February 13, 2009
How much of a true "sales culture" does your agency have?
To many, “culture” is one of those soft words, describing the ways or customs of a group of people.
But in the agency world, sales culture is anything but soft.
A true sales culture keeps producers performing at their peak. That’s because a true sales culture:
• Provides producers with the tools to be consultants, not product peddlers
• Promotes major-league teamwork while respecting individual styles and approaches
• Entrusts the serving of clients to other professionals, so that producers stay focused on business development
• Motivates and inspires every team member to excel – every day
• Blows up the “specialty silos” (P&C, Benefits, etc.) so that producers actually refer business to other producers
• Rewards and celebrates performance, often through contests and recognition events
• Makes it possible for every employee to enjoy agency life, which boosts productivity (really!)
Once defined, a sales culture is a powerfully unifying concept. It grows business. If your agency doesn’t meet at least 5 of the 7 characteristics outlined above, then it’s due for a transformation.
We’ve helped several agencies complete such a transformation. It didn’t happen overnight – but it unfolded faster than you might think.
The first step is to conduct a thorough assessment. Does your agency’s producers have:
… a shared vision?
… a set of shared goals and strategies?
… a clear and accurate understanding of how clients really view them?
… a common language for selling?
… a framework for consistent and effective internal communication?
… a formal training program to gain technical knowledge of coverage?
… a program to develop new skill sets – especially consulting skills?
These questions are just the beginning of the assessment we conduct for agencies. Email us
if you’d like to hear more about this.
A word on "Hunters" and "Gatherers"
We’ve never cared much for classifying professionals as either “hunter” or “gatherer.”
For one, these labels call to mind a caste system, implying that one is superior to the other.
For another, they make it difficult for the so-called “gatherers” to fully comprehend the potential value they can create for the agency. Gathering, after all, suggests collecting what’s around. Mindless picking and harvesting.
We suggest an alternative: Hunters and scouts.
Hunters are the producers who are out in the world, sharing their expertise with prospective clients, bringing back the new account.
Scouts may not be making sales calls, but they can be vigilant spotters of opportunity. In their daily activities, scouts are constantly searching for potential growth – from the current client who’s under-protected for liability … to the fellow book club member whose corporation would be a perfect client fit.
Bottom line: Every single person at your agency is either a hunter or a scout, regardless of title or function.
Is that how your agency employees view themselves?
Worth Reading: How Social Networks Network Best
Alex Penland has written a very intriguing article in the February 2009 Harvard Business Review. The premise of the article is to look at how group decisions are made.
The article describes how a bee colony chooses where to locate their hive. At first a group of scouts goes out to hunt for promising locations. Once a promising location is found, they come back and signal to the rest of the colony by doing a enthusiastic dance. The dance performance gets the other bees interested and they go out to see the location. Then they come back to signal their acceptance and eventually there is enough support to make a decision as a group.
This article maintains that teams are the most productive when there is an oscillating balance of communication strategies for both information discovery and information integration. The bees demonstrate this by the scouts going out and then coming back to share what they have found. In the corporate environment, this can be seen and experienced through digital networks as well as face-to-face time. Penland says “a richly connected network works best for integration and decision making, because it allows the individual to hear everyone else’s opinion about the expected return from each of the alternatives.”
As a leader in your agency, think about how you put yourself out there to discover new information. And then think about how you integrate that new information back into the agency. How effective is your information flow?
if you are interested in reading the complete article.