Super Agent

Archive for October, 2013

Are You Having This Conversation with C-Suite Executives?

In a recent article on CFO.com, Gregory Milano says: “Many management teams make the mistake of over-investing in what has been successful rather than what will be successful.” As “creatures of momentum”, people expect things to go well that have gone well in the past. But Milano asserts that executives must look at success and sustainability in terms of what will work in the future, as opposed to what has been working.

What does this mean for you? It’s important to ask yourself not only how you can demonstrate past performance but, more importantly, how you can prepare your clients for future opportunities based on their vision for their business. Think business growth and sustainability, more effective and efficient use of their premium dollars, improved outcomes and reduced risks.

C-Suite executives are focusing on strategies for long-term growth.  As they develop their sustainability goals and assess the value of their business relationships, driving innovation, mitigating risks and enhancing efficiency are all important factors.

When was the last time you assessed your client engagement process? Are you having conversations around this? Let us know in the comments.

What Not to Do On a Sales Call

We recently had a call with a company who does excellent marketing and lead generation work. Their messaging is clear and consistent with no sales jargon or company-focused language. And, they push out a great variety of content including survey results, articles and engaging videos. So, we were expecting the same level of quality and seamlessness from their sales process.

Unfortunately, we were wrong. Here’s why the call blew up:

(1)    They didn’t do their research.

They started off by asking us to tell them a little bit about what we do and what we were looking to achieve on the call, immediately handing over the reigns as opposed to leading. We’ve said before that, during sales conversations, it’s critical to answer the questions prospect’s don’t know to ask by challenging them to think, proposing new ideas and revealing creative ways that you can help them. Instead, without research, the first portion of the meeting will be spent gathering information that could have been learned online.

(2)    They didn’t qualify us.

This goes hand-in-hand with the issue above. Because they didn’t qualify us before scheduling a call, during the meeting, it became clear that we were most likely not a right-fit to engage with them. Don’t get caught in the fear-of-losing-business trap. Many agents operate on the belief that they need to take advantage of every business opportunity that presents itself, but doing so is not in your best interest or in the best interest of the buyer.

(3)    They made it about price.

Even as we tried to steer the conversation away from price and toward what value they might have to offer, they continued to focus on the cost of their services instead. Imagine the difference in power between conversations that begin with “Here’s the bottom line, we offer ___ and it is ___ price.” versus “From the research I’ve done, I understand that you are facing these challenges…”

(4)    The conversation was company-focused.

“This is what we do.”

“This is who we do it for.”

“This is how much of an investment it will be.”

Dialog is only effective when it’s consultative and client-focused. Are you trying to sell your services to prospects, or are you trying to positively influence them to get to a better place?

Overall, it is important to ensure that the process you use to nurture prospective clients aligns with the conversations you have once they raise their hand. Also, remember the significance of researching and qualifying your prospects, and ask yourself how you will pivot if you identify early on that they are not a right fit. Do so in a way that still allows you to keep the door open in the event that your value proposition changes and the opportunity to engage with them arises in the future.

How Do You Look At A Challenge?

Technology is continually evolving, data analytics and data mining models are emerging as powerful tools impacting our industry, ACA has created massive uncertainty, economic conditions are changing the marketplace… and the list of challenges that agencies face today doesn’t end there.

During our training, we often see that agents approach these challenges in one of two ways:

(1)    They Talk About It

These are the folks who either accept a situation or push back. But, they are similar in that they often don’t take any action to adapt.

(2)    They Take Action

These people move past judgment into action. Instead of riding on a wave of uncertainty, they try to understand a challenge. They ask: “Where is there an opportunity arising from this new dynamic?”, and then they leverage it.

So, how do you approach a challenge? Don’t wait for guarantees or hold your breath and hope for the best. It likely means you’ll need to learn new capabilities, get creative and evolve, but your success depends on whether or not you take the initiative to embrace the opportunities within these challenges and grow.

“Growth is messy and dangerous.” – Seth Godin

Leave Them Wanting More

A recent post by Anthony Tjan on Harvard Business Review talks about a meeting between a senior executive in the motion picture industry and, who Tjan calls, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman does not come from the entertainment industry, but he is in the meeting to pitch a hypothesis that movies should not be categorized as romantic, horror, thriller, etc. but instead should be classified within a new system inspired by Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs”.  This system, he suggests, might better predict which movies are likely to succeed.

