We have the conversation all the time in Insurance Soup, our free and very active group of 30,000 Insurance Agents .
What is the best way to staff an Agency?
Well while there are obviously 100 ways to skin a cat there is one model that the majority of the more successful Agents out there will tell you is just the flat out wrong way to set things up.
The “Generalist” Model
It’s a model that typically new Agency Owners and lazy Agency Owners run with.
The newer ones because they do not know any better and the lazy ones because they started as generalists and do not want to “rock the boat” or change the culture of an existing Agency that on the surface is “doing ok” but nowhere near their full potential.
The generalist model puts every single person employed by the Agency into the interesting position of being able to answer the question
“So what do you do in the Agency?”
The sales, the service, the marketing, the claims… you name it – if you are a generalist you are handling everything thrown your way.
You know what a generalist does NOT do?
Anything particularly well.
You know what else a generalist is also going to do?
Sink more time into activities they prefer or enjoy or are compensated more heavily for while neglecting their other responsibilities.
There lies another problem for the generalist in an office that is typically far more reactive than organized…
The inability to get into any kind of flow.
The generalist sits down.
Day starts. They check their email. Answer a few. Take a phone call. Does some service. Makes 4 calls. Gets a walk in. It’s a payment. 20 minutes gone. It was a chatter. Makes 3 more dials. Starts a quote. Tells the prospect they will call back in an hour. Has to call back one of the people they serviced earlier to let them know everything is good. Someone walks in and needs to change their address. The generalist tries to cross sell. Strikes out. Misses the time they were supposed to call the quote from an hour ago back. Oh a new lead came in 45 minutes ago. Well that things been called by 3 other Agents already. Good luck. Oh crap I had someone in my calendar for 20 minutes ago but I was changing Dolly’s address. Damn it. Voicemail. Hope she calls back. Back on the phones. Make some dials. Oh a claim is calling in.This should be fun. And the day continues on from there.
There is no chance to get into “the zone” that most of us like to be in when we are selling.
There is no real true effort to give the best service because the month is ticking away and they only sold 4 auto, 2 home, and ZERO life policies.
Why isn’t the generalist selling any life?
Ask them what they know about it.
Turns out the only life product they comfortable selling is term and they do not like selling life. They feel its intrusive and are not comfortable talking about death with strangers for gain.
What does the generalist enjoy doing?
What did their resume and career goals reflect when you hired them?
Turns out the generalist is sitting on a skill set the Agent is not even tapping into.
Their “zone of genius” has gone wasted.
And on and on and on it goes… and all the while there is turnover as employee happiness is lacking because no one likes to run around like a chicken with their head cut off all day every day.
Now on the flip side, savvy Agents know to specialize.
Specialists do what they like and are good at all day every day without interruption.
The P&C sales guy comes in and manages a calendar he can not be interrupted from.
Gets into the zone. Makes their dials. Gets their quotes. Closes their sales.
The marketer is able to consistently put together ads and events that keep the registers ringing and are not simply doing things “when theres time”
The Life Agent is handed warm intro after warm intro from the P&C sales person as the knowledge base for the agency on protecting families income and houses in the event of tragedy.
The CSR is able to deliver OVER THE TOP service to the people in need of help and not simply check things off or brush people away due to time or compensation restrictions.
And on and on it goes…. Each person performing a duty they enjoy and excel at to their hearts content, earning a fair wage for their effort, and staying within their zone of genius.
And magically the numbers in those Agencies are typically higher. Attrition lower. And the gossip about how that Agency is “probably cheating” hums along from underperforming Agents running generalist models.
If you are in a generalist model there are a few things you can do to mitigate the distractions but unfortunately you are currently in a situation that will ultimately inhibit your ability to earn and distract you from going all in on areas of the business you love but here are a few tips that can help you get into a better position.
Block off 3 hours a day for cold call / lead calls. 2 in the beginning and 1 at the end of the day. 1 hour to follow up on pipeline. 1 hour for marketing/social media mining. 1 hour for service and 2 hours at the end of the day that you let the day take you where it needs to. If there is a private office area available for you to get work done uninterrupted.... go... now... yesterday... and get into flow.
Defend it fiercely. You need it. It will allow you to get into the flow and check things off your never ending to do list.
Show Your Boss This Article.
Maybe they have never given consideration to a specialist model and reading this article may be the kick in the derriere they need to see the light.
Explain to them how you do not feel you are giving the Agency the best version of you with you bouncing around all the time reacting to whatever is going on around you.
Look at Different Agencies.
We are fortunate to work in an industry that has high turnover and constant hiring needs. If you are in a position where you feel your earning potential is limited there aint no one that can hold you down. This is ‘Murrica and in this economy jobs are abundant.
Be Your Own Boss
A lot of Team Members are surprised to learn that they are actually at a point in their career where they could move into ownership and actually be able to craft a business in their own image… and we all know that there are few people who have a more clear vision of how a business SHOULD be run than an employee in an Agency that is not being run well…
All that said, it can be difficult to navigate being a generalist in this industry.
While the Agent is not saying it directly, maintaining a generalist model is the Agents way of saying
“Hey I want you to sell as much as possible but also do these other things that will prevent you from doing what I will probably judge your job performance on the most”
Without actually saying it.
Pretty ridiculous when its laid out that plainly.
While it may feel confusing… there are no generals in the Agency in the generalist model…
Only foot soldiers who receive no direction on how to really win the war.
If you are stuck in a generalist model know that there are ways Agents conduct business in this field that will allow you to go way further while being way happier.
You should be pursuing what makes you happy and what makes you money.
Without both in place your time remaining at the generalist Agency is eroding by the day.
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