The Ridiculously Amazing Insurance Podcast Episode 2 has launched!
The wait is over, episode two is here for you to listen to!
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 challenges the service and sales team have when communicating with one another, and the turmoil it can bring inside of the agency to effect productivity, efficiency, and success of the agency.
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Transcription of Podcast is below
Kelly: Well hello everyone out there on podcast land, this is Podcast number two
Kelly: We’re in the terrible twos now Dave! And we’re super psyched to bring you this February’s Podcast. God, how fast did February fly by?
Dave: Super quick month!
Kelly: I know, shortest month! Right? 28 Days. Valentine’s Day. You got President’s Day. All sorts of things, right?
Dave: Where were you in Florida? Florida, you were in Florida. Where were you in February that’s what I meant to say.
Kelly: Um well, February was a very very awesome month. So, I actually took my first real vacation in 8 years.
Dave: Did you go to…
Kelly: We went to the Bahamas
Dave: Oh wow, I thought you stayed in Rhode Island.
Kelly: No, no, no, no, no, no. Rhode Island’s not that fun in February and it’s not really a tourist hotspot
Dave: You can just say that Rhode Island’s not that much fun
Kelly: NO, Rhode Island’s very fun!
Dave: I’m just kidding
Kelly: Very very fun. So, went on vacation, um, I was in Atlanta. We saw a new client, Berger, uh, Berger Neil. Which is great. Uh. Michigan, saw some old friends at Kennedy Nemier and then headed to Canada actually. And we actually launched a new client together too. Uh, looks like America’s Choice. It’s out in Michigan. I feel like one of the things in this line of work Dave is that you get called to the colder areas than where you currently live, in the winter months.
Dave:We have to figure out how to start marketing in the south more for the winter.
Kelly:Well I think we go down there when it’s hot because they’re all like ‘Oh it’s too hot, I’m going to stay inside in the air conditioning. Let’s do some training’. And it’s kinda like vice versa for the cold states like ‘Great time to do training. No one’s on vacation, no one’s leaving their house. Let’s do it’. So luckily we’re seasoned. How about you? Where were you all month long?
Dave: Well I was with you for a couple of those places, I was also out in Ohio launching a new Appx retention program at Louis Clark, and in California, for the short little trip there as well.
Kelly:Well I mean,here’s the thing. You got to go to California in February.
Dave:Yeah, not complaining.
Kelly: I think we should talk to Daniela to try and get us some leads in Hawaii.
Dave: Yes! You hear there are some really good agents down there.
Kelly: Fantastic. Fantastic. I’m going to try to go to the Bahamas and see if I can catch one or two too.
Dave:Yeah, Aruba, I hear is a really up and coming insurance industry.
Kelly: This podcast could go international. So let’s talk about what we’re getting into here today. Okay, so this is, I think this is one of my favorite topics. How do you feel about today’s topic?
Dave:I love it as a topic, I don’t love it as a daily occurrence that we have to deal with as sales managers.
Kelly: What we’re talking about today is that ever-old, since the beginning of time, the conflict between sales and service. Have you guys ever had experiences in your agency? It just feels like it’s becoming more and more prevalent. And a lot of it has to deal with emotion, we’re going to dive into that today. So things like producers never seem to give enough detail which drives service people nuts. It’s kinda like ‘Well here’s a name on a napkin, just call them. I don’t know what he wants, go be salesy’. And then on the service side it seems like ‘Hey service people don’t care about sales, and they don’t know how to hustle’ and ‘You know they’re not processing my leads and quoting my business quick enough’ and so there’s all this conflict back and forth and again it just seems like there’s so much wasted energy on it that it’s a good thing for us to address today I think.
Dave: Well I like how you always saw ‘Can’t we just get along?’ It’s so true. We have to look at what value the other party brings to the table, I think that’s really what’s lacking is saying, you know if you’re on the service side saying ‘Well if we don’t have sales people, we don’t have any revenue, we don’t have any jobs.’ But if you’re a sales person you have to say ‘Well without the service people, I’m not closing any deals, which means we don’t have any revenue which means we don’t have any jobs’ so just giving a little bit of props to the other side and understand how they are there to improve revenue, increase through, do all the things we are trying to do.
Kelly:And well I think so too. You know I’m curious, you’ve done a few assessments here on agencies. I feel like it always comes up in the assessment.
