Super Agent

Archive for July, 2013

Selling to Multiple Decision Makers

Does this scenario sound familiar to you? After a few meetings with a prospect, you’ve established that there will be a number of stakeholders at the next meeting who are all important in the buying process. Maybe one of them is an economic buyer who is focused on the bottom line, another might care more about seeing a better opportunity for their business in the future, and another may be completely fearful of change and is putting up the most resistance to following your process of engagement.

It’s natural to feel overwhelmed when a team of buyers all have a say in the decision making process. It used to be that agents tried to get to “The Decision Maker”, the one whose ultimate choice it was whether or not to move forward. Today, business executives are more risk averse, and the stakes are higher. No one wants to take on complex and important decisions on their own. But, that doesn’t mean that they all have the same intentions. Each person in the room with you has a different set of priorities.

So, how do you successfully engage and sell to multiple stakeholders?

Julie Battilana, an associate professor of organizational behavior at Harvard Business School says: “You control when and how you pass information along. And you can [and should] adapt your message for different people… Pay attention to how people behave; ask questions, both direct and indirect, to gauge their sentiments; and keep a mental record of your observations.” It’s important to address each person in the buying network, and talk about how the change will impact their individual goals and objectives. The most successful agents will use real leadership and gumption to recognize the complex needs of today’s organizations and leverage that knowledge to offer value.

Share your stories with us. What strategies do you use to navigate a sale with many decision makers involved in the buying process?

What Motivates You?

To be successful in insurance, or in any other business, it’s important that you stay motivated when you hit a rough patch. Often, especially when you’re behind on your goals, carrot and stick motivators aren’t enough to keep you going without a struggle. Your purpose has to go beyond just making your numbers in order for you to stay driven throughout the year. As we hit the mid –year mark, it’s easy to get caught up in “how” to be more successful moving forward, but we often forget to keep our “Why” in mind.

We’ve talked about the importance of your agency’s “Why”—if you know it, and you believe it, you’ll be able to convey it to prospects. But, your own “Why” is just as important to keep in mind.

So, what motivates you? Do you strive to:

- Protect your clients’ businesses beyond the placement of policies;
- Facilitate better care for injured workers;
- Create opportunities for your clients to see better outcomes;
- Create greater opportunities for your family;
- Contribute at a higher level to a cause that is meaningful to you?

If you find your purpose, you’ll actively seek learning and growth opportunities, and you’ll inspire those around you to find their own intrinsic motivation. And, don’t be afraid to think big.

“Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

Small Changes Over Time Lead to Big Results

Let’s assume that you’re goal is to run a marathon. Would you make it to the finish line if you simply showed up on race day without taking the time to train and gradually build up stamina? Probably not. And, to take it a step further, most of us wouldn’t show up for the race in this situation because the thought of doing something drastically different than we’re used to (without preparation) is overwhelming.

Big changes are hard to swallow, but small changes leading up to the big change are much easier to achieve and maintain. An article on quotes author Ellie Krieger, who explains that “when you set and accomplish small, tangible changes, you get an immediate sense of gratification, and that’s self-motivating.”

What does this mean for you?

Consider this scenario: A small agency that we work with felt overwhelmed by the big changes they knew were necessary for them to make after going through training. But, we helped them break it down, and encouraged them to focus on implementing one or two important elements at a time. For example, they had excluded their officers from workers’ compensation coverage in order to help save them money. But, after they realized that this could negatively impact them, they went back and had different conversations so that now virtually all of their officers are covered.

Although your clients may recognize the need for big changes, they may only be able to implement a few at a time. It’s your job to bring leadership to complex situations and chunk it down to help them set priorities. Soon they will be implementing whole processes and a big change will have occurred gradually. Small changes lead to big results over time.

Illuminate the Dark Side

In this month’s issue of Harvard Business Review, there is a spotlight interview with leading social scientist in the field of influence, Robert Cialdini. If selling is influencing change, having the process in place to effectively facilitate that influence is a necessity. So, what does Cialdini have to say about the challenge of getting someone to make a change?

He explains that most people are uncertain about changing because they are scared of what they might lose. “Therefore, it’s good to tell people what they will lose if they fail to move…notions of loss are psychologically more powerful than notions of gain.”

There’s a lesson here for producers: It’s important to let the prospect discover not only what they will gain from choosing to work with you, but also what they will lose if they don’t. Do they agree that the risk of staying in their current situation is too strong to ignore? If they see the danger, they will be more likely to move forward in the process.

Don’t be afraid to illuminate the dark side first, then you can take a step back and help the prospect see what they truly hope to accomplish, and how engaging in a business relationship with you will lead to improved outcomes and increased success.

Don’t Always Believe In Conventional Wisdom

When I was a kid, we were told to get out in the sun, eat enriched white Wonder bread, and drink plenty of milk. Since then, the science has shown us that everything on that list is bad for us. So, the conventional wisdom, when vetted by science and data, often contradicts usual standards or what we might call common sense.

