Super Agent

Archive for May, 2013

The “Wow Me” Trap

Producers love wowing; most are passionate go-getters who like to take on challenges. So, when a prospect says “Wow me”, “Tell me all about yourself”, “Why should I do business with you?” it’s easy to get sucked in. It’s an attractive direction for a producer to follow, but it’s a trap. Instead of falling down the rabbit hole and discussing all of the services and solutions you can provide, always stick to the cardinal rule—never share any resources, processes, tools or intellectual capital without first gaining awareness and agreement on the prospect’s area(s) of dissatisfaction.

If you start talking about what you have to offer before you know what they need, it won’t resonate with them, and they won’t become aware of the real value you can provide.

Instead, take the time to engage in dialog that will:

  1. Lead the prospect to self-discover what their greatest risks and needs are by asking pointed questions and challenging assumptions;
  2. Come to an agreement that your prospect will be at a greater risk if they don’t engage in a business relationship with you;
  3. Paint a picture of a better future (one that allows the prospect to eliminate risks, and capture opportunities).

It’s important that producers have the ability to take a step back in this situation, avoid declarations and articulating solutions, and instead follow a process to allow the prospect to truly understand what they hope to accomplish.

“All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come.” – Victor Hugo

The Heroic Myth

In an interview with strategy + business, author and professor Betty Sue Flowers talks about five common myths that influence human decision making. One of them is called the heroic myth, and it’s based on the idea that in every situation there is a winner and a loser, a David and Goliath. Have you seen this myth played out in sales situations?

Sales Source writer Geoffrey James says that selling “becomes difficult (or even impossible) when one or both parties view the negotiation as a conflict between two positions, where the person who abandons his position is the ‘loser’ and the person who sticks to his position is the ‘winner’.”

Here’s an example scenario:  A prospect doesn’t seem interested in engaging in a conversation with a producer unless they can push him to offer them a low price. In an effort to avoid losing the sale, the producer thinks, “I’ve got this shiny new product to show you”, and abandon’s his process. In the prospect’s mind, if the producer gives them a low price, they win. In the producer’s mind, if he doesn’t lose the sale, he wins.

What’s the matter with this picture? Everyone actually loses.

Instead of delivering true business value, the producer has diminished his role. And, the prospect is put at greater risk because of it. Don’t get caught up in the heroic myth. Your process is what differentiates you—stick to it, and you will be viewed as a business ally who helps employers improve outcomes. And, don’t be afraid to walk away from a prospect who (after engaging in dialog with you to uncover risks and threats) still doesn’t recognize that the bid-and-quote approach doesn’t serve their best interests either.

Change Your Habits to Reach Your Goals

Does this sound familiar to you? You leave a training session, you start on a new project, or you decide to commit to implementing a change in your life that you’re excited about. But, as you become distracted with day-to-day activities you’re commitment wavers and you find that you’re falling behind on your goals. The thing you were on fire about two months ago is put on the backburner, and every day you put it off the harder it seems to get started. 

One of the biggest barriers to reaching any new goal is not having the right habits on a regular basis. Take stock of your own habits. Are they supporting your goals or sabotaging your success? Not blocking off time to make prospecting and research calls is a habit, just as blocking off time to conduct them is.

So, how can you take control of your habits? Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, outlines these 3 steps:

  1. Create a Cue: A visual or written reminder to cue your mind to an activity. This is why blocking off time on your calendar for lead generation activities and Center of Influence presentations is a must.
  2. Establish a Routine: Creating a routine is essential for developing habits—make sure your activities are consistent and frequent.
  3. Create a Reward: Imbed a reward into your activities so your brain associates your new habit with good feelings of accomplishment.

Most importantly, remember to be patient. New habits will become part of your routine and you will be on your way to successfully reaching your goals.

Understanding Millennials

Recruiting top talent into our industry can be difficult and costly—just last month, an article on Property Casualty 360 was titled “Insurance Industry Crisis: 400,000 Positions to Fill by 2020.” So, how can you make sure you’ll be able to successfully recruit and retain the next generation? Understanding the way they work, and what’s important to them is the first step. 

Here are a few characteristics millennials possess that can benefit professional, independent agencies:

  1. Millennials may be more in tune with working in a multi-generational environment—they work well collaboratively, and possess a strong sense of team unity.  
  2. They develop relationships via social communities and they share experiences through technology. So, they would have the confidence to use integrated and portable technology to engage round-the-clock with prospects.
  3. They feel the need to connect to a bigger purpose. According to an article on 99U, millennials are focused on “the mission, the underlying purpose, the reason why the thing matters.” So they will most likely be attracted to an agency whose value proposition is client-focused and outcome driven.  

