Super Agent

Archive for June, 2013

Sales Process vs. Technical Knowledge: You Need Both

We often talk about the importance of having an effective and repeatable sales process.  Subscribing to a process shortens the learning curve for new producers, provides prospects with a consistent engagement experience and, most importantly, helps them self-discover what risks exist that threaten their business, and what they hope to accomplish. But ultimately, it’s just as important to have the technical knowledge needed to step in for your clients when things are going wrong and correct dangerous situations.  

For example, in a complex business transaction between two or more entities, you have to know what the rules are with respect to experience ratings and experience mods. If you leave a situation up to chance and let it play itself out, you could be unnecessarily costing your clients tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It’s not enough to simply talk about reducing risks—improving technical knowledge will not only improve sales outcomes, it will also allow you to rise to the occasion with confidence when there is a lot at stake, and provide measurable value to clients.

Do you feel that you have the depth and breadth of knowledge needed to understand issues and identify opportunities? It’s not easy, but it’s essential.

Big Data and the NSA

A recent headline in the Huffington Post reads: “NSA Spying Controversy Highlights Embrace of Big Data”. According to writers Gerry Smith and Ben Hallman, “The NSA’s decision to give away that code to developers has helped fuel what is now a booming trend in technology known as “big data.” The technology makes it possible for companies to sift through massive amounts of information with essentially the same degree of sophistication and security as the country’s top spy agency.”

If you were skeptical about the big data revolution before, recent news will likely have heightened your awareness and maybe even changed your mind. Whether you agree or disagree with the way the mining technology is being used, there is one thing we know for sure: big data is touching every aspect of our personal and professional lives, and it’s not going anywhere. It will only continue to emerge and evolve over time.

As we begin to see the impact it will have (and is already having) on our industry, it’s important to remember that it is still just a tool to use to make better decisions. Agencies that leverage the technology in order to effectively bend the trend and pair it with an effective sales process are most likely to reap its benefits.

What are your thoughts on the Data Revolution?

Don’t Hide Your Passion

Have you ever felt like you’ve shared the same insights, story, or experience too many times? I recently spoke with someone who was hesitant to re-share something for fear that his conviction or passion about the subject wouldn’t translate to the audience.

But, think back to a moment in your career when you heard a speaker, a colleague or a client say something that inspired you and ignited your sense of purpose. Did you feel driven and more motivated to succeed? What if they hadn’t said what they did?

If you have something to offer that may inspire other people to find their passion, don’t let your own thoughts or doubts prevent you from sharing it. Never underestimate the impact you can have on others.

Common Sense: Truth or Trickery?

Common sense is typically a good thing. Because of it, you don’t swim in the ocean when a red flag is posted at the life guard stand, you avoid letting the fire on a match stick reach your fingers—you can make the connection between an action and the bad things that might happen if you ignore the warning signs. But, your intuition isn’t always right, and cause and effect isn’t always so clear, especially in complex situations.

For example, most people would assume that when the economy falls the frequency of injuries and work comp claims would increase. After all, wouldn’t someone afraid of being laid off rather be on workers’ compensation than unemployment? The problem with this logic is that it isn’t supported by the facts. Counter-intuitively, the number of injuries actually decreases in a bad economy because people are more likely to hunker down and endure an injury without reporting it. According to the data, frequency of reported injuries and work comp claims increases when the economy is on an upswing.

Our industry is complex, risks are continually changing and evolving, and if an employer’s common sense is leading him astray, many producers won’t step in, engage in a dialogue, and have the difficult conversation needed to show them a better way. Why? Because persuading someone to change their beliefs is difficult. John Kenneth Galbraith said: “Faced with a proof that their belief is wrong, ten percent will accept the proof, while the other 90% will immediately get to work defending their belief.”

But, those producers who follow an effective sales process, and possess the leadership and the gumption to tackle those tough conversations will open the doors to a world of opportunity that includes achieving better outcomes for their clients and themselves.

