In October’s Strictly Sales column, we discussed how to know prospects and establish rules. In this second of a two-part series, let’s explore how to implement prospect revenue growth plan and take the necessary steps.
Let’s explore a question of utmost importance: What are six important activities you can engage in to help a new prospecting system take place in your agency? Another way to look at it is to ask: “How do I achieve prospect revenue growth in changing times?”
The answers are:
o Be an entrepreneur rather than a technician
o Understand the rules of growth as a sales organization
o Differentiate your agency from the competition
o Follow a system in all you do
o Have a plan and a goal
o Know your numbers.
Let’s explore each of these in detail. The small business guru Michael Gerber in his recent book “The E-Myth Revisited” brings an astonishing fact to life:
Be an entreprenuer rather than a technician
It is true that most agency owners are good technicians. Great insurance technicians find themselves owning an agency or managing a book of business, but know little how to:
o Follow a marketing plan
o Adhere to a solid sales process
o Create business financial worksheets and manage capital
o Manage, lead and motivate people
o Create a business plan.
These are all things any business owner needs. The problem is finding the time for a small agency owner to learn these skills. If you are going to be successful over the long term, these items must be on your to-do list. Without exception, every successful business has an owner who one day realized there’s a choice of either being a slave to business and working “in it” every day, or creating systems and people that maximize the owner’s investment by working “on it” each day. Do you want to be a small, struggling technician who quotes and writes insurance for people who call you? It’s like living on a treadmill!
Understand the Rules of Growth
Visiting prospects and trying to earn their trust and their business costs money. Would it sound prudent for commercial clients to run their businesses without:
o Knowing the costs to acquire customers
o Having processes to follow in marketing and sales
o Having ideas of how many items they would sell in the next year
o Knowing how to budget for growth
o Knowing how to take care of their best customers and solidify quality relationships.
It would be ludicrous if a prospect had these answers. In fact, they probably wouldn’t qualify as a prospect for you and certainly not for your carriers.
Is it OK to run an agency this way? To work on a prospect, a successful agency needs to understand the five crucial points of “The Rules of Engagement”: rapport, values, relationship, pains and rules. These are the new rules of engaging a prospect and the key items we need to understand before we waste our resources.
Differentiate Your Agency
How do we make ourselves different? We keep the sales process in a diagnostic format and create lists of issues to inquire about:

o Typical pains in an industry
o Problems that could have been encountered with the current agent or carrier
o Questions addressing the five rules of engagement.
We continue to ask questions, gather information and create pains and values up to presentation of solutions. Here’s another secret: You already should know you have the business before you ever do the presentation. If you go in with the presentation and have no idea what the outcome will be, you are doing it wrong. Remember, only solve prospects’ problems based on their value system and what’s important to them. It’s their presentation and their problems–not yours. If we listen carefully to our prospects, they will identify what they are looking for in terms of solutions. If they won’t share that with you, then you do not have the rapport you need and you’re only helping the incumbent agents.
Sometimes simple is good. The secret is to sell only what the prospect is looking to buy. Anything less and you drive the buyer to compare price, and they already have an agent in most cases–a great way to lose the sale. Don’t ever forget: Never solve a problem you didn’t identify in diagnostics.
Follow the Process
Dynamics of Selling has an eight-step marketing process and a three-step sales process. Why? Eighty percent of small businesses fail within the first five years, while 80 percent that follow a system are successful. When you look at the top 20 percent of almost any industry group, you’ll find business owners following a system. Now there is a message about working “on” your business versus working “in” your business.
Have a Plan and a Goal
Where do I get prospects? There are so many questions to ask. How many prospects in my database do I need? How many could I see during the next year? What is the average commission per prospect and the average I need to grow my income, replace those I lose and keep my carriers happy? How much do I want to grow? For example, it’s a soft market, so we need at least a growth goal of 15 percent of last year’s commission income for my new business this year. How many will I need to close? The closing ratio is a huge forecast into my success rate, so we really need to manage that number. Where can I go for coaching? Technicians definitely need outside coaching to develop the skills necessary to be successful in our business. Remember, about 60 percent of the agencies out there today are in survival mode!
How to determine a goal:
o 500 prospects are in my database
o See 200 of them face-to-face and do a diagnostic appointment questionnaire
o Present to 130 of these prospects
o The close ratio should be around 30 percent, or 39 accounts
o Average commission is $1,000
o New growth is $39,000.
How do we change the numbers? Larger accounts or more presentations. The choice is yours to make and there is no wrong answer. It’s your decision.
Know Your Numbers
Measure everything that can be measured, including: mailings, postcards, call-ins, call-outs, diagnostic appointment questionnaires, presentations, closing ratio and average commission per account.
We truly hope this helps you in planning for your success. As always, good luck and good selling.

Know Prospects and Establish Rules
o What size are the prospects?
o Match prospect lists to carriers’ appetite guides.
o Use clients as references.
o Develop brand marketing.
o Keep our sales process in a diagnostic, questioning format.
o The prospect can only answer questions that were asked.
o The prospect requires diagnosis first.
o We need to feel emotion from the prospect–their needs and desires.
o No one likes change, so it needs to be managed for the prospect.
o Buying requires a change of agent, insurance company, etc.

Tom Barrett is president of the Midwest and Southeast regions of SIAA Inc. Barrett also serves on the National Faculty for Dynamics of Selling and Dynamics of Company Agency Relations. For more information on Dynamics of Selling, visit www.TheNationalAlliance.com. Contact Barrett at tomb@siaa.net.