As an insurance agency owner, you want to make sure your agents are being as productive as possible. The money coming in the door directly reflects how well they're using their time.
There's so much information – including research and helpful statistics – that can teach us about maximizing productivity in our insurance agencies.
While statistics can point us all in the right direction, John and I also want to share what we've done in our own agency to increase agent productivity.
We're very excited to kick off this "Cover Your Bases" series where we tackle common concerns of agency owners. Feel free to jump ahead to different topics in this article focused on agent productivity:
- Production Goals and Sales Contests
- Share Your Agency's Numbers
- Implement the Right Agency Tools
- Train Your Agents to Cross-Sell
- Healthy Employees Are More Productive
- Arm Your Agents With Simple Productivity Hacks
Production Goals and Sales Contests
A production goal is to insurance agent as a deadline is to newspaper publishers.
Production goals will nudge your agents to work harder, and one way to do that is by holding sales contests in your agency.
A 2009 study out of University of Michigan found that when you're competing, a smaller group makes you more productive. In sum, when there are more people competing, you feel less motivated.
Also, when you win a competition, your brain produces dopamine – the feel-good hormone – and you're motivated to experience that rush again. It produces a motivational, productive cycle.
With that in mind, you might consider creating a sales contest with teams rather than every agent for himself. That'll motivate your agents as suggested by that University of Michigan study.
The way we do this in our local agency is by dividing up the agency into 4-5 teams and having them compete against each other for a reward.
For example, when the coronavirus pandemic started to sweep our nation, our local agency started the Corona Challenge.
This sales contest was 3 weeks long and the prizes were $500 for first place, $350 for second place, and $150 for third place. You can read more about the point system we used for that contest here, but you get the idea.
In a time when business should have really slow, it motivated many of the agents to go the extra mile, and their productivity was boosted because of it.
A quick note on prizes: trips and cash bonuses are nice, but a personal reward is more motivating. If you can find out what your agents are really interested in, it might encourage better productivity.
For example, Michael Sams recently set a goal of hitting $1 million in new sales. If he could reach that goal, the agency would buy him a $5,000 horse saddle.
Guess what? He hit the $1 million mark for the first time. That saddle meant a great deal to him and helped motivate him to meet his goals.
Share Your Agency's Numbers
If your agents can see the financial health of the agency, it might give them the extra motivation they need to pull their weight.
At our local agency, we tell the agents where the agency is at volume-wise, and we show how we're trending based on prior years. Agents are generally sales-oriented – there's something about seeing the numbers and trends that makes them want to compete.
The way you share this information might be a simple report – maybe it's weekly, monthly, or quarterly – or perhaps you have a dashboard that's on a monitor in your office at all times.
Here's an example of a visual dashboard in AgencyBloc, an Agency Management System (we'll talk more about that later).
Use Dashboards to Motivate
A dashboard is a visual representation of your sales data. You might display your sales goals, the agency revenue, number of customers – whatever data is relevant to your agency.
You can use dashboarding to show your agents how they're tracking towards their goals and revenue targets. As an agency owner, you can use these metrics to make decisions, award bonuses, and identify potential issues before they spiral out of control.
If you don't already have a system (typically, your Agency Management System) that provides dashboards for you, HubSpot shares some sales dashboard providers:
- Klipfolio: This software allows you to use data from your CRM and combine it with data from the other services to create dashboards.
- DataHero: Pull in data from a wide range of services and tools to create custom reports.
- Zoho Analytics: Track key performance metrics by creating a custom report or using one of Zoho Analytics 60+ reports and dashboards.
Even if the dashboard is only visible on your agent's computers – in other words, it's not publicly displayed at all times – a dashboard can be extremely motivating.
And again, motivation drives us all to be more productive with our time.
Implement the Right Agency Tools
If your agency is still using file cabinets and scattered Excel sheets to organize information, your agents probably aren't that productive with their time.
Thanks to technology, there are a variety of Agency Management Systems that will have a dramatic impact on your team's productivity.
An Agency Management System (AMS) allows insurance agencies to organize their book of business to more effectively run their operation.
AgencyBloc is the only AMS we have personal experience with, but there are definitely others out there – we just can't speak about them from a place of experience. So just keep that in mind, and make sure to get a demo before you proceed with any of these.
We use AgencyBloc in our local agency to store our client's information, run reports, and send targeted emails.
