Super Agent

What’s Missing

As we move to the halfway point of 2016, what better time to evaluate the progress you’ve made thus far?

Some of the key concepts we’ve shared this year can be segmented into three different groups:

Strategies to attract new business
Strategies and tactics to make selling more effective
Ways to help you protect your existing book of business

Day to day we tend to get caught up in the needs of our clients and business, leaving little time to focus on our individual professional growth and personal development. As important as it is, focusing on remaining sharp and competitive can take a backseat.

With that in mind, now may be the perfect time to assess where you are year-to-date and what areas of your business practice you may want to improve upon. To help you organize your thoughts, here are a series of questions to consider:

Concerning the pipeline of opportunities

• Do I have a solid list of prospects to message each month?

• Am I sending purposeful emails that are piquing the curiosity of my prospects?

• Have I had enough first appointments over the past six months to allow me to walk away from the opportunities that aren’t a good fit, but still have enough quality ones to work on and meet my financial objectives?

When it comes to my meetings with prospects:

• Have the first appointments I’ve been on been with the quality of prospects I want?

• Am I advancing the sales process confidently?

• Am I identifying pain and raising levels of dissatisfaction with my prospects?

• Am I gaining agreements and reinforcing those agreements throughout the sales process and prior to sharing solutions?

When it comes to your existing clients, ask yourself:

• Am I confident that my top-20 accounts are seeing the value of our relationship?

• Can I clearly articulate the impact I’ve had on their business should I be asked?

• Have my top-20 accounts helped me get in the door or referred me a colleague?

There is a lot to think about here, but it’s critical that you ask yourself these questions. If you don’t you’ll likely never identify what you’re missing, and of course never put a plan in place to help yourself get better.

Your challenge: Take a few hours this week to answer these questions. You may be surprised at what you discover.

Purposeful Interruptions

One of the challenges we often help new producers overcome is their disdain, ambivalence or frustration with making “cold-calls.”

First, let’s define “cold-call.” It is not calling someone with whom you do not have a relationship for the sole purpose of either soliciting their business or “introducing yourself,” rather it is a call with the purpose of gaining permission to share industry or business information which will help them cultivate awareness around potential risks, threats or waste which may be occurring within their business.

This mental framing serves a couple of purposes. First, from a producer’s perspective, the idea that your calls may actually help your prospects gain value from the information you share or the questions you ask is far more motivating than thinking that you are interrupting a prospect’s day or being perceived as a nuisance.

This is also true from your prospect’s perspective. While a “sales” call may be unwelcomed, taking a call that may teach them something new or help them gain valuable insight may be worth considering.

When you set out to make contact with a prospect, ask yourself:

“What is the purpose of this call?”

“What do I want the prospect to consider as a result of this conversation?”

“If I don’t make this call is there a possibility that this prospect’s business could continue to experience a risk, threat or potential financial waste?”

Here are a couple of positioning examples for your “purposeful interruptions”:

“Hello, _____, This is (you) with XYZ Agency, the purpose of my call today is to see if you’re aware of the recent changes to _____?”

“_____, I’m glad I reached you today, the reason for reaching out is _____.”

Framing your calls and, more importantly, preparing your calls to make them more purposeful will not only improve your results, they will differentiate your calls from your competitors more “salesy” approach.

Remember, purposeful interruptions lead to purposeful conversations and ultimately more successful first meetings.

Do You Have Belief and Gumption?

One of the concepts we often discuss in training is leadership. You may agree that employers don’t know what they don’t know and as a result can make poor risk management and insurance buying decisions. But would you agree that you are effectively leading them away from their flawed and dangerous processes and towards your more effective and efficient process?

Bringing leadership to the sales conversation requires you to tell your prospects that they are wrong, which of course must be done with diplomacy and empathy. This is not something most sales professionals enjoy doing, regardless of how necessary it is.

There are two core traits that help successful producers manage and execute these difficult conversations. The first is Belief. Successful producers believe that what they have to offer is of value and cannot be easily replicated. They believe that absent a business relationship with them, their prospects and clients will be underserved. They in themselves and they believe in their process.

The second trait we often find in successful producers is Gumption. That stick-to-it-ness that is required as they help prospects navigate the complexity that exists in their business, the marketplace and in the risk management and insurance buying process.

