Beware the Insurance Agent Success Trap

Written by Guest Post on . Posted in Agency Management, Sales

Special thanks to Dan Weedin for contributing today’s article. Learn more about Mr. Weedin in his bio below this article.

successful-insurance-agency-problemsSuccess is supposed to be a good thing, right? After all, isn’t that what we all strive to attain? If we work hard, do the right things, and never quit, we will ultimately earn that success we so desperately crave.

The problem is that it’s a trap.

The worst thing that can happen to any insurance professional is that they attain success and get snared by it and lay wasting away in “The Success trap” for the rest of their career. If you’d like to find out how to avoid this fate, keep reading!

Let’s first define exactly what The Success Trap is, so you will know it when you trip over it. My professional coach and mentor, Alan Weiss introduced The Success Trap in his work with solo practitioner consultants. It works the same with insurance professionals. Here is how Alan defines it…

The “success trap” occurs when you are rewarded and lauded for something that you’re good at but actually dislike. This is how jobs get in the way of careers, and necessary evils come to impede our lives. Let your internal gyroscope tell you what’s right for you, not external influences. ~ Alan Weiss

The Success Trap for insurance pros like you begins after you’ve realized a modicum of success. You started out on your journey and could allocate all of your time to marketing and selling. You soaked in new knowledge like a sponge. And you received accolades for your rapid rise in the organizational ranks. You went from “garage band” to “rock star” at record speed!

Of course as you gained success, your commitments also increased. Now you started getting clients that needed attention. Your “customer service” work increased.  You found yourself toiling behind your desk more and out in the field (doing what you most enjoyed) far less.  You became known as a consummate professional that was so good at doing the hard work for the client. You became a fixture in the office, chatting it up at the water cooler, and (here’s the slippery slope) becoming comfortable. Comfortable in your income; comfortable in your effort; comfortable in your results; and comfortable in your “success.”

Now instead of “rock star,” you begin sounding like a well used of shoes.

The trap becomes steeper at the next stage. I call this the fear phase. Once you’ve gained comfort in all those things I mentioned, you all of a sudden start becoming fearful of getting out of this sandbox to play on the “real world” again. I liken it what happened to my golf game. When I was in high school, I was a competitive golfer. I was a two-year letter winner in high school and competed at the state level. For the next 4-5 years, my game was consistent and improved. Then I started having less time to play due to family and work commitments. I was comfortable in my game, and spent less time practicing. What grew out of this was fear of failure. In my youth, I was fearless. I never thought about hitting a stray shot or missing a putt. I was focused on achievement and prosperity, regardless the odds. As I got more comfortable, I actually became more fearful of mistakes. Wayward shots and poor putts became my enemy. I started playing it safe for fear of inflating my score. Counterintuitively, my score went up as I became more conservative.

The Success Trap is the same. Once you’re mired in the office and comfortable with your position, going out and being fearless doesn’t come as easily. Just like being skittish about hitting my ball out of bounds off the first tee, agents and owners in The Success Trap fear rejection, bad breaks, poor performance, answering tough questions, being vulnerable, and most of all – being “found out.” And like my golf score, the conservative and fearful route never leads to better success, just more penalty strokes!

So how do we avoid or get out of this sand… Success Trap? Here is my 7 Step Process to avoiding this malady…

1) Self-Awareness

Understand that this can happen to you. I encounter too many people who falsely believe they are impervious to getting trapped. They use experience, knowledge, and their entrepreneurial dexterity as reasons. It’s akin to not using a blind-spot detector in your car. You’ve always backed up, so why would you ever need any help? Being humble enough to recognize your vulnerabilities is always the foundation for building true success.

2) Get Help

You can’t be brilliant by yourself. Strategic and introspective work is better when shared with someone who is skilled at coaching or mentoring you. Just like working out at a gym with a professional trainer will maximize your improvement, working with a coach or mentor will unleash your maximum potential. This also involves vulnerability and real self-confidence, and the return on investment is huge.

3) Change

If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got. Without change, stagnation rules the day. Change for the sake of change doesn’t work. Change needs to be intentional, strategic, and built around improving your condition. It’s often hard, maybe even painful at the start. Yet if it’s the correct strategy, then change will be the force that pulls you out of the pit!

4) What’s Your LIKE?

If you’re doing something you dislike but are good at, you’re not serving fruitful purpose for your agency, your clients, or you. These dislikes might include processing endorsements, reporting claims, playing receptionist, bookkeeping, and making the coffee in the morning. All are important tasks for a well-oiled agency, but not necessarily to be done by you. Delegate. Train. Desist. Eighty percent of your day should involve you doing things that only you can do AND that you like doing (e.g. marketing, selling, strategy, mergers and acquisitions, and building brand). If you dislike something that can be done by someone else, or that no longer needs to happen, make that change.

5) Drop Weights & Baggage

If you’re the agency principal or the rainmaking producer, you will constantly need to drop “weight” to make room for new clients. Every two years, jettison your bottom 15% of clients (define them however you want – commission income, size, or even annoyance level) to younger producers or CSRs. They still must be serviced well, but not by you. If you want to grow in some measure (e.g. new clients, discretionary time, marketing and strategic time), then something has to give. Much of the anxiety I witness in my clients is due to overbooking and an unwillingness to let things go. What ends up “giving” is their sanity. It’s better to transfer a few clients to someone else!

6) Implement

This is the hardest part. It’s where many good intentions and great ideas fizzle and succumb due to lack of discipline. Implementation is all about self-discipline, perseverance, and a confidence that you are doing what’s best for your agency, the staff, your clients, and you. The way to assure that implementation gets done is to have help. Get a coach, mentor, or accountability partner (sound familiar?) to hold you to your plans. Most of us need that help and support, yet are too proud or embarrassed to ask for it.

7) Create a Sustainability Plan

Once you have successfully climbed out of or avoided The Success Trap, it’s time to make sure you stay out. All through your career, these traps will be laying in wait. The best way to avoid them is to make a plan. The plan should include what to do when you feel gravitational pull trying to force you back down to your previous position. How will you recognize it and what will you do? Who will you call for help? Going through this process the first time will help you define and answer these questions. Having an action plan when the next trap emerges will keep you out of any future entanglements.

Bottom line

We all face traps that are caused by our own successes. Business and life are about being flexible, nimble, and prepared to make changes. I’ve seen too many insurance professionals go down into the trap and never emerge. You can recognize them because there is bitterness, apathy, and burn out. You want to be an agency principal, producer, or professional that is vibrant, excited, and always growing. In order to do that, you need to deftly avoid The Success Trap and create your own path to happiness.

dan-weedinDan Weedin, CIC, CRM is a coach, mentor, and author of a new book,  Insuring Success: An Insurance Professionals Guide to Increased Sales, a More Rewarding Career, and an Enriched Life. He helps insurance professionals maximize their talents and enrich their lives. You can learn more at


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