Creating the right insurance culture in your agency to benefit your customers, maximize your growth, and build an engaging workplace where everyone is a valued contributor takes continued attention. Many organizations lean heavily to either a service or a sales culture, with both disciplines operating in discrete silos. Generally, the orientation of the principal prevails.
But we’re here to tell you that you don’t have to sacrifice one discipline for the other – you can have the best of both worlds: Everybody sells! Everybody is in service! Sales is the growth engine, and service is the relationship and retention engine. Service is one of the key differentiators that can set your agency apart from the competition. But without a steady stream of sales, you can’t support the service. Both are intrinsically enmeshed, and both are vital to your insurance agency’s growth and success.
An ownership culture, shared values, shared purpose
The insurance culture at your agency starts at the top with leadership setting the tone. Work to build an ownership culture where every team member feels a stake in the success of the agency. This requires ensuring that all employees have a fundamental understanding of how an insurance agency works, how it makes money, and the goals and strategies for growth. It requires building and nurturing an atmosphere of innovation, trust, and respect.
It’s also important to share and continually reinforce your agency’s mission statement, vision, goals, and values. If you want people to have a sense of ownership, they must share and buy into the purpose and values of what you do. This is particularly important for the younger and up-and-coming workforce – Millennials and Generation Z – who are markedly different than many of the older generations of workers. They seek purpose in what they do. They are highly motivated by making meaningful, altruistic contributions to the world around them and making a difference in people’s lives. Build a high-performing sales and service culture by tapping into these values.
After all, even though it is not always perceived that way, insurance is a helping business. We strive to bring personal and commercial clients the widest array of protections to help them prevent losses and recover should losses occur. Establishing the value that your agency is a customer-centric organization helping protect those you insure can go a long way to framing sales as service.
Start by revamping the Insurance CSR job description
Your Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) are the people in your agency who are on the front lines with customers, the keepers of the relationships. It’s critical to your agency’s success that they be involved in sales as well as service. Many think that insurance CSRs just aren’t cut out to be in sales, that they just don’t have the independent, competitive, “eat-what-you-kill” orientation that make top salespeople so successful. Many agencies have proved this just isn’t true. Instead of focusing on differences in motivations and skills, focus on the commonalities – both CSR and sales roles require listening, problem solving, working with people, and a level of insurance expertise.
The first step in pulling CSRs into your growth initiatives and “sales as service” orientation is to revamp the insurance CSR job description to include responsibilities for contributing to agency growth as well as for service. (Similarly, revamp sales job descriptions to define and include some level of service participation).
Insurance CSR job descriptions that include sales responsibilities will be easier for new hires than for the long-time CSRs who may see any role change as unwelcome. That’s where your leadership and powers of motivation come into play. Meet one-to-one with CSRs to discuss the reasons for the change. Be clear about any compensatory difference this can make and the support they will get.
With training and support, every CSR should be able to handle routine renewals and to assess potential for new or enhanced coverage options (endorsements, cross-selling, and upselling) to better protect existing clients. Some will shine at these responsibilities, others may struggle. Consider training your CSRS to, at minimum, identify, queue up, and pass the baton to a skilled sales rep for a more complex sale or requote. You know your people. Structure teams that can offer mutual support to reach goals and help to position them for success.
Helping CSRs Succeed at Sales
- Carve out the time. If agency growth is important and you want CSRs to make key contributions, ensure that you provide them the time rather than simply adding another thing to do. What paper-pushing activity can you automate, offload, or make more efficient through technology?
- Train, train, train. Obviously, you want to focus training on sales skills, but don’t overlook deepening product knowledge and training In industry sectors that you serve. The deeper their expertise, the more confident your CSRs will be in selling.
- Provide the tools. Offer technology support and telephonic scripts.
- Mentor and coach. Regularly meet with and coach CSRs. Also, pair service people up with experienced sales staff to occasionally shadow prospective client meetings and calls.
- Hold regular all-staff meetings. Review goals and progress towards goals. Recognize people for successes. Hold fun team role-play sessions for sales and service scenarios.
- Establish concrete measurable goals to achieve. Tie goals to performance review, compensation, bonuses, and /or incentives. Consider involving CSRs in the goal-setting process – ask them what they think they can achieve.
- Recognize and reward success. Incentives can be for individuals, for teams, or for both. Simple thanks or public recognition of an achievement can be highly motivating, but cash also works! Get creative with non-cash rewards, too: extra time off, a trip, a prime parking space, gift certificates to local restaurants and businesses that you insure.
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