Super Agent

Archive for August, 2013

“I Want to Differentiate”

It’s the first thing many producers say when we ask them to list their top objectives, but differentiation takes hard work—it requires engaging in a new process, the willingness to have tough conversations, and the leadership to step out of your comfort zone when met with resistance. Often, agents say they want to differentiate, but end up holding themselves back. They devalue their roles by delivering the same old sales pitch that only enhances the buyer’s view that insurance is a commodity purchase.

It’s like climbing up the ladder to the high dive. On the way up you’re excited and ready to go, but once you’re looking over the edge, it’s a lot harder to jump.

For example, we’ve discussed the great opportunity for agents to differentiate around the big data conversation. In today’s world, as technology continually evolves, data analytics and data mining models are emerging as powerful tools impacting our industry, and employers expect agents to show analytical capabilities. But, because the topic is unfamiliar and uncomfortable, producers avoid it rather than using it to have more consultative conversations.

You can’t differentiate without experiencing some tension, and that’s why so few producers do it. , But that’s also why there are endless opportunities when you do.

Ask anyone who’s taken the plunge from a high dive—it’s worth it. Don’t be afraid to jump.

Creating Your Asset Vault

Does your agency have content ready to leverage at each stage of the sales process? According to a recent article on CMO.com from Corporate Visions, you “should grasp [the] opportunity to drive content deeper into the selling process, improving the consistency and quality of selling conversations.” If your messaging content isn’t consistent with or doesn’t augment your process, it may be time to develop or enhance your asset vault. The first step is to assess where you currently stand:

  • How much content is your agency creating?
  • How much of it are you actually using?

  • And of that amount, how much content is in alignment with what you’re looking to achieve?

Whether you’re trying to impact your prospects’ business by reducing the number, cost and duration of injuries, determining the right risk financing mechanism, or bending the health care cost curve, the materials that comprise your asset vault should include valuable information about what it is you are trying to help employers achieve. If it’s not in alignment with your purpose, throw it out. If it is, begin organizing and adding more to your vault so it includes a combination of self-published work, industry publications, and additional thought leadership in the form of webinars, articles, Whitepapers and videos.

Once you have a good mix of content you can use these resources as marketing tools, sales conversation starters around the problems a prospect is facing, or as a way to challenge the status quo in your niche market.

Forbes contributor John Hall gets it right when he says: “Thought leadership doesn’t have to be a mystery. If you do it right, you’ll find it not only gives you more time to do what you do best, but it will also bring more business your way.”

Lost a Client? Don’t Lose Touch

There are a number of reasons why you may have lost a client. For example, maybe you failed to effectively communicate your value proposition, the goals of all parties weren’t in alignment, or they just weren’t the right fit at that time.

Reflecting on the reasons you lost the account is important because understanding why can help you improve your future relationships. But, it’s also important that you stay in touch with the clients you lose. Losing a client doesn’t mean you have to lose the opportunity to work with them again in the future.

It’s a good idea to keep them in the loop:

-Update them on new developments,

- Continue messaging to them if the content of your message will resonate with or help them,

- And, always be open to new ways of engaging with them down the road.

Just remember to disengage with the same level of humility and respect that you have going into new relationships. 

In an article on Bloomberg written by Allan Colman, he says: “just because you’ve lost the business right now doesn’t mean that the business development opportunities are gone forever.”

Selling The Stretch Goal

We’re often attracted to the people who need our skills. As Anthony Iannarino puts it in his blog, “it’s a wonderful thing to develop latent dissatisfaction. It’s important to help your clients discover their blind spots.” When prospects don’t know what outcomes they should expect, and you can step in with new ideas and disruptive insight to help them learn, customize solutions and impact their business, it’s a great feeling.

But, the best opportunities are usually in the people (or organizations) who challenge us to develop new skills, to stretch our capabilities, and to grow in order to help them. To achieve continued success, it’s important to open yourself up to new learning experiences.

Take the risk, and you will become better because of it.

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”- John F. Kennedy

Shiny New Penny Syndrome

We often talk about the importance of subscribing to a process that will allow you to help your prospect see what they hope to accomplish. Doing so can help agents attain a competitive advantage and differentiate in the marketplace—two things that are often among their top objectives. But, there are many agents who are so willing to try new things to succeed, learn new information, and use the latest resources that they end up throwing out a process that works, skipping steps, or abandoning it all together before it has had the opportunity to gain traction.