Chicken-and-Egg Debate

We often see agencies get trapped in a vicious cycle that plays out like this:

-Producers aren’t producing
-Pipelines are empty
-There is a lack of belief or confidence that producers can fill their pipelines
-Agency leaders choose to do one of two things:

  • Provide training to producers with the expectation that they will sell more
  • Hire a group of telemarketers to fill producer pipelines

So, which investment comes first? Do you invest in helping agents get better, or do you hire a business development person/team to generate leads. The problem with option one: What good does it do if you have a flood of new business appointments but your sales team can’t execute an effective sales process? The problem with option two: What good does it do if you have the best sales team in the world, but they never have a first appointment?

Focusing on only one tactic will likely lead to frustration and disappointment—agencies should focus on both simultaneously in order to set producers up to succeed.

How? Here are 5 steps to consider:

1.  Cultivate lead development and nurturing strategies—agencies have a choice to make here.

  • Outsource, or hire an inside business development person/team making sure that they are representing the agency brand, qualifying right-fit prospects, and successfully positioning producers for first appointments.
  • Train producers to employ an effective messaging and lead generation strategy that piques curiosity, and measure key performance activities

2.  Implement a consistent, repeatable and effective sales process. In addition to providing structure, and strengthening your brand, it also ensures that prospects and clients enjoy a consistent experience when engaging with the agency.

3.  Adopt a process for evaluating producer abilities (non-revenue indicators of success and selling skills) as well as revenue generation.

4.  Mentor and coach, then hold producers accountable. Top producers will lead during the sales process, learn the skills to align resources, goals and objectives of all stakeholders (agent, agency, prospect) and demonstrate how they create value for businesses.

There are no magic bullet solutions for helping producers achieve success, but if you take a, thoughtful, process-driven and comprehensive approach instead of getting caught up in the debate of which comes first, there is greater opportunity for improved outcomes.

Data Wrapped In a Story

If you had to guess, which of these two people would you except to have a higher auto insurance premium?

-        A 19 year old boy with a red Corvette

-        A 49 year old woman with a silver Toyota Camry

If you guessed the 19 year old, you’re with the majority of folks who get asked this question. And, until recent technology made it possible to see the real-time data associated with these two drivers, you would have most likely been right. However, now that insurance companies are using their own data analytics to make decisions about pricing policies, they can see that the woman is actually the less safe driver.

Big Data is changing the way things work in our industry—carriers are moving beyond utilizing basic metrics, and agencies must adapt. As we discussed in a previous post, the future belongs to those agencies who can leverage this technology and who can get the data moving in the right direction. Simply telling a great story about a prospect won’t cut it when companies can reference their analytics. Data trumps story every time in these situations.

But, we’re not suggesting that you should rule out the power of utilizing stories. The best agencies will use both data and story to win new business. How? Move the needle, but wrap it in a compelling story during the sales process. Cognitive psychologist, Jerome Bruner explains: “A fact wrapped in a story is 22 times more memorable.”

For example, let’s assume that you have developed the skills and processes to eliminate or improve circumstances that put an employer’s business at risk (decreasing the number and duration of injuries, helping them build new business relationships, etc.). By doing this, you’re moving the data. Weave this information into a story, and you not only provide the facts, but you also arouse your listener’s emotions and energy to act.

Ask These 3 Questions Before Creating a Marketing Message

Today, most buyers prefer to engage electronically before they meet with anyone face-to-face. In fact, it is becoming increasingly clear that the sales process no longer starts with the first face-to-face meeting—buyers are doing their research before allowing anyone a spot on their calendar, so an effective messaging strategy is now a key component of an effective sales process.

In a blog post on hbr.com by Steve W. Martin, he explains: “Successful communication is the cornerstone of all sales. Winners have the ability to tailor compelling messages that resonate with the various evaluators across the organization.”

Before crafting any message, it’s important to be clear on the answers to these three questions:

(1)   Who is your ideal client?

(2)   Why should the prospect buy from you as opposed to your competitors?

(3)   What problems does the prospect have that you can solve?

Buyers demand value from you up front, even before they meet you, so top producers must learn to frequently and consistently convey how they create value for businesses beyond the placement of policies. Answering these questions will position you to develop client-focused messages that pique curiosity, affirm your expertise and prompt the prospect to say, “I want to hear more.”