CURE FOR HABITUAL WHEEL SPINNING

7 Habits that are Important, but not Urgent

We are getting bombarded by tips, tricks, tactics and tools to be a better sales person.  Success no longer comes from who spends the most time at the office working hard, it comes from being the best at what matters most.  I continue to think back to the few times I’ve read Steven Covey’s book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and out of all 7 habits, the one that always remains in my mind is the 2 x 2 matrix of urgent and important tasks.  See this image.

I’m assuming you have heard of this matrix or used it in some seminar you took.  If you haven’t, go look it up, then come back to this article.  In a nutshell, he says that planning out and making sure you do the non-urgent/Important actions (quadrant 2) will bring the best results in your life.  So here is my list of the 7 most important ACTIONS to be successful as an insurance agent.

1- Plan every day and week
If you don’t plan then you’ll get stuck in the world of always putting out fires and spinning your wheels.  15 minutes at the beginning of each day is crucial to your long-term success.

2- Take someone to lunch
There is something about giving good food that can get people to trust you faster than anything else.  This simple thing will pay huge marketing dividends!!!

3- Join community organizations and clubs

Building relationships is your business, and what better way to build relationships than getting together with people that enjoy doing what you do and serving.  Remember with these organizations, DO NOT SELL THEM.  You’re there to earn trust and people can smell the stench of a salesman from miles away.  Serve, and let them come to you when they need you

.4- Take vacations and have adventure

It sickens me to think that many Americans won’t take the allotted vacation time.  People do business with people they know, like and trust.  You can’t trust someone that you can’t connect with and when all you can talk about is insurance, your stench will waft through every room you enter.

5- Automate and batch the non-relationship building tasks

It is so easy to get bogged down by the emails, paperwork, quoting, scanning, input, blah, blah, blah.  That stuff does not make you money but is essential to your job, so don’t feel bad making it as efficient as possible so you can spend your time doing the most effective things like being where your clients are.

6-Get Educated and join a Mastermind group

You don’t know what you don’t know, you know?  There are some great education programs like the CPCU, CIC, CRM, CRIS, etc that give you a leg up against anyone else just trying to peddle a product.  Mastermind groups take this to another level to get actual real life experience and join others that can help you hold yourself accountable. Your clients need a professional, not a salesperson.  You can’t be professional if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Come to a Free Mastermind Group

7-Track the most important things

You need to be the best at what matters most.  If you don’t have a system to track those actions then it is impossible to be the best because you have no idea what needs improvement.

Set up a plan and system to make sure these 7 things are done consistently and you’ll break right through the noise and be part of the industry ELITE.

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NEW AGENT BEWARE!!!

One of the biggest secrets that agency owners don’t want their new producers to hear.

Monday Morning 

You nervously walk in the office of your new insurance sales job.  With an energetic handshake you greet your new boss.  He takes you to a small cubical, hands you a licensing book and says…

“Here are your licensing materials, get through them as quickly as you can so you can start making money.”

You awkwardly thank him for the opportunity, turn to your desk and sigh,

Well… I’m now an insurance agent.

Months pass. You’re busting your butt calling everyone you know, stretching to hit your sales quotas.  You like your boss but realize, as nice of a guy as he is, he’s too busy to offer any support, training, direction or mentoring.

His only advice…

“When I was your age, I just grabbed a phone book and a phone and started calling.  Good luck”

Uhhh, Thanks for the advice?

Why is this story so prevalent, especially in small town agencies? ​

 There are a few reasons, but I’m going to divulge one of the biggest and scariest ones.

But first, a disclaimer. I don’t write this with thoughts of malice or revenge.  Rather, with a protective, big brother intent.  It’s a practice that has hurt too many, and with the well documented young agent shortage in our industry, It’s a tactic that our industry can no longer afford to tolerate.  

The biggest secret that agency owners don’t want you to know…
(and I’m sure I’ll get in trouble for letting the cat out of the bag)

Is that the owner,

(don’t shoot the messenger)

Will get paid more from your book of business if you fail then if you succeed, So why should he help you succeed.

