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Horse trainers & IMOs: How to cultivate top-producing agents

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Recently, we witnessed an athlete accomplish what very few have achieved and the last had not been accomplished in 37 years! American Pharoah won all three of the Triple Crown horse races, putting him in the company of only twelve (12) Triple Crown winners. Each of the three races is an accomplishment in itself; however winning all three in five weeks is truly amazing.

Being familiar with this business, let me share some insight as to the behind-the-scenes support system for this athlete.  The company of people that makes it all possible is the trainer and his organization: assistant trainers, jockeys, work out riders, veterinarians, blacksmiths and stable hands. They all support the training, development and racing career of the thoroughbred athlete.

While the majority of horses will never run in a major stakes race (Derby, Preakness, Belmont, Breeders Cup) it takes the trainer’s whole organization to work and develop each horse and create a good experience for each owner (customer) that makes the system work. The trainer’s organization never knows which horse could be the next American Pharoah, so each horse and owner will enjoy the same experience.

Top trainers create a wonderful experience for their customers (owners) by providing them access to the horses, weekly updates as to the progress of the horse with videos, conference calls, when the horse will race next and access to all of the racing events — which is the really fun part.

However, for the relationship to continue, the trainers know they have to deliver results for the owners to stay with them. Because of the experience and the results from the experience, owners typically stay with trainers for many years, bringing the trainers new horses to train and race.

Carrying the analogy to IMOs

Just as trainers provide great experiences for their customers (owners), you as an independent marketing organization have to provide great experiences for your customers. The industry’s top producers — Forum 400 producers, MDRT Top of the Table producers, etc. — do huge production (let’s call them the triple crown winners). And their demands may require that you fight for each piece of business they do with you.

If your organization is not really positioned for this type of producer, then you are frustrating the producer, your staff and yourself. Instead of chasing business from any and all producers you come across, take a more strategic approach and ask yourself, what type of producer can we best support? What are your skill sets, processes and abilities that make your organization unique in supporting that profile producer?

The answers to those questions will determine the profile of the producer you should look for. If you don’t have the platform that bests supports Top of The Table producers, then be honest with yourself and don’t try to compete for them. You will not be successful — and you will frustrate your staff.

The key to being able to attract your profile producer is to offer (1) an “experience” the producer can’t get anywhere else and; (2) deliver “results” the producer is looking for. Only by clearly defining your profile producer can you establish the experience you want to provide.

While you as the founder / principal may have started your business and had the skill sets to be able to attract most producers and deliver results, your business today is based on the skill sets of your front-line recruiters, staff, processes and procedures. It is this infrastructure you have built that is now the culture of your business and what creates the experience of those producers that do business with you.

One things that top trainers do very well is look for owners who provide the type of experience the trainer has to offer. This includes their style of training, how the trainer does business, communication, updates, access to the horse, the race day experience and the trainers philosophy for horses after their racing careers.

The same should apply to you: Once you have determined the type of producer for whom you can best provide a great experience and deliver results, then you need to ensure you develop the processes that will provide that experience from the beginning of engagement.

Pull your team into the exercise, especially your front-line recruiters. You want total buy-in from everyone on your team because this will impact everything you do (marketing, recruiting, on boarding, etc). Just because you have developed a profile and tweaked your processes to deliver a great experience, doesn’t mean that you do this to the exclusion of all other agents you come across. It simply means that your profile producer will work better for everyone and help you (and the producer) accomplish your ultimate goals.

Let’s assume that after your assessment, you learn that your profile producer generates about $100K of revenue each year, the total including some life business, but mostly annuities. The experience and results you can provide this profile producer are specific sales ideas, training and coaching that will help increase life insurance sales.

My perspective of this profile prospect

Assume you recruit 25 agents from the profile just described and help each deliver $25K of life premium, thereby generating for your business $625,000 of new life premium. Along the way, you provided a great experience; and they enjoyed increased revenue by applying your ideas, training and coaching.

Do this for 5 years and you will have grown your agency to over $3 million of new premium!

You also now are working with and supporting 25 new relationships. Should one of these customers leave you, the impact will not be as great as that of a departing large producer.

Here’s something else to think about: If you give your recruiters the skills sets necessary to deliver the experience / results of your profile producer, each recruiter can recruit 25 new agents who will deliver $25K in premium! Let me ask you a question: Do you think it will be easier to develop your front-line recruiters to be able to immediately establish rapport with a top producer or a producer with a similar profile I outlined?

Recall my earlier mentioning of assistant trainers: people who help “the trainer” develop the horses. Each top trainer has about 100 horses in training and racing at all time. The trainer can’t work with all 100 horses and run the business.

So the trainer develops these assistants in the trainers “own image”, meaning the trainer develops his assistant trainers to train and interact with customers in the same way the trainer does. That is the same approach you want to take with your recruiters. Developing your recruiter(s) is not an overnight process; it takes time.

As business owners we want to keep our eye on the bottom line. Your accountant or bookkeeper will say you need to watch your expenses — and you should. But I would suggest that your bottom line is more heavily impacted by your front line.

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