It’s a brand new year. I hope last year’s numbers were where you wanted them to be: solid growth, increased revenue and expenses under control.
But for those agencies that didn’t add to their book, there’s always an excuse or six. It’s easy to rationalize why things didn’t go your way. Of course, sometimes, it really isn’t your fault; maybe you lost a major account for reasons beyond your control.
This column highlights a half-dozen common excuses and suggests ways to slap them down.
No time to sell. No producer ever has enough time to sell; yet it’s their most valuable commodity. There are innumerable ways to gain more selling time, including: wiser time management; more selective prospecting and quoting; using instant digital communications; shifting small, no-growth accounts to a skilled in-house agent or a less busy outside producer. Enact these approaches, and others, to extend the clock in your favor.
Not enough commercial prospects. Be preemptive. Work mainly with new business leads that align with your personal interests, plus pricing and underwriting strengths. Count the approximate number of prospects within each niche you want to target, and broadly pre-qualify them, before doing any actual solicitation. If you don’t, your sales results may not be adequate to offset your time and marketing expenses.
Our personal lines rates are too high. Competing head-to-head with direct marketing carriers isn’t entirely about price. Professional advice, a local presence, smart proposals, regular communications/reviews, plus a competitive premium, all generate appealing value. Besides, rates are fluid; they go up and down, relative to the competition. Focus on the elements that are within your agency’s control instead of lamenting about what is not.
No one has heard of our companies. If you tout your leading carrier as your agency’s brand, you are making your job harder than necessary. You are not your carrier. Besides, agency carriers never advertise as much as direct and captive-agent companies. Instead, concentrate on building your own brand through social media and traditional means. Adequately market and sell your agency, and people will buy from you — not the underwriting carrier.
Inadequate sales training. You can’t expect serious sales from unskilled salespeople. So, provide continuous sales training to every producer and front office staffer. To help, there are state association-sponsored programs such as the American Insurance Marketing and Sales (AIMS) Society’s CPIA designation for producers, plus a variety of sales training sources for in-house client reps. There are also independent vendors with worthwhile training tools (including my own Agency Ideas resources).
Too many rivals. Endless rivals, on all levels, challenge today’s independent agencies. Retailers, banks, captive and direct marketers, traditional competitors and more are all shooting for your business. Plus, the digital universe reduces the barriers of entry to anyone with an insurance license, a website/app and a willing policy writer. It can seem like you against the world. Don’t use this as an excuse. Instead, think of it as a clarion call to stop being a generic office and start being different — in terms of both marketing and sales.
Are excuses that important?
As Jeff Goldblum’s character Michael famously said in The Big Chill, “I don’t know anyone who could get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations. They’re more important than sex. . . . Ever gone a week without a rationalization?”
Excuses are normal, everyday occurrences. It’s common to imagine them. Just don’t let them interfere with the growth of your agency. Let your endless competitors get lost in the rationalization maze instead.
This article first appeared in Insurance Journal.