This has been a known business growth model for decades.  We’ll call it new agent churn and burn.  It’s an easy way to capitalize on the motivated and sometimes desperate energy that young people can bring.

Here is a simple breakdown of the Churn and Burn Agency Growth Strategy.1-Hire new agent
2-push to get licensed quickly
3-set high required sales quotas
4-don’t provide training and support to hit those quotas
5-get their closest family and friends as new clients
6-watch the new agent burnout, leaving his book of business behind
7-complain how the new generation is too lazy to make it in this business
8-look for the next victim

So the cat’s out of the bag.  The secret’s exposed.  Call me a whistleblower, but I feel more like a superhero, protecting the innocent.

Now, let’s work to heal from this devastating old habit within our industry.

If you are using this growth strategy in some way, I’m here to tell you, your secret is out, and we’re coming for you.

If this doesn’t sound familiar, then consider yourself lucky and be very happy with your career.

But, If you are the victim of this strategy, there’s help.  There are support groups for victims of the churn and burn.


Join the Newly Formed Closed Facebook Group

Others are fighting it too and the more we make it known, the more we can help these victims gain the support they need to stand up to the oppressors and fight back.  We’re in this together.

Take ACTION & Become ELITE

WE HATE BIG BROTHER!!!!!!

Don’t confuse this subject with “We Hate MY Big Brother”.  He’s a roofer and I have about 30 pounds of Insurance-itis.  Not a fight I’m up for.  

No…I’m talking about sales managers requiring your sales reports so they can “check-up” on you.  

For some reason Big Brother doesn’t sit so well with most insurance agents.  It ends up making  us hate those dang reports when we know deep down they only help us be more successful.  

Why is that?  They’re just trying to help right?  

Welllllll, If that were only the case.  

Big Brother as defined in the Urban Dictionary “Is sometimes helpful but… usually oppressive, limiting, and suffocating”  Yep, That’s how I feel too.  I NEED MY FREEDOM!!!!!!!

So how do we combat the poor results of the villainous “Big Brother” management, yet still gain the value of accountability that sales reports were meant for?  

Well, let’s start by attacking the problem. 

Most insurance agents have an entrepreneur’s spirit which says “I’m going to do it my way and MAKE it happen”.  (A great quality in my opinion).  

However this quality is in direct opposition to someone telling us what to do, then making us do it.  The battle ensues, Agents call supervisors “micro-managers” and our supervisor calls us stubborn and uncoachable.  

The crazy thing about this dilemma is; that same stubbornness that makes us uncoachable also drives us to

fail,
……..then get back up,
……..then fail,
……..then get back up,
……..then fail again,
……..then get back up again,
knowing that we will eventually succeed as long as we keep trying. 

The key then is to find a big brother that will help us through this process, not just take our reports and be disappointed on the weeks that we don’t hit the goal they set for us.
There are people to help us through this process.  These can be our peers, our family or a good mentor that expects some failure and is there to help us learn the lessons that will eventually lead to success.   

They help us hold ourselves accountable and help us get back up after a failure.   

Now that sounds like the way a Big Brother should be.  

If we feel opposition for our “BIG BROTHER” in insurance then we need to find a true big brother that is willing to work with, coach and mentor us through our failures.  We will see exponential growth because of it.  Awe, it makes me want to call my brothers…sigh.  

You’d be surprised how many true brothers there are that are willing to help.  Find one and you’ll be on your way to more success.

STOP WEARING THE “BUSY” BADGE OF HONOR?

Is it just me or do people use the term “Busy” like a badge of honor.

As a society we ask, “are you staying busy” and if they answer yes, it’s a good thing!!??

Or, when your boss comes to town and sees a lot a paperwork on your desk and sticky notes on the computer then you know your job is safe for now because you look “busy.”…..

But is “Busy” really the goal?  

I thought in a service industry our goal is the be “available” for our clients.

It’s almost like people are infected by a villainous alien epidemic that has taken over offices everywhere, for lack of a more technical term, I’m going to call it Stickynotitis.

