Super Agent

Posts Tagged ‘producers’

Beware of the “Hail Mary” Trap

We have entered the second half of 2014, and many Producers are not half way to their annual new business revenue goal. As a result, in the process of trying to catch up, we see Producers start chasing low probability opportunities and throwing “Hail Mary” passes toward the end zone. This pattern frequently repeats itself year after year and creates stress for the Producer and less than satisfactory results.

It’s tough to get off this treadmill, but at some point it is necessary to take the plunge. We encourage Producers in the last half of a calendar year to make certain they are positioned to open the next year strong. If a Producer can write 2 to 3 large accounts on January 1, the whole world changes for them. Entering a year strong allows the Producer to better select their prospects and gives them the “walk away” power with low probability prospects.

Typically you don’t open a new calendar year strong if you wait until 90 days before renewal to get engaged with prospects. Start now and sift through 10 to 15 suspects that renew on January 1. Determine which ones are the best fits to move forward, and gain agreements to do business before the holidays.

We encourage you to endeavor to avoid the “catch up” game. You may take a short term hit, but if you open the new year strong you can change the game for many years to come.

Most Hunters Aren’t Farmers

Today’s buyers are busy, complacent and are being constantly bombarded with “marketing-speak” emails that don’t resonate with them. And, they are often tuning out the noise rather than actively looking for value. So to successfully get through these natural barriers requires an effective attraction strategy that includes on-going research, consistent and targeted messaging, and lead nurturing calls occurring on a regular basis. Think of these as “farming” activities.

This is why there are so many agents still struggling to get in the door, because it takes a huge amount of effort and requires them to engage over a long period of time and in a systematic way—something that most aren’t naturally wired to do effectively or to enjoy. Producers aren’t farmers, they’re hunters…they are outgoing, smart and likeable individuals who are capable of developing relationships and, most importantly, they are able to connect a prospect’s issues with the resources and capabilities of your agency to write business.

Individuals who are good at thinking on their feet, and engaging consultatively at a high level don’t typically possess the strong follow-through instincts needed to capture the attention of today’s prospects. Seth Godin explained the difference between hunters and farmers in his blog: “A kid who has innate hunting skills is easily distracted, because noticing small movements in the brush is exactly what you’d need to do if you were hunting. Scan and scan and pounce. That same kid is able to drop everything and focus like a laser–for a while–if it’s urgent. The farming kid, on the other hand, is particularly good at tilling the fields of endless homework problems, each a bit like the other. Just don’t ask him to change gears instantly.”

Many technology companies and other sales organizations have recognized this twofold need on the sales continuum, and so they’ve brought on a new role that we think deserves some contemplation—an Inside Business Development person.

He or she would be responsible for helping to create new business opportunities on a consistent and predictable basis, and support producers in ensuring that their pipelines remain filled with qualified prospects. This way, producers would be positioned to have more effective first meetings and could focus more closely on moving prospects through the sales process, while inside business development teams would play a critical role in attracting right-fit opportunities.

What are your thoughts on utilizing “farmers” to create an optimized agency structure?

Is Your Prospect Really a Prospect?

According to Inc. contributor Geoffrey James, “finding out who is not a potential customer is just as valuable a discovery as finding out who is one.” In fact, if you take the time to assess whether or not your prospect is truly a right-fit for your agency, you’ll avoid wasting valuable time and resources pursuing an opportunity that doesn’t exist.

So, where do you start? Consider this:

- Unless the organization is ready to do business with you within the next 90 says, then they aren’t a real prospect. If they’re dragging their feet and you don’t have a commitment after 90 days of assessment, it might be time to walk away.

- Are your business objectives aligned? For example, if they aren’t interested in a consultative and collaborative relationship remember that they are the commodity, not you. Don’t let a prospect take control of the sales process and move it in a negative direction. If it comes to a point where they are insisting on the lowest price or are unwilling to explore your process, know that there are plenty prospects out there that will.

- Do they have a need for what you can offer? And even further, are they willing to make agreements around what issues are most pressing and put in the work necessary to improve their outcomes?

The most effective producers understand the importance of gauging the long-term probability of engaging in a business relationship. Don’t be afraid to ask yourself: “Is my prospect really a prospect?” in order to make sure you’re not leaving too early or staying too long.

3 Ways to Reduce Stress & Improve Performance

One of the most important factors to being successful is to make sure that you’re continually improving. Benjamin Franklin said: “Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” The problem is, it’s easy to let your goals slip away without a good plan in place to minimize stress and better your performance.

When was the last time you evaluated your path to success? If it’s been a while, here are 3 things to consider doing in order to help you get there:

#1- Execute a Plan to Protect Your Existing Book of Business

This is one of the biggest stressors that producers face—ensuring that their clients are still feeling connected, engaged and working in alignment with the agency. We often hear, “I’m so busy managing my book of business that I don’t have time to develop new business opportunities.” So, in order to prevent this from happening we suggest that you plan ahead. Determine which accounts drive 80 percent of your revenue, then calendar regularly scheduled meetings with them in order to conduct assessments, establish action plans, and measure the improvements to their business.

