The Wedge Group - December 2018

(214) 446-3209




Let me describe the typical sales meeting to you.

That is the old-world way of holding a sales meeting. It’s a spreadsheet review with little room for anything else.

In selling commercial insurance, it’s about a producer knowing who the incumbent agent is and committing to dominating that person. Do this, and you will be satisfied with the result. Ask this question point blank: “Do you believe this account will be better off with you than the incumbent? If so, tell me why. How are you better than the incumbent?” This is an opportunity for you to help your producer map out their differences in a profound and specific way. It shifts the focus from price and coverage to how they manage the account better than the incumbent. This will make your producer a better agent. It will teach them how to win, not just quote. There is always something the incumbent isn’t doing, no matter how good they are. You’ve got to challenge them and help your producers find it, define it, and leverage it to win. If you don’t challenge your producers this way, they won’t get any better. You’ll be left with producers who have hit their peak. You can’t expect them to grow in that kind of environment. At the end of the day, a strong sales meeting is well-organized and structured to be advantageous to everyone, from the newbie to the long-time producer. It’s a meeting people don’t avoid because it offers value — value for both the producers and you, because your agency will reap the rewards of a strong and focused sales meeting.

You and your team gather in a room and pull up a spreadsheet on the projector, or you pass out a few printed handouts with names and numbers and a few other details. As an agency owner, you want to know how your producers are doing. How are they progressing with their prospects? Do they need any help? The spreadsheet tells you only so much, so you ask one of your producers, “What are the chances of winning this?” The producer answers, “At least 50-50.”

The New World sales meeting is tougher, gritty, and more real; it’s a place for producers to grow.

It starts with this premise: A producer should be able to define and defend how they are better than the incumbent agent that now controls the account. They become crystal clear on why a prospect needs them and exactly which competitive advantage will help them win the account. When you shift the focus of the meeting from coverage gaps and underwriter relationships to how you are better than the incumbent agent, the learning effect starts to skyrocket. The easy answers go out the window. Now a producer is faced with the raw truth: “Am I better than the incumbent? If so, what do I do that they aren’t doing? How do I do it better?” As you coach your producer through this thought process, they become better at articulating their differences. If you don’t, they stay in the same rut they’ve been in for many years. This will give your producer the tools he or she needs to close more sales. You will help them develop their sales confidence to entirely new levels. Nick Saban, the coach at University of Alabama, says this: “The scoreboard has nothing to do with the process. Each possession you look across at the opponent and commit yourself to dominate that person. It’s about individuals dominating the individuals they’re playing against. If you can do this … if you can focus on the one possession and wipe out the distractions … then you will be satisfied with the result.”

You ask, “What’s your strategy?”

“I’m building the relationship. I found a few coverage gaps. And I’ve got a few underwriters that I think will give me a good quote.”

“You need any help?”

“No, I think I’ve got it handled.”

Then, you move on.

What have you learned?

The answer, of course, is not much.

More importantly, what have you done as a leader to help develop your producer’s ability to win the account, not just quote it? The problem— or one of the problems —with this type of meeting is that there is no sales process. There is no strategy, and the producer hasn’t been challenged. Everyone leaves the meeting no better off than they were when it started.

Call me if you would like to learn how to run better sales meetings at (214) 446-3209.

– Randy Schwantz

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What Exactly Is an Ugly Sweater Party?

When you hire a new producer, you commit either yourself or someone on your team to devoting a boatload of time toward getting that new producer ready to sell. When you add up all the time associated with setting up a cubicle or office, HR matters, tours of the office, basic training, coaching, and mentoring, you’ll find you’ve invested anywhere between 50–100 hours at the end of the producer’s first six months. Let’s rewind and go back in time to before you hired this new producer — and before you invested dozens of hours getting them up to speed. The best four hours you’ll ever invest are the ones you spend interviewing your potential newbie before you ever extend a job offer. It's speculated that the first ugly sweater party took place in Vancouver, Canada, back in 2001. Since then, the trend has become one of the most popular holiday party themes. Come Thanksgiving, you’ll start to see racks in all types of clothing stores lined with hideous sweaters. If you’re ready to jump on the ugly- sweater-party bandwagon this Christmas season, here are a few things to keep in mind. Ugly sweaters come in all shapes, sizes, and prices. You can head to H&M or a local thrift store to pick one up. However, if you have a sweater that’s been cozied up for years in the back of your closet or a drawer, now’s your chance to give it new life. Arm yourself with a hot glue gun, thread, and needle, and patch Santa, Rudolph, or Frosty on it. And let it be known that an ugly sweater isn’t complete without sparkles, beads, and sequins galore. Your Very Own Ugly Sweater

It's rather simple — slip on your favorite Christmas sweater, gather all your friends and family members, make sure there are plenty of refreshments and games, and you’re guaranteed to have a top-tier party. A few ugly-sweater-themed games that should be on the agenda include an ugly gift exchange, which is similar to the white elephant exchange, except with the gaudiest gifts you can find; an ugly photo booth, complete with terrible, tacky props; and, of course, an ugly sweater contest. This is the only time of year when slipping into a lurid red sweater with a stuffed Santa sewn on the front is considered trendy. So adorn yourself in the frumpiest, tackiest sweater you can find, and have some fun this December!