Is your agency positioned to attract and retain the next generation of industry professionals and leverage their unique talents?

What is the Opportunity Cost of a Transactional Sale?

You may remember the phrase “opportunity cost” from your college economics class. Essentially, it’s based on the idea that when a choice must be made between two options, there is a cost involved in not choosing a specific option. So, you miss out on the benefits (monetary and otherwise) of the option you didn’t go with. Investopedia provides this example: “if a gardener decides to grow carrots, his or her opportunity cost is the alternative crop that might have been grown instead (potatoes, tomatoes, pumpkins, etc.)”

What does this mean for you?

Many producers we talk to get stuck when the buyer pushes for a low price, saying “if this is what the customer wants, isn’t it my job to give it to them?” But, what is the opportunity cost of engaging in the typical bid-and-quote process?

The most obvious cost is working on a low-probability, commodity-based prospect when you could be working on a high-probability, collaborative prospect. If you aren’t doing enough to qualify and work only with prospects that are in alignment with your business model and your objectives, you are missing out on right-fit, long-term and more profitable accounts (who appreciate the value you provide, not just the price).

Of the hundreds or thousands of employers who fit your profile, how many will you not meet or even speak with this year?

The more time you spend on transactional sales, the less time you spend with these right-fit employers. You weigh the opportunity cost—is it worth it?

The Best Behavior Change Trigger

According to one of our favorite sales strategists Jill Konrath, “since making any change is more work for your already stressed out prospect, you have to give them a really good reason to take action.” We’ve said it before: it’s necessary for your prospect to be dissatisfied before they will make the decision to change—dissatisfied enough that they are willing to abandon the status quo. Because of this, many producers dream of prospects who offer them a list of problems, expecting solutions that the producer has the resources to provide.

But, these producers are missing a big piece of the puzzle. What is the best way to trigger a change in behavior? A prospect must become aware of a previously unrecognized problem or risk, and then be presented with a solution that they did not anticipate. The best prospects aren’t the ones who’ve already figured out what issues they need to solve, it’s the ones who aren’t aware there are any issues.

Anthony Iannarino explains: “Your dream clients don’t recognize a gap themselves. You haven’t done anything to show them that they have good cause to be dissatisfied if they’re not. And they don’t have a compelling vision of a better state that they want to bring to life.” It’s your job to lead them through an effective process, help them self discover risks, and show them a vision of a better way.

So What, and How Do You Know?

Agencies invest a significant amount of money in online tools and outside resources, and the most common spending occurs in HR or safety areas where there is an amazing amount of content. But, are the resources actually a good investment?

Too many times, we have seen that tools aren’t necessarily in alignment with what the agency is trying to achieve, or they aren’t actually addressing the critical needs of clients. Some tools and resources are very valuable, just be sure to ask yourself the following questions before you make the decision to invest in them:

-So, what? Will the tool do something important for your agency and your clients, or are you just choosing to invest in what’s popular without really understanding its impact?

- How do you know? Have you done your research? What works for others may not be the best for you, so don’t move forward without looking into the specific purpose of a tool or resource, its implications, and its effectiveness.

As economist, statistician and writer Milton Friedman says, “One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.”

Stick to Your Process

Recently, I was talking to a producer who told me he likes to “feel the deal” when he’s working with a prospect who he has some familiarity with. Unfortunately, many producers will do the same thing in a similar situation. Maybe they’ve worked with the prospect before, maybe the prospect was a referral, but whatever the case, abandoning your process for any reason is risky.

“Feeling the deal” might work for masters in the art of selling, but for most producers, adopting and sticking with an effective sales process is essential to their success. Why is it important never to skip steps?

  1. Without structured dialog coupled with genuine curiosity, the producer will miss out on the opportunity to bring the element of self-discovery to the sales process for the prospect.
  2. Without asking the right questions, the prospect’s level of dissatisfaction won’t increase enough for them to want to leave their current situation, and feel the risk of staying in it.
  3. Without gaining agreements, the opportunity for both the buyer and the producer to continually qualify each other will be lost.
  4. Most importantly, if you don’t follow an effective process, you’ll never know when it’s time to walk away.

Developing an effective process takes time, and consistently following it takes perseverance, but you will reap the benefits if you take the lead and follow your process regardless of the selling circumstances.

Have you won new business with a prospect you knew by sticking to your effective process? We want to hear your stories in the comments!