The day has finally come! The Ridiculously Amazing Insurance Podcast has launched!
We have been planning for this day for quite awhile, and we are so excited to share this podcast with all of you!
Are you an insurance agency owner or insurance agent looking to improve your strategies, communication, customer experience, or marketing in your agency? If so, you have come to the right place!
In this episode Kelly & Dave discuss the things that you, as a leader in sales/sales manager, or maybe agency owner, want to say to your sales team but just can’t do it. We will discuss different tactics and strategies that you can use to help build a relationship with your team, how to turn a hostile conversation into something that is productive and proactive, and personal experiences of Kelly and Dave have dealt with inside of insurance agencies.
Agency Performance Partners is ready to help you take your agency to the next level by being ridiculously amazing at all that you do!
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Transcription of Podcast is below
Kelly: Well hello everyone out there. This is Kelly Donahue- Piro and we’ve got Dave Siekman. He’s here for our first ever Agency Performance Partners’ podcast. Dave psyched are you to try this out.
Dave: I’m very psyched. This is exciting.
Kelly: What’s in the closet behind you?
Dave: Do you want me to open it?
Kelly: I don’t know, I don’t know if I want to go there, this is the first podcast.
Dave: Maybe for a future podcast we’ll open the closet.
Kelly: We don’t want to get kicked off of stitcher or iTunes for inappropriateness. We are super excited here to bring our first podcast. You know we’re calling this the Ridiculously Amazing Insurance Agent podcast because our goal is to bring tactical strategies to agencies. So one of the things that we want to do on our podcast, just for listeners you want to subscribe. We highly recommend that you understand that this isn’t going to be talking about what that theory is with the philosophy of insurance is or what you should be doing. This is kind of getting in the weeds and getting it done. So Dave and I are going to do crazy things like role play different scenarios and talk about how to confront the issues that are facing your agency and actually go back and forth, step by step. So if you’re struggling with your staff having cell phones on their desk or producers giving you excuses, we’re going to dive deep into how to solve that. So please make sure you Subscribe, we are going to podcasts once a month. It’s like a hotly coveted item and something that you look forward to when you see your podcasts list. So before we begin I think we’re going to introduce you Dave, because I don’t know if a lot of our public, I know that they know you exist, but I don’t think they know you that well. Do you want to say a few words about yourself.
Dave: Yeah, I don’t have the fan base that you have.
Kelly: It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
Dave: So yes, I’m David Siekman. I live here in Massachusetts.
Kelly: Don’t hold it against him.
Dave: I know. I’m sorry. I know Kelly always tells everyone to be a Patriot fans and I feel like that is the wrong direction to go. Yeah, been in the insurance industry 20 years and a licensed agent here in Massachusetts. I’ve been working on the agency side for 12 years dealing with staffing issues, working with sales and marketing people trying to get them to sell and market using these strategies. So I’m really excited to be onboard. I’m really excited about our Ridiculously Amazing podcast that we’re launching here today.
Kelly: So, here’s the other cool thing, is that Dave and I joked that we grew up in insurance together, as if we met each other at the sandbox. But literally we kind of started our careers and insurance life together and I’ve had the pleasure to work with him in miscellaneous career fields before we do now. We are working together and he’s hired here at Agency Performance Partners, helping us refine our sales programs. So super psyched to have him on the team.
Kelly: Yes, that’s right. Two times before that you hired the company I worked for. So it’s kind of like it’s been a long term relationship. But what I’m psyched about – let’s talk about where we’re at. So this podcast is getting released the end of January so maybe let’s do a quick recap of what went down in January. So Dave, what’s your January been like? Give the readers, the viewers a little bit of where you’ve been and what are you up to.
Dave: Sure. I’ve been working with a lot of local agencies here in Massachusetts area and then at the end of the month we were out in Phoenix at the IAOA conference. So it’s been a great month of meeting a lot of new agents and executing some of the strategies and some of the programs that we have.
Kelly: And I don’t know if you want to tell in case there are any Massachusetts agents out there listening that we’ve got a very special announcement for Mass agents, right?
