Most of us recognize the importance of planning.
We have all heard the clever phrases, “people don’t plan to fail…they fail to plan.” Or, “an arrow without a target will never hit its mark…” or “any road leads to nowhere.” True, true and true again!
Yet few of us actually plan our sales years. Why? The most common answer is often, “I don’t know how.” Or, “I don’t have time.” Or, “I don’t keep records and therefore don’t have any data.”
We’ve seen planning methodologies run the gamut – from very simple and fundamental to frighteningly complex. Both extremes and everything in between have their own merits; and their success is largely based on the appropriateness of their application to a producer’s tenure, new business run rate, size of their book, practice specialty, etc., and for agencies their size, business model, EBITDA targets and a host of other metrics.
However, there are some fundamentals to follow to create a planning process appropriate for you, the reader. As such, we are providing some steps below to make your planning process easier:
Step 1: Take an assessment.
Assessment results will be a great look into what you are doing well and what you need to develop in order to move forward. This is a great place to start your planning process because each year, as you grow and change so too will change the areas you need to focus on, build, re-align or outright abandon. A third party assessment has no other agenda than to help identify where you are strong and where the opportunities are for development. Assessments can also help you identify gaps and ‘missing pieces’ to your resources or toolsets that, if remedied, can prove to help you move forward.
Step 2: Establish your metrics.
This is often the place where most people stumble. An agency in the $5M-$15M of topline revenue needs to measure nearly 60 metrics in order to properly diagnose and manage it’s growth and profitability. Producers with $1M+ books need to keep tabs on 18-22 different metrics in order to continue to grow and fill in teams under them to support that growth. If you have never tracked metrics before – start now and start simple! Whether it’s first appointments, hours prospected, accounts closed, introductions received, etc., pick 3-5 metrics that make sense to you and count up all the activity that occurred within those categories. There are many activity planners and worksheets that you can use to help with this – choose one that makes sense to you and add/delete any metric categories that you feel are/are not applicable to your practice. Over time, you will see things in your sales process that you would like to measure and will add metrics to measure those down the road. Again, the key here is to start with a few metrics and add over time. Those that start with very sophisticated metrics often abandon measuring because they started too big. Keep it simple to start and add later.
Step 3. Research your market, competition and customers.
This may sound like a bigger project than it actually is….here’s a tip: Google! In less than an hour you can Google your top competitors and read their press releases to see where they are headed. You can find a free whitepaper and see trends in the industries where you have most of your customers. Check where things are and where trends appear to be heading and incorporate into your plan for next year.
Step 4. Use a Planning Guide to assemble the pieces.
Your agency may have one, industry associations often make one available to it’s membership – and you can use resources like Jian or others that have business plans you can download for under $100.00. Find one you like, or modify one to your liking, and let the framework guide you in filling in the data you’ve collected. These take about an hour or two to complete and they can take you or your agency in directions you may have not previously considered making this a very worthwhile process.
Step 5. Lock down your plan by running it by your trusted advisors.
Send your plan out to at least 3-5 people you trust for an honest and unbiased opinion. Having some input from others on your plan will help you gauge if you are being too ambitious with it or provide you with potential obstacles to consider and recognize early so you’re not caught by surprise. Simply put, collect feedback on your plan.
Step 6. Execute, Monitor, Adjust
Pick a date to launch your new plan. Is it January 1st? Is it the beginning of a new fiscal quarter? Your favorite Holiday? It doesn’t matter when but you need to pick a date! Use the metrics you established to measure what is happening – the results being generated by your new plan and the inputs that generate those results. Monitoring your metrics will help you make adjustments and refinements to your plan. If you are not making adjustments, improvements and enhancements over time to your plan – something is amiss. Very few plans (less than 5%) can exist over a 12 month period without some adjustment and be successful. Keep in mind these plans are living – not static. So by measuring and monitoring your metrics during the course of your plan you will be able to make adjustments and create a continuous improvement loop that will help you generate fabulous results.
In summary, investing your time in developing a game plan for 2012 will serve you in many ways. By breaking up the process into the simple steps above, and utilizing available assessment and planning tools the process will become much easier and productive than attempting to re-create the wheel on your own.
Here’s wishing you a successful 2012 from all of us here at Rainmaker Advisory LLC.
Rainmaker Advisory LLC is a results oriented sales and operations consulting firm specializing in the retail insurance broking sector. Founded in 2008, Rainmaker has relationships with over 7,800 insurance agencies and brokerages nationwide in all practice specialties. Through offices in California, New York and Oregon, Rainmaker Advisory is a leading provider of the tools, resources and vendor partners necessary for successfully growing organizations on a sustainable basis.
For more information, visit http://www.rainmakeradvisory.com.
Written By: David E Estrada
Founder & Managing Director
Rainmaker Advisory LLC