Group decisions are hard—especially those centered around technology. There are lots of people with different thoughts all crammed together with the goal of making a unanimous decision. Not an easy feat. BUT they’re critically important to the well-being and future of a business.
Why? Group decisions allow for everyone to expand their point of view but also understand other ideas. Incorporating the lot of these ideas into one seamless idea provides the group with a stronger, more well-rounded idea that is more beneficial for the masses.
Putting all the decision making power on the shoulders of one person can make the task unappealing, one-sided, and incredibly stressful. Very few people would want to be the sole decision maker for an entire business.
The main benefit of making a group decision is because it casts a wider lens that can help lead to a more appropriate decision. It also helps to spread the weight of responsibility evenly and allows each person to bring their their knowledge and skill set to the forefront.
If you are a one-person decision-making team, ensure you have a team around you to bounce ideas off of and to gain insightful views from. It’ll only benefit your agency as you’ll be embarking on a more inclusive path that your entire agency can get behind.
Remember, your business is only as good as the buy-in from your employees. If they don’t believe in and uphold the foundations of the company, then the company will ultimately fall. Increase employee buy-in and boost overall employee satisfaction by making them a pivotal part of the decision making process.
Making the Decision
Group decision making doesn’t come without its own set of difficulties. Today we’re going to discuss ways to overcome those. Inevitably, with so many voices, opinions, and points of view in one small cluster, you’re bound to have tension. But it doesn’t have to define you.
Specifically, we’ll focus on making group decisions about technology. When it comes to the adoption of technology, the insurance industry is surely a laggard. However, more and more agencies are making the move to industry-specific agency management systems (AMS). To learn more about the reasons propelling agencies to make the move, check out our blog: 5 Reasons Life & Health Insurance Agencies Are Moving to Agency Management Systems.
Use these seven steps to help you overcome the obstacles, diffuse the tension, and come together to make your (hopefully) unanimous decision.
Step 1: Define the problem
For many insurance agencies, a problem arises when they realize the technology they’re using as the foundation of their book of business is no longer supporting their needs.
You aren’t upgrading to a new AMS because you’re bored. You’re upgrading because you value your business and want it to run as efficiently and effectively as possible.
When you and your team realize your current solution is no longer fulfilling its role, then it’s time to get together and start deliberating on what’s next. Work together to define what it is that you want to improve. What are your needs? What are your goals?
Make a list together to have a view of what is crucially important for your agency’s day-to-day needs and what you’ll need as you look ahead to the future. Here’s an AMS/CRM needs and wants list you can use to help you start determining what’s important to your agency.
Appoint leaders from each team and have them bring feedback from their various teams to learn more about their individual relationships with the system. How is it affecting the commissions team? The producers team? The client services team? The admin team?
Understanding each team’s relationship with the current software is a way to understand where you need to go, what needs improved, and which aspects are the most critically important.
Once you find the motivation for your change, it will make the process that much easier because you will all be working towards the same goal.
Step 2: Put a discussion plan together
This is where things can get tricky. Harvard Business Review found that the phase which causes groups the most grief is identifying the solution and agreeing on the best course of action. But there are ways to prevail.
One great way to overcome this struggle is with a structured discussion. Have a plan for your discussion, stick to that plan and see it through. You will spend less time arguing, avoid terrible stress headaches, and come to a conclusion faster. This will also let each and every person on the team have a voice and make a contribution while also propelling your discussion to a more fully-formed endpoint.
Maybe create a detailed outline before you have the meeting, so each team member can brainstorm and get their thoughts together. This will give you a more fruitful, well thought out discussion rather than having each person spitballing their minds.
Step 3: Openly discuss
Your team will be using whichever software you implement on a daily basis, so their opinions are crucially important. Give them each a moment to talk and voice their opinion. When demoing or trialing a system, make sure each member gets the chance to vet the software. Yes, maybe the software has all the bells and whistles the producers could ever dream of, but what does it look like from a commissions processing standpoint?
Give your team the chance to debate their views of the software in an open and inclusive environment. Let them voice their beliefs and worries so everyone is working and thinking from the same level playing field.