Dave: Absolutely. We just got approved for a grant through the Workforce Training Fund. So two of our programs are Appx Sales and Appx Retention programs which are both eligible to be reimbursed 50 percent through the Workforce Training Fund Grant. So the cost to you is only half of what it would be. Buy One, Get One Free so to speak.
Kelly: And so if there’s anybody out there that knows of any similar programs in your state let us know we’re glad to apply. I think that that’s awesome. And for me I went to Houston which is always fun when you live in the Northeast to get out of the cold. We’re going to see our friends at Blue Marsh on Martin Luther King Day. They hired us to come out and do a training which, by the way guys, there’s four key days in insurance agencies that you can get away with shutting the whole office right? Martin Luther King Day, President’s Day, Columbus Day, and Veterans Day. Those are more like bank holidays. But we highly recommend that agencies take us up on our offer to do training those days because it’s not stressful. You’re not trying to answer the phones and dive in on customers. You can shut down, it’s like a bank holiday, a lot of the carriers are closed.
Great day to do trainings. We still have some of those eight dates available for 2018 so make sure you let us know if you want to talk about that. Also, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Gary V Event, the Agent 2021, super cool. Just so you guys know, we practice what we preach. So Daniela on our team tweeted Gary V. That’s how we got the opportunity to speak. So don’t think that all these strategies don’t work. They really do if you use them consistently. And then I don’t know, I mean how awesome was that day. We saw so many great people and we had a selfie booth there. I mean how crazy were all the pictures.
Dave: Yes it is incredible. It’s a little over the top I think sometimes.
Kelly: Hey, that’s how we roll here. But our main topic of what we’re talking about today is in conjunction with our January e-book. So for those of you that don’t know, we do an e-book every month. Chock full of free resources. So Dave and I always joke around like we give away more than we sell. So, you look at our Website and you can almost run a whole strategy for running your agency but it’s always more fun to do it with somebody else right. And Dave, you’re kind of fun.
Kelly: Well you can download that e-book and be in the show notes. Check it out. But really our topic today is what are things that you, as a leader in sales, maybe you’re a sales manager, maybe you’re the owner, want to say to your sales team but just can’t. I always say in my head that I can’t believe you just gave me that excuse. WTF is one that runs through my head a lot. Not totally appropriate, right Dave, to say those kind of things your staff. From what I understand.
Dave: No, absolutely. I mean there’s a couple of reasons behind it. I mean obviously you can get yourself into legal issues.
Kelly: Like that EPLI stuff that people are supposed to sell, right?
Dave: Yeah, but more important than that it is about putting them in a position to make them successful. But those kind of things run through our heads when we hear people make bad excuses. You know, we’re just being stressed out. Most of those things if we reframe them in a more positive light then we can actually create an environment that is conducive to selling more as opposed to you know, a combative environment where people are looking to make an excuse instead of make a sale.
Kelly: So I think that there’s two types of managers right? There’s the one where they kind of keep their head in the sand and they avoid it. Right? So, they don’t want confrontation. They don’t enjoy confronting someone. And so what happens is that problem keeps getting bigger and bigger and it compounds itself. So if you avoid interacting with the salesperson that’s not meeting their set goals, what happens four months from now? Well, for one they’re mad because they’re not making any money, right? Two, you’re mad because you’re probably subsidizing them. And the problem hasn’t been resolved in any way, shape, or form. What you have to do to fix it is so much greater than just addressing it during month one, right?
Dave: Right. Absolutely.
Kelly: The second type of manager I see Dave and I’m curious what you think on this. It is the one that sort of overreacts. So all those things that are in your great e-book just come flying out of their mouth and we call that what they’re just doing all the punch, punch, punch, punch, punch, but there’s no kiss. So it’s not kiss, kiss, punch, punch. It’s just all “You suck, everything sucks” and that’s a really tough place to work too, right?
Dave: Yeah, and there’s a lot of defensiveness to it. You know, they don’t want to have a conversation about why we’re doing something, they don’t want to think about you know different ways to do it. It’s kind of the my way or the highway type of thing. They don’t want to hear. They don’t want to hear even legitimate reasons why something might have gone wrong. So instead of trying to address the reasons or trying to figure out whether this just an excuse or is this a legitimate reason – it’s something we have to tackle and they just go right to “I don’t care. You know, just do it the way I’m telling you to do it” or whatever the case may be. And obviously what we want to do is, I think what you’re saying, is find the middle ground. OK you can’t just bury your head in the sand, but being overly aggressive doesn’t work either. So how do we thread that needle?
