OPERATIONALIZING SALES AND MARKETING: FIRST STEPS FOR INSURANCE AGENTS – EPISODE 049
In this episode of The Digital Broker, Steve and Ryan talk about sales and marketing as an operational process. By listening to this episode, you will learn:
- How the sales and marketing processes differ, and where they intertwine
- How the processes tend to fall apart in the absence of operational oversight
- How an operational makeover of sales and marketing makes the processes sustainable, repeatable, and scalable, ensuring growth and the survival of the agency
Though we’ll talk about sales and marketing as a single process, they ought to be defined differently. Marketing is the process by which you identify leads and prospects—people who might have an interest in what you’re selling. Sales is everything you do after that to get a check.
Here, we won’t be so concerned with how to market or sell better, but rather the operational aspect of either process. How do you integrate sales and marketing into your agency’s operations so that the process is more sustainable, repeatable, and scalable?
The fact is, many agents and brokers aren’t doing a good job operationalizing either sales or marketing. (6:18) Has this happened to you before? You have a great new idea to market to new customers, but you decide not to go through with it because you don’t want your old customers to find out that the new customers are getting a better deal.
Or consider the case of Jerry, a producer Steve used to work with. (10:18) This guy was a cold-calling superman. If he had as little as 30 minutes between appointments, he’d go knocking on doors, shaking hands left and right, handing out business cards, generating leads on the spot… Agencies adore a producer like this, but here’s the thing: everything Jerry did was part of his process. The agency had little to no insight into what he was doing, when, and to whom.
Each of the aforementioned scenarios is characterized by a lack of operational consistency. Probably your marketing idea was good and would have netted the agency value, but it wouldn’t have been consistent with a centralized marketing strategy—because there wasn’t any. As for Jerry, who’s to say he wasn’t crossing wires with other producers, creating confusion elsewhere in the organization? Was his process consistent with what everybody else in the agency was supposed to be doing? Could he have used some help in measuring leads, following up at the right times, bringing in somebody who could take it from there so that he could go generate leads elsewhere?
Operational excellence is about replacing disorder, confusion, and inconsistency with order, clarity, and consistency. The end result ought to be a process that can scale. Suppose your operations team had a bigger stake in your sales and marketing process; could it put its resources toward measuring data, keeping tabs on producers, ensuring no wires are crossing, and developing a marketing communication strategy that is consistent across every channel?
We’re not talking about expelling producers or other agents from the process; on the contrary, their contributions would be maximized by keeping them busy doing what they do best. Steve remembers working at an agency that had a process like this in place; producers could opt into it by handing off the lead or prospect whenever they saw fit to do so. (14:42) The operations team would take it from there, freeing the producer to go generate leads elsewhere. Yes, it did require the producer to take a smaller piece of the sale, and disagreements over the ownership of a lead are perhaps where many disputes are born. But whatever the producer lost in equity would be gained in time. The process worked: the average closing rate in that agency over the next five years jumped to approximately 75%.
Yes, it might take that long for a process like that to show returns. Much of that time will go toward designing and refining the process. Every agency has to figure out what it’s good at and try to streamline it. (18:20) It is always more tempting to close a client right now than it is to think long-term about a process that might not show returns for another three to four years. But you don’t have much of a choice. That which scales, survives; that which doesn’t, tends to go by the wayside. If you don’t have a scalable, operationalized sales and marketing engine right now, get to work designing and building one. Put somebody on the job for x number of hours a week until it’s finished, or outsource the creation of it. Just get it done. If you don’t, expect to be outpaced by the agencies that do.
In a future episode, we will get into more detail about how to design such a process and integrate it into your operations. For the time being, we wanted you to start considering these issues. Do you have an internal marketing department that is espousing the value of your agency to prospective customers on a consistent basis? Do you have a process to deal with new and existing customers? Make sure to join us on a future episode where we’ll revisit those questions. In the meantime, see what others are saying inside our Digital Broker LinkedIn group.