ACG - Agency Consulting Group

The PIPELINE

A national monthly newsletter for agency principals dedicated to agency management topic

THE GOLD UNDER YOUR FEET

We have a thousand client agencies each of whom have a wonderful knowledge base in insurance. They have insurance companies that provide excellent products, pricing that is competitive, staff members who have years and decades of experience and A SINGLE COMMON PROBLEM – none of them can identify how to get and keep customers.

We consultants, both the ‘Pros’ and the ‘Snake-Oil Salesmen’ (newbies that take canned ideas and sell them without any idea how to implement them), can provide systems galore to boost retention and get new customers. Most are proven products and work well. But if these ideas are so good, why isn’t everyone using them?

The answer is that most of the concepts being presented ARE, in fact, ‘gold nuggets’. But most of the gold is buried from inches to miles under your feet. It takes work to mine the gold and most of our clients and potential clients aren’t willing, able or capable of digging for the gold under their feet.

We as consultants and you as insurance agents specialize in identifying NEEDS and trying to fulfill them. Each of you who have had the experience of our GPP Analysis (Growth, Productivity, Profitability) Analysis know how deep we dig for your data in order to identify your NEEDS during our visit to your agency.

Similarly, every agent we know tries to market the products that they know the prospects and clients in the area NEED. For example, we have agency owners everywhere promoting the sale of Personal Umbrellas for customers because we all know that the litigious society in which we live demands more liability coverage than most underlying policies will afford to our clients. In many cases, the clients are unaware of this NEED. Moreover, many clients don’t want to spend any more money on insurance than they must, so they ignore the NEED even if they are aware of it. The problem is that they don’t necessarily WANT the coverage, whether or not they NEED it.

In order to sell insurance, consulting services (or anything else) you must make the client sufficiently aware and knowledgeable that he considers that which he NEEDS a high enough priority that he WANTS it as well as NEEDS it. Second, you must have staff trained sufficiently to offer the product to every customer. Third, your management must be proactive enough to monitor the process to assure that every client who NEEDS the product is also made sufficiently aware of that need that he also WANTS the product. Finally, you have to make sure that the employees are trained sufficiently and managed strongly enough to offer the product for which you have spent marketing time establishing the NEED and WANT.

Therein lays the simplistic but critical coincidence of NEED, WANT, ABILITY AND CAPABILITY.

This applies to the myriad of insurance agencies and brokerages trying to survive and grow throughout the U.S. and Canada. These agencies NEED both retention programs and New Business marketing programs. The agency owners WANT the results of the programs (stronger customer retention leading to greater revenue retention AND a steady flow of new prospects and clients). But many agencies lose their vision when it comes to the creation of the right kind of marketing programs externally, workflow and procedures internally and continuous management that will yield clients WANTs from clients’ NEEDs.

We are working on several major projects with some of the greatest minds in our industry today. These are consulting efforts that would assure agents of success in both the retention of the maximum number of clients possible AND the growth of new clients at a steady and increasing pace. Yet we are concerned that while the agency owner will find the program attractive, a) he will be unable to motivate his employees to adopt the program as written, or b) he will be unable to manage the program over a sufficient duration to allow it to ‘hit gold,’ or c) he may not have staff able or trained sufficiently to accomplish the steps in the program.

Each of us on the project team has pointed out several systems and products introduced to our industry over the past decade that failed to ‘catch on’ with the agency force. Each would certainly give the agency the results it sought and pay for itself many times over. Some needed a sufficient front-end cost to scare off potential users. Others required on-going support and training to which the agencies didn’t want to commit. Most provided slick automated systems that had much more capabilities than an agency was prepared to accommodate considering the normal press of daily business.

That’s when we realized that it isn’t the quality of the product or service that makes it worthwhile (the purity of that Gold Nugget...), it’s whether you can get the prospector to sponsor the tools and ‘dig’ diligently enough, long enough and deeply enough to hit pay-dirt!

In the next several months you will hear about some new concepts being released in the industry. We are partnering with another firm to bring you remote training, coaching and management for the implementation of our recommendations for your growth and profitability. That’s exciting in itself. But a new set of tools has been created that will turn your ‘pick and shovel’ into a jack-hammer in the relationship management of your clients and prospects – if you’re bold enough to use it. Just call me (800 779 2430) if you can’t wait to hear about it and I’ll clue you in on what’s happening.

So I want you to ponder on the subjects of RETENTION and GROWTH and ask yourself the following questions:

1. Are we actually fulfilling a NEED for our clients and prospects or just trying to sell products that our carriers tell us they want to sell?

2. Before you spend the first dime to market the products for sale, have your clients expressed a WANT of those products?

3. If not, have you spent your time educating them sufficiently that they KNOW they need it and have established that WANT yet?

Once you have completed the preliminary marketing program to show the clients and prospects why the product is important enough that they both NEED and WANT it, the responses to the next set of questions will tell you whether you will be successful in marketing the product;

4. Are YOU committed enough to pursue this marketing for sufficient time (usually one to three years)? ‘One shot’ anything is doomed to failure.

5. Are YOU capable of managing the process? Rest assured any project that you assign to others and expect results without oversight of a manager on a regular basis is D.O.A. (dead on arrival).

6. Have you trained your staff both in their roles in the marketing and in the product, itself? Have you incented them to help you achieve your goal?

7. Do you have a monitoring system in place to track the progress of the project on a day-by-day and week-by-week basis? After a few months working as you expect, you can tone down the monitoring to Monthly and YTD vs. Projections

The agents who don’t trust the concept of digging for gold won’t even file the claim. These are the folks who read about a concept, may like it, but won’t invest money in doing it for fear that it might not work.

Some prospectors file the claim but never get around to getting the equipment. Agents who ‘believe’ may invest in the program but not in the training and implementation help that will make it useful.

Other prospectors will get the shovels and picks and dig for a while – until they get tired or are distracted by the next great idea. If they don’t strike gold in the first three inches, they become discouraged.

The prospectors who hire help who can’t wield a shovel or a pick hope that throwing people at a problem will solve it – that rarely works, either.

The only prospectors who make money are the ones who set their goals; consider the claim, their equipment, the people and the cost of training them AN INVESTMENT in the future. Is there risk? Of course – nothing is guaranteed in life (except taxes (for sure) and death (I’m told – but then, I’m the eternal optimist)). But they give themselves the best chance of success and stop digging only when they are certain that there is not gold. Then they fill the hole with water and sell memberships to the swim club to other prospectors....

Call us 800 779 2430 to learn how to find the GOLD UNDER YOUR FEET. We can guide you through the entire process.