For too long, benefit advisers have relied on, and been satisfied with “the trend is our friend” as a philosophy for new business growth. That is, relying on premium increases as a primary source of increased revenue. This is a short-sighted strategy. Carrier commissions are the one aspect of your business that you don’t control, and the industry has seen commissions for insurance brokers cut since the ACA, and in some cases, eliminated altogether.

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Bloomberg/file photo

Additionally, the benefit advisory market is more often than not a zero-sum game. New business for an agency doesn’t usually come from entrepreneurs starting a company, but in taking business from a competitor. That means that from a sales perspective, benefit advisers need to figure out how to differentiate themselves — out-maneuver, outsmart, out-communicate and out-service your competition. It’s time for insurance agencies to take the reins of their business, and take a hard look at how they’re going about achieving predictable, continuous growth — starting with aggressive goal setting.

Set SMART Goals
It’s easy to say that you want to grow your business, but if you don’t set targets, it’s impossible to define success. According to the Staples National Small Business Survey, more than 80% of small business owners don’t keep track of their business goals, and 77% have yet to achieve their vision for the company.

Your goals should push your producers outside their comfort zones, but still be attainable. S.M.A.R.T. goals, commonly associated with Peter Drucker’s concept of management by objectives, are a common, proven framework to set goals, both for your company and for individuals. According to this mnemonic, goals should be:

  • Specific. Increasing sales, while admirable, is not a specific enough goal to rally a team around. Break down your large initiatives into their individual components. What does increasing sales mean to you? Bringing on larger groups? Bringing on small groups at a faster rate? Adding new lines of coverage to your current book of business?

  • Measureable. You need to define success within the goals that you set. Don’t focus on revenue percentages which can be skewed by premium increases, but in hard numbers: the number of new groups that you will bring on, or the size of new groups you’ll target, or the number of new lines you’ll add. Be aggressive.

  • Agreed upon. Aggressive, audacious goals can either be motivating or frustrating, and the difference comes down to buy-in. Clear communication to those being asked to meet the goals is critical, starting with transparent conversations around how the numbers were decided on and the plan to achieve them, both individually and as a team.

  • Realistic. While you can (and should!) be aggressive in setting goals, don’t set your employees up for failure. Make sure the goals are achievable, and work together with your employees on a plan to achieve each of their targets. You need to equip your sales team with the tools to achieve the audacious goals you set, and they can’t just be cold-calling to do that.

  • Time-bound. Achieving your goals eventually isn’t the point. Create a sense of urgency for your team by attaching strict timelines to each of their goals, and create plans to help employees hit their targets. Set year-end goals, and break them down to more palatable numbers on a quarterly or monthly basis.

You cannot manage what you do not measure
The success of your business can not be accidental. Take a hard look at your numbers. Do you know how long it takes for a new BOR to be profitable? Do you know if your producers are actually making money for your business? Do you know if your accounts are worth the time and service you give them?

If you do not have a CRM in place today, get one. There are tons of solutions on the market at varying price points and sophistication levels. Whatever software you choose, you should be able to track and manage your entire sales pipeline and know exactly what it takes to close every deal.

Setting goals is one thing, achieving them is another. Hold your team accountable to the goals you agreed upon, track their progress, and make sure that their compensation plans incentivize achieving both individual and company goals.
The new year is the perfect time to take a hard look at your business, stop the inertia, and be purposeful about aggressive growth going forward. Start 2017 out right with smart, aggressive sales goals that will motivate your team, and transform your business.

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