AgencyBloc replaces the need for file cabinets and cluttered spreadsheets by consolidating all of the important client information in one place.
AgencyBloc also makes AEP much more manageable.
A few key features of AgencyBloc:
- It's specific to health and life, so it solves our problems pretty directly (generic CRMs require a LOT of customization and workarounds)
- It's cloud-based, so any agent can access it from anywhere
- It's contact-based, so our book of business is organized
- Tasks can be automated, which saves everyone time and keeps things from falling through the cracks
- Dashboards are available in real-time to help everyone stay on track with their goals
- Custom reporting makes it easy to get a quick list of upcoming renewals, for example
There's more, but these are some of the key features that make a big difference for our agency.
AgencyBloc pricing starts at $65/month and scales based on how many agents are on your team.
NextAgency is an AMS for life and health agencies that claims to save time, money, and clients with its robust CRM, free benefits portals, and workflows.
NextAgency organized all of your files and documents, and they're easy to sort and share. The CRM tools stores all of your prospect and client information so you can access their information when you need it.
You can email and text clients right from this software, and you can schedule any blast campaigns easily.
You can manage tasks, notes, and tickets from your "Timeline," which can help you structure your day. NextAgency also integrates with other tools you might use, like Google Drive, Trello, Dropbox, QuickBooks, and ZenDesk.
NextAgency pricing starts at $93.75 and scales based on how many agents you have. Keep in mind that many of the features are priced separately. For example, email, text, and marketing campaigns are all additional fees.
Radius claims to automate your insurance agency in as little as 5 minutes. The key features offered with this AMS include:
- Sales automation – get rid of the spreadsheets and file cabinets
- Marketing automation – no need for a separate email marketing software or SMS texting platform
- Organization with lead and client histories, reminders and tasks, and file storage
- Customization – create your own fields, client statuses, and more
Radius also has the capability to handle phone calls. Your agency can make and receive calls directly from the system.
Radius comes with a 15-day free trial, and for agencies with 10 users, pricing starts at $292 per month.
Hawksoft claims to be an all-inclusive management system that helps you grow your book of business. Those who have used this AMS say its easy to implement, and the training required to teach your agents is minimal.
A few key features of Hawksoft:
- A unified client file
- Email marketing
- Sales & CRM pipeline
- Personal & commercial workflows
- Carrier downloads
The average time agencies stay with Hawksoft is 18 years, so consider scheduling a demo to learn more about how it could help your agency. Pricing is not publicly available.
There's more technology you might consider implementing to increase the productivity of your agents, but it's really another subject, so check out this article for more details: Insurance Technology: What Modern Insurance Agents Need to Run Their Businesses
Train Your Agents to Cross-Sell
One of the best investments you can make in your team is proper training.
Your agents might be able to sell a Medicare Supplement to every person that walks into their office. But if they learn how to cross-sell, they can double – or triple – their sales without needing any additional prospects or time.
Training your agents to cross-sell is arguably the fastest way to double your agency's production. Talk about productivity!
That's exactly what our local agency did when we started implementing new processes and ways to help our agents cross-sell effectively. Change is difficult, but when one agent started following the system, other agents saw his success.
Then, it was a trickle effect. One-by-one, other agents started to get on board, and before you knew it, one of our best agents saw her sales increase by 88% in just one year.
She'll tell you to this day that old dogs can learn new tricks.
The problem with this is most agency owners don't have the time to train their agents. You're busy managing the operation, and training requires hands-on mentorship.
That's why we developed the All-Star Program. It's a done-for-you training program that includes full product training, sales strategies, and processes to help your agents reach their full potential.
Gina Downs, Vice President at Senior Connection, says that before starting the All-Star Program with three agents on her team, she was concerned about follow-through. "All the time and money that we spent is for nothing if there's no follow-through," she says.
The good news? Downs says she knew after the first week there was nothing to worry about. "Everyone was so excited about the information and learning new ways to do things. We found it'd be easier than we thought to incorporate new steps in our sales presentations."
Downs says she's already seeing positive improvements in her agents, and they haven't yet finished the 8-week program.
"I'd recommend this to other agency owners, hands-down. We are very successful and have been around for a very long time time, but that doesn't mean we can't improve. We decided to do the program, and it's been fantastic."
