ACG - Agency Consulting Group

The PIPELINE

A national monthly newsletter for agency principals dedicated to agency management topic

The Art of Attraction

Some agencies have a way of repelling rather than attracting prospects managers, employees and clients. The very attitude of the service staff makes clients and prospects feel as if they are interfering with the agency instead of the core reason for the agency staff to be there. Agency owners (and staff) don't mean to send this message to customers. However, this attitude normally transcends customer treatment and has embodied the agency's treatment of its managers, producers and employees. When any employee does not feel appreciated or respected, it makes it difficult for him or her to treat others with respect or appreciation. Here are a few tips on the Fine Art of Attraction. Pass this along to your staff members and evaluate whether you are ATTRACTORS or REPELORS.

Attracting Key Managers

1. Have a vision - Managers need to know that the agency owner knows where he/she is going.

2. Don't be afraid to share the vision - Some owners fear sharing their hopes and vision of the future because a) if it doesn't happen, it will be a sign of failure, b) it may limit the agency's success to the limits of the vision, c) exposing the vision actually means that it must be pursued - it's easier to hope for something and not work toward it than to invest in implementation. Obviously, none of these reasons are valid. The only way to reach a vision is to share it and work together to achieve it. It doesn't happen automatically because you would like it to occur.

3. Write it down. A vision can only turn to reality if it is visible on an on-going basis. This is classic visualization. If you goals falter under the scrutiny of the written word, there was probably something wrong with the vision itself that can b improved though analysis.

4. Don't keep secrets from your managers. Successes are sometimes hidden to avoid managers asking for more money. Failures are sometimes hidden to avoid disappointment or morale decline. Keeping secrets is a sign that managers are not trusted. They may not know what the secret is, but they will certainly know that there is one and will feel rejected.

5. Control managers, but don't micro-manage. It is astonishing how selective and careful agency owners are in their selection of the best, strongest, most experienced candidates for management roles - and then second-guess and micro-manage the managers until they are no more than puppets of the owner, doing exactly what the owner had done prior to their arrival. If you are looking for alter-egos to follow your direction, you want supervisors, not managers. Hire managers and let them manage with strategic direction and clarification of your goals.

6. Give clear direction, but don't expect miracles. We have seen owners hire managers to accomplish tasks that were attempted and failed by the owners themselves. Saying you want something done, or that it must be done doesn't necessarily make it possible - listen to your managers and compromise when they recommend changes.

7. Hire the best and give them both the authority and the responsibility to carry out your direction.

Attracting Producers

1. Have a tangible marketing and sales plan. Gone are the days when agents hired prospective producers, put them out on the street and told them to sell or be terminated. Successful producers don't need to move to your agency. Unsuccessful producers are always available, but won't be any more successful for you than they have been in the past - unless they have unused potential and you provide them a disciplined approach to sales, and manage them.

2. Have the tools in place to maximize a producer's successes

a. Don't hire producers if you don't have the carriers in place to permit prospecting and sales of new business.

b. Don't hire producers if your carriers have no competitive products compared to your competition

c. Don't hire producers without a marketing program to help them get in front of prospects

3. Have a support team and mechanism in place. Producers are supposed to be salespeople. If they are good at it, they are probably not the best people to complete the detail work associated with writing business. Producers should complete applications and surveys because they are the ones in the field with the prospects and clients. In order to maximize their efforts on their (and your) behalf, you should have someone in house to rate, market and develop proposals for them to sell to the customers.

4. Treat every producer as if he or she was your child - give them every break, advantage and opportunity to succeed. Your success depends on the producer's success.

5. Don't put producers in an adversarial position with you, with other producers or with the agency.

Attracting Employees

1. Have a pleasant, professional atmosphere and attitude

2. Don't operate a "pressure cooker" agency in which every day and every project or problem is a crisis

3. Make employees accountable for their actions, but give them full authority to carry out their jobs

4. Talk to employees often - get and give constant feedback

5. Pay employees through Incentive Compensation Plans to permit them to incent themselves to share the company's successes.

Attracting (and Keeping) Clients

1. Collect intelligence on every prospect - don't go in cold. It takes time and effort to find out information about a prospect, but it is time well spent. Information exists on every company in existence.

2. Treat every prospect and client as a VIP when addressing them - no one likes to be thought of or treated lik a "small" account.

3. Smile when you greet a client or prospect - even on the phone. You would be surprised how positively a smile is perceived, even on a phone call.

4. Under-promise and Over-Deliver. Customer sales comes from the producer's skills and a comprehensive and competitive product. But loyalty and retention stems from their feeling that you fulfill their needs quickly and efficiently whenever they need or ask for something. And loyalty and retention are guaranteed when your agency acts on behalf of the customer without his asking.

To the degree that you follow these guidelines for the various groups that you would like to attract to you, the agency will be successful. If you find that you have lost management, employees, producers and customers, a part of the cause results from actions that repel, rather than attract these people. Our business is difficult enough make growth and profit a challenge in the best of conditions. Don't compound the problems by acting in such a way as to detract the people you need to succeed in your business.