Super Agent

Archive for September, 2013

Be the Trigger Event

During the “Live the Story” Conference, participants were told about a company that took the time to brainstorm and map out the top three challenges they thought their solutions could address. Interestingly, the second challenge the team came up with was not on the radar of a large group of prospects who had recently been surveyed by the company.

So, their first instinct was to avoid #2 altogether and come up with a solution that better aligned with the results of the survey. But, instead they decided to create dissatisfaction by leaning into that gap and having conversations around the challenge that prospects weren’t even aware they were facing.

Salespeople are often trained to recognize trigger events that will prompt decision makers to buy. For example, maybe a new CFO has just been hired, or an acquisition recently occurred. Sales strategist Jill Konrath says: “Organizational change creates urgent and compelling needs. So do changes in the business environment. These “trigger events” create openings for your products, services or solutions.”

Although it is important to monitor events like this within your pipeline and take advantage of the opportunities they provide, the most powerful forces of change are your conversations.

If you can steer prospects to see that they are not safe through disruptive and honest dialogue, you become the trigger event that creates an undeniable need for change moving forward.

How Do You Deal with Non-Believers?

As we mentioned last week, one of our team members recently attended Corporate Visions’ Live the Story Conference in Chicago, and one of the first presentations of the event centered on the following clip from the popular TV show ‘Mad Men’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5y4b-DEkIps

After playing the clip, the presenter (Tim Riesterer) referenced John Kotter’s book The Heart of Change which argues that there are two change sequences:

- Analyze, Think, Change

- And See, Feel, Change.

The first is used most often by salespeople but the second is almost always more successful, and ad-man Don Draper taps into its power during this scene. First, he is willing to walk away from a non-believer, someone who seems staunchly opposed to veering from the status-quo message his company has been using. “We have lots of colors to choose from” is the same as “we have access to the best markets, and a 75 year history…”

Second, he is willing to step into the tension of the moment to challenge and engage the client. Although we wouldn’t recommend taking such an unsympathetic approach (think genuine curiosity and humility!), the clip does reveal how important it is to believe in the value you have to offer, and to stick to your story in the face of resistance from non-believers.

Do your conversations lead the prospect to see and feel what they will gain from working with you, and what they will lose if they don’t?

Don’t Self-Sabotage By Telling Yourself These 4 Things

The majority of the producers we speak with agree that most prospects don’t follow an effective process to buy insurance and manage risk. So, we often talk about the vast opportunities that exist for agents who step up and lead—who have the guts and develop the skills to have tough conversations, and guide prospects away from danger.

Too often, we see producers use rationalizations that sabotage their leadership. They say things like:

“I don’t want to offend the prospect.”

“I’ll follow their process in the beginning, but I’ll pivot later in the sales process.”

“I’m just trying to give them what they want.”

“They’re too busy.”

If you’re saying any of these things, you’re leaving the prospect at risk, and enabling them to continue believing that all agents are the same. Agents have the power to change the status quo. Will you lead?

It’s more difficult to climb than it is to ascend… Climbing requires that you take initiative. You can’t rest on your laurels and climb at the same time. – Anthony Iannarino

Live Your Story

This week, one of our team members packed her bags to head to Chicago for Corporate Visions’ Live the Story Conference. The Conference is dedicated to one objective: “aligning marketing and sales behind a common story that creates and captures value throughout the entire buying cycle”.

How confident are you that your “Why”, or story, is being communicated effectively and consistently throughout your agency, from lead generation to account management? Can everyone on your team answer this question: Why should a prospect engage with us, rather than our greatest competitor?

Be on the look out next week for a few key takeaways and insights from the event.

Are You Setting Yourself Apart In These 4 Areas?

We often talk about differentiation as one objective high on the list for producers. But, when does differentiation happen?

Here are 4 opportunities to differentiate along the sales continuum:

1- The first opportunity comes with your agency’s website and marketing activities. Buyers are busier than ever, and they’re resistant to self-focused marketing content and empty sales jargon. It’s important that the content you push out has a fresh design, piques the employer’s curiosity and always remains outcome-focused.