Kelly:So for you guys that dont know we do this agency assessment thing where we kind of dive deep and there’s an anonymous survey and there’s secret shopper calls and there’s interviews and metrics. Kind of like the top to bottom physical for your agency and it’s always like you’re reading these comments and it’s always like ‘sales, service, sales, service’ kind of throwing each other under the bus. And I’m curious, you’ve been in a managerial role, real leadership role at several agencies, like how much time did you spend kind of negotiating that. In a given week how many hours would you spend on sales versus service conflicts?
Dave: Yeah I mean it’s 20% I’d say of every given day. Because for some reason, they won’t be able to solve the conflicts themselves. So you start to hear it, it starts to bubble over, then all of a sudden there’s a knock at the door, and it’s either both of them or one of them and all they want to do (You know it’s similar to having kids), they just want to complain. They just want you to say yes you’re right and go punish the other person. But what we need to do is again create that sense of empathy and make sure that they’re looking at it from the eyes of the other person. So do you have any suggestions or ideas if a sales person comes to you and says ‘I’m not able to get sales because my service people aren’t getting me the quotes back’ how do you react to that?
Kelly: Well I think the first thing you need to know too is one of the symptoms that you just mentioned is that both teams rally together like rival games, you know what I mean? So it’s not just like you’re dealing with this one person, they sort of start gaming up and they come into the manager’s office like there’s a union rep that’s going to come lay down the philosophy. So you might have spent two hours, but like internally in that group, the producer has been on the phone with each other for four hours discussing it so it’s like the time vacuum is deep. But then you go out there and it’s not like Sally CSR vs. Pete the Producer. It’s like, now it’s all their gangs. So I’m being very visual too, but it’s true. But what happens then in a really toxic culture like that is then ‘Oh well if he’s treating her that way, I’m going to put his quote to the bottom’ and then what happens is ‘Well the account manager didn’t treat my friend, the producer’s clients well so I’m going to be rude to her’.
Dave: Like downward spirals
Kelly: Time, time, time, time, time suck. You know when people say they’re too busy I’m like what are you too busy doing because if it’s…..
Kelly: Then yeah well we don’t have time for that. So I think when somebody comes to me with anything along those lines the first thing I say is ‘Okay here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to call you both into the conference room together with me and I want to see facts. We’re not going to talk about feelings. I want to see when you submitted the quote. Did you do a full submission? Did you get everything that you needed? And then how long it took from there.’ And then quickly do a little search so the producer will coil back a little bit. ‘Well I don’t have all the information but we needed to get out and block the market and de de de de de’ nad then if you have good strong agency procedures you can go back to ‘Well we don’t submit till we have everything’ and they follow the plan. And I think it just goes back to having those boundaries and rules and expectations of what everybody should do so it kinda cuts through that feeling of everybody right?
Dave: Yeah and I think there has to be some give on the account managers part as well
Dave:You’re not trying to hold them to every ‘Well section BQ349 of our manual says that you have to put the staple in the upper left hand corner’. I mean they’re sales guys. They’re not going to follow every procedure to the letter. So if they got 99% or 95 % of the way there. You’re going to have to say ‘Okay, it’s good enough, I have what I need to at least get a number, block the markets, do those things that we need to do’. Now granted before you submit the application, before you bind the coverage, you might need additional information but to me that’s the common complaints from the sales reps was ‘Well i almost got there’ and what we really need to define is ‘Well how almost is almost?’ Was almost only 50% of the way there?( and really that’s your call) or it was almost 99% of the way there and the account manager is just trying to push it back to get something off their plate.
Kelly: Right. I had an instance recently where the producer was very upset with the time it took to quote and then I looked at his submissions to the personal lines and there was no driver’s license numbers, so it was like ‘Well how are we going to get a quote?’
Dave:Think of the number
Kelly: AND the account manager showed she emailed him, and of course there was a technology issue the emails were going to spam, and blah blah blah,but we’ve got to get rid of the anger I think the big thing is. So let’s start by talking a little bit, Dave, about the producer’s side. So let’s take the producer’s side and the CSR’s side because I think our last podcast we talked about putting us in each other’s shoes. So how do producers typically feel in regards to the service team? It may not be realistic, it may not be factual but just the general sentiments you generally see producers resonating on about the service team.
