by Jean Klein
Agency principals often ask us, “How can I build a ‘sales’ culture within my agency?” We suggest that they start by re-framing their question. The truth is that you build a sales culture not by focusing on sales but rather on service.
As independent agents, we provide a valuable service: we offer our customers the financial protection that affords them peace of mind. It’s truly a noble profession! We should embrace our obligation to serve. Shifting your team’s perception to a we are here to serve culture and not just a focus on customer service will naturally lead to a deeper customer relationship that endures beyond the individual transaction.
We succeed or fail by the relationships we build and how deeply we grow those connections. The problem is that the insurance business by design is very transactional. We all have more work than we can handle, staffing is always short, and impactful messages are often lost in the details.
The key is to take small steps that shift the perceptions of your team and elevate even the most minor transactions to a personal level.
Here are some tips to help you do that:
- Reintroduce your team to the telephone. Email is a great tool to outline details or keep a record of a conversation, but interactions should not start with email. The goal is to deepen the relationships with your customers. We are all drawn to people we like, and we work with those who show that they care about our well-being. This emotional connection is more easily cultivated by a personal call than an impersonal email.
- Cement that connection by committing your team to periodic “How are you doing” calls” to your customers. No upfront sales intent, just checking in to see how you are doing. It is a quick, effective way to get team members who are reluctant to build relationships more comfortable with casual conversations that strengthen connections.
- Emphasize that every customer contact is a chance to build relationships. A billing inquiry, adding a vehicle, making a payment — all these moments are opportunities to shine.
- Recognize success within the team. Proudly recognize those who add a line of business, bring in a new customer, or close a sale. Most of us are competitive at some level, so public recognition not only lifts a team member by celebrating their success, but also motivates others to up their performance. People love to see their hard work recognized.
- Run contests focusing on the metrics you want to achieve. Offer incentives for reaching targets in account rounding, retention, or new business. It’s surprising how $10 coffee cards or corny trophies can drive positive behavior and generate excitement.
- Hold daily huddles on the floor. Quick stand-up meetings which recognize, reinforce, and underscore behaviors and goals drive a shared service culture and build morale.
- Consider monetary incentives for your CSRs. Measuring and rewarding new business or adding additional protection to an insurance program is a proven way to drive a service culture and push team members outside of their (transactional) comfort zone.
Let’s face it, most agencies provide great customer service. What will set you apart is having customers that feel like they are cared for and have the sense that you are truly serving their interest. Small changes have a big impact that will transform the culture of your agency.
Jean Klein, AIS, CPCU is an Agency Growth Partner at Renaissance Alliance. Connect with Jean on LinkedIn.