Super Agent

Archive for May, 2012

Nurturing Leads- What’s your process?

As we’ve discussed in the past, it’s not simply the producer’s responsibility to manage, develop and nurture leads. Agency leaders need to be part of the process in terms of developing a strategic and measurable plan in order to hold producers accountable.

According to author, Ruth Stevens, lead generation “is less about marketing breakthroughs and silver bullets.  It’s more about process.  The company with the best process wins.”

The days of managing prospect data on spreadsheets are over, and it’s important for agency leaders to drive the process of adopting and implementing technology as a way to attract and nurture leads. How often is your agency using technology tools to touch prospects? A producer’s typical touch tactics should include email with valuable content attached, phone calls, invitations to seminars or workshops and voice-mail messaging. Today, email addresses are especially important. If you don’t have an email address, you don’t have a prospect.

Frequency of touches is the key ingredient to success. If your producers are using these tools to touch the right-fit prospects frequently and, if their approach is customized depending on where the prospect is in the buying cycle, your agency is on the right track. The goal is to nurture your prospective relationships often, consistently and effectively.

Asking the Right Questions

In this blog, we’ve frequently discussed the importance of building a relationship with a prospect that is based primarily on common objectives and goals, and focuses on the value that an agency has to offer. Leading with a pitch about your agency’s services and capabilities is less successful than beginning with a customer-centric conversation to help prospects understand how you can help them if they choose to pursue a business relationship with you. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t present your capabilities and services. It’s not about whether or not you present them; it’s about when.

So, how can you have successful consultative and customer-centric conversations to get prospects on the same page? Start out by asking the right questions.

In a recent article published by Inc.com, Erik Sherman says “Success is never a given, but you’re more likely to find it when you look the right way, and that means asking the right questions up front.”

The right questions may change depending on the prospect and the circumstances, but here are a few general suggestions:

- What are your business needs and objectives?
- What challenges is your business currently facing?
- What emerging risks have you identified in your industry?
- What new opportunities would you like to seize?

Once you’ve asked these questions, prospects are more likely to understand the risks and threats they are facing, and you can step in to connect how your services and capabilities will improve their business and help them achieve success. This way, prospects won’t be initially overwhelmed by a lengthy list of services they don’t understand. The ultimate goal is to move the sales process toward a mutually beneficial business relationship.

“You create your opportunities by asking for them.”- Patty Hansen

Define Your Perfect Client Type

As an agency, if you want your producers to develop rewarding business relationships with the right clients and successfully increase their number of first appointments, defining your perfect client type needs to be a fundamental component of the client-attraction process. If an agency fails to define their perfect client type before attempting to “get in the door” with a prospective client, they end up wasting valuable money and time pursing prospects that aren’t a right fit.

Tammy Lenski, a business negotiation expert, explains: “The big danger is that without a target market, it’s like standing in a park shouting in the wind. When you have a target market, it’s like standing in a park and talking to a specific group of people.”

To identify the perfect client type, you must go through the process of describing what type of employer your agency wants to attract. What are the demographics, company size and industry of your agency’s area of focus? Once an agency has determined this, its resources can be used more efficiently, its producers will develop focus and industry expertise, and it will become more profitable.

This gives agencies permission not to pursue a business relationship with an employer who is a wrong fit. Simon Sinek, a leadership expert, says that “the goal is not to do business with everyone who needs what you have. The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.”

An agency that has identified its perfect client type removes itself from the position of having to compete on price instead of value. It will ultimately close more business because it’s connecting its capabilities directly to prospects that are seeking the capabilities and leadership that it provides.

Has your agency defined its perfect client type?

Constant Improvement = Excellence

Agencies today can’t afford to waste valuable and expensive resources on training processes that aren’t successful, so improving performance requires organization and careful development. The time you invest in creating an efficient approach for improving performance should be rewarding for your business in terms of measurable gains in revenue, productivity, efficiency, and profitability. 

So, how can you implement a plan to make sure that your coaching is effective, successful and sustainable? According to a recent MIT study that is discussed in a White Paper put out by the TAS Group, “the key to motivation—which is at least part of the role of the sales coach—is to understand that people are motivated by (1) connection to a purpose, (2) the desire for mastery, and (3) the ability to be self directed.”

