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Move Your Agency from High Maintenance to High Performance

Shift your agency from reactive and uncommunicative to proactive and clear by incorporating these three elements into your culture. 
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move your agency from high maintenance to high performance

Do you know the difference between high maintenance and high performance? A definition of a high-maintenance agency is one that is reactive and devoid of sufficient communication between leadership, producers and service personnel. Because roles are not clearly defined, the workplace is stressful, and productivity suffers.

Conversely, high-performance agencies are clear on what they are and where they're going. Not only is there great communication within the agency, producers also work proactively with clients. These agencies achieve superior results.

If you identify more as a high-maintenance agency than a high-performance organization, don't despair. It's possible to move from high maintenance to high performance if you're willing to incorporate three key elements into your agency's culture:

1) Mindset. If you'd like to improve your agency's results, it's important to be aware of your deeply held beliefs and recognize whether they're holding you back.

Does your agency think big enough? Small thinking leads to small results, which is why many agencies settle for less. Perhaps their producers and leaders have hit a comfortable plateau and are happy to maintain the status quo, rather than improve and strive for more. They believe that being average is “good enough."

Tony Robbins, entrepreneur, author, philanthropist, and life and business strategist, has talked about something like this. He said that we tend to use “softeners" by comparing ourselves to others who are doing worse than we are.

In essence, these are the things we tell ourselves to soften reality: “We're doing better than ABC Agency," or “Things may not be great, but they're not that bad."

With this type of mindset, people will never grow past their own level of thinking. Instead, they should be trying to measure up to their top competitors and, more importantly, to the best version of themselves.

What self-limiting beliefs are holding your agency back? Have you ever told yourself, “We're just a small-town agency," or “I guess I'm just going to be a $300,000 producer," or “There's no way I'll ever land that huge account"?

Perhaps you've heard of the Imposter Syndrome. You look at yourself and doubt your worthiness, fearing that others will find out that you're an imposter who's not up to the job. In reality, you may be an extremely capable producer who lacks self-confidence. You must change your mindset!

2) Skillset. Can you imagine a professional basketball team that never practiced passing or shooting? The same expectation of mastery applies to insurance agencies.

Amateurs hope they get better; professionals make a plan to do so. If you want to transform into a high-performance agency, there are certain skills that you and your team must develop and improve on. The best agencies have a strategy to develop the skills they need to get from point A to point B. How is your agency training your team in key skills?

Here's a question I often ask insurance professionals: On a scale from one to 10, how important are communication skills—asking questions, actively listening, presenting—to your success? They always answer 10 (or higher).

But when I ask how often they practice this vital skill each week, do you know what I hear? Crickets. Simply talking to your co-workers every day doesn't count.

What's your agency's practice schedule? When and how often are you working to improve your communication skills? Practice is the only way to build confidence and competence. That's why you should regularly be rehearsing:

  • Your 30-second pitch
  • Asking for referrals
  • Handling objections
  • Points of differentiation
  • Leading sales meetings
  • Making a presentation

Furthermore, you should record yourself so that you'll know precisely what you need to work on. The only way you'll improve is by listening to yourself, and then practicing and polishing your delivery.

If you can't do it from your home or office, you can't do it out there. What if you feel silly? Wouldn't you rather feel awkward in front of your peers than look incompetent in front of a future ideal client?

Take a look at your team's calendar. Where is practice time on the schedule? The beginning of your weekly sales meeting is an ideal time to schedule low-risk practice.

3) Toolset. Just as a carpenter needs specific tools to do a job, so do insurance professionals. What are the resources—people, ideas and technology—in your toolbox? Who and what surrounds you and how do they affect your life and business?

First, let's examine the people that you and your team members are learning from and sharing with:

  • Peers. Your peers don't necessarily have to be people in your agency. They could be people in other industries who are doing their jobs at a high level.
  • Mentors. There's a lot to learn from people who have been places professionally that you haven't been yet.
  • Coaches. These are the people who will inspire, encourage and challenge you to achieve your full potential. We all need them. Over the years, I've worked with coaches because they help me see things and think in ways I hadn't before.

Next, what tools and resources are you providing your team? Here are some to consider:

  • Books and periodicals. Leaders are readers! You're either hungry to learn and grow or you're not. Better yet, you don't have to be an avid reader to learn new things.
  • Podcasts and audiobooks. These are excellent options for those who like to learn by listening. I have a weekly podcast, “The Agent Leader," and there are many others. You'd be amazed what you can learn from other successful producers and leaders in the industry just by listening.
  • Conversations and networking with industry leaders. One of the most impactful parts of training programs is our roundtables. We divide a large group of producers into smaller groups of four or five and each group shares ideas, discusses a specific topic, or answers a difficult question. After about 15 minutes, everyone reconvenes and group captains report their findings and share their ideas and observations.
  • Training and development programs. Without a doubt, these are an agency's most important assets. Unfortunately, even exceptional agencies invest only about 0.4% of their annual revenue on training, according to the 2021 Big “I" Best Practices Study Update. That's not nearly enough! If you're not dedicating sufficient resources to train and develop your team members, you can't expect to achieve high-performance results.

Ultimately, you'll save your agency time and money by surrounding yourself with the right people, skills, and tools.

Brent Kelly, president at The Sitkins Group Inc., is a motivating influencer, coach and speaker who has a passion for helping insurance agencies maximize their performance. This article was originally published on The Sitkins Group blog. Reprinted with permission from the May 2021 issue of Rough Notes magazine.

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Friday, December 10, 2021
Agency Operations & Best Practices