The symptoms of this disease demonstrate themselves in sticky notes on a computer, never ending and changing task lists and paperwork piles that keep changing locations.  The victims of the disease seem overwhelmed, overworked and can’t seem to get their jobs done when needed.  As agents of TrACTION we have worked tirelessly to find a cure for this disease.

Here is a 3 step process to fight this devastating disease.

1-Eliminate,

2-Automate,

3-Delegate.

1- Eliminate

Once the patient has been diagnosed, it is important to hit the problem hard by eliminating the tasks that really don’t have to be a part of what they do,  This one step can have hugely positive impacts on the focus and health of the patient.

The concept of “Time Management” is a joke.  You can’t manage time, you can manage tasks.

The first thing you do when managing tasks is get rid of unnecessary tasks.  The biggest waste in agencies today is the wrong person doing the wrong tasks.  Producers get in the way of service so often because they feel like if they took themselves out of the service then their customers would not think they provide value.  The opposite is actually true.  Most clients love to know that their immediate service needs can be done by someone who is available in the office, and are happy to schedule a time with you to have you consult them on the complicated legal and financial paperwork they call an insurance policy.  Eliminating tasks alone should free up around half of your time.

2-Automate

Most other tasks can be batched and automated.  Email is a great example.  Turn off the notification tool on your email and set a time when you will check emails.  You can go through 4 hours of email usually in a few minutes instead of spreading them out through the entire day.  Focus is one of the most valuable assets you have, why destroy it by constant never-ending distraction.

There are very few emergencies.

I promise your clients can wait a few hours for a response and if they can’t, do you really want clients that are that hurried and can’t plan out there day a little better anyway?

3-Delegate

The 3rd step is to delegate.  This is third because you will be doing your staff a dis-service if you delegate tasks that can be eliminated or automated.  They will thank you for going through the first 2 steps.  The best way to delegate is to create systems that do it for you.  You’ll know your delegation is working when you no longer have to decide what is delegated and what isn’t.  Delegation should mean the system automatically delegates the proper tasks.

Once you have mastered these processes you’ll see you are available for the true emergencies, your time is freed up to do the most valuable activities that drive growth.  Your energy and focus will return because the stickynotitis will be gone.  Task lists and sticky notes are unnecessary when you take this advise to heart.  Throw out the “busy badge” and put on the “action badge”, your clients will reward you for it.

Take ACTION & Become ELITE

WHEN WILL COOPERATION TRUMP COMPETITION?

Our business environment is changing!!!  Social media, podcasts, blogs and webinars are opening people’s eyes to a new world of cooperation, mentoring and community.  

We also know our industry is aging, and as the seasoned veterans look towards retirement, a new generation of agent is emerging and I am excited to see what the future holds.  With a changing of the guard comes opportunity to change old industry habits and create new ones.  

So…. If I may indulge myself for a bit and tap into the Superhero mind of a fortune teller and propose a vision for the future of Insurance distribution.

Simple Supply & Demand:

    The Insurance Journal reported in 2015 that “25 percent of the industry expected to retire by 2018”  However, young agents are not keeping up with that attrition.  In other words,

when demand stays the same

and

supply of labor decreases,

the price goes up.  

That price could mean compensation, authority or respect.  Less agents = more respect demanded from clients.  The next 5 to 10 years should equal less price quoting, less bidding insurance out to keep you honest and more loyalty to agents that truly take care of their clients.  

Baam!!!! That’s something to get excited about.

Easy Access to Info:

Customers are getting more savvy. They can look up any info they want with regards to their insurance coverage.  

This removes any incentive for agents to sell, sell, sell.  

The good agents will no longer be the ones that talk the fastest, rather the ones that listen the best and have the know how to put products together that fit the needs of the customer.  Consultants and problem solvers will rule the insurance world.

Niche Marketing and Communities:

 The insurance advertising world is REALLLLYYYY LOOOUUUDDDD!  Generalists will just fall into the noise while specialist agents and products will stand out.  Niche marketing creates a wonderful opportunity to join communities of other agents and create referral partnerships that feed each other business.  Doctors are a great example of an industry we should emulate.  Specialists get referrals from generalists to handle the toughest cases.  If you are an independent agent that hasn’t formed solid relationships with direct writer and generalist agents you are missing out on a huge opportunity that is only going to get bigger.

