Closing the Chasm between Sales and Service

Frank Pennachio is a Principal at Oceanus Partners a ReSource Pro Company. Frank has more than 30 years of experience in the insurance industry as an agency owner and producer. Highly regarded as a speaker and thought leader, Frank regularly presents at conferences and publishes articles in national and regional trade publications. He hopes to educate, entertain and provoke his audiences to think in a new way about emerging challenges.

A House Divided

Insurance producers frequently report that they have an implementation problem. Their comments go something like this: “I don’t have any problem making the sale, but we have challenges executing our client service plans after the sale.” The problem is usually positioned as one arising from the service team, not the producer.

However, when we dig deeper, we see that this problem typically emerges from the sales side of the house.

Flip the Silo

Historically, the insurance profession has been structured in silos with distinct separations between sales and service. Even today, sales leaders and service leaders frequently don’t report to the same person. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that the friction and inefficiencies between the sales and service departments must be addressed.

Challenges with attracting and retaining talent, as well as increasing operational costs and inadequate organic growth, have created a critical need for insurance agencies to improve the integration of processes between the sales and service teams. Agencies can no longer afford the luxury of playing the blame game. The silos must be flipped on their side to look more like a pipeline.

Put Values First

This re-engineering process starts with the agency being deliberate and gaining agreement about their values. Too often, agencies take on problems by creating a series of new rules. New rules usually fail, as rules are significantly different from values. It’s much easier to find and justify an exception to a rule than it is to violate an agreed upon organizational value.

To start transforming your agency, try to lay out a set of values everyone will acknowledge. To build consensus and awareness, you can have team members (from both sides of the sales/service divide) pitch in on what should or should not make the cut as an agency-wide value.

Here’s a list of agency values to get you started:

  • We will treat important issues as important, but agree and accept that not all important issues rise to the level of an all-hands-on-deck crisis.
  • We understand and respect that our team members work best when they are able to exercise a suitable level of autonomy and control over their work and their day.
  • Team members are not a dumping ground for failures to plan or follow through on commitments.
  • “This is the way we’ve always done it” is not the end of the discussion, but the beginning of looking for better ways.