Within minutes the CEO’s curiosity has been piqued, and by 20 minutes he is completely engrossed by the presentation. But, instead of moving forward, at the precise “high point of excitement”, Mr. Chairman announces that he has already taken up a significant amount of their time and asks them to set up a follow-up meeting had anything he said “stuck”. Turns out, it did, and a long-term relationship began.

The most significant takeaway of this post is that restraint is important, especially in the insurance industry where complex decisions mean longer buying cycles. When a producer see’s that a prospect’s current agent is leaving them at risk, it’s easy to become excited about the opportunity to step in and deliver value. But, trying to squeeze all of the steps of your process into the first meeting will often backfire—the prospect is overwhelmed, and the producer presents solutions and services without gaining agreements.

Sell with the understanding that it takes time to allow people to come to their own conclusions, to self-discover points of dissatisfaction and risks, and to influence change behavior. As Tjan suggests, “when you lead a meeting, ask yourself each time it ends if you left people wanting more”.

Your Agency At Its Best

“Enterprise at its best:

An emotional, vital, innovative, joyful, creative, entrepreneurial endeavor that maximizes individuals’ growth and elicits maximum concerted human potential in the wholehearted service of others”.

When you first read this definition from management and business writer Tom Peters, it’s easy to dismiss it as idealistic or impractical. But, in his book The Little Big Things, Tom asks his readers to examine it one word at a time. He says that if your organization “is not aimed at mind-blowing development for each staff member and window rattling service for each customer…” then what’s the point?

We often encourage the agencies we work with to think big when it comes to their purpose. How would you define your agency at its best? If you believe in your definition and everyone in your organization lives it every day, it will drive you and your team when thing are going well, and keep you motivated when you hit a rough patch (as we all do). So, don’t limit yourself.

Break Through the Noise

If you’re looking to break through the noise in the marketplace to attract new clients, one of the tools in your attraction toolbox, and a powerful component of your lead-attraction strategy, should be case studies. According to marketer Lee Odden, “Effective case studies are stories that connect with the reader on an emotional level and at the same time, provide intellectual justification – data”. Buyers today are armed with the technology to research you in the same way that you are researching them, so making detailed case studies available to them showcases successes, builds credibility and conveys the value you provide. How do you develop one? Consider these 4 steps:

  1. Identify Advocates: Do you have clients who are passionate about you and are willing to highly recommend you? If so, then you have found your advocates. Give them the opportunity to share their experiences
  2. Ask Detailed Questions: Don’t wing the interviews you have in the development process. Each question should be thought-out, focused and detailed enough to encourage answers with quantifiable metrics. Be sure to touch on all points that would be important to your ideal client.
  3. Spend Time Formatting: Be aware that there are various types of readers—those who crave details, those who skim headlines and look for graphics and those who fall somewhere in between. Make sure to incorporate something for everyone in your study.
  4. Deploy: Use it on your website, in targeted messaging content and during the sales process in conversations with prospects. It is especially useful to bring case studies to your conversations in order to better align with decision-makers and to be used as a catalyst for dialog around the issues or risks they are facing.

Why Should A Prospect Engage with You?

We often encourage the agencies we work with to ask this question: Why should a prospect choose to engage with us over our greatest competitor? If your answer sounds the same as the rest of the pack—we have excellent service, access to markets, we’ve been in business for X number of years … then you’re not answering “Why you?”. Instead, you’re playing into the prospect’s belief that insurance is a commodity, and that all agencies are the same.

“When you find yourself in the bake-off,” Corporate Visions explains, “your salespeople’s ability to deliver a highly-differentiated experience becomes even more important.” So maybe your answer is that you help employers reduce the number, cost and duration of employee injuries, or that you help employers to select right-fit carriers that focus on their specific needs. Whatever it is, producers must not only know it, they must also believe in it in order to convey it effectively to prospects.

The answer you come up with is your unique story, so take the time and energy to develop it. But, more importantly, continually assess whether or not everyone in your agency is living it. Management guru Tom Peters said “the development isn’t worth anything without the live.”

It’s one thing to say something once; it’s another to live it every day. How are you living your story? Let us know in the comments!