Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Your Staff is Too Bad to Keep, But Too Good to Fire.

I was talking with a friend in the insurance business yesterday.  He has an admin person in his office who is smart and skillful, but was taking advantage of her salaried position by leaving work to take care of personal things way too often.  It was affecting the efficiency of the office because others were having to pick up the slack.  The agency owner sat this person down and explained that he was happy with her performance while she was there, but would be changing her to an hourly pay scale to motivate her to work the hours that the agency needed her to work.  The admin person even agreed that it would be good motivation for her.  After a few weeks, the owner really noticed no change in her behavior.  It was just saving the agency money when she didn't work 40 hours.  The problem was still present though.  Others in the office were faced with an increased workload in her absence.  

I see this as a lot.  You have someone in your office who isn't as good as you'd like but too good to let go.  This is a bigger problem than you think.  A much bigger problem.  It can be like the butterfly effect of lost revenue.  What if your staff member is out and because you were short staffed, you had to focus on a service issue for a couple of hours.  What of during those hours you missed an important phone call or meeting that would have lead to a $50,000 commission sale.  There are 2 common choices.  Neither are easy.  You can fire the employee and spend the time finding and training someone else.  Or, you can try to motivate your staff with some type of ownership stake or profit sharing plan.  There's also a third choice, but first you have to realize that it takes a new kind of thinking.  Hint: It's a bit like the 2002 Oakland A's strategy.  More on this later.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A New Way of Selling

Friends, For over 15 years, I have been developing and practicing a way of selling that is a blend of what I have read in books, learned from mentors and developed on my own through trial and much error. The result is a much higher than normal close rate. First let me tell you why I have intentionally spent so much time working on this. 
My first job in insurance was as a captive agent. Puppy Mills of the Financial Service Business  The sales manager had goal making session with me where he explained that in order to achieve my income goal, I would have to make 10 calls to schedule 3 meetings to make 1 sale. What that meant for me, based on a very modest average case size is that I would have to make about 40 warmly sourced phone calls per week to schedule 12 sales meetings to make 4 sales in order for my family to have a reliable income. Having no base of knowledge about insurance selling and very little aptitude, I was forced to take his word for it. So I started seeing clients and made a few sales. I determined within a few weeks that his numbers were pretty much spot on. Now I am not a very outgoing person, so it was very painful to make those calls and I was quickly running out of warm sources. I wondered how I could change the numbers in my favor. What if I could only call 5 or even less people to make one sale? I started trying to figure out what the reason was for people not buying from me. Quickly, I discovered that many of my prospects had bought insurance before and that they preferred to check my prices with the other agent first. Within a month, I determined that I was losing about 1 out of 4 opportunities due to price shopping. 

Since I wanted the client to have the best price and there was no way to solve this within the current company, I decided to get a job with an independent firm so that I could always win on price. OK, great progress, I thought. So, based on my original numbers, I now only had to make 33 phone calls per week. What If I could improve that further? I knew I was lacking in knowledge, and though they didn’t tell me, my prospects could tell that I was new in the business. They surmised correctly that I didn’t know very much about insurance compared to a seasoned agent. I figured I was losing another 1 out of 4 opportunities over lack of trust due to my inexperience. I couldn’t fault the client for their assessment, so I started pouring through every bit of written material I could get my hands on. Within a few months, I was like an insurance encyclopedia. There wasn’t a question about how insurance works that I couldn’t answer and most of the time answer better than an experienced agent. With this new knowledge, I started focusing on not only increasing my close rate, but my case size. What if I only needed to place 3 cases per week instead of 4? And so it went. With each thing I found to be a reason for failing, I improved. Within a few years I reached what I considered to be a real milestone. I completed a single insurance case where my commission was as much as my original annual production goal.
Over the last several months, I have been thinking about what I want for the next 15 years of my career. I determined that, to keep it fun and interesting, I have to keep innovating. Today, I have a platform that is near completion which I think will help 100’s or 1,000’s of agents get through those most painful months and years of grinding it out. www.brevityconsult.com  It is a selling method that works for today’s buyer.