Every inexperienced agent and seasoned producer is hired with some general production goals in mind. In the first few weeks and months that follow, their managers diligently watch over their new hires, much like they check the Web, minute by minute, after buying a new stock. However, as time passes, their attention is often diverted to other pressing matters, leaving the agent to fend for him or herself. And while producer self-motivation and self-sufficiency are laudable qualities, it’s a mistake not to establish and monitor prospecting and production goals for everyone who sells for you. It’s wise to expect certain levels of activity from your agents. However, there is much more to setting an attainable goal than just picking a dollar amount. This column discusses some of the basic elements of the process.
New or renew?
Setting producer goals involves multiple managerial decisions. Begin by determining whether to include both new business and renewals. Keep in mind that it is significantly easier to set and track goals for new business only. This approach offers a simplified and reasonably accurate gauge of what a producer is up to. Adding renewals to the formula complicates what is otherwise fairly straightforward recordkeeping. Naturally, a producer’s existing book and policy renewals are important for understanding the total value that he or she brings to the agency. However, renewal revenue is a separate consideration from the agent’s new business activities. You can’t afford to have producers sit on their books instead of seeking out fresh accounts. Centering producer goals on new business helps to deliver this message. Besides, you can always monitor an agent’s renewals through your management system and take corrective action if you spot a downward trend.
Prospecting and production goals
To be effective, goals realistically establish a producer’s desired prospecting and selling activities. Prospecting goals include setting the number of actions needed to achieve positive sales results, such as marketing pieces sent, contacts made, x-dates collected, proposals delivered, etc. In contrast, production goals mainly relate to sales made and commissions booked. However, both vary by line of insurance. For instance, personal lines sales focus on expiration dates, quick quotes, and the selling of individual policies, whereas decent-sized commercial sales involve on-site appointments, extensive proposals, and entire accounts. Furthermore, since personal lines usually requires a larger number of prospects than commercial to generate favorable results, the anticipated hit ratios of proposals delivered to sales made varies between the two. Each agent’s individual selling style and prospect class further impacts these ratios. Therefore, ideally, establish separate sets of prospecting and sales goals for every producer, for each major line they solicit.
Use commission dollars as the center of your production goal structure. Pick an annualized amount that factors in a favorable bottom line return for the agency and fair compensation to the agent. Additionally, set distinct goals for each major personal lines policy type and commercial account size (small, medium, and large). These numbers help to guide your producer towards a more balanced book of business. Sub-goals are important control elements as too many personal auto policies or small commercial sales may not fit into your agency’s overall strategy. Always set sales count goals in addition to commission numbers to arrive at each producer’s optimal mix.
Regardless of how carefully a producer’s goals are set, they are meaningless unless they are tracked on a continuous basis. Meeting with producers every week helps managers to understand and measure each agent’s actions. The accumulated numerical data that results reveals their goal achievement to date. Freely share and discuss these tally numbers with the agent. Still, remember that every producer is entitled to a bad week or a slow month. These abbreviated time units are too small to set as the target for the weekly discussions. Instead, use the four calendar quarters as interim goals. Combined, they equal your desired annual total while making the goal terms long enough to allow for some misfortune and short enough to maintain a sense of urgency.
Goal setting and tracking is simultaneously a science and an art. Desirable producer actions are seldom decided by executive fiat. Negotiated targets and numbers tend to generate better results. So freely involve your agent in the details of the goal-setting process. But, once everything is agreed upon for the year, don’t modify these objectives unless some cataclysmic event demands it. And these seldom happen; no matter how often some underproducing agent claims it.