So if Salesforce.com is not going to replace your Agency Management System, what is its role in the Agency? After all Agency Management Software is not cheap. Why spend more hard earned dollars on Salesforce.com?
Reason 1 - Agency Management Systems manage Policies not relationships
There is no doubt that the role of the Agency Management System in the agency is to manage the process of policy renewal. The problem is that your clients are not policies. They are people. Your agency and your producers have relationships with people. Salesforce.com is built around the whole concept of managing customer relationships. As Salesforce.com's CEO likes to say, they have built their organization around a concept which they call 'a customer company'. The customer is and should be at the center of your systems. Agency Management systems are designed to ensure that your clients' policies are easily accessible in the appropriate format and that your team has a clear understanding of the premiums, coverages and expiration dates. Agency Management Systems do not manage your client relationships in any way shape or form. Yes, most do an okay job of ensuring that staff or producers have an opportunity to record activity, but to be honest, the purpose of this functionality is to protect the agency against E&O claims in a 'he said/she said' situation. Salesforce.com is there to help your producers and staff manage the relationship with the client or prospect. After all, it is not a policy that renews, it is a human being.
Reason 2 - Agency Management Systems manage revenue not opportunity
Agency Management Systems track recognized revenue very well. In fact most Agency Management Systems include a General Ledger package which is the de-facto accounting platform for the firm. What Agency Management Systems don't do very well is track future opportunities. In other words, they were not designed to help producers manage the new business process. Yes, various attempts have been made to bolt on this functionality but when one really gets down to the nitty gritty, these solutions just don't meet muster. As a result, producers resort to leveraging tools like Outlook and MS Excel. The result is disorganization and dis-function at a point in the process where organization and collaboration are most needed.
Salesforce.com is designed to address all of these challenges. Whether it be providing the structure required to turn a prospect into a client or the tools to track information that is critical to qualifying a prospect. Salesforce.com augments the daily function of your producers by providing them with easy to use functionality with which to fill the void left by the Agency Management System or what I like to the call the "Policy Management System."
Reason 3 - Agency Management Systems don't provide visibility into the 'New Business' process
When I talk to agency managers, the number one challenge they face is lack of visibility. As I have learned, producers are not traditional sales reps. You do not manage successful producers using a traditional carrot and stick approach. Good leaders or managers at independent agencies should coach and assist their producers in the same way as a football coach advises his quarterback. The challenge is that in order to do this effectively, the manager or coach needs visibility. A coach on the football field has the luxury of watching the plays unfold in front of him. Traditional Agency Management systems are transactional by design and transactional systems don't do a great job on the visibility front.
This is where Salesforce.com comes into its own. Using the standard functionality brought to the table by Salesforce.com along with the customizable nature of the product, one can easily design fields, workflows, reports and dashboards that inform and guide both managers and producers. The result is that instead of spending the first 20 minutes of every meeting with producers getting an update, managers can inject themselves into the process when it matters most to help better coach and be a more productive use of both the producer and the manager's time.
Deciding to implement a solution like Salesforce.com is not about replacing the functionality of your Agency Management System, but rather it is about completing the process. Anyone that has studied successful independent insurance agencies knows that there are certain things they do that make them successful. Traditional Agency Management Systems are important but they don't do it all with the result being that producers and managers are left to fill in the gaps using Outlook and Excel.
Salesforce.com is one solution that when implemented correctly can address many of these deficiencies and help make both producers and agencies more successful.
For a great example of how we believe Salesforce.com should be configured, check out this webinar I did in conjunction with Salesforce.com a few weeks ago.
In addition, if you were wondering what those "things" are that successful agencies do, check out what we at PSAdvisory call 'The 4 Quadrant Method'.