Sales leaders have a tough job. They work with producers that are misplaced and burnt out. They work with underwriters in producers’ clothing. They work with the unmotivated and those with low self-esteem.
Many times, sales leaders give up on doing their job; just as much as the producers they complain about. It’s a tough gig on a good day. It’s a horrible job on a bad day.
That’s why I’ve often said: “My dog is better at training me than I am at training my dog.” My dog sits around all day long, then when she’s ready, she scratches on the door and expects me to get up and let her out so she can take care of her business. Then, she scratches on the door and expects me to get up and let her in. Then, she goes to her food bowl, makes a little whining noise, and I get up and feed her. Then, she stands by the door again, so she can go outside and poop. After that, I pick up the poop.
It’s simple… she’s better at training me than I am at training her. I am her slave. And frankly, that’s how a lot of producers have trained their sales leaders.
The sales leader makes a request, i.e., fills out this goal sheet. The producers whine and say they are busy, or they don’t know how to fill out a spreadsheet. They might say their computer broke, the electricity went out at their house, the game was on last night or a client called and had a big request. Bottom line: they didn’t get around to it.
Or, the sales leader schedules a sales meeting and asks producers to come prepared with appointments they have set up for the upcoming week. The goal is to prepare and help them win the account. And, the producers whine that they lost their homework. Their untrained dog ate their notes. They got busy helping their children with homework and didn’t have time to make a list.
The excuses get more creative as time goes on, and this ugly truth reveals itself: The producer is better at training their sales leader than the sales leader is at training and developing their producer.
The producer has trained the sales leader to leave them alone.
“Stop asking me difficult questions, or I’ll keep playing dumb.”
“Don’t ask me to use your systems, or I’ll keep making excuses.”
“Quit trying to get me to role-play and improve my skills, or I’ll keep whining about how I just don’t do that.”
“Quit coaching me to ask clients for introductions, or I’ll keep telling you, I’m just not comfortable.”
When a sales leader runs into this much resistance over and over, they generally quit trying themselves. They have officially been trained to leave their producers alone; the dogs have trained their master. And the agency stagnates.
A few great producers continue to be great but the rest sit on their books, take phone calls from clients and assist in renewing accounts. This generally happens over time. It’s subconscious, meaning no one is aware that it’s going on. It just happens.
But don’t say it’s not true. If your agency isn’t growing at double digits or at least high single digits, it’s happened to you.
What can you do about it? Maybe not much. It takes a lot of courage to turn something like this around. Anger isn’t the answer — resolve is.
If you are going to turn it around, you need to get systematic, meaning: lay out a process and train to it. As you embed the training, you’ll raise the standards. And over an 18-month period with more training, higher standards will emerge.
During that time, as you train your producers, you’ll still have the “I’m not playing your game” resisters. Then you get to start making tougher decisions. Do they stay and disrupt what you are building, or do you send them out the door?
Develop Your Sales Team
Here is something cool that you will discover — most people want to be led. Most want to get better. Most have an internal value system that says: “Jump on board and make this work for everyone.” But, not everyone is like that.
If you’ve never trained them to improve their skills. If you’ve never laid out your standards of performance, then you are stuck and will look like a jerk if you take action (fire the producer).
If you have done all you can do to help, then everyone on your team expects you to take care of the problem and eliminate the producer that can’t do it or won’t do it.
Here is one reason this is important — The difference between where your agency is today and where it will be tomorrow and many years into the future is in direct proportion to your ability to develop your sales team.
If you are the sales leader, this heaps all the responsibility for building a high-performance sales team on your shoulders. You can’t blame the producers. You can’t blame the industry. You can’t blame anyone except yourself.
Either you have the resolve and the courage to make this into something great or you don’t.
Please keep in mind courage doesn’t mean fearless. Courage means taking action in the presence of fear. Resolve simply means, you’re not giving up.
Those are two characteristics that you can’t outsource, but you can develop.
The source of courage is having something you want. When it’s big enough and important enough, courage comes naturally. Resolve is also tied into wants and desire.
Most agency sales leaders have given up, but not because they can’t muster the courage and resolve. They’ve proven that over and over in other areas of their life. They have given up because they get what they want from their agency. It’s making them and a few partners a pretty good living. At some point in the future, someone will write them a check. It will be enough to live out the rest of their life, and then it’s all over.
It’s with that attitude and feeling that being the sales leader they could be is just not worth it. And no one can blame them.
However, if that is not you, if you do want more, if you are tired of having a dog-driven culture and you want to turn it around, then here are the five steps to extraordinary growth:
- Commit to growing your agency (no commitment = you’ll quit when it gets tough). Commit to helping every producer you have double their personal income (put the spotlight on helping them). Commit to a proactive services culture (it gives your producers something concrete to sell, boosting their confidence).
- Install a playbook (here is how we sell).
- Train your playbook (training builds confidence). Confident people way outperform those who aren’t.
- Drive behaviors and actions (you’ve trained them to prospect and sell, now drive them to use their training).
- Establish a culture of accountability (Three “Cs”: contract, count, consequences).
Do this, and you’ll grow.