Kelly: So how often, Dave, when you go to agencies do you see this being a problem?
Dave: Well, I think it’s all over the place right. Even within the same agency you might have two different managers that are reacting differently. So I think the strongest managers are the ones that when we go into them they’re open to change and are open to us coming. Yet what I do find in most agencies is more of that defensiveness where they’re unwilling to change. They are unwilling to kind of look themselves in the mirror and say “Okay, here is why things aren’t going well. A lot of it’s on me or it’s the process I created or the system I implemented”. There’s many managers out there that would rather do it their way than admit that they might be wrong and make it more successful.
Kelly: They’re not even wrong, right? Just maybe that there’s a better way. I think there’s so many little things that are not right or wrong but you know it’s keeping an open mind and it’s keeping the idea that. You know my big feeling during life this year is “How can I keep things as simple as possible?” Right? And so we get a better result when things are simple or winning.
Dave: You’re right, a lot of times it’s just tweaking the process to make it line up for success.
Kelly: Yeah, and I think when the relationship deteriorates between management and sales it’s like everything’s being hidden. Right? There’s not a lot of transparency. You know, it’s when you walk by, “Hey how’s your pipeline?” “Oh, it’s big.”
Kelly: Big is not a number.
Dave: Not this month, but next month it’s all coming in.
Kelly: One more month. It’s all in there and you’re like well what’s that mean?
Dave: So you’re right. When there’s that relationship then you have the trust and then you have that transparency so that the sales reps are open to coming to you and saying “Hey, my pipeline is down.” versus trying to hide it or sandbagging policies at the end of the month because they’re above quota and they’re going to kind of push them into next month. It’s about creating that better relationship for you to be able to work together to be able to create more success.
Kelly: So, Dave I know you’ve managed a lot of salespeople in your day. Everything from the young right out of college kids to some seasoned professionals that you know were definitely selling 60 to 70 policies per month in personal lines which was crazy epic. When you were managing them what were some common challenges that you ran against that caused you to have that, “Hey, do I really want to say this but I’m going to bite my tongue?” What was your process, how did you take a deep breath and not let it fly out of your mouth and reconstruct it in a really positive manner?
Dave: Yeah it’s similar, and to be honest with you some of the tactics that we teach when you get an objection from a potential prospect where the last thing that you want to do is tackle it head on, right? You want to kind of take it on the side and roll with it a little bit. So it is, it’s taking a deep breath. To me the first thing that I’m trying to figure out is, is this a legitimate reason versus just a made up excuse.
Kelly: Well, like, is it supported by evidence?
Dave: Right, exactly. So, you know, nine out of ten times when somebody doesn’t hit quota it’s because they didn’t do something right. Because I’ve got ten sales reps, nine of them are hitting quota and one isn’t. I don’t care what you say to me, nine out of ten times it’s your fault. Having said that I still want to listen because I don’t want to just automatically react because even if I’m one hundred percent correct that they’re just making up an excuse being combative with them is not going to be conducive to a good relationship.
So a lot of times it’s about listening to what they’re saying and then responding just like we do again with an objection specifically to what they’re saying and help them figure out how to rule that out. And if, you know, a good sales rep is going to be open to having that conversation and if they’re not open to that conversation they’re probably not going to be around long anyway. But you need to make sure, as a sales manager, that you’re doing it appropriately so that you are around and that those sales reps that are performing well and need your help, and need your focus that you have your time to to help them be successful.
Kelly: Totally, and then I think one of the things that we try to stress, I know in a lot of the training that I do anyways, that I’m not mad if you didn’t make your quota. I’m mad that you didn’t book a meeting for me to strategize with you on how to get there. There’s a month where you missed by one, I get that, no one’s upset about that. It’s the month where you get to the end of the month and you’re running the report and you think you’re fine and then realize you’re not fine.