The future is bright, my friends.  Abraham Lincoln said “the best way to predict the future is to create it.”  Let’s take action and be the change we want to see in our industry and our communities.

DO YOU HAVE A CRUSH ON RISK MANAGEMENT?

Insurance professionals have a passionate crush on the concept of Risk Management.  It’s much like that woman that just moved in across the street.  The “Total Cost of Risk” approach gives us the chills like when she drives by in her vintage red convertible, her long hair blowing in the wind.

She makes you go outside to clean the sidewalk just at the off chance she’ll come out while you’re there so you can strike up a conversation.  We take every opportunity to talk about risk management like it’s the love of our life, excitedly showing our clients the process that we learned at the latest risk management seminar.

But sadly, as our client’s eyes glaze over, we realize that to them… we are still just that weird neighbor that is always cleaning his sidewalk,

Seriously, who does that?!!!!

As in love, we have to do something to become the object of her desire.  No woman likes a man that’s always trying to sound like he knows everything.

Rather she wants a man that makes her feel something.

A man that’s going to create emotions she’s never experienced before.

First step to this; we need to seriously change our appearance.  You know, lose that extra 15 pounds, buy a new suit & wash the car.

The phrases we learn in our insurance classes make us look like a sloppily dressed, dirty, overweight weirdo.  Phrases like:

“Risk Management Professional”

“Total Cost of Risk”

“Risk Control”

etc aren’t sexy because they look at the negative sides of doing business.

We need to use positive words like “safety,” “savings”, “protection” & “profit” when discussing the concepts we hold so dear.

Here are a couple of examples of phrases we use all of the time that chase clients away, while if we tweaked them just a bit, they get clients coming to us.

Overweight Weirdo:
“I’m a Risk Management Professional that focuses on Total Cost of Risk in my analysis of your business.”

Sexy Neighbor:
“I can help you increase profits by offering safety programs that provide protection and savings to your business.

Overweight Weirdo:
“Here’s the process we will take you through, Risk Identification, Analysis, Implementation, Monitoring”

Sexy Neighbor:
“Feel free to take risk, you can count on me to take care of you”

See the difference?  Keep it simple. Keep it positive. It’s amazing what the right language can do to your business, and your love life.

WHAT DO WE REALLY SELL? PAPER OR PEACE OF MIND?

What kind of world would we live in if we really sold only commodity insurance policies.  

Move over Steve Carrell, our “Office’s” paper outsells your paper all day, every day, for a much higher price.  Cha-ching!!!

But seriously, if we don’t sell a commodity like paper then why are people willing to part with their hard earned paper money for our fat reams of legal jargon?  

There are obviously many answers to this question.  They range from, we don’t want to get fined, to it gives us peace of mind.  

Hah, that rhymed.

But the bigger question is….Why are we, as insurance agents, selling our valuable service like a ream of paper off a shelf?  

Yep, I’m talking about “Apples for Apples quoting” and pricing wars.  This villain sales habit I like to call “PRIC.”

Pric is a high-tech monster that hides in his lair. He constantly sends out advertisement after advertisement that has nothing to do with insurance. 

He loves other weird monsters like little slimy green guys, and big hairy cavemen because they remind him of himself. 

His goal is to get the public thinking insurance is a product off a grocery shelf, or even worse, a “necessary evil” that you are required to have but want to get at the lowest price possible.   He loves this message because it’s easy/lazy. 

It’s what customers THINK they want. 

I know for all you salespeople that were taught that the customer is always right?  Well, I’m telling you, that when it comes to Pric’s victim’s, they’re WRONG. 

We need to be tough and stand up for ourselves and our industry.  We cannot let Pric’s media influence back us down from being true consultants with our clients.  

After all, we don’t sell paper….

WE SELL TRUST on paper.

How can people trust us, if we aren’t willing to stand up for what is right.  We can’t be lazy and sell by price only. If this is your goal, then you’re better suited in the paper industry with Michael, Jim and Dwight Shrewt.  

