*This is the FINAL article in our series about how to maintain and grow the value of your insurance agency so it will hopefully be worth more tomorrow than it was yesterday. In this last entry we cover the importance of creating and maintaining a Sales Culture and why it will help if your agency is losing value.
Here’s a great exercise you can try in your agency. Ask everyone who works for you this simple question: “What is your most important role in this agency? What are you here to do?”
Chances are you are going to get answers like, “Answer the phone” or “Give great service to our clients” or “Help people save money on their insurance”.
When your agency has a true sales culture, the only answer you will hear from every person will be this: “Sell insurance”. And when you have that kind of focus on selling in your agency, your business will be very valuable.
Before you protest that your receptionist can’t sell insurance, let me assure you that he or she absolutely can. Every person in your agency, who has any interaction whatsoever with a client or prospect should believe they can sell, should be incentivized to sell, and should enthusiastically pursue selling as their most important role in the agency.
But most agency owners think selling is defined only as providing an insurance quote, giving advice on coverage, and collecting money to bind a policy. True, that’s one aspect of selling, but there are many, many others in your agency that are being ignored today.
Nobody in the office interacts more with existing clients than your receptionists, support people, and customer service people. Are they looking for opportunities? When they’re taking the client’s car insurance payment on the phone, do they notice there is no apartment number on the address and ask, “Hey, are you a homeowner? While I’m processing this payment I’m going to have Jim jump on the line and get a little information from you since we can probably get you some discounts on this auto policy when you add the home policy to it”? That’s selling. When a client mentions they have to get back to work because one of their employees is out sick today, does the CSR ask, “What kind of business do you have again? I’m going to have Irma call you because we have a great program for commercial trucking and I see here we aren’t covering that for you right now”? That’s selling.
When everyone in your agency is looking for opportunities to sell, that’s the definition of a sales culture. It is a focus on growth through increased sales opportunities. Those opportunities don’t come along only when the phone rings. Many of them are already sitting in your book of business, but nobody has ever been directed, given a goal, or offered a bonus or incentive to listen for those opportunities and get them to someone who can write them.
Another way to tell if a sales culture exists is when everyone in your office knows exactly how much new business is being written and how that compares to the previous month or the previous year. The only way they will know, is if you make a big deal out of it and make it very visible. Why make it visible? So everyone is FOCUSED on it! If you have a big “50” written in dry-erase marker up on a white board in the middle of the office at the beginning of the month, and each time someone writes a new policy you erase it and change it to 49, 48, 37, 24, 18, 7…I guarantee when the end of the month is approaching, everyone in your office is trying to write those last 7 policies so the goal can be reached. Then you have a sales culture.
Goals, measurements, and incentives are critical in creating a culture of selling where everyone is aware and interested in growth. But they are only the first step. If you really want everyone looking for opportunities, rounding existing accounts, asking for referrals, and selling, you have to make sure you have the right people, tools, processes, and training in place.
In a previous career in the mortgage business there was a Sales Manager who would write three words on the “Areas for Improvement” section of every loan officer’s annual performance appraisal: Do More Loans.
That may sound obvious and absurd, but agency owners constantly stand up in a monthly meeting, look at their staff, and say, “Write more insurance”, or something to that effect, without actually doing anything to help their people write more insurance. You need to develop a sales process that starts from the moment the phone rings and defines exactly what should happen next, so every opportunity has an equal chance at becoming a new sale. You need to train people how to follow that process and train them on exactly what to say to flush out those opportunities, or to deliver a quote, or to ask for the business and close the deal. And you need to make sure you have the necessary tools in the workplace to help that sales process run smoothly. But most importantly, you need to have the right people with the right attitude who will actually care to do all of the things required in your new sales culture.
Insurance agents spend so much time focused on servicing and we forget that before we can service anyone we have to sell them something first. It’s time to change that focus in your agency and get your people excited and constantly thinking about how they can help the clients and help the agency by finding every possible opportunity, in every interaction, to sell something. When that sales culture exists, you will be adding significant value to your agency.
About the Author:
Jerry Pickett is VP of Mergers & Acquisitions/Client Consulting with Agency Acquisitions – an Astonish Results Company (www.AgencyAcquisitions.com). Agency Acquisitions works with agency owners to help maximize the value of their agency, perform agency valuation analysis, and handle all aspects of acquisition transactions for sellers and buyers of insurance agencies. Contact Jerry @ 614.859.9606 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org