I’m a big proponent of the specialist agency structure. The concept is this: you train each of your employees to develop a deep expertise in just one line of insurance, and also give them a basic knowledge of the other lines so they can recognize sales opportunities and act on them.
My agency is built upon the specialist structure. It wasn’t always that way, of course – I didn’t create a specialist agency until I’d had some challenges trying to run a generalist agency. When I started my agency, I hired my first customer service representative and went about training her. I spent months and months teaching her everything I knew about the insurance business. Finally, she was trained, and we began selling. For awhile it worked – we saw a spike in revenue – but after a short time we were buried in paperwork, and spending more time servicing than selling.
I knew I needed to hire an additional customer service representative/producer, but I couldn’t fathom spending months and months in training. So I didn’t. I hired my second customer service representative/producer, and I trained her in auto, and only auto. Then I set her free to sell. To my delight, revenue increased. It sounds simple, and it honestly is – it is one of those really nice situations when the easy road is also the road to success.
There are several general exercises to do in order to get the transformation started. They are:
- Diagram the present and imagine the future. For this exercise, you will want to create a flow chart of your agency now, and as you see it in the future (with specialized personnel in place).
- Prepare for success by getting all your employees licensed in P&C and in Life, and by hiring a part-time appointment setter.
- Choose which specialists to develop first.
- Create several diagrams of how your agency will look with a variety of numbers of specialized staff. How big do you want your agency to be?
- Plan the change. Plan the first 12 months of transforming to specialization. Think of things like who will be the first specialist (and where you will get that person – from the agency, or from outside?), office equipment to accommodate the change, who will be your second specialist, etc.
- Communicate the changes to your staff. This is key to the staff enthusiastically embracing the new structure.
- Communicate the changes to your clients. Introduce your new staff member to them via a letter or other communication.
- Hire and train your first specialist, and plan to hire and train the second one in six to 12 months.
If you are serious about growing your agency through specialization, you might consider reading my new book, Specialization, The Master Key to Agency Transformation. It includes a lot more detail about the steps involved in making the transition, as well as job descriptions, sample flow charts, and forms.