Always remember, what we sell is so much more than paper.  

It’s peace of mind, it’s security, it’s a key to more profitable jobs, It’s a lawyer, it’s a house, it’s an income when you need it most, all wrapped up in a fat ream of paper we call insurance.

Next time someone asks for a quote, be as tough as a superhero, and show them how you do business.  

Next time another agent tries to take your business for 10%, fight for that business, because that agent needs to learn that he’s been brainwashed by Pric and he’s only hurting himself.  We’re all in this together.  

Avoid the “price sell” like the plague and show your clients that we’re more than just paper salesmen with commission breathe, we’re advisors, advocates and friends who are there when they need us most.

We’re their Superhero!!!!

DOES LONG WORK = HARD WORK?

I’ve heard my whole life that getting up at 6, work by 7, home by 8 pm meant you were a “hard worker”.  No offense to you long-day workaholic types, but if you truly can stay on task for 12 hours straight then watch out, you might turn into a science experiment because the normal human brain doesn’t allow it. If you don’t believe me, watch Brain Games.  #mindblown.

In reality, It seems the more office time I have, the better I get at appearing like I’m working hard while actually getting less done.  What others call hard working actually is soft working.  You know, rushing around so the boss “thinks” you’re busy, but actually just finding work to do for work’s sake.  I like to call this deceitful action Multi-Masking.

We’ve all been infected by the alien Multi-Masking bug.  Society has told us that 8 hour days are the standard, but we’re better than standard right?? “Well, I’m a harder worker because I stay 9 hours” we convince ourselves.  Then the next guy stays 9 hours, so we stay 10 hours, and the cycle continues until our family & social life suffers, we lose focus at work because of our home life issues and all we can do is softer work.  We are now slaves of the multi-masking disease.

Thankfully, there is a cure.  I like to call it power-tasking.  Think of work like a hammer and a nail.  Would you ever try to put pressure on as many nails as possible thinking you’re going to drive them in?  Of course not, but you sure would appear to be “working hard”.  Or you can use max effort, in short bursts, leveraging all you have on one specific task until it is complete, then recharging and moving on to the next job.
It’s easier than you think, you only have to be willing to say “no” to distractions and lazy work (goodbye email notification).  Automate & batch those things that need to be done but don’t bring the most results(i.e. social media, mailing, accounting, most meetings)  Then delegate whatever can’t be automated or eliminated, freeing you up to be the most efficient and effective “hardest” worker in the office because what you do creates results.  Hopefully your boss isn’t a multi-masker and can look past the shorter work days and breaks in between when they see their bottom line fattening from your efforts.  The great thing is, just like the multi-masking bug is contagious, so are results.

Agents of TrACTION, become immune to the multi-masking bug and focus on results, then there will be no question who works the hardest.

THINK OUTSIDE THE OFFICE BOX

How far are YOU willing to go to meet new clients?

Can you really stand by the coined phrase, “To boldly go where no one has gone before” and step out of the controlled, comfort and convenience of your own office and go out and meet them on their turf, with no formal appointment? The trenches where the real world is pulsating with thousands of potential new clients is just outside the door.

Here’s a real story from an actual client:

“I clicked an online ad searching for a small term life insurance to cover a car loan in the event that I should die before the car loan was paid off. It was a small, $7000 loan, but not a burden I wanted to place on anyone else.

I answered a phone call from a very courteous insurance agent and as we discussed my needs, he mentioned that he was in my vicinity so we set up a meeting at my home, for the following day.

As it goes, my personal plans changed within hours and I wouldn’t have been able to meet him. I called to let him know but said I was in town now and could actually meet him then if he wanted. I expected him to suggest we meet at an office or something but, instead, was surprised when he asked where I was and that we could meet there.

I happened to be heading to a department store and he suggested we meet there! I couldn’t believe his willingness to come to me and especially to a department store of all places!

As a customer, I can tell you, this really impressed me to think this man was willing to go out of his comfort zone and meet me in the most unlikely of places just for my convenience.

He won me over right then and there, as long as his insurance plan covered my needs, I would sign.