Cost was a hesitation for Downs, as she was paying for everyone to go through the program. "If they're following the program, sales are going to increase. The program has paid for itself in just a few sales," she says. "It's worth it."
Healthy Employees Are More Productive
A variety of surveys and reports have shown healthier employees are more productive, happier in their jobs, and save their employers money over time.
Physical and mental health both play a role here, so let's take a look at both.
Improving Mental Health of Agents
Northeast Business Group on Health shares that the two most common mental health conditions – depression and anxiety – result in an estimated $1 trillion in lost economic productivity.
An employee can be physically present at work, but not really present at all (called presenteeism). And sometimes, those are who depressed or are suffering from anxiety don't show up to work at all. The report from NEBGH shares that mental health conditions is the leading cause of lost work days.
For agents suffering from depression or anxiety, this simply means they're not out prospecting, and they're probably not going above and beyond in the areas that really count:
- Providing stellar customer service
- Asking for referrals
This is an obvious problem, and the next question is: what can I do as agency owner?
The Bowman Family Foundation, Aetna, and Johnson & Johnson funded a guide that has some recommendations for tackling mental health concerns in your workplace.
Some of these recommendations are obviously for large companies, but the concept can be scaled down for smaller agencies.
Instead of creating a full-on workplace stress management program, consider a 10-minute meditation time after lunch or an agency-wide FitBit tracking competition. Both meditation and physical activity have been directly linked to stress reduction.
FitBit has pre-built challenges, including a Daily Showdown, Goal Day, Weekend Warrior, and Workweek Hustle.
There are also a number of digital programs available to employers that can help your team overcome stress, anxiety, burnout, and similar mental health concerns. The best program we found in our research that's not only proven to be effective, but is affordable for small teams is Headspace for Work.
Companies like LinkedIn, Adobe, and General Electric use Headspace for Work to help employees deal with stress, sleep, focus, and anxiety.
This digital program shows that in just 3-5 weeks, Headspace lowers stress by 32%, reduces burnout by 14%, increases focus by 14%, and cuts mind-wandering by 22%.
"The Wake Up" includes inspiring stories and mini-meditations delivered daily to help you start your morning right. Getting off on the right foot can set the precedent for the rest of your day!
The cost is $12.99 per employee per month. You can choose how many employees you want a subscription for, and you can also select the duration on the Headspace for Work purchase page.
Improving Physical Health of Agents
No one is asking agency owners to pounce when they see an agent eating a donut.
Everyone's responsible for their own well-being, but many companies have found ways to support the physical health of their staff.
Just like mental health, physical health is directly tied to your staff's productivity.
A 2008 review conducted by the Department of Health and Productivity Research at Thomson Healthcare found that promoting healthy choices in pretty simple ways can have a "substantial" impact on the productivity of your employees.
Some examples of things you can do in your office:
- Offering healthy food choices in cafeterias
- Stocking vending machines with nutritious snacks
Healthy YOU Vending machines feature healthy snacks like CLIF bars, peanuts, and popchips. There are over 2,500 healthy vending options to choose from.
- Requiring company-sponsored meals to be healthy
- Providing opportunities for physical activity
- Having a campus-wide no-smoking policy
- Making staircases attractive
- Providing benefit coverage for recommended preventive screenings
Again, much of this research is geared towards large companies, but you can take the concept and make it work for a smaller agency. For example, require everyone to get out of their desk every hour on the hour and do a few laps around the office.
Another study done by Vielife Limited in the UK evaluated the impact of a health promotion program – would it reduce employee risks and increase their work productivity?
They followed 266 employees, and compared to the control group, they found the following:
- 45% reduction in health risk factors
- 36% reduction in absenteeism days
- 79% increase on the work performance scale
The results of this study suggest that a great workplace health promotion program can increase staff productivity.
That health promotion program included elements like:
- Health risk appraisal questionnaire
- Access to a tailored health improvement web portal
- Wellness literature
- Seminars and workshops focused upon identified wellness issues
So, again, we're not saying your agency with less than 25 agents needs to have a tailored health improvement web portal. But I think we can take something away from this research: supporting your employees' physical health can improve their productivity.
So, what are some more reasonable ways to do that if you're an agency owner?
- Start a fitness contest: whether it's a Biggest Loser challenge, using an app like WalkMyMind (steps, distance, and listening challenges), or using a wearable step tracker to set goals for your staff
- Implement walking meetings: if you need to have a meeting with an agent, consider doing it while you walk! Walking meetings have been reported to be the most effective when you're brainstorming ideas or need to be creative (CDC).
