Super Agent

Archive for November, 2013

Does Your Website Meet Your Prospect’s Expectations?

One of the first opportunities to differentiate comes with your agency’s website, but if yours is like most agency websites it may focus on sharing information about your services, how long you’ve been in business, an easy quoting process, etc. The problem? If a prospect is willing to meet with you, they will do their research on you first. And they expect to find out, not about what makes you great, but about how you can help them achieve their goals and learn more about themselves.

So, how do you know if your website meets the expectations of today’s buyer? Here are Jill Konrath’s top 3 things prospect’s expect to find:

(1) Articles and videos on your site that deal with issues your customers face.

(2) Information on how to make a good decision.

(3) Customer testimonials on video.

If your website uses commoditizing language and doesn’t prompt your prospect to think, “I want to know more…” you’re not effectively positioned to get in the door.

Jill said, think of your website “not as a brochure about how great you are, but as a repository of great information.”

How Did You Do in 2013?

It’s that time of year when producers reflect on the past year as they consider how to prepare for the coming one. As you reflect, here are two questions we recommend asking yourself:

- What were my winning moments? It’s important to acknowledge your best experiences of 2013. Think about when someone taught you something new, where you made a difference, what news skills you gained and what necessary steps you took to win that big account. The more you understand and assess what made you successful, the more you will be able to see the specific activities and strategies that helped you get there.

- What were my experiences that produced negative outcomes? Evaluate what accounts you didn’t write and why, where your competition was more successful than you were, what skills you may need to refresh or develop, and how many real opportunities you worked on/wrote. Having this tough conversation with yourself will help you to learn from your failures. In one of our first blog posts, we talked about the important of paying attention to the bridge that fell down. Engineers say they learn more from 1 bridge that falls than from 100 that stay standing.

As Frances Wright said, “All that I say is, examine, inquire. Look into the nature of things.” Reflecting thoughtfully as you head into next year is a great way to re-focus your energy on what you need to do to succeed moving forward.

So, how did you do in 2013? Share your best learning experiences with us in the comments!

Why Liking to Be Liked Leads to Unsuccessful First Meetings

Most of us like to be liked by those around us, and insurance agents are no different. But, when this need causes agents to avoid having the kind of disruptive conversations that incite buyers to make status-quo breaking decisions, it is critical to leave that need behind.

According to Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson, authors of the widely praised book The Challenger Sale, “If you’re on the journey to more of a value-based or solutions-oriented sales approach, then your ability to challenge customers is absolutely vital for your success.”

What does this mean for you? Expect to encounter a little bit of tension in your first meetings.

We’ve talked about the changing buyer who has more expectations than ever before. Employers want new ideas, and more importantly, they need to be pushed out of their comfort zones in order to see, feel and embrace that they should change.

Just remember that creating positive tension doesn’t mean you should approach an employer arrogantly or abrasively. Instead think about practicing curiosity and show your sincere belief that you can help them get to a better place.

Define Your Expectations

One of the biggest challenges and frustrations facing agency principals today is the failure of producers to perform. Producer sales goals aren’t being met, pipelines are weak and renewals are increasingly difficult. Unfortunately, most agencies don’t have an effective process in place to enhance producer performance.

There are a number of important strategies that can be incorporated into an on-boarding process or training program for existing producers, but the first step is to define your expectations.

If you’re focusing only on the revenue, you’re not setting your producers up for success. If other, more fundamental expectations are insisted on, then revenues will most likely be met. So, what expectations should you communicate to your team?

- Adhere to a sales/agency culture. Without a doubt, producers who are the most destructive to agencies are the ones who erode the agency brand. Failure to communicate the agency’s value proposition and follow the sales process can lead to decreased differentiation and confusion in the marketplace.

- Work only with right-fit clients that the agency has the capabilities to service effectively and consistently. Producers that use resources on deals that aren’t likely going to close or are a poor fit threaten the foundation of their agency.

- Develop and execute action plans to reach objectives and grow professionally. Producers who are expected to include performance activities on their calendars such as phone calls, first appointments, messaging campaigns, and networking opportunities are more likely to perform well.

“Our environment, the world in which we live and work, is a mirror of our expectations.” – Earl Nightingale

 

How Are You Perceived in the Marketplace?

