Creating Sales-Focused Agency Environment Is Critical First Step
ALEXANDRIA, Va., Nov. 19 – The Agents Council for Technology (ACT) has published phase one of a new multi-part report to help independent agents and brokers build a disciplined, sales-driven agency culture that positions the agency to take advantage of technologies that enhance its marketing, sales, and sales management processes.
ACT, which is affiliated with the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (IIABA), formed a Sales & Marketing Work Group to examine how technology can be used to further the independent agent�s primary function: to create an ongoing stream of sales.
�A lot has been written about using technology to improve agency efficiency and service,� says Asa Pike, chairman of the Sales & Marketing Work Group and CEO of Agency Revenue Tools in Fryeburg, Maine. �ACT thought it was very important to encourage independent agents to look to technology to increase their sales and sales management effectiveness. Phase one of the report began to take shape when we realized that an agency first needs to position itself to get the most out of this sales technology by creating a sales-oriented culture coupled with supporting workflows.�
Phase one of the report is The Transition to An Agency Sales Organization�Culture and Process First; Then Technology. It discusses the components of a sales culture; identifies methods to establish and sustain an effective sales process; stresses the importance of agency owners convincing all producers to buy into an agency sales philosophy; suggests the use of a business-development coordinator to oversee an agency�s marketing and sales processes; and classifies technology tools that support the marketing and sales processes.
The report points out that with so many processes now automated and keystrokes eliminated, this is an excellent time to refocus the agency�s staff toward sales-oriented activities, such as developing prospects, making sales, and rounding accounts. �If an agency can�t create an effective sales organization, it can�t create enough growth to satisfy its insurance carriers,� Pike says. �And if it can�t create enough growth, the great producers in that firm will leave for greener pastures.�
The report identifies a four-step process used by owners of sales-driven organizations to achieve growth and profitability:
- Infuse the agency with a culture of marketing and sales.
- Develop and implement workflows for marketing, selling and processing business.
- Apply proper technology to manage these workflows.
- Hire outstanding talent to leverage that technology.
�Sustaining an effective sales management process over the long term has traditionally been a major challenge for independent agents and brokers,� the report says. �The work group believes this four-step process will enable the agency to transcend these traditional difficulties.�
The report explains that in most sales opportunities, a direct-writing company cannot compete successfully against an independent agent or broker who offers the client an array of products from several different companies. However, independent agents and brokers first �need to have the sales system to get in front of a steady stream of potential new customers,� the report says. �The direct writers have been successful doing this with the massive advertising, disciplined sales processes, and training they have put in place and required of their producers.�
The report notes in its phase one conclusion: �As the independent agency system inevitably becomes more efficient, greater efficiency should improve productivity by enhancing the manufacturing and sales processes. Without a closed sale, there is no productivity to increase. … Agencies need a solid, effective sales management strategy, and technology will necessarily be a factor in any such strategy.�
ACT Executive Director Jeffrey M. Yates says, �In phase two, the work group will compile success stories enjoyed by agencies using particular technologies to improve their marketing, sales, and sales management activities�whether they be contained in the agency management system, a third-party system, or provided by insurance carriers to their agents.�
Established in 1999, ACT provides a candid, action-oriented forum for agent and industry associations, user groups, companies and vendors to address critical technology and workflow issues facing the independent agency system.
Founded in 1896, IIABA is the nation�s oldest and largest national association of independent insurance agents and brokers, representing a network of more than 300,000 agents, brokers and their employees nationally. Its members are businesses that offer customers a choice of policies from a variety of insurance companies. Independent agents and brokers offer all lines of insurance�property, casualty, life and health�as well as employee benefit plans and retirement products. Web address: www.independentagent.com.