Employees can make you or break you
Updated: Sep 16
Are you happy with all of your agents? Unfortunately most agency owners are not.
There are a number of ways to get your agents to their peak performance and surpass it. This blog post talks about the first stage - which is motivation.
Before you go reaching for bonuses - read this list of 5 parallel streams of motivation that you can use to push your team.
The total process
Before we get into motivation. I want to stress that motivation alone will not bring agents up to be top performers.
For those not born with super natural talent the cycle goes:
Motivation building - allows the jump from terrible to mediocre.
Technique training - allows the jump from mediocre to pretty good.
Freedom to experiment - allows the jump from pretty good to excellent.
And the beauty is that once they make it through they cycle it reinforces itself. They become more motivated, they are more receptive to training, and they become confident in experimenting.
Just a note - this is written with producers in mind but many parts are also relevant for CSRs, account executives, and insurance marketers.
Motivation is a slippery golden goose. You need to constantly run after it. The more you run after it the more golden eggs you get and the stronger your arms become - which makes it easier to hold on to. Steven Reiss theorized that humans are motivated in 16 ways. That’s a lot.
If you are interested here they are - but you can skip them for now.
Acceptance, the need for approval
Curiosity, the need to learn
Eating, the need for food
Family, the need to raise children
Honor, the need to be loyal to the traditional values of one's clan/ethnic group
Idealism, the need for social justice
Independence, the need for individuality
Order, the need for organized, stable, predictable environments
Physical activity, the need for exercise
Power, the need for influence of will
Romance, the need for sex and for beauty
Saving, the need to collect
Social contact, the need for friends (peer relationships)
Social status, the need for social standing/importance
Tranquility, the need to be safe
Vengeance, the need to strike back and to compete
Did you notice that none of the needs are "get money"? Money and bonuses are ends to a means. For them to be effective they have to be tied to an actual need.
I like to cluster it into two significantly different patterns:
The first thing you need to do is understand your agents. Are they motivated in their life by logic or by emotion. It’s likely both - but which one is more dominant. Have they generally followed their mom’s advice, or their passions till they got in your doorstep? Keep in mind this may change over time.
In both cases you need their buy in. You need to explain to them that if they succeed you succeed - so you are vested in making them succeed. Ask them if they are as vested as you are.
If logic is your answer - your life is easier. To motivate them you need to explain with logic why working hard makes logical sense. There are at least two ways of doing that.
You need your agents to know what their values are and what their goals are. You need them to take their time and really deeply think about that. When they come out of their hole you need to question them if their job follows along with their values. Really push them so that they either agree that it does strongly or it doesn’t. Then find ways for them to be reminded of the connection between their values and their work - the easiest is a bunch of sticky notes on their workstation. Now comes the harder part. You need to convince them of the reality that to live well in this world you need to make unreal sums of money. You need to calculate with them what it would take for them to keep their lifestyle through retirement and get their kids through college weddings and cars. Ask them if they have any other big aspirations in life - like retiring early and put that in too. I’m not sure what number you’ll get to but I promise It’s a scary number. Now break down what their years and monthly goals should be to reach that number.
Bring up their goals and values often. Ask them if they have changed. Politely remind them of those goals and ask them how it’s going mid-month. Use those numbers to explain to them that any feedback you give them is to help them reach that number.
Unfortunately setting goals and values doesn’t work as well with people who aren’t keen on clear causal relationships of actions. With these people tools are not as straightforward - but different tools can be very effective nonetheless.
You need to make a point of their status. With not that much money you can make workers feel very important. First of all - their title. Second - business cards and other official gear. Post about them on your LinkedIn. Give them the feeling of status - being part of your office means they have status. And then… give them opportunities to attain higher status. If they close so many deals - invite them and their friends to a round at the bar, or dinner for them and their wife. Give them higher prized status symbols like a high quality pen, award or whatever it may be. The more agents, the stronger this becomes because they will have high expectations from one another.
You need to show them love when they succeed - even on micro wins. Your staff really seek your love and approval. It is no less important to them than the number on the paycheck.
Notice that the last two are focused on rewarding positive behavior - no punishment for negatives. The idea is to get them hooked on status and love so that it’s absence will be felt. You are giving them big shoes so they will try to fill them in. Even a broken clock is right twice a day - so you will find opportunities to get this going.
You need to create competition. If you have enough people in the office you can create a competition between them. If you don’t you can try to set a competition between your office and another office or between your agent and themselves - that’s called a bet. Ask them to put down a bet that they will hit some goal for this month. It doesn’t have to be money and it should be fundamentally embarrassing if they lose. When done right this is twice as effective as the prospect of winning a bonus. People hate losing much more than they love winning (look up “loss aversion” theory by David Kahneman)
I hope I got your brain thinking about how you can motivate your team. If you really want to take it a step up - go to the list of 16 basic needs that people have and write down 3 ways you could motivate your team with each one of those that’s relevant.
Once your team is more motivated you should see a bump in new business and renewals. But- the real value in motivating your team is that they are now mentally ready to accept training. Training is where you see the fastest and strongest agent growth. Reaching the best methods and implementing them well is non trivial and takes ultra capable people many years to figure out. Training is the shortcut to top performance.
If you are like most agency owners - you do not have time to train properly. That’s why we created an AI that goes through your team’s calls and gives them feedback automatically. If you want to push your team up a few notches, set a demo.
Thanks for reading!
Please make sure to keep your motivation legal and ethical.
I’d love to hear your stories and questions. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org :)