Many producers are uncomfortable presenting, publishing and recording content to help grow their business and differentiate from competitors. But, in the age of the internet it has never been more important to become part of the conversation at the earliest stages of the buying process—when prospect’s are researching you.

Would you rather be perceived in the marketplace as a salesperson, with the transactional connotations that term often stirs up in the mind of the buyer, or as a thought leader? According to Inc.com contributor Marla Tabaka, today “one can be considered a thought leader without being the helm of a multi-billion-dollar corporation or giving a TED talk.”

So where do you begin? Consider asking yourself the following questions:

(1)    Have you attempted to self-publish or get published articles in trade magazines that position you as an expert in insurance or on a niche subject?

(2)    Do you contribute to blogs, publications, or LinkedIn groups where your prospects frequent and share experiences?

(3)    Do you collaborate with your centers of influence or other contacts to present workshops, seminars or webinars to groups (live or web-based)?

If not, now is the perfect time to set a goal to include these activities on your calendar for next year.

Make an Impact with Capabilities

According to a survey by Forrester Research, only 39% of executives say that meetings with salespeople are valuable and live up to expectations. Would the executives you meet with fall within that 39%? In our industry especially, client retention ratios are high because most employers aren’t seeing or feeling the need to change during sales conversations.

Unless they are provoked to recognize what problems threaten the success and sustainability of their business they will stick with what they have. And, they are unlikely to respond to slick jargon or a list of complex features and benefits. As Anthony Iannarino wrote on The Sales Blog, “Your dream client has seen and heard it all. Features. Benefits. Yeah. Who cares? Your dream clients don’t, that’s for sure.” Pushing a list of products, services, resources and tools isn’t value creation and doesn’t connect in the mind of the buyer with how their problems will be solved.

Instead, if you want your prospect the change, having the capabilities to help them get better is critical. Where has your agency created the greatest impact with existing clients? Maybe you have unique capabilities in the group health arena to assist employers in identifying their compliance and cost issues as well as their need to align their company’s goals with their health plan.

Identifying specific problems employers are facing and developing or honing your capabilities to address them will put you in the position to answer this question differently than the incumbent agent: “What can I do that takes on big issues and improve them in measurable ways?”

Planning with Intention: Do You Know the End at the Beginning?

When you step into a meeting with a prospect, do you have a clear sense of where you want it to end and the steps you need to take in order to get there? Do you spend time at the end of the year putting activities on the calendar that will help you reach your goals for the following year? According to Seth Godin: “Critical path analysis works backward, looking at the calendar and success and at each step from the end to the start… most organizations focus on shiny objectives or contentious discussions or get sidetracked by emergencies instead of honoring the critical path.”

It might be easier to follow a prospect’s process instead of leading them through your own, and the same goes for focusing on the front end of your pipeline instead of filling it from the back end. But those producers who plan for the end at the beginning will be able to pivot when the time is necessary but never lose sight of the path to the end goal.

For example, if you are clear on the value you provide and who you want to work with then you are much less likely to engage in a transactional sale with a buyer who was never the right fit to begin with. And, if you include business development activities on your calendar as you look toward 2014, you will be comforted in knowing that you have commitments in place that will help you achieve your goals.

Oliver Wendell Holmes said: “To reach a port we must sail, sometimes with the wind, and sometimes against it. But we must not drift.” Do you want to drift, fighting fires as you face them, or do you want to approach your year, your day or your meeting with intention?

Say Yes To The Things That Make You Uncomfortable

There are often both challenges and opportunities that exist when taking on new work, especially if you’re being asked to step into a role that is outside of your comfort zone. You might question your ability, your skill, the need within the market, or your leadership. But it is in these moments when you are expected to go out on a limb, that the opportunities to learn, get better and expand exist.

If you wait until you feel one hundred percent prepared to pursue a meeting with your dream account, or you wait until the perfect moment to act on a challenging request from a client, you miss out. Goal setting strategist Gary Ryan Blair says: You cannot afford to wait for perfect conditions…opportunities are easily lost while waiting.”

When you believe that you can bring value to a new opportunity, and you choose to embrace it, it is likely that you will move to readiness faster, and that what was once uncomfortable will become much easier the next time around.

We must travel in the direction of our fear. – John Berryman