The two go hand in hand. Without belief in what you do and how you do it, it’s virtually impossible to have the tenacity and gumption necessary to lead prospects and clients away from flawed decision-making decisions. And without gumption, you’ll often find yourself acquiescing to your prospects and their flawed decision making process.

A question to consider: Do you believe that what you have to offer is of unique value and do you have the gumption to defend it and lead my prospects to it?

If not, reach out and let’s talk about it!

The Complex Insurance Sale

Let’s face it, selling insurance and risk management solutions is challenging. As producers, you’re faced with a multitude of challenging buying scenarios ranging from inexperienced or commodity buyers, to boards of directors and the often reluctant to change C-suite. The problem is, it isn’t likely to get any easier. We know through the extensive research of the corporate executive board that there are more buyers at the table, in fact 5.4 of them. This alone increases the complexity of your job.

Today, more than ever, you must understand group-buying dynamics and the challenges which arise from within. And there will be challenges. Unfortunately, group-buying dynamics tend to favor the incumbent, not the outsider.

So how can you take control and navigate these choppy waters?

First, you need to identify a true champion within the group. This may or may not be the CEO. It will be the person who is advocating for change. This champion is the one who can help you and influence other members of the buying team on your behalf.

Secondly, you’ll want to make sure your champion is clear on your process for engagement. They must understand not only how you engage, but also, why you engage in the manner you do. They will need to be armed with insights about your capabilities and resources, and how they will help the team avoid risks and improve outcomes. This is not a features and benefits presentation. They need to be able to answer questions as they arise and help you build consensus with what problem the group is actually trying to solve.

Next, it will be important to understand challenges, barriers and concerns members of the team have. This is where an assessment can be particularly helpful. Your assessment will likely identify where silos exist in the organization. While you’ll want individual feedback, you won’t want to get caught in the trap of trying to solve individual problems. Doing so will only increase the complexity of the sale. Again, you’ll want to continue to gain consensus amongst the team as to what problem or problems you all agree must be solved.

Your champion will act as a coach to the team. Because you’ve taken the time to help them understand your process and they have an insider’s view of the group dynamics, they will help you navigate and overcome challenges.

As you progress through the sales process, you’ll want to educate each member of the team. You’ll want your training to remain focused on the large issues facing the entire team. If you identify disagreements as to strategy or issues being addressed you’ll want to take it on. Ignoring challenges could end up costing you the sale.

Following these steps isn’t going to be easy. In fact it’s going to seem like you are spending more time trying to manage a dysfunctional team then selling them something. And you’re right, you will be. But that’s what it’s going to take to win.

Create Three New Email and Voicemail Scripts

Creating first appointments can be challenging. To overcome the challenges of a crowded marketplace and overwhelmed and busy buyers, it’s critical that the messaging you send to prospective clients pique curiosity and disrupt their way of thinking about buying insurance and managing risk.

You may find yourself struggling with developing messages that do this. One of the ways you can gain traction is to take time to develop new messages and voicemails around topics that are likely of interest to your prospects. Finding the content is easier than you think. Here are some places you can go to get fresh content that will help you develop interesting and effective emails and voicemails:

• LinkedIn Groups: Visit the groups your prospects are in. What are the topics of conversation? Which threads are getting the most attention? Once you identify what your prospects are talking about, use that to create a voicemail message or email script. It may start out sounding like: “I recently heard a number of business owners in the manufacturing space discussing ____, and I’m curious if this is an issue that you’ve found yourself trying to address.”

You can also get ideas for messaging from the Monthly Technical Webinars from Oceanus Partners. While the content is developed to help you gain or refresh your technical skills, with few modifications, it can be used to pique the curiosity of your prospects. For example, a recent technical training discussed how agents can differentiate themselves by creating enhanced submissions. Why not create a message for your prospects that talks about how poor submissions can actually limit their options in the marketplace?

As you know, business owners are proud of building their business and would be upset to learn that a poor submission will not only work against them from a pricing standpoint but it also could misrepresent their business to insurance companies.

Creating effective emails and voicemails doesn’t have to take a lot of time. We encourage you to set aside time each quarter to freshen up your messages and create new ones. This will not only engage your prospects, but keep you from getting bored with the same old scripts.

These insights are intended to inspire you to get creative and, more importantly, help you get in the door with leverage!

Creating a Lifestyle Changing Suspect List

Building, refining and segmenting your top-100 list is a critical step to help you stay focused on creating first appointments. Your top-100 is based on the profile you developed for your perfect client-type and typically of the revenue size you most frequently pursue and close.