#2- Identify and Monitor Your Key Performance Indicators

A few examples of these are research calls, face-to-face meetings, COI meetings, and marketing emails. Most producers don’t block out time on their calendars for anything other than meetings. For example, many will use a free hour here or there to make phone calls, but nowhere on their calendar is there time to follow-up with those prospects…the time spent calling becomes time wasted. So make appointments with yourself to develop thought leadership, send out messaging, and make prospecting phone calls. Just be sure that you are treating the appointments you make with yourself with the same level of importance as those you make with others.

#3- Modify to Stay on Track

Don’t be afraid to modify your plan if it’s not working. Schedule your own performance review time to ask yourself if you’re meeting your goals and what activities should be increased or reduced. And, don’t forget to reward yourself for any growth and improvement that you see.

Should You Act or Assess?

Many of the producers we work with push back when we talk about engaging in a consistent and consultative sales process with prospects—one that allows employers to delve into the real issues they’re facing and discover where opportunities exist to get better.  It’s likely because leading, asking the tough questions, and offering innovative capabilities isn’t easy. So, even when they begin to believe in it, they are hesitant to jump in.

Then there are the producers who are satisfied with the status quo…rather than putting in the time and energy to break through existing boundaries to their own success, they are constantly on the go, moving from one transactional sale to the next.

Seth Godin explains this idea in an excellent blog post. He says, “Stalling is the last thing you need…[asking] why is often an escape hatch for people when they know what they should do, but fear doing it. The best answer for the stalling why is: Go.” But, “the best response to the impetuous, status-quo driven “Go” is to ask, “why?”

In other words, if you’re finding yourself on the verge of committing to a change that will enhance your success, rather than teetering on the fence, it’s time to forge ahead with belief and gumption. And, if you find that you’re still doing what’s worked in the past or you’re following the same flawed approach as most other agents, it’s probably time to take a step back and assess.

Motivating Your Team

To be successful in our industry, it’s critical to build a team who are motivated beyond simple monetary incentives. According to a report by McKinsey & Company, “non-financial motivators are more effective than extra cash in building long-term employee engagement in most sectors, job functions and business contexts.” Humans are complex, and we crave things like autonomy, mastery of skill, and contributing to a greater purpose.

So, how can you motivate your team?

Communicate your “Why”; whether it’s creating greater opportunities for clients, facilitating better care for injured workers, or something else, make sure producers know why they are valuable to clients. Also, be open to input from team members, promote a productive and action-oriented environment and give feedback frequently. In his book, Drive, Daniel Pink says this about employee motivation: “The biggest motivator by far was making progress in their work. They felt most connected, engaged, alive and loyal on days where they were making progress and getting better at something”

While monetary rewards have an important role to play, if you haven’t considered other factors it may be time to take a step back and reassess.

We want to hear your stories? Owners and managers, what successful steps have you taken to motivate your team beyond offering financial incentives? Producers, what makes you feel motivated?

Address These 3 Barriers to Change

Agency owners and sales managers, before implementing a change throughout your agency do you consider what barriers you might face from your team? Maybe you’d like to move upstream and focus on large accounts that use Alternative Risk Financing methods like Large Deductibles, or maybe you are adopting a new sales process that all producers will be held accountable to follow.

Whatever the change is, we often see three common barriers surface during a transition.

(1)    Emotional Barrier

It’s that feeling of, “I’ve always done what I’ve always done” that often creates hesitation from team members. Just as we talk about risk-averse buyers who are comfortable with the status quo and afraid to change, team members are likely to put up an emotional barrier when they are pushed outside of their comfort zones.

(2)    Demographic/Geographic Barrier

If you are moving into a new space, producers will sometimes be concerned about the number of potential clients that exist. For example, if the size of your perfect-client is changing, they’ll want to be sure that significant opportunities are present in your area.

(3)    Lack of Capabilities Barrier

Let’s say you’ve decided to target larger accounts in the group health arena…having the capabilities to help them get better is critical. For example, a barrier to this change will occur if your team doesn’t have the selling skills or technical knowledge to assist employers in identifying their compliance and cost issues or align employers’ business goals with their health plan.

Remember that identifying barriers is only the first step in planning for a smooth transition. Be prepared to address them, and have timelines and resolutions in place to help your team jump on board with the changes, and give them peace of mind.

Define Your Expectations

One of the biggest challenges and frustrations facing agency principals today is the failure of producers to perform. Producer sales goals aren’t being met, pipelines are weak and renewals are increasingly difficult. Unfortunately, most agencies don’t have an effective process in place to enhance producer performance.

There are a number of important strategies that can be incorporated into an on-boarding process or training program for existing producers, but the first step is to define your expectations.

If you’re focusing only on the revenue, you’re not setting your producers up for success. If other, more fundamental expectations are insisted on, then revenues will most likely be met. So, what expectations should you communicate to your team?

- Adhere to a sales/agency culture. Without a doubt, producers who are the most destructive to agencies are the ones who erode the agency brand. Failure to communicate the agency’s value proposition and follow the sales process can lead to decreased differentiation and confusion in the marketplace.

- Work only with right-fit clients that the agency has the capabilities to service effectively and consistently. Producers that use resources on deals that aren’t likely going to close or are a poor fit threaten the foundation of their agency.

- Develop and execute action plans to reach objectives and grow professionally. Producers who are expected to include performance activities on their calendars such as phone calls, first appointments, messaging campaigns, and networking opportunities are more likely to perform well.

“Our environment, the world in which we live and work, is a mirror of our expectations.” – Earl Nightingale