After working with hundreds of producers, agency owners and carrier teams alike, I’ve established some common reasons many producers don’t make it in the industry.
1. Not having enough to work on. Even with qualifying, learning to listen and asking the right questions, not having enough of “X” types or sizes to work on will ensure steady decline in your numbers and your self esteem. You’d be amazed at the producers I find that only have less than 50 prospects to work on for the year; for most that is a recipe for failure.
2. Not making a request. Whether it’s in prospecting energy or the energy to get off the couch and ask your agency principal, your account manager (CSR/CSA), or your underwriter – heck ANYONE ELSE for help, producers who aren’t pests at asking often will find themselves disappointed at the lack of attention. People aren’t mind readers – make a request.
3. Agency leaders aren’t really leaders. Our industry is a deep end of the pool kinda industry. We have a “Throw ‘em in. If they paddle, they’ll make it” kind of philosophy. Think about it, would you really do that to someone close to you, like a family member [well, maybe you say, that depends J] The sad part is that a little more pain in training NOW will likely pay off BIG later. Short term pain in getting them trained right will help them feel better about their efforts, and you as managers more settled in knowing the signs if they don’t have the stuff to make it. Many managers wait way too long to let someone go because they feel guilty about not offering enough training up front. Save the time, the disappointment, the money and the blame. Care enough to invest in training and coaching your producers to succeed.
4. Agencies don’t use the resources they already have available. You have staff that are more knowledgeable in key areas than even your seasoned producers. Let your team help bring producers along instead of hoping they pick it up by osmosis or in next year’s CE class. Carrier relationships, how to deal with difficult customers, great client service and coverage knowledge – don’t underestimate the education and experience of your service team.
5. Referral sources at your fingertips go untapped. I teach producers how to work referrals right from the beginning. How? New producers have great referral advocates in the existing house accounts that most agencies have on auto-pilot. New producers working a new niche program can go out with their cold call prospect list to those existing loyal insureds and ask “I’m going to call on these accounts anyway…would you be willing to just take a look at my list and let me know if there’s anyone here you could tell me about…” Referrals have the lowest acquisition cost, and the highest hit ratios of anything else you can be doing today.
6. Not learning the people side of business. Do you remember the good ol’ days of learning? You know, the incessant desire we once had in the 80’s and early 90’s for identifying and overcoming weaknesses and becoming a better professional, heck- a better human being? Hopkins, Ziglar, Nightingale? Then came Covey, Collins and Drucker. Motivational speakers were at an all time high. And so were the follow up cassette tapes and then CDs. It was a time for learning about people, the psychology of sales, and understanding more about the way people think, act & feel. I tell the agencies I coach, if you don’t think we’re in the psychology business, think again. We are in a service industry. We work with helping people, with strategy, positioning and adversity EVERY DAY. Isn’t it time to begin a culture of learning about the people side again?
7. Having something to believe in. If you talk with me, you know one of my core principals is having a vision powerful enough to call me through the pain of transformation [change]. I learned the power of vision [and the powerlessness of not having one] 15 years ago when I attended a momentous 4 day workshop. The experience changed my life, and led me to empower others for having something to believe in. It’s no wonder that many producers, and agency owners feel lost, especially in this tough time. What do you believe in? Is it evident in the physical and material circumstances around you?
8. All talk no action. Ever catch yourself saying, “I’ve heard that before” or “I’ve seen that” or “We tried that, it didn’t work” It’s easy to say “I’m busy” and complain about the lack of results. I hear a lot of wishful talking out there. It’s been going on for years in our industry. Producers and agency owners talk a lot about their intentions, and often leave it at that. Make promises, have the character to demonstrate the promise through your actions [that’s commitment]. Our society has lost the honor of our word. Be one of the ones to LISTEN to the words you say, how often you make promises, then DO what you say, and mean it. People will believe you the next time you talk.
9. Not having a plan. to go with the dream. Dreams matter, and so does the paperwork to go with it! Goal setting can be an exhausting process; its why many of you have quit doing it. So stop trying so hard to get everything perfect and just put down your best guesses and go out there and live it. Be specific. Use my BY WHEN. Don’t tell me “in the next year” or “sometime in the 3rd Quarter”. Wanna see progress, team? Give each other the rigor to ask “what will be done, and by when”. Then celebrate!
10. They don’t move. C’mon, you’re going to screw up anyway! What I mean is, even the best dreams are in your head and the best plans are just on a piece of paper. Go out and LIVE. The rest is just a fantasy. Living your plan gets you honest real quick, and since we’re human, we’re going to make mistakes. Here’s an example: If you don’t have enough in your pipeline, you’ll know the very first week when you don’t see enough people. Can’t close any deals? Better get some coaching or mentoring on why people aren’t comfortable buying from you or your agency. Only the weak complain and stay stuck in blaming others. Get up; take a stand; move on. And be honest enough to change.
11. They don’t move long enough. Most buyers are ready to buy after 10 contacts and most of us quit at 4 says one recent study. Another gives the following: 80% of sales are made between at the 5th -12th contact. That’s a BIG variable. Here’s the point: don’t let your head trash get in the way. If you make a call, leave a message, stop by, send a letter and then follow up, YOU’RE JUST GETTING STARTED. Don’t get discouraged, get determined. Homework: read the section on The Flywheel Effect in Jim Collins’ Good to Great. Stick at it; things will get better because you are getting better at persevering or getting honest about what you need to change to win.