Selling is not a numbers game. It’s a predictable result based on a formal process with an expected conclusion.
The single most significant differentiator between those viewed by their buyers as simply vendors and those viewed as trusted professional advocates is the sales culture. It starts with the agency leadership and should transcend throughout the organization. Everyone in the organization should understand the tangible process and the defined buying experience in order for the culture to take root and grow.
Unlike a sales-and-marketing plan, which is typically developed annually, the sales culture is a constant and ongoing process. It begins with a sketch of what the agency’s leadership views as the “customer buying experience,” and requires a clear vision of such issues as the following:
- Selling the total account versus a line of coverage.
- Having a formal marketing and branding program to clearly create a positive image of the organization in your marketing footprint.
- Creating an active, robust website that conveys the agency as a high-tech modern and relevant organization.
- Formalizing a social media strategy that includes a current agency Facebook page and an active blog.
- Mandating complete LinkedIn profiles for staff.
- Developing a strategy for connecting with prospects and customers so you’re a known entity long before that first face-to-face meeting.
- Having an onboarding process for new clients that includes a structured welcome and an immediate cross-sales and referral program.
With agency distribution going through the most significant transition in 40 years, agency leadership must develop a formal sales and marketing strategy with clearly communicated procedures for the service and sales staff; this has become critical as a part of the agency culture.
We must understand clearly that we will never create value for an entire audience, and we must streamline our efforts in the channel that we are best suited for. The one void the direct channels and insurance carriers have – and the true future for the independent agent channel (they can’t automate this function yet) – is that face-to-face sales experience of the parties together, one-on-one and in person.
Structure and high level of accountability
If the audience simply wants an Auto quote or a certificate to begin a job and is interested in minimum limits, we’ve already automated the function. The agency also can’t afford the time and talent, including the overhead it requires to market in that space. It’s the wrong channel! We need to seek discerning buyers needing counsel and advice.
Agency leadership of the past created a plan and softly worked it throughout the year. At year-end we looked at where we were and how close we came to the plan, and then created a “look-alike” plan for the next year with the dream of doing better.
Today’s aggressive and competitive environment requires structure and a high level of accountability. If you’re not looking at every segment of your operation at least every six months and making the appropriate changes along the way, you’ll quickly become out of date and irrelevant. The average agency principal is 56 years old, comfortable, but soon to be in pain as we continue this transition.
7 Things to consider
As you explore your strategies and agency dynamic and seek to update them, there are seven key elements to consider in defining your sales culture.
- Define what your prospect, referrals and clients need to look like in order for you to do business with them. For example, it may be writing all lines of coverage in personal lines and targeting a minimum of six lines of coverage per account. Have a written definition of what your prospect, referrals and clients need to look like in order for you to do business with them (the qualifications).
- Sell every product your agency has access to , which maximizes account revenue. By selling all lines of business you’ll maximize the revenue per account. The result is a more efficient and profitable agency and long-term, stable client relationships. The higher the policy count, the higher the retention. We’ve known that for more than 40 years! Take the time to truly advise and counsel clients.
- Super sales organizations with a strong defined culture view every contact as a sales/referral/cross-sell opportunity. When you’re doing the monthly/quarterly/annual reviews with clients, the conversation should include many different types of insurance. Once you’ve sold them, you then have an opportunity to leverage relationships by obtaining a qualified “hot” referral. This ensures that your sales team, service team and even your receptionist fully understand you’re in the business of selling and growing – constantly.
- Sales isn’t a campaign or a focus for the month or quarter: It’s a continuous and ongoing process. Having the activity level and super-qualified pipeline assures that you are constantly closing. Focus on selling every day, all day. You motto going forward should be: Constantly Closing!
- Super sales organizations have a common process they follow in personal lines, commercial lines, life and benefits. If you want predictability, then follow a process and don’t run loosely and without discipline.
- Sell value and not price. There is a value in having a trusted advocate to guide clients through their tolerance for risk, the areas in which they are willing to risk, and the areas of risk transfer. Don’t be caught thinking in one dimension. The symptoms are painful – accounts lost to those who build true value.
- Build strong relationships with your clients and a strong network of accompanying professional services. If you’re not having a dialogue with the client’s CPA, attorney, investment broker or other advisors with whom they specifically interact and highly value, then you’re just a vendor. Instead of measuring the number of insureds you have, measure the revenue and number of lines of coverage you have per account.
As the independent agency channel sees more pressure from direct and alternative distribution, it becomes clear that independent agents need to identify their segment of the market and go after it vigorously. Those who don’t will lose market share with fragmented efforts, lower efficiencies, lower profit and lower revenues. Take the time to formalize your agency culture and define your organization in its marketing space.
Good luck and good selling!
Article by: Tom Barrett
Source: Property Casualty 360