Canadian Underwriter

Pump Up the Volume

October 25, 2010   by Greg Southorn

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Bosh Balderdash is president and top producer of Balderdash Insurance & Financial, arguably the most successful brokerage in the Beguile region. He wasn’t always so extraordinary. In fact, until recently his business was so dysfunctional that its future was questionable. The problems were common enough:

  •  no time to manage staff,
  •  E&O exposures ignored,
  •  low client contact and poor retention,
  •  failure to manage renewals,
  •  no structured workflows,
  •  overworked CSRs and producers with no time to sell.

As Bosh clambered over these hurdles, he realized that sharing his experiences could help other entrepreneurs like him. In the following story, Bosh recounts his third lesson in building a better brokerage: producers need goals to score.

Summer vacation was clearly over. Within minutes of being back in the brokerage, I had a sinking feeling that something wasn’t right. Sure, I was descending from the usual high that comes from a holiday. But there was something more. Call it owner’s intuition. Balderdash Insurance & Financial was eerily quiet.

A quick look at the books confirmed my suspicion that all was not as it should be: new business levels had reached a standstill. I couldn’t find a new client on the roster. I needed to get to the bottom of this. Fast.

The producers were in the boardroom. Perfect timing. They must be discussing how to get us out of this hole. I was eager to find out about their prospects and strategies for generating business. Maybe even lend some helpful advice.

I slipped in and sat across from Ian ‘The Incompetent,’ who was discussing his new business prospects. (Each of my staff had a special title, unbeknownst to them, of course.)

Grant, ‘The Golden’ interrupted him, “Ian, your lead, ‘The Codfather’ seafood restaurant was involved in a fraud scheme last month.” Ian shrugged.

Yes, his nickname ‘The Incompetent’ was a little harsh, but he’d earned the moniker with his clueless blunders. Looking around, I realized there was some lost potential in the group.

Take Sean ‘The Slacker,’ for example. Sean’s new business prospects were the same accounts he was courting the last time I sat in on this meeting. Did that mean he hadn’t scored a deal in a year?

“I’d appreciate the team’s advice,” peeped Jill ‘The Junior.’ Now here was a girl who was going places! Since joining Balderdash six months ago, she’d won several big accounts.

“I’m pursuing so many business leads that there aren’t enough hours in the day to get to them all,” she explained. “Any suggestions for managing prospecting and pipelines?”

“Prospecting and pipelines?” queried Ian. “We don’t have access to an insurer who handles oil and gas–or mining. Do we??”

Grant tried to deflect the downward direction of the meeting. “Well, I’ve just nailed the ‘Buy and Large Construction’ account. What a relief: back to black.

This system monitors the status of each new business target and helps the producer to determine what they need to do to win the account. Staying on top of their conquests is easier with regular updates.

“That’s great Grant,” commended Jill. “What’s your secret? Do you have a sales strategy or specific sales goals that you work towards?” Of course he has a target. Everyone does.

“Sure Jill, I’ve set my own goals.” As everyone’s eyebrows rose and mouths opened, I realized Grant was the only one. “My objective is to build the biggest book I can,” he explained. “And I don’t like to hear the word ‘No.'”

After the meeting, Grant pulled me aside. Once everyone was out of earshot he complained, “Bosh, these meetings are a waste of time. The only thing I ever take away from them is that I need to work harder to compensate for the producers’ shortcomings. The team is dysfunctional because there’s no direction or individual sales goals.”

The situation was worse than I thought. Just call me ‘Bosh, Manager of the Muddle.’

Grant was right. I had stopped setting individual sales goals for the producers ages ago. I didn’t want to be a micromanager. But maybe they did need structure and support–a sales leader. Frustrated and embarrassed upon realizing that I was responsible,

I resolved to make a change.

“Grant, this meeting has been an eye opener,” I admitted. I couldn’t afford to lose my star, my most tenured producer. “Rest assured, there will soon be dedicated sales management in place to re-energize the producers and improve their performance.”

“You?” he asked. “Bosh, do you have time to make it happen?” No. But then, it didn’t have to be me.

Back in my office, I wrote down the lessons I’d learned. First and foremost, the producer team needed clarity on what was required of them. Here’s how I made it happen:

1) Set and communicated overall brokerage sales goals to all of the staff, including underwriting commitments to the insurers.

2) Set individual sales goals with each producer, and broke down the activity required to reach each goal by:

  •  Target goal
  •  Average sale, including number of clients required
  •  Average number of calls to get through to the client.

Once the producers were clear on and committed to corporate and individual sales goals, I noticed an immediate improvement in production. To help them stay their course, I introduced a single, standard process.

Each producer is now responsible for keeping a log of his or her new business efforts. This pipeline measures what they’ve accomplished against what they intend to do. We’ve structured the pipeline reports by:

1) Client name

2) Product

3) Revenue

4) Percentage change of close

5) Percentage of weighted revenue

6) Contact dates

7) Issues and help required.

And to further help keep their activities organized, producers record their prospecting activities (calls and meetings) by what they have done and what they plan to do. This system monitors the status of each new business target and helps the producer to determine what they need to do to win the account. Staying on top of their conquests is easier with regular updates.

I’m proud to report that while my changes are a work in progress, they have all paid off. The producers are happily focused on making money and have time to sell. I know this because I can now easily view their individual performance at a glance. I have the facts at my fingertips, along with accountability they’ve agreed to. So it’s easier than ever before to coach and direct them, and quickly resolve issues that arise.

Helping the producers has helped me to reach my own sales goals. Balderdash is better than ever for it. The good news is I can afford to plan my winter vacation.

The Author Greg Southorn, an Associate with The MIHI Group helps brokers to set essential company and individual producer goals. Working on behalf of brokers, he provides coaching and training on sales, team building and operations. Greg helps brokers to break through to the next level of business success, growth and transformation. For more information, visit:

© Copyright 2010 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the September 2010 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine.

This story was originally published by Canadian Insurance Top Broker.