The most successful producers aspire to become the market leaders in their territories. There’s still more than three- quarters of the year left, which is enough time for you to make great strides toward becoming the market leader in your area before the end of 2007. Here are 10 guidelines that can help you reach that goal.

1) Success takes hard work, focus and discipline. You need to send the letters, make the calls, qualify the prospects, make the presentations and close the deals. Work hard and celebrate the small victories along the way. There will be time to play later. Success must come first.
2) Leaders know their numbers. They know how many mailings they need to make to obtain a sufficient number of meaningful conversations. They know how many of these conversations will lead to a face-to-face meeting. They know how many meetings will lead to a desired number of presentations and sales. Do you know your numbers? By knowing your conversion rates and close ratios, you can begin to achieve your goals.
3) “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” When we do what we love, it becomes easier to put in long days. We’re having fun. Don’t like sales? Can’t stand rejection? Then get out now.
Identify the classes of business you enjoy and go after them. Success will come faster and you’ll be excited to face each new day.
4) Most people are good at a few, but not all, things. If your skill is sales, sell as much as possible. Designate certain days each week for “sales only” activities. Most salespeople fail because they don’t have enough activity; others even seek ways to avoid sales activity. Get active and stay active in prospecting. Let others take on the claims work, the service work, etc.
5) Leaders understand they must quantify prospects’ needs in regard to cost, coverage, services and relationships. They can identify clients’ values and evaluate the strength of their relationships with the incumbent agents. The relationship trumps all other issues. In the next year, 99% of your new business will come from prospects who already have a relationship (i.e., a current agent). If the relationship with the incumbent agent is solid, you become the “honesty police” and are used to validate the current relationship. The incumbent keeps the business and you work for free. Build quality relationships first, then leverage them for referrals.
6) Manage yourself and your emotions. Selling is an emotional career and good salespeople are emotional, typically with strong egos. Don’t allow emotions to get in the way, however. Keep your emotions (and ego) in check and you’ll stay on track. Remember, buyers make decisions based on their emotions. Stories and comparisons inspire empathy and understanding, allowing buyers to see their risks and helping them to validate the decision to change.
7) The environment in which we work affects our success. Surround yourself with people who energize and motivate you. Top salespeople have endless energy to do what’s necessary for success. It’s important to focus and manage that energy toward positive results.
8) Have a plan and follow it. Every plan requires setting goals, outlining necessary activities and focusing on activities vital to success. The point is to take calculated risks rather than to fly by the seat of your pants. For your market segment and targeted risks, evaluate the competition and determine what makes you superior. Review the pros and cons of the class. Match these to your carriers’ appetites, then “go for the gold.” Sometimes the riskiest thing in life is to do simply nothing. But no action equals no rewards.
9) Leaders have role models. They ask people in our industry and in their communities (some of their top 10 accounts) to be mentors. This leads to strong, lasting relationships. They leverage their relationships (clients) for referrals. The most difficult part of the sales process is finding and qualifying prospects. If we leverage our current relationships, the process becomes easier.
10) Leaders rehearse relentlessly. They rehearse replies to objections. They rehearse stories of triumph and disaster. They have specific agendas and lists of questions ready to ask. They use peers in the office to help prepare for presentations. They study diligently before going out on presentations. They are relentless in learning the key components of the business or personal situation before the call.
I offer three words of wisdom–preparation, preparation, preparation.
These 10 guidelines can make a difference in your business and personal life. With clear priorities and a game plan, you can achieve personal and professional success.
Do you have the courage to make the change?
Tom Barrett is president of the Midwest and Southeast regions of SIAA Inc., which has 2,100 offices and $4.6 billion in property-casualty premium volume. Mr. Barrett also serves on the National Faculty for Dynamics of Selling, Dynamics of Sales Management, and Dynamics of Company/Agency Relations. For more information on these National Alliance programs, call (800) 633-2165 or visit www.TheNationalAlliance.com.