Super Agent

Archive for March, 2013

The Silver Bullet Message

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was one message that could say it all? It would make a producers job much less challenging. But, in reality, it’s unlikely that one message delivered one time will drive a prospect to follow up with you. Busy executives responsible for the insurance buying process are constantly being bombarded with solicitations, deadlines, information and requests, and if producers rely on only one message to capture their attention they will probably fail.

Seth Godin explains:  “If your tactic is to have a one-shot, the equivalent of a pickup line in a singles’ bar, it’s pretty hopeless. You can’t sell anything complex or risky in this way.”

So instead of becoming discouraged when a single message fails to generate a response or agreement, here’s what you can do to make sure your messaging strategy is effective:

  1. Use multiple messaging channels like email, voicemail, direct mail or video.
  2. Reinforce themes and opportunities like issues, threats and strategies that are top of mind with decision makers.
  3. Be repetitive in order to create impact. You can expect to touch a prospect with your message at least 10 to 12 times before you get a response.
  4. Include multiple calls to action using language like “watch this video”, “enjoy this article”, “join us for” etc.

With a well developed message—one that piques curiosity, delivers value and is relevant to the buyer—and a good messaging strategy, you can get in the door and be heard.

Disruptive Technology

Throughout history, new technologies have changed the way people think about the world. Galileo’s telescope disproved the widely accepted idea that the sun revolved around the earth, and as with anything disruptive, there were people who denied the results of his work. He was eventually arrested, and “the father of modern physics” spent his last years on house arrest. The community and church leaders who attacked his discovery were on the wrong side of history. Will you end up on the wrong side?

Today, the MRI machine has made it possible for us to see the way information is processed in our brains—from the inside out. The reptilian (survival) brain regulates the basic functions we need to live, like breathing, as well as our instinctual behaviors like fight-or-flight reactions. The limbic (emotional) brain is the primary part of the brain that motivates our actions. In his book, Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman describes the limbic system as the brains “first responder”. The neo-cortex (thinking brain) works out complex issues and allows us to use reason and logic to address them. So, in order for a message to make it to the neo-cortex, the person’s emotions must first be roused—the brain always has an emotional response before it produces a cognitive one.

Innovative speaker and author Simon Sinek talks about The Golden Circle which uses this idea to explain why “some people and organizations are more innovative, more influential, command greater loyalty and are able to repeat their success over and over.” They start with WHY (accessing the emotions in the limbic brain), then move on to HOW and WHAT (engaging the neo-cortex).

If you lead with a sales pitch about your services and capabilities, you’re on the wrong side of history. This new technology shows us that people aren’t inspired to act by reason alone. In order to influence change behavior, you must access the emotional centers in the limbic brain first.

Pick Your Customers

A recent blog post from marketing guru Seth Godin focuses on the importance of choosing your customers before deciding on what product or service to provide. He says: “too often, we pick the product or service first, deciding that it’s perfect and then rushing to market, sure that the audience will sort itself out. Too often, though, we end up with nothing.”

In our profession, we’re in a great position to pick our customers and decide what kind of buyer we would like to do business with before engaging. For example, do you like working with blue collar folks? High-hazard, high-work comp, high-general liability is probably the right way to go for you. Once you know who you want to work with, you can become an expert in an industry niche and set yourself apart.

Agencies can choose to develop distinct capabilities from a wide array of services to assist employers—the important thing is to be better than your competition at something unique and important to the success of the clients that you serve.

According to HBR contributor Daniel Gulati, “The choice between staying general and specializing is a difficult one, but often, the specialist wins. Those who successfully typecast themselves can seize new job opportunities, deliver value quickly, and move forward with confidence.”

“I Want a Low Price”

I’ve talked to many producers who believe in their process, but become frustrated and cave when prospects demand a low price. They’ll say to me: “It’s what the customer wants” and ask “What am I supposed to do?” My answer: you sell them on a better process. Instead of complying with their request, lead them toward something new and better. Most prospects will say that they want the lowest price because their past experiences with agents tell them they should engage in this way.

So, instead of seeking out buyers who don’t respond in this way, change the minds of the buyers who do. How? Most salespeople do a lot of talking; they spend their time telling the prospect what they have to offer, but the best salespeople use questions to reveal the buyers issues, needs and concerns—to help them self-discover the flaws in their process.

According to author and business consultant Nido Qubein, “the instant a prospect pauses to take a breath, the amateur will jump in with a sales spiel, just to break the silence. But powerful persuaders use questions… much as a skilled physician uses them to diagnose the problems of a patient.”

Before you even begin to sell your product or service to the prospect, you first have to sell them on your process. If you believe in your process and you’re ready to take on the challenge, you can turn these frustrating situations into opportunities.

“A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.”- Francis Bacon

Are You Really Consultative?

An excellent article by Scott Edinger on hbr.org starts out like this: “When I speak to audiences of sales professionals and ask, “How many of you sell value versus price?” everyone raises their hand. But my next question “So how do you do that?” is frequently followed by an uncomfortable silence…”

We see this all time. Producers truly believe that they are consultative sellers but aren’t able to articulate the value they provide to their prospects and clients. Edinger offers sellers these 5 tips on how to move from transactional to consultative relationships:

  1. Help clients see issues they hadn’t considered. Edinger calls this a process of “mutual diagnosis”. In other words, the best salespeople don’t tell their clients the problems they see, instead they help their clients self discover risks through dialog.
  2. Help clients examine issues they thought were benign, but aren’t.
  3. Help clients see opportunities they missed. Again, “jointly discovering such opportunities through back-and-forth conversation” is key.
  4. Help clients address problems with solutions they hadn’t considered. Be innovative and find new ways to address their specific needs.
  5. Help clients connect with additional support resources.

Check out the article and use these 5 tips as a test for you and your colleagues. Are you really consultative?

Win Over Executives with a Powerful Story

We often say that selling boils down to the conversations we have, and one of the most powerful elements of a “good” conversation is a purposeful and compelling story that engages the prospect and allows them to become a part of it.

Here is a real-life example of how a story won over a busy CEO:

A producer walks into a first meeting, sits down across from a CEO (who is looking down at a notepad prepared to take notes) and asks if he can tell a story before getting started. The CEO looks up from his pad, says “sure” and leans back in his chair, ready to listen, already more engaged than he was when the producer first walked in. The producer says: “I’m going to describe four scenarios to you. Let me know if any of these sound familiar to you.”

  1. You meet with a group of agents, all of whom promise they have access to the best markets, and they can get you the lowest price. They all deliver on that promise and come back with prices that are within dollars of each other;
  2. One agent is able to get a significantly lower price than the others, but you are so suspicious of it that you decide not to go with him anyway;
  3. You listen to a group of agents present who then just go away. They lose contact with you over time and you’ve wasted your time engaging with them;
  4. Or, a group of agents start coming at you with overwhelming information that does more to confuse than clarify, so you decide to stay with your current broker.

At this point in the conversation, the CEO is leaning toward the producer, fully engaged. “You know what?” he says. “I’ve experienced every scenario you just described. It’s so frustrating.”

“Well, I would like to approach this a little differently, if that’s ok with you,” the producer says.

And, now he has captured the attention of the CEO and can start asking customer-centric questions to move the sales process forward. Have you ever told a story in the sales process that helped you land the account? Let us know in the comments.

“There are three key skills that define a great salesperson: the ability to ask great questions, the ability to listen actively, and the ability to tell great stories.” – Tom Searcy