Up to half [of the team members] fear losing respect or credibility in their organization if they push for an unpopular purchase or are unable to attract support, or if the purchase they backed turns out to be unwise.
AT ALL COSTS AVOID GROUPTHINK. Remember, it’s what’s best for the company, not the individual. You are all a part of the agency; let everyone be a part of it.
Step 4: Ask questions; a lot of questions
As the saying goes, there is no dumb question. It’s better to be thorough up front than regret the decision later.
When you’re demoing and trialing different softwares, make use of the software vendor’s rep. They’re there to help you and answer your questions. So make a list, and keep track of the answers (these will help jog your memory later for Step 5!)
To get you started, here are the 7 questions you should be asking your sales rep about data migration. Another important thing to ask about? The additional costs like setup fees, migration fees, import fees, training fees, etc. Also, what does an exit plan look like should you choose to leave them in the future?
Make sure everyone has a chance to ask their questions. Stop periodically throughout the demo if you have team members that need more clarification about certain aspects of the software. Double check with everyone at each pause to see if anyone has additional questions.
When you demo certain parts like the sales pieces or the commissions portion, let the head of that team take the reins. They’ll be the most knowledgeable about how the team functions and know what they need on the day-to-day.
Step 5: Narrow down the selections
After you’ve spent some time with a variety of software vendors, get together again. Use those notes you took during the demos and trials to help jog your memory and remind you of the things you liked and disliked, what the softwares offered, and what they were lacking.
Compare them against the needs and wants list you had earlier to decide if the software is truly a viable option for your agency or not. This will help you quickly eliminate some options and narrow down your contenders.
Use this as an opportunity to come to a decision together or use it as an opportunity for you, as the main decision maker, to make a more informed decision alone. Either way, this gives you all a chance to air your ideas and decide which options you all think is best.
Step 6: Discuss again
Now that you’ve narrowed down your options, it’s time to discuss again. Yes, this process involves a ton of discussions, but you want to ensure you’re doing what’s best for your agency. It’s better to put in the extra time now than wish you had later.
Follow the same steps as before and lead another structured discussion. With luck, you had the majority of your decision-making team with you on the demos and trials of the different contenders to help you have a more informed discussion. Give each person a chance to hold the floor and express their opinion.
Half of implementation is employee buy-in, so you want to make sure it’s a good fit for each department. By giving these team leaders a voice, you’ll have more luck with employee buy-in because they’ll feel empowered. They’ll take this empowerment to their team and propel them to use the system, too.
Overall, it’ll greatly benefit your agency because you’ll have the majority (if not all) of your agency positively moving towards the new system.
Step 7: Make the decision
There you go. You’ve created your all-star decision-making team, made your needs and wants list, discussed and deliberated, demoed and trialed, discussed and deliberated again, and finally chosen your final product. Congratulations!
Now stick with it! You’ve made double, triple, and quadruple sure that this is the right fit for your agency. This is now your time to work on boosting employee buy-in even more, learning the new software, and experiencing the benefits that come with the upgrade.
Going forward, have those team members be the subject matter experts within their individual teams and be the point people for questions. This will help everyone ease into the software much more seamlessly.
Make use of the software’s customer service team and help sections to better acquaint yourselves with the highlights, features, and basic functionalities of the software. Start with the help section, then utilize the customer service line to help save you time. Plus, teaching it to yourself will help to cement the process in your brain more so than being told how to do it.
Having a plan set out on how your team will adopt the technology can make a big difference and boost employee buy-in. You can also use this plan to help with benchmarks and success metrics. Just make sure that plan is fluid and flexible as there will also be hiccups that you don’t account for.
Remember, this is an exciting time, so try and have some fun with it, too!
These seven steps can help make your group decisions far easier and far more fun. Just ensure you give each person a voice, you avoid groupthink, and you consider the effect the software will have on each individual department.
After that, it’s all about learning, growing, and experiencing.
What is AgencyBloc?
AgencyBloc is an agency management system (AMS) that helps life and health insurance agencies grow their business with an industry-specific CRM, commissions processing, and integrated business and marketing automation.
Watch the Overview Video