Super Agent

Archive for April, 2013

Do the Hard Work

Selling insurance in today’s marketplace is complex, and it requires skills greater than old school likeability, desire and great connections. Agencies and producers today have to know not only who they are in the marketplace, but who they want to be it to, and how they’re going to compete without getting sucked into the bid-and-quote game. Engaging in the right way is difficult, and that’s why you want to do it with the right people.

In a great blog post from Seth Godin, he says “If it’s easy to get a meeting or make a first sale, consider that the very ease that enabled that sale might be a sign that the long-term value of this customer is pretty low. It’s easy to get the door answered if you’re selling vacuum cleaners house to house, not so easy to get a meeting with the head of merchandising at Wal-Mart.”

So, are you taking the road of least resistance? Or, are you leading your prospects through an effective process that takes hard work on both ends, but always yields the most rewarding outcomes?

Ask yourself these questions to find out if you’re doing the long-term work needed to sustain success:

-Are you creating and utilizing centers of influence to grow opportunties?
-Are you only engaging with prospects that fit your agency’s perfect-client type?
-Are you helping employers self-discover risks through meaningful dialog and identifying agency capabilities to address those risks?
-Are you establishing new business relationships based on more than price?

“I know you’ve heard it a thousand times before. But it’s true— hard work pays off.”- Ray Bradbury

Why is Your ‘Why’ Meaningful to Prospects?

We often talk about the importance of understanding your “Why”—the reason you do what you do—an idea inspired by innovator Simon Sinek who says “those who know their Why are the ones who lead. They are the ones who inspire.” Maybe you want to help employers avoid risks, or create opportunities for their organizations in the marketplace that you feel is under-serving them?  Whatever it is, it’s important that you know it, and that you can clearly convey it to prospects.

In a recent conversation with a producer, she asked me: “What comes next? I communicated my Why, and I didn’t know where to take the conversation from there.” The producer reverted back to her old process and started listing off all of the great things about her agency: “We value our customers”, “We offer these services”, and so on. The problem? According to an article on Inc.com, “Most customers are drowning in a flood of information and time-stressed to the max.” Staying prospect-focused is one of the most important elements of your conversations. The prospect isn’t interested in you, they want to know what your ‘Why’ means for them.

You can’t assume that prospects will be able to make the connection between your ‘Why’ and their success, so you have to make it for them. Why is your ‘Why’ meaningful to them?  Tell that story, and you’ll be on the right path.

The One That Got Away

As we head into the second quarter, are you on track to meet your goals? Data shows that 90 percent of agencies who are behind at the end of the second quarter miss their goal for the year. So, if you’re already feeling behind, now is the time to think about how you can get back on track. You may believe that the best way to enhance your success is to look at you previous successes. After all, if you emulate your good results you’re likely to get more. But, an even better way to gain clarity around what you can do to improve is to analyze your failures instead.

According to an article on FastCompany.com by authors Larry Weinzimmer and Jim McConoughey, “There are critically important lessons to be learned from failures”

So, here a few questions you can ask about the business you lost:

-Were you able to effectively communicate your value proposition?

-Were the agency’s goals, your goals and the client’s goals in alignment?

-Did your prospect feel and understand the risk of not engaging with you?

-Was the prospect a right-fit?

Understanding why “the one that got away” left you is equally as important as why you landed that big account.

“We seem to gain wisdom more readily through our failures than through our successes. We always think of failure as the antithesis of success, but it isn’t. Success often lies just the other side of failure.”- Leo Buscaglia

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

If you ask an agent, “What do you think the number 1 cause of property loss is?” Most will give you one of four answers—wind, fire, earthquake or flood. But all of these environmental factors combined don’t cause as much property damage as… termites. Millions of these silent insects gnaw away at the walls of buildings from the inside, often completely undetected until the damage is significant.

Likewise, if you ask an agency leader why they aren’t meeting their goals many would say, “We don’t have enough top-line revenue.” But by focusing only on this metric, agencies are missing what is most likely eating away at their profitability out of sight and out of mind.

Although it is important to keep an eye on the top line, in order to build a real platform for growth you should also invest time and effort into raising the average profitability of your existing customers.

Are you having conversations with your clients about what they need? Are you putting a formal plan in place to make sure cross-selling opportunities are being discussed? What are you doing to get the most profitability from your existing accounts?

If you are not consistently and efficiently assessing your infrastructure, it could begin to erode while you’re not looking.

Is Your Agency A Data Mover?

You have likely heard that we are living in a world of “Big Data.” And, as the market firms, underwriters are beginning to use data analytics to make decisions. For example, according to an article in Property Casualty 360, “modern predictive analytics takes the guesswork out of underwriting. Carriers are able to review a greater number of variables to determine which policies are likely to generate losses over time…” So, underwriters are using this technology to non-renew accounts or raise rates.

What does this mean? “Shopping the market” for the lowest price has become even less effective than it already was, since you can’t sell a story to underwriters who will be turning to the data to analyze risks.

Most agents complain about the negative implications of Big Data instead of seeing the opportunities it creates. In the same article, Wade Bontrager says, data “analytics can form the basis for a deeper relationship between agents and carriers as they work together to determine which risks to target. Shared information and shared objectives drive a stronger partnership—and one that is more successful in the long term.”

The future belongs to the agencies who leverage this technology, and who have a sales process that can get the data moving in the right direction.

Bring a Sense of Urgency to Your Conversations

Employers face many risks and threats to their employees and companies, and they are often completely unaware of it. Because of this, agents can play a vital role in helping them recognize and decrease those risks.  For example, I recently had a conversation with a producer who told me this story:

A company sells and installs chair lifts in people’s homes who need help getting to the second floor. If a customer were to fall down the stairs because of a malfunction or other issue with the lift, the company would be liable. The employer  assumes they’re covered if an issue like this occurs because they have general liability insurance, but the producer discovers that they have no Products Coverage, so they’re covered for slips and trips on the showroom floor, but not when a customer is injured using their product at home.

This is an urgent situation! The employer is at a significant risk because they don’t know that their number 1 risk isn’t covered. But, the producer insists that they are “insured by ABC insurance company who I don’t represent”, or “their renewal date is too far away so I’m stuck.” The producer ends up leaving the employer in fast-moving traffic instead of snatching them out of the road and taking control of the situation.

It is important to bring a sense of urgency to your conversations when a situation is urgent. Gain agreements with the employer in order to move forward with the relationship in a way that will benefit both of you—work on a fee-basis until renewal, or become the agent the same day and worry about placing the policy later.

“It is not enough that we do our best; sometimes we must do what is required.”- Winston Churchill