It's Not Always Easy to Get it Right
Goal Setting Can Be Tricky
You want to be your best so you can serve your clients at the level they deserve. In order to achieve that, you need to have a goal. Goals let you see where you want to go, how you want to improve, and in what ways it will benefit both you and your clients. However, you need to be careful when it comes to goal setting so you don’t let your goals actually undermine your progress.
The benefits of goals:
• Gives you something to aspire to
• Pushes you and your team to achieve them
• Sets where you want to go and what you want to achieve
• Helps keep you on track
• Keeps you honest by setting deadlines
• Increases productivity
The downfalls of improper goal setting:
• Gives you goal-based tunnel-vision
• Depletes morale and performance if the goal is too lofty
• Promotes unethical behavior and cheating
• Changes goals to “demotivators”
Now, this doesn’t mean that goals are bad and that you shouldn’t set goals—quite the opposite actually. You should set goals. Goals are especially important in sales-centered careers like insurance because they help create the drive to grow your business. Plus, our brains are wired to seek rewards and achieving your goals is one of the best rewards you can earn.
There are ways to set goals that will help lessen the threat of the goal side effects; you just need to be mindful of your goals and how they are affecting you and your team. If you’re a little wary, here are some things you can do to make goal setting and goal pursuance as positive as possible.
- Break the goals down. If you have big, lofty goals, then break the goals down into smaller, bite-sized chunks that are more easily digested. Smaller goals and deadlines help you and your team feel better about pursuing lofty goals because they’ll provide steps along the way. They will also keep you on track to help you complete the goal, so you are less likely to suffer the pain of goal failure.
- Make the goals flexible. Once you set your goals, make sure the deadline and the goal itself are somewhat flexible. If you start to notice that your team can’t achieve the goal in the allotted time, brainstorm about what you can do to modify the goal so you can achieve success. Have regular meetings with your team to see how everyone is feeling about the goal and work together to decide if your goals need tweaking.
- Work as a team. If you have a team around you, then make sure you include them. It makes the whole process easier and more fun. Use each other to stay motivated and remain positive. A couple of bad months doesn’t mean the end—it’s just a chance to learn.
- Stay in touch with reality. It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture when you are goal-focused, and it’s also really unhealthy. Give yourself mental reality checks to remind yourself of the big picture and why you chose this goal. It will help you avoid goal-based tunnel-vision and keep you from cutting corners in pursuance of that goal.
- Make them meaningful. Don’t copy and paste someone else’s goals, or adopt a goal because a book or someone else tells you that should be your goal. Think about your overall purpose in your business, what is meaningful to you & what your definition of success truly is, not what you may be told it is. Making sure your goals reflect your individuality and purpose increases the likelihood you will reach them.
Goals are important, but just because you don’t achieve them does not mean you’re a failure. Keep in mind goals are made to challenge yourself and push yourself. If you chose something too big, then re-focus and tone it down. Regardless, do what feels best for you. If it doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t.
Beware of Setting Too Many Goals
The agency business has a love affair with goals. Some focus on sales, while others deal with company volume demands and operational and financial ratios.
It’s a lot for any small business to establish and monitor, much less achieve. So, focus first on producer and personal lines representative (CSR) sales-related goals. Successfully hit these numbers and many other targets will fall into place. Plus, by concentrating on only a few, you avoid aspirational burnout.
For outside producers, goals focus mainly on prospecting and production. These targets are often established for multiple time periods: weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually – but if you go this route, your producers have four sets of goals to achieve, which is far too many. To minimize overload, use calendar quarters as your producers’ interim objective. That’s only four goals a year. Combined, they equal your desired annual total, with target terms long enough to allow for some slow time and short enough to maintain urgency. Goals for each quarter don’t have to be equal. They simply have to add up to your annual amount.
Set these numbers with input from your agents and recognize they expect you to provide marketing, sales and tech support.
These goals represent actions needed to feed and ultimately generate the desired sales. They might feature the frequency and views of social media posts, plus other digital and traditional marketing efforts, including emails. There can also be goals for the resulting contacts made, expiration dates collected and proposals delivered.
Sales Production Goals
These numbers are fairly straightforward, as they mainly relate to the number of sales made by the producer, premiums booked, and commissions written or earned. As such, they’re simple to set and track, but not always easy to achieve.
See more in Setting and Tracking Goals for Agency Producers
Focus primary personal lines goals on cross-selling activities and retention. Others to consider include upselling, new personal lines sales, and prospect identification for commercial lines and financial services.
Cross-selling goals are set to achieve the desired number of policies per insured. Not everyone needs every policy, so these have to be flexible.
Retention goals are easy to establish and track when one rep is responsible for a specific book of business demarcated by an alphabetical allocation of clients. It’s harder to hold CSRs responsible when the agency follows a “first available” service format.
Agencies that compare their own numbers against benchmarks for P/C firms often find their operations wanting. This disparity can motivate improvement.
But consider what’s important to you and your office. If, as agency principal, you want to enjoy more personal time, your numbers may be impacted. Think of benchmarks as guideposts instead of absolutes.
If your firm is growing, your agents are hitting their numbers, and your carriers are satisfied with your organic production, you aren’t doing badly, even if some similarly sized agencies are doing better.
“Making Good Agents Great: Goal Setting”, by Allison Babberl, December 6, 2016 , AgencyBloc.com
“Beware of Setting Too Many Goals for Your Agency”, by Alan L. Shulman, August 17, 2015, InsuranceJournal.com