can include coaching, mentoring, outside training, telemarketing, advertising, promotion, development of new programs, products or services, or perhaps even new staff. An action plan should be created when these adjustments are necessary. That way the producer and the agency agree on the steps, responsibility, timeframe and expected results.
Know the terrain
Just like a traveler on a trip, the agency’s sales and marketing plan must be aware of and respond to the “terrain.” Client’s needs, insurance companies and the marketplace in general are all out of the control of the agency. The agency needs to understand what is happening and be pro-active, or at least respond quickly to these factors.
An agency can have the greatest products and sales force, but unless producers are targeting the clients, these assets are moot. Make sure the agency’s capabilities, strengths, products and centers of influence match up with the targeted clients. If a new group of clients are to be targeted, then create an action plan with the steps required, time frame and who is responsible.
It’s a sales tool
The beautiful thing about a well-written sales and marketing plan is that it does not need to only be used internally. It can be used to amuse and amaze prospects, clients and insurers.
Take the sales and marketing plan directly to the insurance company representative. Set an annual meeting to discuss agency goals and future opportunities with the regional vice president or branch manager and the main underwriter assigned to the agency. Inform them about the current status of the agency and future plans. Find out where the company stands now and its plans for the future. Discuss how the agency and the company can do more business together in the future.
The plan can also be used during a sales call with a prospect to show the agency’s expertise with their industry. It also helps to add a few “marquee” clients in their industry.
Be proactive, not reactive. Firms that incorporate an annual planning process are more efficient, more profitable and highly valued businesses. The choice is yours. Take the time to plan ahead and be successful or be at the mercy of the winds of change.
Bill Schoeffler and Catherine Oak are partners at Glen Ellen, Calif.-based Oak & Associates. The firm specializes in financial and management consulting for independent insurance agents and brokers. They can be reached at 707-935-6565, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.oakandassociates.com.
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