For a sales manager, this means accepting suggestions and solution ideas, making sure everyone involved in the coaching understands its objectives and purposes, emphasizing the essential steps for growth and progress, and finally, holding salespeople accountable.

What are some successful training strategies you have used to improve performance and increase the success of your business? What are some that have failed?

“Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence – only in constant improvement and constant change.” – Tom Peters

Agency Strategy vs. Agent Strategy

We are frequently asked to assist clients with developing a strategy for helping their agency acquire new business.

We have a defined process that helps an agency focus on not only creating messages that will help them get in the door with leverage, but also evaluate whose door they want to get in to and what value they can deliver once they are in it.

What sometimes becomes apparent is that while there is an agent strategy for getting in the door with leverage, there isn’t always an agency strategy. To be truly effective agencies must have both and here’s why:

In some instances Producers can answer fundamental strategic questions such as those shared by author Ken Favaro, a senior partner at Booz & Company in his article The Two Levels of Strategy

1. Who is the target customer?

2. What is the value proposition for this customer?

3. What are the essential capabilities necessary to deliver that value?

But before an agent can answer these questions, agencies must ask and answer a different set of strategic questions related to

1. Who do they want to do business with and

2. How as a company they should add value to those businesses

Until the agency has identified it’s right-fit client, it’s capabilities and it’s value proposition it is virtually impossible for an agent to.

Here’s why-if an agency hasn’t gained clarity in the areas mentioned above then it is left to the individual agent to develop clarity for his or her prospective relationships. If an agency has 10, 15 or 20 agents selling on its behalf-that’s a lot of people determining the agency’s strategy. It’s likely that there will be messaging inconsistencies and conflicts in this scenario which will ultimately damage the agency’s brand and increase client acquisition and retention costs.

If agencies want to increase pipeline, closing ratios and retention, they have to develop a strategy to do that first-then work with individual producers to develop a business development strategy for their pipeline that’s in alignment with the agency’s.

 

 

Employer Problems are Agency Opportunities

In previous posts, we’ve discussed how many traditional selling strategies of the past won’t cut it in today’s marketplace. The road to obtaining new clients is more complex and, to ensure success, agencies must prove their value and differentiate themselves from competitors. One opportunity that is often overlooked by agents is the implementation of fee-based strategies. The first step in this process is to accept that selling and placing policies doesn’t have to be the only way to generate revenue. It’s time to explore additional ways to develop revenue, and find new opportunities to extend relationships with clients. 

When an employer has a problem that is exposed during a conversation, why not be prepared to offer them a solution for a fee? Alan Weiss, author, consultant and speaker explains that “value-based fees are most directly related to the client’s self-interest being served.”

For example, even when an agency is unable to establish a broker-of-record relationship with a business, it is probably true that they have the ability to recognize that prospect’s needs or problems and offer helpful solutions. Is the business struggling to assess their risks? Are they implementing dangerous practices that are destructive to their business? If so, your agency has the opportunity to step in and offer the capabilities, services and tools to provide solutions on a fee basis.

Here are just a few examples of fee-based services:

Human Resources support
Injury management training
Benchmarking
Contract reviews

For more tips and information on utilizing fee-based services check out our White Paper on the subject.

Use a Touch of Genius to Manage the Complex Sale

One challenge that agency principals and sales managers face is the failure of existing and new producers to meet their goals in terms of both production and profitability. In today’s market, it is important to institute a sales process that fosters organic growth and drives producers to successfully perform. One essential element of this process is learning to adapt to the increasing complexity of the marketplace.

Many agencies that once functioned within simple markets are now facing competition from unexpected players. The inability to compete in this complex selling environment will lead to an increase in failure rates and leave agencies at risk.

In an article published by Inc.com, Geoffrey James, writer of the sales-oriented blog “Sales Source”, explains that the best managers and leaders “see business as a symbiosis where the most diverse firm is most likely to survive and thrive. They naturally create teams that adapt easily to new markets and can quickly form partnerships.”  

So what can you do to ensure that your agency will thrive? Here are a few strategies:

1)      Establish an effective, consistent and repeatable sales process.

2)      Systematize lead attraction and development strategies.

3)      Align your agencies resources and capabilities with the employer’s goals—instead of telling them about you, tell them about how they will achieve success.

Recognizing the needs of today’s complex organizations will allow producers to simplify the process of getting results.

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius—and a lot of courage—to move in the opposite direction.” — Albert Einstein