These are four hours of intense, evidence- based hiring interviews. They are designed to help you weed out the pretenders, posers, and losers. When a newbie candidate makes it through this, you’ll know they are worth the later investment.

worth the price of the book and then some — that is, if you implement this evidence- based hiring process. In fact, this exact process resulted in an 85.2 percent success rate over a 10-year period. To break it down, of the 34 producers hired, 29 were successful, and they produced over $17,500,00 in annual revenue.

You can find the specifics of this interview

process in “GRIT: How to Find, Hire, and Develop REAL Producers.” If you haven’t yet, read Chapter 4, “Evidence- Based Hiring Process,” on pages 51–96.

If you haven’t read “GRIT” yet, or you don’t have a copy, it might be time to change that and revolutionize the way you hire. Visit thewedge. net/books to purchase it. Make those four hours count, and you’ll make every hour afterward count even more.

It’s a big chapter, and it’s packed with what you need to know about hiring. This chapter is

2 | • Beat Your Competition - Grow Your Revenue



On the battlefield, leaders are required to make quick, high-pressure decisions. They must bring a team together through some of the toughest situations and achieve one ultimate goal: winning. Jocko Willink and Leif Babin are two decorated former Navy SEAL officers and co-founders of Echelon Front, a leadership- training and coaching firm. They bring together their respective skills and training in the pages of “Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win.” Willink and Babin take their experience from the battlefield and apply it directly to real- world business situations. What’s remarkable is just how much similarity there is between the two arenas and how the lessons apply to many different business types — sales very much included. It comes down to this: Without a cohesive team, there can be no leadership. You might be an agency owner, for example,

with people who work for you. But you have to ask yourself, are they that cohesive team? Are you acting like a leader? Leadership is a necessary component of success, and effective leaders are responsible for their team both on the battlefield and in the office. “Extreme Ownership” teaches just that — taking ownership for everything, from the failures to the success of the mission at hand. Leaders and their teams must face the fact that there will be failure, and they must learn how to confront failure in whatever form it may take. Then, when they work to complete a mission, the road to a winning scenario must be clear for all members of the team. Everyone has to be on the same page and proceed accordingly. “Extreme Ownership” demonstrates how to get on that same page, how to be better decision-makers, and how to focus your priorities.

Willink and Babin bring these ideas — and more — to life. They give business leaders further insight on how they can strengthen their own teams to arrive at that win.



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• Sales meetings: Create a disciplined sales approach • Letter To My Boss

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92 Cornerstone Drive, Suite 340, Cary, NC 27519 (214) 446-3209 |

INSIDE Do Your Sales Meetings Turn into Money? Everything You’ll Need for an Ugly Sweater Christmas Your Most Important 4 Hours Take Ownership of Your Wins and Failures Upcoming Events Don’t Let Retention Slide in the Holiday Rush


Who comes first: Employees or customers? When posed this classic business question, Southwest Airlines co-founder Herb Kelleher had an easy answer: Employees. “If employees are treated right, they treat the outside world right,” Kelleher explained. As Kelleher knows well, employee-customer relations are a cycle — one that fuels recurring business. Engaged employees deliver service that converts to sales, a fact backed up by a Gallup report. Gallup cited a 20 percent increase in sales as a result of this process. Even as you’re courting leads, you can’t ignore your existing customers. Likewise, even (and especially) as you grow, you have to nurture your employees. The cost of losing either is too high. In the holiday rush, it’s important to not lose sight of your priorities.

Starbucks is a great example. Even with thick competition, they deliver consistent service and quality products to customers, whether in Oregon or London. And they do this by providing competitive wages and benefits to their employees along with training and learning opportunities. Employees who are knowledgeable and excited about what they are offering pass their enthusiasm on to customers.


Even the best businesses make mistakes. When it happens, own up to it. There’s probably been a time when you put in your order at a restaurant, only to receive the wrong thing. How did the business handle it? Did they admit their mistake and offer you a new meal? How a business treats customers when things don’t go smoothly is a good indication of how they’ll handle adversity in general, and that reaction starts with employees. Set the precedent for employees that a mistake is their opportunity to go above and beyond. A transparent environment will make employees feel more comfortable, which will make customers excited, rather than apprehensive, to engage with your business again.


Have you ever asked a client why they return to your business? Do you think it’s because they can’t find your product or service anywhere else? Probably not. Think about the last time you returned to a restaurant. Was it because it’s the only place in town that makes amazing Thai food? Maybe, but it’s more likely that you enjoyed the welcoming host, attentive waiter, and positive experience you had there.

4 | • Beat Your Competition - Grow Your Revenue

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