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What’s the Difference Between an Excuse and a Problem in an Insurance Agency

If there is one thing that is my arch enemy of an insurance agency it’s excuses. I can’t even try to hide my eye rolling when I see one in action, I literally have no poker face. I’m not even sure when I started cringing at them or the exact date that I started seeing excuses everywhere. But what I know is that excuses aren’t going to solve the problem.

In order to get to the heart of the matter let’s describe the differences between an excuse and a problem:

Problem

  • Clearly identified cause and effect
  • Identification of how we got to this problem
  • Unified agreement to solve the problem

Excuse

  • A perceived reason a goal or expectation was not met
  • No personal responsibility in how it happened
  • No commitment to changing our habits to fix it

Sounds lovely, right? So you may have heard some of these common excuses in your agency:

  • Too busy
  • Price, Price, Price
  • The leads aren’t good
  • I’m Too Busy Servicing
  • What you don’t understand is…
  • I’m Not a Salesperson

Have you heard any of those or maybe you have heard all of them? The point is too busy as an excuse doesn’t find the cause and effect, doesn’t identify how personally you got to be too busy, and most certainly doesn’t identify an agreement on how to tackle the problem. Excuses tend to go on Lather, Rinse, Repeat mode (if you really looked at your shampoo bottle we would all never be able to leave the shower). When one excuse is allowed they tend to keep popping up. People rely on the same excuse that they gave you and you accepted. We learn this behavior and then when allowed will use it as a crutch when we are being held accountable to something.

Excuses generally challenge you as a leader because you may be thinking what can you do differently. Excuses put the ball into someone else’s court. This is such a dangerous place to live. You can spend all night thinking of ways to improve lead quality but the reality is because it’s an excuse you don’t have buy in from the other party. If you had buy in from the person who’s paycheck it was affecting the most, they would be coming to you with potential solutions or things to try. Or better yet they would be asking for your help on ways to improve the situation.  Excuses come when we want to protect ourselves from some vulnerability.

Is it easier to say to your sales manager “I’m not hitting my goals because I’m too busy servicing” or “I just didn’t prospect that well 90 days ago.” It’s easier to throw your service team under a bus. Then as a leader you think well we have had vacations and one person on the team isn’t very strong and you buy into the excuse. Excuses are fueled by emotion, not facts. When you receive an excuse you need to have a strong plan of how to break it down and refute it.

Step 1: Remove feelings from the equation

You need to ask detailed follow up questions. What service activities are you doing, how often, why aren’t you sending them to the service team?  Then you need to back them up with data points. In this example run an activity report to see.  Did you do 2 certs for a client in a pinch or do you not trust the service team so you are over servicing?

Step 2: Share the facts

When people are emotional AND they are trying to protect themselves from missed expectations you need to confront them not with more feelings but with actual facts. When you share the facts with them in a coaching manner you can break through to dive into the real challenges.

Step 3: The Breakthrough

You may have to sit with the excuse giver for some time so they breakthrough to the real challenge on their performance. In their head they have made up a story that they believe to be true so don’t expect the breakthrough to take 2 minutes. If they believe the cause of their poor performance is the amount of service work they have to do they need to be brought down the path of self realization. When they shake off the excuse, they have to face their responsibility in the problem.

Step 4: Support the Responsibility

For many people we blame others to take away our responsibility. In this situation, if  a producer is sitting at their desk servicing and not sending the work or educating their clients on where to send requests they need to own that. It’s much easier to do 5 minute service tasks than make 60 cold calls. However one of those activities will help hit the goals and the other will not. Do not come down on the person for actions. Instead share times you may have fallen into the same trap. Embrace them for identifying the real challenge.

Step 5 Build a Plan and Monitor It

Now that the excuse has been pushed aside we can identify how we are going to improve from here. We need 3 baby steps the person is going to commit to and you, as the leader, need to be their accountability partners to see it through.

Don’t let excuses get in the way of your agency’s performance. If you are struggling with these issues our Agency Assessment may be a great fit for your agency!

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