Dave: Right. You know you have that first weekly meeting and they haven’t had any sales. And they said don’t worry about it. I’ve got 20 in the pipeline, ten of which are guaranteed to close next week. At your next weekly meeting you’ve got two sales and now your pipeline is up to 30. That last weekly meeting, all of a sudden you can start to see, then they start to hedge a little bit. “Oh, I don’t know what went wrong.” But they’re never coming to you. They’re never saying either during your weekly meeting, or at any other time like, “Hey, can we sit down? It’s halfway through the month and I’m only 25 percent of the way to go. What can we do to fix this?
Kelly: Right. Tell me what I’m doing wrong, can we listen to some recorded calls together, whatever it is. It’s that openness to try to achieve and not hide things and not, it’s just kind of being open. And I love that because that’s the way we all get better. And you know we have a philosophy here that I’m never going to be mad at somebody for making a mistake or I’m never going to be mad at somebody for not hitting a goal as long the way we’re talking about it and I see a genuine effort to get there. But hiding it just it never gets anywhere.
Dave: I had an old boss who used to always say that the truth is never a problem. Taking that and applying that mid-month when you’re not hitting quota works a lot better than coming to me on the first of the month and saying “Oh, here’s what happened last month.” You know we need to be proactively going at it.
Kelly: Then, you know, one of the things we could talk about too here is with sales managers (as I’m sure you’ve experienced) typically sales managers and agencies are either agency owners or they’re also selling themselves, which means that their time is also very limited. So you can feel a lot as a producer, especially a new one, that everyone’s so busy. “I’m not getting the attention I need” and that can also be kind of a rain cloud on relationships or I think provide a sort of B.S. But it’s kind of a valid excuse for a producer. Right? So how do you handle something like that?
Dave: Well I think it starts with the sales manager. We definitely see this a lot where it can be hard to go from a producer to a sales manager or for a principal with no salespeople to bringing on a salesperson because you’re making the assumption that they are as skilled as you are in that area of sales. So I think that, as a sales manager or principal who is managing your salespeople, the first thing that you have to recognize is that managing salespeople is different from actually being in sales.
So you have to react to your salespeople as a manager in a way that’s going to put them in the best position to win. I think it’s very similar to coaching, there’s very few superstars that end up being great coaches. There are a handful of them. Typically the better coaches are the ones that either never played or maybe they played at some division 3 college because they look at it more as a manager, where as a coach how am I going to get others to succeed instead of just expecting them to do what you do.
Kelly: I think that’s a really valid point too, because generally if you’re a sales manager it’s because you’re sort of gifted in that area. So it’s not something you’ve had to work at, but for a lot of people sales is a series of activities, right? You do X amount of calls, you get to X amount of quotes, you do the blocking and tackling and it comes along. But for gifted salespeople they don’t have to do that. It just sort of comes naturally. Now they all have their own other shortcomings. Which you can get into in a whole other podcast. I guess what I think that the whole point is, is that you’ve got to put each other in other shoes and I think that I’m taking away from what you’re saying is that there has to be an understanding.
And I remember back when we first met at the previous company I worked for, I had a team member and he just said something that made the whole world the line for me. And he said, “You know what Kelly, my job as your employee is to make you look good.” And I just love that because I just kept trying to make everybody else look good and kept trying to get things done like I put a lot of energy into it. And I just said, “You know what, you’re right. The better I look. The better you look.” The whole cycle keeps going up the corporate ladder. And I think that for salespeople it’s like, “Hey make your sales manager look good.” right? If you’re on the sales floor, make your owner feel good, make him feel good when he’s cutting your commission check every month. And when you kind of think of it that way I think one of the things that we’re going to conclude here talking about is how do we make the whole thing simpler, right?
I don’t know about you, but I just walk into so many agencies where people spend so much time defending things versus actually solving the problem. So if you didn’t upload a signed app, I’ve seen producers spend 23 minutes explaining the reason why and defending themselves for like 23 minutes on why that app didn’t get uploaded and how it wasn’t their fault. I just think if you had prospected for 23 minutes it would have been a much better use of all of our time.
Dave: It’s that martyr syndrome where they want to explain why they are right even though it failed instead of just say, “OK I made a mistake. What’s the better way to do it?” and moving on to more productive tasks and activities.