Dave: Yeah I think that they feel like the service team doesn’t understand that new business is the life blood of the agency. And without the new businesses, without the new sales the whole thing becomes obsolete. I think sales reps are so focused on the deal they’re on and the next deal, and they’re not focused on the details and I think that often they feel like the service reps are doing everything they can to not write the policy because it’s not perfect. And I think that there’s some truth to it, but I think it’s almost a cartoon version of the truth. They look at the service department and they just see exponentially worse than what the reality is. I think that there’s just no detail. Very few sales reps, I shouldn’t say none of them, but most sales reps don’t have that capacity for detail that the service reps are looking for and they don’t really see the value in detail. So when the service reps push back on them for that they tend to just think that they’re just putting up unnecessary road blocks.
Kelly:Yeah, I also think the service teams don’t understand that for most producers, most of their compensation is based on commission
Kelly: So if they don’t hustle this deal, they might not pay their mortgage that month. They don’t have the security of their paycheck, and I think that’s where the whole rift comes into play because there’s a different personality type. If you’re a producer you like the idea of working hard making as much money as you can on your own two feet. If you’re an account manager, you like that security of that paycheck every week. And so there’s totally different motivations.
Dave: Absolutely. What’s the reverse side of that? How do the account managers look at the producers?
Kelly: A lot of the times I feel like the biggest frustration is not with the producers it’s with management. So they believe that management feels that producers are above them and so they look at it as ‘I’m slaving here at my desk, I’m killing myself, the phone won’t stop ringing, these guys are golfing and all it is is that they walk on water and the can do no wrong’ Right? And the reality is most producers are in alignment with agency ownership. They have similar personality traits and they just get along better because most agency owners produce too so there’s that component of it. I think they also feel like everything on their desk is a 911. So if you’re supporting several producers, and agency, and clients, there’s no real great way to prioritize. So ‘How do I prioritize Dave’s quote or renewal vs. the owner’s quote? What am I going to work on first? It’s a lot if times unclear and one of things I know that we worked on a lot during the end of year planning meeting was kind of getting used to saying ‘by when’ so if a quote comes in “By when do you need this?’ And if a producer puts a quote on the CSR’s desk ‘By when can you have this back to me?’ And sort of setting up those expectations so people don’t just feel like it’s in a black hole and the CSR doesn’t feel like there’s this stack. Well you could be working on a renwal that’s 120 days out when there’s a new quote on your desk that’s two weeks out. I’m kinda figured that part out. I also think that they have a lot of envy for the producer’s schedule from there perception which is narrow. Often they see the producers coming in at 10:00 with coffee in their hand and leaving at three and they think they’re just playing hookie, when in reality good producers are at networking events and working on Saturday to catch up on everything. And they’re looking a bit like ‘Well I’m dinged if I come in at 8:35, I want to stop and get a cup of coffee but I can’t because I had to drop my kid off at school.’ And so they have very stringent rules and regulations. The producers and sales are much more laid back and I think a lot of the account managers are working moms and they have families, they have stuff, so they always feel like they’re running from point A to point B and they would just like a minute to stop and have a cup of coffee. I know that was pretty visual but I also think that because the account managers develop big relationships with the clients they feel like ‘How is this person making commission, but i’m the one with the relationship?’ especially in commercial lines right? So it’s like ‘This guy who doesn’t answer any calls, the client tells me he’s mad because the producer never calls them back. Why is he still making money on this deal?’
Dave: Yeah and that falls just back into what you’re saying before that’s the underappreciated aspect. Underappreciated by the sales reps, underappreciated by ownership, underappreciated by the client. You know it’s just, it’s that whole thing where they feel like they’re doing 90% of the work because they don’t see the other work that’s being done.
Kelly: Right and they don’t want to do the other work. So I think for both parties, account managers and producers, right like a producer doesn’t want to sit at the desk and type into a computer all day to do certificates or rate insurance right? And an account manager doesn’t want to go out at night and be told no ten times at a networking event and leave their family and not go to their kid’s soccer game. So it’s like they don’t want to do each other’s jobs but like…
Dave:They want to tell each other how to do their jobs
Kelly:Right and I want to say like you said something about kids. It’s kind of like marriage, right? Like I would have my expectation of my husband, should be just like me. You know? Like I’m a morning person but he’s not so into the morning. It’s like ‘Hey hun want some coffee? What’s going on? What do you got today?’ and he’s just like ‘I hate you, get out of my face’. It’s not that we don’t have a respect for each other, it’s just you have to understand that you have to have a respect for the other role.