These accounts may be 5, 10, 20, or even 50 thousand in revenue depending on the book of business you are creating.

Today, think about accounts that are outside the size of the accounts you typically write. For those of you who focus on writing 10,000 in revenue accounts- think about accounts that perhaps 25,000-50,000 in revenue. If you typically write 25,000-50,000 accounts- think about the accounts that generate 100,000-150,000 in revenue.

The purpose of the exercise is to identify 5-10 accounts within your marketplace that are significantly larger than your “average” account size. They are still in the geographic footprint that you serve, still within the niche of business you focus on, but are significantly larger in size and perhaps complexity.

In fact, if you were to land one of these accounts, it would likely take the place of one of your top-10 accounts in terms of revenue. Bumping one of your top-10 accounts down to #11 is rewarding more than just financially. It helps you build confidence and a new level of excitement for selling. It also can give you the “space” necessary to pursue other larger opportunities.

Often your book of business and your pipeline is a reflection of the lifestyle you want to achieve. If your pipeline and the top-100 are only filled with accounts that look like every other account you have, then maybe it’s time to think bigger and explore and build a separate list of Lifestyle Accounts.

You may be surprised that it really doesn’t take an altogether different strategy to write accounts twice the size you typically focus on. Sure, there may be greater complexity managing these accounts, but you can do that with the support of your team and the resources you have available here at Oceanus Partners.

Why not give it a try?

You have everything to gain and virtually no downside!

Read a Book

Setting time aside to devote to professional development can be difficult, but it is certainly necessary. The developments of the Kindle and IPAD have certainly made the ability to possess several books much more comfortable, especially when travelling to and from client visits.

So what should we read? Effective libraries tend to focus on two things: How to run your business better and how to help your clients better.

One of the best books of 2015 was The Challenger Customer, written by the same authors of The Challenger Sale.

The Challenger Customer provides sellers insights into buyers, not surprisingly there is a lot that sellers need to learn. While we’ve incorporated a lot of what we read in this book into our trainings over the past several months, we’ve only just scratched the surface. For this reason, we strongly recommend that you read it for yourselves.

Some key takeaways that you may find exceedingly helpful include:

- Understanding who in the organization you should target as your champion. You may be surprised it’s not necessarily the person most eager to work with you.

- How messaging to prospects has got to change. Creating effective messaging has become even more important than it was in the past. Your messaging has to create insight and teach your prospects something new about their business and how they may be focusing on the wrong issues and yes, even doing things wrong!

- Understanding how buyers buy. We know that there are more stakeholders at the buying table. Understanding how to engage with a team of buyers as well as how to build a consensus is going to be critical to your future success.

These takeaways are a few of the insights you’ll gain by reading The Challenger Customer. It is packed not only with great insights, but a ton of research. The book shares the research gained through the Corporate Executive Board, a multi-million dollar, multi-national insight and technology company. The CEB has the resources available to conduct surveys and studies that we can all benefit from.

If you’re looking for a great book which will provide you insights into how buyers buy today- The Challenger Customer is strongly recommended.

Let us know what you think!

Create a New Habit

Creating new habits can be exceedingly difficult. It is said that it takes 30 days to really have a habit stick. But, what if the outcome of that habit helped you become more productive, increased effectiveness and potentially rewarded you with more time? Would you give it a try?

One such habit exists and it’s encouraged you try to make it a habit yourself.

One of the biggest distractions of our day is the constant barrage of emails. If you’re like many, you wake up, start your coffee and grab your phone. These are habits. While drinking your coffee you delete the messages that aren’t important, read the urgent, and then filter through the remainder.

That simple habit can change the course of your day, and in many cases not for the best. All of a sudden new priorities have emerged and what you had planned to do, make marketing calls, research a prospect, gets pushed to the bottom of your agenda. This can happen frequently throughout the day as well.

Here’s a new habit to consider. Instead of looking at email throughout the day, pick two times during the day that you will review and respond to email messages, perhaps once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Create an out-of-office message that can be utilized between your designated responding hours, something to the effect of “Unavailable to respond until ____.” Make sure to give instructions about what to do in the event of an emergency. You’ll find that few of your messages are.

Creating this simple habit of designating times to respond to emails frees you up on what’s important to you. If you don’t make your priorities a priority, someone else will!

Give it a try for 30 days and see how much time you gain.