The forgotten key to agency growth

Register now

When a messenger informed Tigranes, the king of ancient Armenia, that a Roman army was marching on his kingdom, Tigranes was displeased by the news. So he ordered the messenger killed and ignored his warning. The Roman invaders soon annihilated Tigranes’ army.

I have a message for any agency owner, practice leader, or producer who wants more prospecting activity, a full pipeline, more new accounts and more revenue — in short, growth. But most will be displeased by my report. Please remember Tigranes.

An old business maxim asserts, “If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it. And if you don’t manage it, it’s not important.” When it comes to producers, most benefit firms ignore this sound advice. Most expect producers to prospect effectively and generate revenue with no management, accountability, or guidance, and little-to-no sales training.

This laissez-faire approach is advisable in a nation’s economics but not in a sales organization; and every benefit firm is a sales organization. Even more than other employees, producers need to be coached and held accountable — managed. No one hires an account manager and simply tells them, “Just manage the accounts any way you see fit.” And no other industry takes such a hands-off approach to its salespeople.

I’ve heard all the excuses why an agency doesn’t hold its producers accountable, why they can’t manage their producers: “I can’t tell them what to do … they’re on straight commission.” “They have a big book and bring in a lot of revenue.” “They’re professionals; they know what they’re doing.” “If I try to manage them they’ll just leave and take their book with them.”

Producer-driven agencies

I can’t begin to describe how wrong — and wrong-headed — these excuses are. In these “producer-driven” agencies, the producers are effectively in charge. But as the owner or practice leader, with responsibility for the financial health and success of your business, how can you not manage the people whose job it is to grow the business?

The retail adage, “volume hides a multitude of sins,” explains why benefit firms previously could get away with not managing producers. But post-ACA, with top-line revenue harder to come by and profits squeezed, there simply is no margin for error.

You can’t manage results but you can manage activity. Measuring producer activity allows you to manage it. Holding each producer accountable for the right activities will increase activity, sales and revenue. Additionally, the right coaching strategies can make the process easier for both the sales manager and producers.

But note this. In quantum physics, the “observer effect” refers to the fact that you alter the state of what you measure by the very act of observing. Sales management is no different. When you begin to manage your producers’ activity, something very positive happens. The very fact that you manage their activity will improve their results — or expose problems you can work to fix. Either way, your producers become more, well, productive. Everyone makes more money and your agency will grow.

Remember, if you don’t manage it, it’s not important. If you don’t manage your producers, what does that say to them about how you value their role? Take back control of your firm and manage your producers for more sales, revenue and agency growth.

Griswold is an agency growth consultant and author of DO or DIE: Reinventing Your Benefits Agency for Post-Reform Success. His Agency Growth Mastermind Network helps agency leaders reform-proof their firm. Reach him at (615) 656-5974,, or through

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.
Practice management