Strategic Management for Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers: Positive Change for Sustained Excellence

Monday, June 15, 2009

Change Management and Sales

An insurance agency is a sales business. Sure there is definitely a service component but nothing happens until somebody sells something. If you're feeling the economic pinch, and we all are, then sales - to new customers and to existing customers - is more important than ever. If you're not doing something to improve sales effectiveness then you are going to struggle to make it to the other side of this market.

One of the keys to the effectiveness of any sales organization is total commitment. Every one of your employees needs to be on the sales team. Are they? Is "sales" a department or a state of mind in your agency. If not the latter, then cultural change may be in order. And what does that require? Well, more sales of course.

he key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority." As much as I would have hated it as a line manager in corporate America, this quote by Kenneth Blanchard says it all. Of course, if you're the business owner you have the authority. But that's not how you get the best from your organization. You have to sell it. My friend Marsh Egan said it very well in this article on "The Convincing Side of Change."

Employees are customers, too. If you don't think so, remember back to the recruiting and hiring process. You (or someone in your organization) spent a good deal of effort selling that prospective employee on the benefits of working for your business. Just as you don't stop selling to customers, if you want buy-in and commitment to new ideas, you can't stop selling to employees.

It never ceases to amaze me that some of the very best sales people in the world, don't use those skills where they would do the most good. Right in their own businesses.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Accountability and Hiring and Firing

Building and maintaining a business where everyone owns their own job takes discipline. An agency owner told me he had recently terminated two employees. Not because he was cutting back but because he needed to upgrade his staff. These two individuals just wouldn't follow procedure. They weren't bad employees. They just couldn't sign on to doing things only one way - the agency way. "I tolerated it for too long," he told me. "And I realized last week that if I was ever going to have an organization where people were truly accountable to do things the right way, then I had to do something different. It wasn't easy but it needed to be done."

So now he's recruiting to fill two jobs. For the job market, it's a wash. For his agency - short term - there is some big expense. Hiring and training take time. For the long term, however, it could mean higher productivity and better performance. So, better profit. Higher return on investment. For the economy, it's a win.

Apparently this strategic thinking agency owner isn't alone. Check out this article in the
National Underwriter: "Insurance Hiring Continues Despite Poor Economy, Says Expert."

If you're looking for help to make a touch decision about a marginally performing employee, the bad economy might be a blessing for your business. One of the good things about a bad economy or a soft market is that it forces us to be more disciplined.