Super Agent

Archive for February, 2013

Are Retention Numbers A Sign of Success?

We recently tried to cancel our account with a well known technology company after completing our 12-month contract faithfully, and instead, we were forced into a new contract because we missed the notice period for cancelling. Technically they retained our business for one more year, but is this really a sign of success?

According to an article on Inc.com, “truly successful companies thrive on their ability to keep the customers they’ve already acquired… Regardless of what you’re selling, your long-term profitability is largely dependent upon your ability to keep current customers.” This is true, but whether or not clients stay is much less important than why they stay.

Most agencies invest a great deal of time and effort in building initial client relationships, but the biggest mistake they can make is to let those relationships go unattended over time. The enemy here is the status quo—do your clients want to stay, or are they forced to stay because their fear of change is more powerful than the impact of your value?

The number of clients that stay because of the value you provide—that is the true measure of successful retention.

When Sales Becomes Marketing

Originally, the internet was a warehouse of information—a one-way street where the average consumer could research and read but rarely contribute. Fast forward to today, and it has dramatically evolved into a place of constant engagement, communication and two-way interaction. Because of this, marketing has also significantly changed. When was the last time you checked out a review on Amazon before making the decision to buy? Have you ever noticed an ad on your Facebook newsfeed targeted specifically for you?

Whereas two-way communication was, at one time, only possible in sales, marketing is now also becoming more of a conversation. As new technology develops, the line between sales and marketing has become blurred. Attraction and early nurturing can be considered marketing, and although “inside sales” techniques can be effective, it’s important to discuss the dangers as well.

Here are a few questions to consider:

- Are you diminishing your role in the sales process “because most clients know what they want already”?

-Are you leaving out the opportunity for the prospect to self-discover risks to their business?

Prospects still need producers to be leaders, to move them away from a dangerous path, offer innovative ideas and find creative ways to help them improve their business.

According to Giovanni Rodriguez, Forbes.com contributor, “Salespeople will always be necessary with complex, expensive purchases, anything requiring customization, special services or “high impact” purchases…But as always, superior marketing will greatly assist the sales efforts of every company”

Are You Riding the Revenue Rollercoaster?

We see it all the time—producers become obsessed with a group of prospects they’ve hooked and are trying to reel in, and they let their lead nurturing activities go by the wayside. They spend all of their time focusing on them, they’ll even spend a day or two in the office just thinking about them. In the end, a few of these prospects do become clients, but, when it’s time for the producer to get back to work prospecting, he or she realizes that their pipeline is empty. When the business doesn’t come they move on to a new set of prospects to blitz, and the cycle of peaks and valleys continues.

What if this producer had spent only 3 to 6 hours per week, in the weeks leading up to these sales, on lead nurturing activities? Even better, what if these activities were already on his calendar as part of a client-attraction program focused on the long-term? 

When producers focus solely on managing their book, they are setting themselves up to be trapped in this cycle. If they consistently take the time to develop, qualify and nurture leads through a pipeline they will grow steadily and organically and see greater success.

“Lead-nurturing is having consistent and meaningful communication with viable customers regardless of their time to purchase.”—Brain Carroll

Little Things Make Big Things Happen

I recently had to have my car towed from our office parking lot to a Tires Plus in order to have my battery replaced. As I was paying my bill the man cashing me out asked if I would consider donating to Meals on Wheels Association by rounding my bill up to the nearest dollar. For anyone who isn’t familiar with the organization, Meals on Wheels offers a meal delivery service directly to homebound seniors. Donating less than a dollar was a minor thing, so after I agreed to round up my bill I asked what kind of an impact Tires Plus makes with these small donations. He told me that each month, they raise around 100,000 dollars for Meals on Wheels. My 30 odd cents may have been small, but 100, 000 dollars can make a big impact for a worthy cause.

The story proves that small things done well over time can have a big impact, and this is also true for producers as they attempt to meet their revenue goals. For example, if you have a $350,000 book of business which, through your conversations, you manage to increase by 10%, how would that impact your goal of $100,000 for the year?

Now that the first quarter of the year is in full swing, here are a few questions to consider:

-Are you having conversations with your clients to find out what matters to them?

-How would up-serving your clients better protect them and your agency?

-Are you making assumptions and decisions on behalf of your clients instead of having conversations?

If you are investing your time and effort in the small things necessary to grow your book of business, you will better secure your accounts, increase your revenue and see the impact these activities will have on your goals.

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”- John Wooden

Your Prospects Are Talking, Are You Listening?

It has never been easier than it is today to conduct research on specific industries and individual companies. Search engines and social media can and should be used to identify the primary challenges of virtually any industry group. If you walk into a first meeting having done no research on your prospect, you are likely missing out on opportunities to show what value you and your agency have to offer.

For example, one of our members was working on a large opportunity and walked into a first meeting without realizing that the CFO he was about to sit down with had written a blog post on the company website titled something along the lines of “How I Want Salespeople to Engage with Me”. In the post, the CFO detailed his own experiences with salespeople who pitched their services up front and focused on delivering the best price, and expressed that he would rather be shown how the company, firm or agency could help address challenges and improve business outcomes.

In this case, the prospect was telling the agent exactly what he wanted from him. Imagine how powerful the conversation could have been if the agent started out by saying, “From the research that I’ve done, I understand that you expect…”, as opposed to starting out like every other agent with “let’s review your insurance program.”

Inc contributor Tom Searcy talks about this in one of his articles. He explains that in order to get prospects to pay attention you should “do your research… and build that credibility–then they’re going to want to talk to you again. When they talk to you, they should say, “Ooh, that’s interesting.” Products and services don’t make them say that.”

Research is more essential than ever, and your prospects are giving you insight into what’s important to them and what challenges they are facing. Are you listening?

Stay Focused on the Outcome

Mark Goulston, Harvard Business Review contributor recently wrote an article that focuses on how effective leaders successfully influence decisions. As part of research for Goulston’s book, he and his co-author interviewed over 100 people who “get things done, but who aren’t pushy.”  They found that the most successful leaders are “not trying to persuade people to do something important. They’re trying to positively influence them to get to a better place.” They are focused on the outcome, and at the end of the conversation they are able to move things forward.

Here is a common example of this dynamic at play in the sales process:

During a conversation with a prospect, a producer will say: “let me explain to you why our process is better than the process you’re currently using.” The prospect will most likely put their guard up when change is framed with the agent and agency as the main focus. In this example, the first part of what’s necessary in the process is there—the producer believes that the buyer is truly at risk and wants to help them decrease those risks and improve their business, but the buyer only hears “it’s all about me”. Dialog is only effective if it is 100% percent focused on the prospect. Consider this question that addresses the same issues but is framed differently:

“What if it is possible for you to reduce the number of employee injuries that occur and decrease the costs associated with those injuries— is that something you would be interested in discussing?”

Are you trying to sell your process to your prospects, or are you trying to positively influence them to get to a better place?