A common shared struggle that I find in many insurance agencies is the lack of an established and vibrant sales culture. Many agencies agree that they have a service dominated focus while often, sales opportunities are overlooked in lieu of service tasks and activities. Successful, growing agencies prioritize sales because they know that no matter how good their service is, their agency ceases to exist without sales. Developing a sales culture in your agency certainly includes creating sales processes, but it is also a philosophy that needs to permeate the entire organization from top to bottom. So what are the key pieces needed to develop a high performance sales culture in your agency?
Culture change must always start at the top, and leadership must be strong enough to embrace it, embody it, and communicate it regularly. If you’re the leader of your agency, I’m not saying that you must be the best salesperson, visionary leader, highly gifted manager, and persuasive communicator all wrapped into one. You can accomplish what’s needed to be a strong leader by being committed to the process of change in ways that your team can see and follow. Invest in the process, learn together, train together, work together, and lead your team by example with a commitment toward building a business that benefits everyone. A dynamic sales culture will translate to growth for your agency, growth opportunities for your team, and greater protection for the clients you serve. Building a high performance sales culture can never be expected to start at the bottom and work its way up toward leadership. Simply investing in sales training for your staff while leadership doesn’t participate is not effective. Leadership must believe, model, and lead the change by working to weave new principles and actions into the daily fabric of your agency’s culture.
A sales-focused mission
I always share that a mission statement must be simple, easy to memorize, and reflect actionable goals. But oftentimes, mission statements are feel-good words printed, framed, and hung on a wall for clients to admire and staff to forget. Keep your mission easy to remember, communicate it often, and emphasize your sales focus. You are in the sales business, so make sure your mission statement reflects this important truth. I firmly believe that healthy and effective agencies pursuing growth must love their clients and provide great service, but excellent service always includes sharing products and services that your clients didn’t know they needed before they spoke with you. This is sales; and not telling someone about something they need is bad service — plain and simple. Therefore, an agency committed to excellent service is always focused on sales. Remind your team of your mission and keep it simple:
You are a sales organization
You grow by adding new clients
You grow by building additional business with your current clients
You grow by working to retain business with each client you serve
A clear, uniform, and consistent sales process that everyone must follow
Many leaders I meet can articulate their own personal and informal sales process while often each person on their team has their own unique approach. Developing a clear, uniform, and consistent process that everyone knows and executes every day, all day, on every call and with each face-to-face interaction is essential. Your road to greater performance and success must be intentional — from how calls are answered and transferred, to the development of scripts used to guide your team, to working through excellent service interactions toward opportunities for your clients’ greater protection and your agency’s growth.
Answer and work to overcome client concerns
Since clients can often respond with fear, uncertainty, or doubt when presented with new opportunities, establishing a sales culture in your agency means preparing in advance for what you know will happen in advance. People will say ‘no’ to your suggestions. Believing that your products and services are valuable and needed by your clients for their best protection is key. Training, role playing scenarios, and coaching coupled with an attitude of educating clients toward a deeper understanding of policy value can work to overcome a variety of customer concerns. With practice, you’ll find your team shifting many objections from an initial ‘no’ to a ‘yes.’ Working as a team to develop a list of common concerns, pre-planning answers to overcome client fears, and being willing to politely challenge customer concerns and assumptions will drive sales and help to better protect those you serve.
Train and practice together
Practice makes perfect, so why not practice together in a safe environment? Many of us may not enjoy the idea of sitting in a room with our colleagues and being the one in the hot seat to practice handling calls, working to overcome concerns and objections, and being subject to scrutiny and group feedback. The truth is, however, it will make you better. It can also build team morale and relationships if feedback is delivered constructively rather than with harsh criticism. Setting aside time to role play scenarios with best practices and scripts will allow each person to follow a consistent team process while shaping the wording to their own personality. Rating one another’s practice with constructive feedback will help your team make sure they are hitting all the points of a successful call while sharpening their skills. Agencies building a sales culture commit to the practice of constant improvement and are open to constructive feedback and coaching.
Monitoring and managing the numbers
You can’t manage what you’re not measuring, and you can’t make progress toward a goal if you don’t know where you’re starting. Do you have and does your team know your goal for agency monthly new business? Are you tracking monthly new business per person by policy count and premium, cancellation policy count and premium, renewal policy count and premium, retention policy & premium percentages, and weekly cross sell attempts and wins? Establishing the right measurements and keeping track weekly will allow you to measure your growth and success while also giving you what you need to make changes if something’s not working.
Transparency and healthy competition with incentives
There’s no need to keep all the numbers secret. Public sharing of team metrics and progress keeps the process transparent to motivate your team and foster healthy competition. Over time, you’ll find your team pushing each other to be better the next week, next month, and next quarter. It will also help your team reach for incentives. An agency determined to foster a sales-focused culture measures and communicates progress toward goals, end results, and improvements along the way. Your sales activity will be energized when incentives are in place to motivate your team to succeed and when achieving individual and team goals are rewarded, recognized, and publicly celebrated.
A commitment to clearly and consistently ask for the business
High performance sales cultures clearly and unapologetically ASK for the business from their clients and prospects. I hear many calls each week where agents mention an additional line of business but don’t clearly ask for it. Often, the client is silent or non-committal when they have not been clearly asked for the business, and the agent responds to the awkward silence by moving on rather than clarifying and asking again clearly. Our statistics show that when agents are asked if they prefer to email or call clients back with answers, half prefer emailing while half prefer calling. In other words, half prefer no direct verbal interaction and are comfortable leaving next steps in the hands of their client without directly and personally ASKING for the business.
What steps will you take today to begin building your high performance sales culture?
While you can certainly build a sales culture with new beliefs, attitudes, and sales processes on your own, why not invest in a proven approach through our AppX Sales program? Agency Performance Partners is here to help with your team training, coaching, measuring, and accountability as we partner with you to help lead your team toward measurable growth and improvement. We’ve compiled data from years of successfully assisting agencies achieve an average 36% increase in written premium, 57% increase in apps written, and 95% of agency staff happy with our process and results. Perhaps it’s time to invest in yourself and your people? After all, while new technology tools are attractive and alluring, investing in developing your people is of prime importance. It is their personalities, presence, and skills that will always have the greatest impact on your clients each and every day. Reach out to us today to get started!