Dave:I think that it’s a good analogy because I think that that’s what you know in a good marriage. That’s what you do is you start to look at it from the other person’s perspective. You may not expect them to react the way you want them to, but expect them to react the way they’re going to react. And I think that if producers and account managers will kind of do a little bit more of that. I think that would grow that respect and then you would start to see some changes. So you start to see the producers actually, you know, putting in a little bit more detail, or being a little bit more understanding if something’s going to be late. And then you’d see the account managers, you know again, having a little bit more give, being a little bit more flexible, and trying to prioritize correctly so that things are getting out the door in good stream.
Kelly: So Dave let me ask you this question. Say a producer is listening to this podcast number two and they’re thinking ‘You know what? I’m kind of a jerk to my Account Manager’. They want to break the cycle of abuse let’s just say. What are some ways that you think a producer could maybe breakdown that and improve that relationship proactively without it coming to the volcanic blow-up?
Dave: I mean I think there’s two things. I think that you know obviously a conversation is a great way, you know? And I don’t think you have to like fully admit fault but maybe to say ‘Hey let’s go grab a cup of coffee I just want to try to clear the air and see how we can get back on track here’. I think it’s a great way to start it. I think that the key is then making sure that you’re acting on that and making sure that anything that you promise you’re going to do to change- that you start to enact those changes so that the account managers just doesn’t think that you were just trying to sell them or you’ll get them to do what they want it to do but you’re not actively making any changes.
Kelly:I think it’s a great point and I also think in any sales role I always had a great respect for the people supporting me because I got the fact that with them behind me I can do my job so much better and have a better work environment. I also don’t think that there’s anything wrong with praising the team for the good work that they do. We had one agency in Michigan where I tasked the owners, there was five of them, they had to pay one compliment a day to the staff. (They were brothers) and the whole staff turned around because they just felt like the brothers were fighting all the time it was always ‘This isn’t good enough’ and it was ‘them versus the other one’ and just by even saying something simple like ‘Hey thanks so much for getting those certificates out right away, that was awesome’. People just perked right up like ‘Oh you’re welcome’. So you don’t have to be complicated but you know if somebody goes the extra mile on the deal there’s nothing wrong with buying them a bottle of wine or a gift certificate to go out to dinner too. If they’re really supporting you, praise them for it.
Dave: So what do you think the account managers could do differently in order to be able to satisfy the producers a little bit more.
Kelly: I think that there’s got to just be that clearing of the air that you said. I find so often in agencies that I’m more likely to call you up David and be like ‘Can you believe what so-and-so did?’ versus just coming up to the person and saying ‘Hey can we talk about this file? I think that there are some miscommunications’. I love it when you address a problem that you know and you take a hundred percent of the responsibility. So if I’m a producer I’d say ‘I’ll let you know, I’m a hundred percent responsible. I could have improved my communication here so how can we improve this in the future?’ You know? When all the fists come down and it’s not just like fighting with each other it’s like ‘I’m gonna take responsibility. Tell me how I can improve. Tell me how you like things structured so I can try to make it easier on you. I think you’ve come from a long way’. But the account managers have to keep an open mind and understand that if you want their job, most agencies would say in a heartbeat “But you’re going to change your compensation structure pretty dramatically.” So if you really don’t want their job or don’t want to change your comp structure, then it’s all about how do you get it to work and focusing on that. Because focusing on all the problems (and you know we have the Eeyore and Tigger right?) be a Tigger about it. Don’t, don’t be an Eeyore like ‘Ah so-and-so submitted another crappy quote’.
Dave:Yeah a lot of it had to do with being proactive and what do you need to get a result. So you have the example of the producer that didn’t submit the license numbers right? Well maybe he has them, he just forgot to do it. So a quick response instead of like declining the submission or putting it at the bottom of the pile that doesn’t have it a quick response, saying ‘You know, hey P, you didn’t put the driver’s license numbers in here and you have them’ can go a long way. To say that maybe ‘I forgot to do it’ or ‘I don’t have them’ or ‘I do have them, and here you go’. It can you know move the code forward instead of trying to punish them or teach them a lesson, we’re actually trying to proactively solve the problem.