If this sounds familiar to you, you might have “shiny new penny syndrome”, and it may be time for you to take a step back and assess. Agents are often adaptable, innovative, and excel when they’re put on the spot. These are all great characteristics, but they could also get you into trouble if you’re constantly changing your sales strategy.

For example, we recently spoke with a producer who was seeing early success in the sales process. As a result, he started feeling comfortable enough to skip steps in the hope of shortening his sales cycle. Instead, he missed out on the next several opportunities. It’s like a doctor deciding that things are going well, so he stops washing his hands before examining or treating patients. Not only does the quality of care decrease, but the risks increase.

It is important that you do have the capabilities to assess and adapt as needed, but it’s also important to do so with intention. Don’t spot fix issues and climb aboard quick-win bandwagons. If you believe in your process, stick to it.

“Process is your ace in the hole when your intuition stops working. If process makes you nervous, it’s probably because it threatens your reliance on intuition. Get over it. The best processes leverage your intuition and give it room to thrive.”- Seth Godin

Answer the Questions Employers Don’t Know to Ask

There has been a lot of talk in recent years about the changing role of the insurance agent, especially as the industry adapts post health care reform, and as technology continues to evolve. Added to these changes is the fact that most employers view insurance as a commodity purchase, and agents are quickly giving in to the pressure while devaluing their roles. In fact, a recent survey by Corporate Visions found that

- 89% of salespeople agreed that price pressure from customers and buyers has increased in the past three years,

- And, 68% find themselves in tough price negotiations because customers are not convinced that their solutions are sufficiently differentiated from the competition.

Decision makers today are busier than ever, and risk-averse. They are hard wired to defend the status quo, and we often say that they don’t know what they don’t know. It’s easier for them to make something complex into something simple by focusing only on the price. So, one of the most important capabilities a producer needs to succeed is the ability to help employers self-discover what risks to their business exist—risks that they are not even aware of. It’s your job to answer the questions that employers don’t know to ask by challenging them to think, proposing new ideas and revealing creative ways that you can help them.

We firmly believe that the challenges producers face are opportunities in disguise and those who are willing to gain and hone leadership capabilities and compete on value rather than price will continue to see success.

Can You Pivot?

In a group of people at any organization there are often those who are experienced and those who are inexperienced. So, whether it’s from a service standpoint or in a sales presentation, it’s important to be able to convey complex concepts to those at a higher level while still providing value to those at a lower level.

We often see agents struggling with this, particularly when they become aware of a variance in knowledge levels during the sales process. When confronted with this situation, instead of taking a step back, assessing how to move forward and pivoting, they get stuck or move ahead without gaining a comprehensive understanding and agreements from all stakeholders.

Pivoting doesn’t mean deviating from your process, or abandoning what you believe when a customer insists on a low-price, it simply means having the capability to tailor your message, insights and opportunities based on the knowledge level of those you’re addressing.

Can you pivot? Comment with any tips or experiences you would like to share.

Are You Shouting into the Dark?

One of the greatest challenges producers face is their struggle to secure first appointments. So it wasn’t surprising in a recent training session when the topic of discussion turned to getting in the door strategies. As we all sat around a table, I said to them: “Before we can even begin talking about getting in the door strategies, it’s important to talk about who you want to work with. Who is your ideal client?” One by one, each producer shrugged or admitted that they didn’t really know.

Why is this an issue? Because without a clear picture of the kind of prospect you would like to work with, setting up a getting in the door strategy, or even developing a message is a waste of time, energy and resources. We spent two hours unpacking my initial question, and in the end we had answers to the following:

- What size organization do you want to work with?

- What is their level of complexity?

- What are the top challenges and problems they are facing that you can address with your capabilities?

Buyers today have higher expectations, greater demands and changing communication preferences as technology continually evolves. Forbes contributor Mark Fidelman says: “Customers are changing how they buy… They have access to more information than ever before. Their conversations, thoughts, frustrations and concerns are becoming increasingly more public and visible.” They expect you to know who they are before you reach out to contact them.

If you develop a getting in the door strategy after gaining clarity around who your ideal client is, you will be much more successful in moving forward to research, qualify and nurture leads. Without clarity, you’ll be shouting into the dark.