Kelly: Right, and as a sales manager you run a fine line because you want to listen to them and maybe they have a valid point, but let’s be honest, 90 percent of the time it’s really just trying to dig themselves out of a hole and coming up with some elaborate story. I don’t have children but I know you do, Dave, and I’m sure sometimes you catch them doing something not right and they come up with some real doozies, right?
Dave: Right, exactly. Yeah, I mean they’re salespeople by heart, right? So they are trying to sell you all the time, and they’re try to sell you on why they didn’t hit quota or sell you on why they didn’t upload the document according to procedure and it’s just in their nature. So the better salespeople are the ones that struggle in this area because they are constantly trying to stay one step ahead of the curve.
Kelly: Yeah, and so I think as a manager when you’re dealing with the excuses of the day, you sort of have to just limit them and say, “We don’t deal with excuses here. It didn’t happen. We’re going to talk about how you’re not going to let it happen again. I don’t care how you got there. It just can’t happen in the future” and save yourself that 23 minute conversation. We can all recycle that time is something better. So Dave, you know in our conversation here, just to wrap up here, what were your main takeaways that you want to tell agents on how to handle that? You know, what you want to say these salespeople and the people managing them? You know what are your major takeaways for agents?
Dave: Sure. I mean I think the first one is to take that deep breath, and you can take a deep breath by listening, so listening does two things for you. It gives you a second to digest, and it also allows the other person to speak and then it’s similar, we didn’t really talk about this but I do want to make this point. There are only so many excuses in the book. So if you can create a response for those eight to ten general excuses that are going to come up, just like you create your responses to objections from prospects, then no matter what excuse somebody brings to the table you have your way to deal with it and you can pivot again just like we do in sales and address what is actually occurring versus what they’re trying to make up as an excuse. So to me those are the two big things to take a beat and then pivot it to resolution.
Kelly: Yeah, and I think my big takeaway is let’s just stop the excuses, like let’s go on an excuse resolution rampage, right? You know numbers don’t lie, but people do. So we can just kind of focus on spending. if you put the same energy into your excuses you put into selling that last policy or last couple policies, you’d be in a whole different scenario. And that’s how I’ve always taken it. So I think the big takeaway for me, for all you guys listening out there is, don’t be mad at a salesperson for not hitting their goal. Be mad at them or be upset, be frustrated I guess is a better word, for them not coming to you and diagnose what’s going on. And if somebody is continuously not coming to you, you have to either decide are they good for your team or do you need to put some checkpoints in that deal with evidence and facts along the way on their pipeline, not you know randomisation of everything’s going great. One thing I would say, we didn’t really talk about this either, but when somebody says, “Oh yeah I’m doing great.” Great. How many leads do you have in your pipeline? And if they can’t respond to you with pretty close accuracy you know that they’re not really engaged in it, right?
Kelly: They have to be able to say this is how many I’m working on right now.
Dave: Yeah. They should know everything, not just how many but where they are in the pipeline.
Kelly: So keep your expectations high. So real quick, just to kind of wrap everything up here so we’re going to do lots of shows. The e-book is going to be in there some of our other resources. We hope that you can subscribe. Love subscriptions to the podcast. Our next topic next month I think is going to be a doozy. So you’re going to see a little roleplaying I think here with Kelly and Dave, which will be fun. Considering that our role playing blog was one of our top ever. So I think it’s number two in the list, if you want to check that out we’ll put that in our show note, but we’re going to talk about why we can’t all just get along. Where is the difference between CSRs and producers? So how are CSRs and producers ever going to get along because I know it’s a very common thing that we deal with.
We’re also asking for any requests, so feel free to reach out to us on our Website or on social media. If there’s something you want us to talk about let’s do it. You want to keep these very tactical, like I said. I do want to give a little shout out, so this month in January. I want to say thanks to Tom Davenport, again from Blue Marsh, for having us out there on Martin Luther King Day. Awesome team, did a great training, he rented out like a conference room at a little resort in Pennsylvania. Super fun. So it’s great way to go to keep training your team and having us come out there. Awesome job, Tom. And let’s just say that we can’t wait to see you on our next podcast. So Dave, it’s been fun and on February’s podcast. We’re going to top this one, I think.
Dave: Excellent, looking forward to it.
Kelly: Alright guys, we’ll see you soon.