Kelly: I also think as an account manager that you could do is try to build some structure in. So things like ‘Can we meet every Monday at 9:00 a.m. to go over your pipeline or to go over your renewals?. And then you know I always teach account managers, by the way, you know what throws the whole relationship off is communication? So I like it when when account managers say ‘Every Friday I’m gonna give you an update on where your renewals stand and where your new business stands’. Even if it’s just an email like ‘Here’s what I have, here’s what the deal is’ and that stops a lot of the missed expectations. And I think that the more proactively we communicate, especially with producers who are kind of on the road and they’re really managing their whole life from their cell phone, you know? The more proactive communication, the updates they get, the better off we’re all gonna be and that takes what? 10 minutes.10 minutes to free up your whole day from having to complain to your co-workers how much you hate each other? That sounds like it’s worth it. But I would say the other item that you had picked up on with ‘Hey well when you get the fact that somebody didn’t give a full submission or you don’t have the detail, you need on a renewal’, account managers need to just do this. Go ‘Dave get me this and then I’ll get right back on it’ but they don’t need to go do ‘Dave get me this, get right back on it. Sue! Sue! He did it again! He did it again! See! Three months ago he did the same thing!’.
Dave:I think you hit on it before but I think it’s just an acceptance right? Just understand that this is how producers are and this is how account managers are and you’re never gonna change them. You’re not gonna teach them a lesson and you’re not gonna make them do a 180. They’re just gonna be what they are. Now that’s not to excuse either side. If they’re being you know too over-the-top then having a little forgiveness and just letting them be them will go a long way to resolving most of these.
Kelly: Well I hope that if you’re having this conflict in your office that you pop this podcast on for everyone to listen to because I think you can learn a lot from it. So, Dave what are your key takeaways today from our conversation? What’s the one message you want to get out to producers and account managers?
Dave:I think it’s acceptance it’s it’s being able to say ‘This is what a producer is. A producer is not an account manager. An account manager is not a producer.’ If you could do each other’s jobs there wouldn’t be the need to have the two different roles. So I think it really comes down to acceptance. It’s really just this idea that I know who that other party is and I know how they’re gonna react to things and trying to have a little bit of empathy and and take a step closer to them so that you’re working better together.
Kelly: That’s good. Good one. I’m gonna say I think that the gang mentality has got to go away. You know? Because it’s just such a waste of time and I think that there’s so much better use of that time whether it’s prospecting, or following up, or processing renewals or hopping on certificates faster that wins more business. I just, it’s just so toxic and it just doesn’t win. It’s just digging that hole even deeper and deeper and then you gang up on the whole teams and now unraveling that becomes a much bigger issue.
Dave: I think that’s a great point cuz I think it’s as much a time wasted as it is that toxicity that you’re talking about. So here the mentality is two very strong negatives to it.
Kelly: And the cool thing is if you do have this problem you’re just struggling with it, let us know. I mean that’s what our agency assessments are for to be honest with you. So if you’re out there thinking to yourself like ‘I’ve got you know the Bloods and the Crips in my office and they’re both at each other’s throats’ let us know. That’s what we do.
Dave: You could even use the Sharks and the Jets.
Kelly: I should have used the Sharks and the Jets. There’s so many gangs out there. Well I hope you guys enjoyed this podcast. So we have a whole ebook on this as well. So breaking down some of the strategies that you can use so make sure to check that out in the show notes. Um. Next topic Dave is one I think that I know you personally have been through. And I know it’s one that I have personally helped walk some agencies through. It’s ‘How to get the whole team to buy into marketing’.
Dave: Oh fun!
Kelly: It’s like how do you get those ‘Everyone has to be in a picture just for someone’s birthday’ you know? We had an agency announced they’re doing a photo shoot for one of the brand guides we did through Agency Appeal and the staff like literally pretty much walked out. So how do we get there and how do how do I make that happen. So I think that’ll be a fun one. Again if you have any requests, reach out to us on social media check us out. We’d love to take any personal requests. I just want to give a little shout out here to one of our clients Jeff and Una Roy from Excalibur. You guys might know them. They’re great APP clients and it was great to see them in Canada. And if you guys need anything let us know. We’re happy to help whether it’s an agency assessment or sales training or retention training we’re here for you guys so we’ll leave you at that and David we’ll see you next month in our next podcast.
Dave: Podcast 3!
Kelly: Podcast 3!
Dave: Podcast 2 out!