The foyer entering Kohl’s turned out to be the perfect place to meet. It may have appeared a little odd to customers coming and going, seeing a man in a suit with his briefcase and papers spread out on a bench and me sitting there, signing things, but I felt that if it didn’t embarrass him, I sure was not going to let a few side glances embarrass me.

We completed the deal, he promised to send me an email right away with all the pertinent details then to expect the full insurance dossier to arrive in the mail within the week. We shook hands and went our separate ways and everything arrived on time the way he had promised.”

Let’s take a look at what this insurance agent did right.

  • Online ads
  • Landing page with clear contact information
  • Fast follow up
  • Excellent customer service
  • Kept his promises

When generating new clients, it’s imperative to “think outside the box”. In this case, “the box” was literally a kind of box…an office. This super insurance agent boldly went beyond the norm to take care of his client. He proved his commitment and built trust before he even sold the insurance policy.

Don’t be shy about taking your business to a potential client, wherever that may be. “Street Deals” are “Sweet Deals”.

DO YOU SPEAK THE LANGUAGE OF MONEY?

Basis points, 1099s, and balance sheets–Oh My!  What language is this? Insurance agency owners need to speak a lot of languages, financ-ese is one of the toughest.   It’s a language that has been misunderstood for decades. Your long term success rests on your ability to speak and understand the language as it was intended.  Here is the proper take on some commonly misused phrases you’ll hear in this important, yet misunderstood, language.

1- Active Income or more commonly “Time is Money.”  

Wrong Definition:  Financial compensation paid for the amount of time spent working

Improper Use:  I can’t discuss safety right now, I have to sell something. Time is money.

True Definition: A narrow minded phrase that gradually binds a person’s time.

Proper Use: When we believe time is money, we severely deflate the value of our own time.

I fell deeply into this Active Income trap.  My accountant referred to our arrangement as a W-2 Wage Slave.  Yikes! That stung!! We were a dual income household, both as W-2 employees.  We were exchanging our time for money.

The more time we spent working, the more money we made.  So we thought.  Add taxes to this equation and the fallacy becomes very apparent.  More wages meant a higher income tax bracket. So the more time we worked, the higher percentage goes to taxes, leaving less money per time spent.  We were suffocating in our own success.

Read that one more time.  Let it simmer in your mind for a moment, then ask yourself, Are you a wage slave?

Think about someone who makes good money.  Unless they are a business owner, the more they earn, the higher their tax rates.  If time is money, then more money requires more time, which means nights, weekends and holidays.  They’re email account never sleeps. Worst of all, the money stops coming in when they stop working.

Most Insurance agents thought they were leaving the wage slavery world on the prospect of another kind of income earning opportunity.

2- Passive Income or more commonly “Making Money.”  

Wrong Definition:  Continuous compensation for prior work completed.

Improper Use:  I’m still making money on the policies I wrote last year.

Right Definition:  Money being earned regularly with little or no effort on the part of the person receiving it.

Proper Use: I’m building my agency to be a making money machine.

Let us dive into the nuances of true passive income.  Passive income is an incredible thing. Work once, make money forever!!!  What a great dream. Unfortunately, the so-called passive income stream for most agents requires way more “activity” then they signed up for.  Marketing, quoting, sales, service, agency management systems, payroll, taxes, renewals, CE, compliance, billing, licensing, shall I keep going?  Our passive income opportunity quickly becomes an active income trap. True passive income means regularly earning money with little to no effort on the part of the person receiving it.  With that definition in mind, how does your agency stack up? If you truly want passive income, your goal should be to invest your resources to free up your time by building a machine that quite literally makes money.  It creates value greater than the resources it takes to run it. The income from this investment is called a return. (That’s a bonus word for reading this far.)

You have many possible input resources available.  Time, money, energy, effort, focus, relationships, insurance companies, etc are all valuable resources available to use.  Time is the only one we can’t earn back, everything else is replaceable or renewable. The only way to true passive income is through investing all resources in an effort to free up time.

Right now, are you still trading time for money?  Or are you MAKING MONEY through intelligent use of all of your resources?  The nuanced differences will make all the difference.