Super Agent

Archive for March, 2012

Agency Owners-Are You Crazy Enough?

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” This was a quote from Apple’s “Think Different” commercial, 1997 (video)

In the April 2012 issue of Harvard Business Review, (Subscription required) Walter Isaacson, CEO of the Aspen Institute and the author of Steve Jobs wrote an article The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs. In it he breaks down 14 key practices  that every CEO can emulate. It is a thoughtful reminder of how and why the basics matter. Whether your a CEO or in another leadership function these 14 practices are important to consider. I’ll list a few of my favorites, but I encourage you to read the article in its entirety.

#3 Take Responsibility from End to End-Do you take responsibility for your client’s experience with your agency from an Agents introductory sales call through the annual client review process?

#5 Put Products Before Profits-Do you create an environment where your team is inspired to do great things?

#7  Bend Reality-Do you push yourself and your team to think big, boldly and without limits?

And of course #14 Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish-Are you still a rebel? Do you hire, work with or associate with people that help you “Think Different.”

How do these practices align with yours?

 

 

It’s Just a Conversation

We often say that selling is just about the conversations we have. The problem isn’t always in the number of conversations, but rather in the quality of them.

If Agents aren’t having the right conversations, chances are your agency relationships will suffer. So what are some of  the important elements of  a “good” conversation?

Here are three elements to consider:

1. Demonstrate genuine curiosity. “How are things going?” “What’s new?”  “How is Business?” These questions will ring flat if you don’t follow them up with probing questions that demonstrate that you really want to understand.

2. Tell a story. Jim Loehr the author of The Power of Story says “Telling ourselves stories provides structure and direction as we navigate life’s challenges and opportunities, and helps us interpret our goals and skills. Stories make sense of chaos.” When we share our experiences with others we enhance our relationships. Note: Make sure your story is relevant and has purpose and context. Your client or prospect should be able to put themselves in it and gain greater clarity from it.

3. Recap and restate. Many times the conversations we have with clients are powerful. Unfortunately, the excitement generated in the face to face meeting can get lost in the daily grind. If you’ve had a particulary important, powerful and meaningful conversation with a client or prospect, recap it and send it back to them. Let them know that you were thinking about them as you went on with your day.

What kind of converations are you having?

 

BIG Idea

What is the Big Idea that you bring to your clients and prospects?  Have you taken on an audacious objective or problem and established a process to address it and improve outcomes?  If not, why should an employer take time from their hectic day to listen to you?

We often hear that a primary objective of insurance agents is to differentiate from their competitors.  Yet, too few have a Big Idea to take to the marketplace, and they only engage around the margins.  Marginal improvements are not behavior changers.

For example, one of the most significant challenges facing employers today is that their injured employees are being prescribed too many narcotics.  Bad things happen as a result of the inappropriate use and overuse of opioids.  Many employers are not even aware of the risks to their employees and business.

What if you had a Big Idea that could take this on?  What if you had a process to improve this costly and risky situation?  If you did, you will differentiate, capture attention, and drive behavior change.       

This is just one example.  Take on the biggest challenges and create your Big Idea around it.  Leave your competitors in the “small ball” space and working around the margins.

Insurance Agents Myths

Over time, I will be sharing a number of myths that insurance agents carry around in their head.  Today, I would like to take on one of the most troubling myths.

I have heard countless insurance agents declare, “I have reviewed their insurance policies and this prospect is in good shape.  They have a solid program with great coverage forms with ABC Insurance Company.”

Hearing this makes me crazy.  The statement assumes that you can assess an employer’s risk management and insurance program by just looking at their policies and gathering some additional underwriting information.  Yes, reviewing policies is necessary and one of the steps, but far from sufficient.

For example, how would you know if their program is in alignment with their contractual obligations without reviewing the contracts? 

Employers deserve much more.  They may push back because of the time and resources that is required to do the job the right way, but that is where your leadership comes in.

The good news for insurance agents is that so most agents believe this myth and behave accordingly.  Dispelling this myth and executing an effective process is just one of the many ways to differentiate from your competitors.

Service Excellence is NOT an Agency Goal

When our firm conducts training we ask our participants to share what they hope to gain from our time together. Without a doubt the number one response is agency differentiation.

When we drill down and ask how agencies currently differentiate, most say one of three things: We provide great service, our staff really cares and we are easy to do business with.

Service excellence is not a differentiator….it is an expectation.

Marketing guru Seth Godin said it best in a recent blog post: “….so many ways to sort of say what we kind of intend to possibly do…”

If you truly want to differentiate your agency you need to clearly define the value of your offerings…and the specific outcomes that  your offerings and leadership will help the buyer achieve.

True differentiation is when you can help a prospect to recognize a better more secure and profitable future and assist them in getting there with your leadership, capabilities and processes.

First Appointment Tension

Insurance agents like to be liked.  As a result, they tend to avoid engaging in conversations that might elicit tension or consternation on behalf of the prospect.  However, it there is not the least bit of tension during a first meeting, then it is unlikely the agent is bringing new ideas. 

Employers want, if not demand new ideas.  They don’t have time for the same old story.  They are too busy and stressed to listen to a pitch they have heard countless times.  They may not tell you, but they want to be pushed out of their comfort zone and see their challenges in a new way.

Ask yourself, is there any tension in the room when you are engaged in a first meeting?  If not, how are you different from every other agent?  Why should the prospect continue to engage with you?

Creating some tension does not mean you should be arrogant or prickly.  It just means that there is rarely positive change without some uncomfortable moments.  Your tonality and body language will provide the cues that it is safe to take on the tough issues with you.

Can you create tension without alienating the prospect?  If not, this is a critical skill you must enhance.

 

Primary Objective of Insurance Agents

When we strip down all of the expert opinions, training and consulting we find that the primary objective of insurance agents is to facilitate change behavior.  Most employers are facing risks unknown to them.  Insurance agents must assist them to move from a dangerous place to a safer one.

The process to facilitate change is well researched and rooted in neuroscience. Its not about gimmicks or manipulation.  If you don’t understand how the brain processes information that triggers change then you are swimming against the tide.

As mentioned in a previous post, there is a big gap between what science knows and how agents sell or initiate change.  Why does this gap exist?  Lots of reasons, but primarily due to a lack of awareness or understanding of the latest research.  Plus, too many people have an investment in the old and  ineffective way of doing things and are relunctant to let go.

We encourage insurance agents to embrace the science of driving change.  All stakeholders will benefit.

 

Insurance Agents Need to Get Up Close

I was speaking with an insurance agent yesterday about a thorny issue with one of his clients.  We talked through the challenge and set a strategy for moving forward.  Then, the agent asked, “should I send her an email detailing what we have discussed.” 

I responded with an emphatic NO.  Sometimes we forget that over 90% of communication is conveyed through our body language and the tonality of our voice.  Email does not leverage the most powerful aspects of communication, especially on troublesome issues.

Save email for the perfunctory client service issues.  Never use it to resolve problems.

Get up close and personal.  Allow the client to see your body and face and hear your voice as you describe your process to resolve the issues at hand. 

Email is effecient and has its place with client servicing.  Nothing is better than a face to face conversation to resolve tough issues.