2- The second opportunity is in preparation for your first face to face meeting, where you will either take control of the sale by leading the buyer to follow your process, or you’ll begin following theirs. So, don’t wing it. You should always have goals in mind for every conversation.

3-  The third opportunity is when you’re positioning the exchange of value in the sales process. Will you engage with the prospect honestly and establish mutual accountability? It’s important to share the hard truth of what will be required of them in order for the relationship to be successful as well as your own commitments.

4-  Last is the opportunity to continue to prepare your existing clients for the constant changes that will occur throughout your business relationship. Part of your stewardship of the account is to provide them with as much insight as to what can be expected as the marketplace shifts and evolves.

The bottom line is that it’s your process—the way you engage across the entire customer experience—that ultimately differentiates you from your competitors, not your products or services. As HBR contributor James Allen wrote on differentiation: It “isn’t what you own or what you say you’re going to do, it is what you do, every day, through repeatable activities to serve your customers better than the competition.”

Know These 3 Things About Potential Hires

Most agency leaders have been frustrated when a new hire doesn’t work out, or fails to produce. But hiring practices within many agencies are usually pretty similar: typical hires include a friend of a friend, relative, an athlete with a competitive nature, a son or daughter of a colleague, and recent graduates who are great self-marketers and eager to jump into the work force… but these characteristics are often unreliable as indicators of success, and don’t tell you anything about whether or not the potential hire will be a productive and effective team member.

If the scenario I described sounds familiar, it’s probably time to step back and assess your process for pursuing and hiring new producers. Do you know these three things about your potential candidates? 

-          Can they sell? Selling requires the ability to navigate sometimes uncomfortable situations, keep your head about you when confronted with a challenge and be able to manage multiple stakeholders.

-          Will they fit into the culture? Hiring a right-fit producer is important because one lone-wolf whose value proposition, goals and objectives aren’t in alignment with the agency’s can disrupt years of work developing and honing a brand.

-          What is the likelihood of high turnover? Often, an agency won’t see the fruits of its labor for 18-24 months, so if a hire fails or doesn’t work out thousands of dollars, time and resources have been wasted.

Hiring a right-fit producer takes time and a process. For example, it’s important to utilize assessments that may give you insight into who is the best possible match, and to use role-playing to find out who can demonstrate strong abilities on the spot and adapt to complex demands. Marketing guru Seth Godin explains: “Isn’t the entire point of a hiring process to separate the people who will be good at the job from those that won’t? Why is “clever cover-letter writing” or “willingness to travel across town on spec for an interview” a leading indicator of that?”

If you’re interested in learning more about our tips on solving the hiring puzzle, download our article on the subject here: http://bit.ly/13lf7rK

Are Your Clients Fiercely Loyal?

In an interview on Inc.com, Sarah Robinson, author of Fierce Loyalty: Unlocking the DNA of Wildly Successful Communities talks about why developing a community of loyal clients requires a commitment that goes beyond great service. She says “You’ve got to be willing to listen for and acknowledge the specific needs your customers have, and most importantly, you’ve got to invest in a way to meet those needs.”

Think about what companies or brands you’re loyal to. Are you a die-hard Apple fan who’s first in line at the store for every new iPhone launch? Do you forgo a soda during lunch if the vending machine is stocked with Pepsi products instead of Coke?

Our loyalties to specific brands develop over time and through reinforcing, positive experiences. Customers who are loyal often act as brand ambassadors, and will provide you with honest feedback on what’s working and what you can improve on—both are valuable benefits in today’s crowded marketplace. So, how can you foster fierce loyalty in your clients?

Here are a few questions to ask:

  1. Can you, your producers and other team members clearly articulate who you are, and who you want to be it to?
  2. Does your value proposition or “brand” communicate more about you, or does it focus on outcomes for the client?
  3. Are your producers able to articulate and provide tangible value to prospects and clients?
  4. Are you investing time and resources in meeting the specific needs of your existing accounts rather than focusing solely on winning new accounts?