- Subsidize gym memberships: OK, so we may be stealing this idea from MA plans, but there's a reason they offer it as a benefit design – consider doing the same thing in your agency
- Talk about it!: A guide created by Workplace Health Research Network and Johns Hopkins advises employers to be "active supporters" of physical activity and to focus on building a culture of health
These ideas can feel a little foreign and far-fetched, but remember that aside from sleeping, most people in the workforce spend the majority of their day-to-day life working. There's an opportunity here to make a real difference, and when your agents are physically healthier, you'll reap the benefits of higher productivity.
Arm Your Agents With Simple Productivity Hacks
There are a ton of little habits that can help your agents increase their productivity. If you meet with your team on a regular basis, consider sharing a productivity hack at the beginning of each meeting.
Whether it's your own tip or a hack we'll share here, it's bound to get everyone thinking about how they can best use their time.
1. The Two-Minute Rule
Have you ever been completely overwhelmed by an onslaught of emails, voicemails, or paperwork? It can be paralyzing. But if you can keep up with it all steadily, it's manageable.
The idea behind the two-minute rule is if a task can be done in two minutes or less, do it. Don't save it for later.
Steve Olenski, Forbes contributor and Author, came up with this idea and says it takes less time to do it right now than it does to come back to it later on.
Sometimes, productivity is all about shaving seconds off here and there, and this is one of those simple hacks.
2. Have Intentional Meetings
Meetings are a subject all on their own, but to get to the point, meetings account for 31 hours of wasted time each month for the average worker in an office (Inc.).
Take a hard look at the meetings you currently have, and make sure they have a purpose. Don't meet just to meet – that's one of the biggest productivity pitfalls in business across the globe.
3. Restructure the Workday
The traditional 8-hour workday started during the industrial revolution, but several studies in the last decade have shown it may be sucking away all our productivity.
A famous productivity study by the Draugiem Group found that the length of the workday wasn't that important – taking short breaks throughout is what mattered.
The study found the ideal work-to-break ratio is 52 minutes of work followed by 17 minutes of rest. Researchers found those who followed this pattern were entirely focused during the nearly 1-hour stretch and were not distracted by things like Facebook pings or email notifications.
When they started to get tired, they took a short break where they completely separated themselves from work. Rinse and repeat.
Scientists point to the way our brains work to explain this finding: "the brain naturally functions in spurts of high energy (roughly an hour) followed by spurts of low energy (15–20 minutes)" (Heleo).
To put this information to use, help your agents structure their appointments in 1-hour intervals so natural breaks are built in to recharge and refocus. Kill two birds with one stone by promoting a 15-minute walk during this short break!
4. Clean Your Desk
When you have a messy desk or office, it spills over into your mood, your behavior, and even your decision-making processes. A cluttered space also has a significant negative effect on your stress and anxiety levels. It's harder to focus, you make poorer eating choices, and it even impacts your sleep.
Scientists at Princeton University Neuroscience Institute used fMRI to show that visual reminders of a disorganized space reduces our ability to focus.
When the clutter was cleared from the work environment, participants of the study were able to focus and process information, and "their productivity increased" (Harvard Business Review).
As an agency owner, you can encourage your agents to keep a tidy office by having regularly-scheduled "spring cleaning" days. Cater in some food or snacks and let the whole team enjoy this normally mundane (and not fun!) task together.
Having productive agents that pull their weight is key to having a successful insurance agency.
To recap, here are some ways you can help your team increase productivity:
- Set production goals and create sales contests
- Brainstorm some personal rewards you could offer with your sales contests
- Share your sales volume and how you're trending each year
- Use sales dashboards to motivate agents to reach their goals
- Go digital with an Agency Management System
- Enroll your agents in the All-Star Program to increase sales and promote cross-selling
- Consider what you can do to improve the mental and physical health of your team
- Encourage simple habits like the two-minute rule, intentional meetings, and keeping a clean desk
- Think about restructuring the workday in 1-hour intervals
As an agency owner, you're the coach! Your team is looking to you for guidance and leadership. I sincerely hope this gives you some ideas in how you can coach up your agents and encourage more productivity in your organization.
What have you done in your agency to encourage agent productivity?