The same is often true in our industry, so it’s important to question everything, go against the tide and don’t assume that conventional wisdom is the right path to follow. For example, we would suspect that the greatest opportunity to reduce health care costs is to provide incentives for employees to get healthier. This is not a bad idea, but it’s tough to do and data suggests it’s not working.

Cracking Health Costs blogger Tom Emerick explains: “Everyone mistakenly assumes wellness is perfectly safe and has only an upside…Common types of company wellness schemes have been shown to lead to misdiagnoses, false positives, and overtreatment.”

Instead of buying into conventional wisdom, in order to reduce health care costs we should be focused on eliminating or reducing unnecessary surgeries and medical procedures—the first step is to keep people out of the hospital unless it’s necessary for them to be there. Over 100,000 people a year die in the hospital due to complications and infections.

Are you looking for data, or are you assuming something is true because it’s widely accepted.

“Re-examine all you have been told.” – Walt Whitman

4 Steps to Craft a Powerful Story

 What’s the best way to get a buyer emotionally engaged and invested? Tell a story. Stories are powerful tools that can be used to influence change behavior and move the sales process toward a mutually beneficial relationship. But, most of us aren’t professional storytellers, and the thought of developing a compelling story can seem daunting.

So, we’ve put together these 4 steps to help you get it right:

Step 1: Provide a setting. What is the background of the story? For example, you may describe a frustrating scenario you think the buyer has experienced in the past.

Step 2: Introduce the conflict. The inspiration and influence in any story exists in the conflicts. Ask yourself: what is getting in the way of the protagonists success? Remember, in your story, the prospect is always the hero. Find out what is keeping them from achieving what they desire and build your story around that conflict to pack an emotional punch.

Step 3: Describe the “Ah-Ha” moment—the moment in time when there is a sudden realization or new insight. Think about your “Ah’Ha” moments. When did you realize that there is more to this profession than just the placement of policies? When the moment happens in your story, it should also happen for the buyer.

Step 4: Resolve the story. Paint a picture of a better future with improved outcomes.

Forbes contributor Jim Blasingame says this about the power of storytelling: “In a time of rapidly compounding technology generations, the most successful businesses will consistently deliver high touch to customers with one of our oldest traits – the telling of a story”

Building An Atypical Team that Helps Drive Success

There is a certain power in a team built around the strengths of the individuals who are a part of it. Kathie Sorenson and Steve Crabtree explain in an article in Gallup Business Journal: “In sports it’s often called chemistry: that harmonious balance of strengths that makes a team able to do the improbable. They go on to say that the best teams in sports aren’t dominated by a single player, instead they are balanced with reliable veterans as well as gifted young talent, and they almost always have an experienced leader with an understanding of how all the players work best together.

Agency leaders must use that same kind of leadership and insight when they are building their teams.  For example, we’ve talked about the vicious cycle that occurs when producers aren’t producing, and pipelines are empty. Often, there is a strong need for training or support in cultivating and nurturing leads. If producers aren’t effectively employing a messaging strategy, and they’re struggling to get in the door, don’t be afraid to assess your needs and build your team around other people’s expertise and strengths, even if that means outsourcing, or hiring part-time employees to fill a marketing or business development position.

Adopt a process for evaluating where the greatest opportunities are for improved outcomes, hire or train with your objectives in mind, then hold team members accountable.

Do you want to learn more about gaining insight into the natural talents, drive and methodologies of your team members? Do you want to improve decisions about the way you delegate, communicate, lead and interact? Watch our complimentary webinar on the subject here:

Are You Moving Too Fast?

When a producer see’s that a prospect’s current agent isn’t doing anything to help them, it’s easy to become excited about the opportunity to step in with real leadership and deliver value. But, too often, we see producers try to squeeze all the steps of their process into the first meeting, without meeting the objectives they’ve already outlined for each step. It’s like popping the question at the end of a first date.

Without clearly delineated steps and a strategy, the sales process is easily muddled and the prospect is less likely to leave their current agent. Are you losing opportunities by falling into this trap? Here are a few tips to consider:

- Before the first meeting, know your goals. Inc contributor John Treace gets it right when he says, “To make the most of the meeting, establish your objective[s] in advance and share it with all attendees.”

- The purpose of the first meeting is to get the prospect curious enough to engage in the next step. Don’t plow through to an assessment before you’ve met the following objectives:

(1) Communicate your value proposition

(2) Share your research

(3) Establish what the prospect’s current process for buying insurance and managing risk is, then share your own process

(4) Uncover the prospect’s top challenges

(5) Gain agreement on the next step

- In the second meeting, determine if there is really a need for what you have to offer through an assessment process. When used correctly, assessments bring clarity to the situation; they answer questions like: are our objectives in alignment? Is the prospect willing to engage in a consultative process? If the prospect doesn’t commit to the work necessary to improve their outcomes, don’t move forward.

- Once the prospect agrees that risks, threats and dangers are too high not to address them, you can move on to the last step—presenting your solutions and services.

As Samuel Smiles said, “Great results cannot be achieved at once; and we must be satisfied to advance in life as we walk, step by step.”