Super Agent

Archive for December, 2013

Stop Using the Word Value in Sales Conversations

It’s nebulous, ambiguous and it means different things to different people.

According to Inc contributor Jeff Thull, “most salespeople present their value proposition as: “This is the value we provide… [but] it is definitely seen as “selling” and therefore, whatever value you suggest it is, the customer is likely to reduce its value.”

Instead of telling prospects that you and your agency provide value, demonstrate it through your engagement process. Facilitate disruptive dialog with the intention of helping prospects uncover what problems might exist in their current processes, and what unknown risks they might be facing. Create a plan of action and vision for a future relationship. Align agency goals and capabilities with employer goals and needs. Rather than simply telling them value exists and letting them define what it means, these things show the prospect what real value you have to offer.

The Fear of Going Back

On a recent coaching call with a group of producers, we found that a few of them were facing the same issue—they were experiencing the fear of going back. During the sales process, skipping steps had caused them to miss important opportunities to help the prospect. But, instead of circling back and addressing what they missed, they let it go. They let their fear drive them and ultimately both parties lost out.

Consider this: A college professor realizes he included a faulty question on an exam. Instead of letting everyone get the question wrong for fear of revealing his mistake, he sends out an email to inform his students and allows everyone to receive credit for it. If this happened to you, would you be thinking: “My professor made a mistake” or “my professor cares enough to review his own work, reach out to me and fix an issue”?

Most prospects and clients appreciate transparency and humility and would be pleased to know that you care enough to think about them post-meeting. As Jill Konrath said in her recent blog post, “selling is a thinking-intensive profession today. It requires you to engage your brain, to invest time learning, to strategize and create.” Taking the time to think about, review and assess is impressive to buyers, even if you missed something the first time around.

Don’t let your fear prevent you from bringing your prospect closer.

Don’t Wait to Be Picked

One of our favorite bloggers, Seth Godin, recently wrote: “skip depending on being found on the shelf and go directly to the people who care.” He suggests that because your odds of getting found on a crowded shelf are slim, the shelf shouldn’t be your goal.

What does this mean for you?

Likely you don’t want to work with every business owner that wants or needs to buy insurance—you want to work with those who are willing to adopt your process, who are interested in building a collaborative relationship to address risk management strategies and who motivate and reward you intellectually, emotionally and financially. But too often, we see producers hoping to be found instead of acting with intention to attract the clients they want to work with.

Are your messages and thought leadership focused on the issues your ideal client might be facing, or the opportunities that exist for them to get better? If not, then you’re simply creating content for content’s sake.  Are you allowing yourself to be treated like a commodity during the sales process? Instead, think abundance. Don’t leave too early, but don’t stay too long if the prospect isn’t open to your leadership.

Allow yourself to believe that the decision makers you want to do business with would be best served by engaging with you, and don’t wait to be picked from the shelf.

Seth said it best: “Be the one and only dominator in a category of one, a category that couldn’t really exist if you weren’t in it.”

This Mistake Pushes Your Prospects Away—Are You Making It?

We often talk about the dangers of engaging in a transactional sales process—you undermine your own worth and the prospect is put at a greater risk because of it. But what about the middle ground—the space in between transactional and consultative selling? If you’ve ever said “If we’re close on price and you go with us, we’ll give you…. for free” during a meeting, then you’ve been there.

This “value-added” model is driven with the promise of additional services or enticements, but according to decision-making research discussed recently by Tim Riesterer, “when you add a feature that is positive, but weak or irrelevant to the conversation, it actually provides a reason against choosing your option”. In other words, empty add-ons push your prospects away. Presenting solutions to problems buyers haven’t identified only confuses them, and they don’t feel any sense of urgency to make a change. You’re more likely to lose the business, and if you win:

- The cost of delivery is increased,

- Your competitors are more likely to say “We have that too!”,

- There are potential rebating risks involved,

- And, there is often an unnecessary duplication of resources.

Is this a picture of a mutually beneficial business relationship?

The thing to remember is that it is not your services or tools that differentiate you; it’s your process. Are you leading buyers into a relationship where your interaction and collaboration will create value over a period of time? Anyone can buy the tool, or offer the service and describe features and benefits, but few can help buyers see and feel how the agent and agency’s capabilities will decrease risks and impact their business for the better.

Get Your Prospects Talking

Last week we discussed an interview on 60 minutes with Amazon founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, focusing on the importance of embracing and leveraging the opportunities that arise out of change and disruption. But, the interview also had another interesting point to consider.

The possibility of drones taking flight in the future to deliver Amazon users their products was all over the headlines the next morning. Bezos revealed his big “surprise” to the world, and prospective customers spent at least some part of their day talking about Amazon. Whether or not this idea actually happens, it was enough to pique the curiosity of millions.

It raises the question: how are you capturing the attention of your prospects?

Consider your website and messaging activities. Is the design fresh and attractive; is the language outcome-focused; is your value proposition being clearly communicated? According to sales expert Jill Konrath, “strong value propositions create a stark contrast from the status quo… when prospects hear them, they want to learn more.”

Consider your sales conversations. Are you asking disruptive questions to prompt buyers to think differently and helping them see a future with better outcomes if they engage with you?

We want to hear your stories—tell us how you are getting your prospects to talk about you.

Making the Most of Your Center of Influence Relationships

Leveraging Center of Influence relationships is an important component of new business development. As Salesforce blogger and author Joanne Black said, referrals allow you to “walk into meetings with your ideal prospects” and “arrive with credibility and trust already built”. But, are you confident that your center of influence engagement strategy is really generating leads and opportunities to grow?

If not, here are a few tips to help you make the most of these relationships:

-  Develop a PowerPoint presentation that talks about how you engage, your value proposition, and your perfect client type. Your COI will represent you better if they know your story, what differentiates you, and who you want to do business with.

-  Share your top 100 list of suspects and determine if your COI can help you get in the door, and then collaborate to set up introductions. Also, be clear on the number of business relationships you’re looking to engage in over the next 12 months.

-  Lastly, measure the success of your COI strategy. If you find that you haven’t had an introduction or written a new piece of business in the last 1 or 2 quarters, then it’s either time to find different COI’s or consider alternative strategies. We often hear producers maintain that they work only on referral, but often find that they haven’t had one in months.

Remembering these tips will help you to ensure that your Centers of Influence are armed with what they need to refer you the right business.

Survival of the Most Adaptable

In a recent interview on 60 minutes, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos was asked his view on the power of Amazon preventing small book publishers and other small companies from having a chance at success. He replied:

“The Internet is disrupting every media industry… you know, people can complain about that, but complaining is not a strategy. And Amazon is not happening to book selling, the future is happening to book selling.”

In our industry, there is a significant amount of disruption in the marketplace. The Internet and “Big Data” are not going away, commodity transactions will increasingly be performed electronically, health care reform is creating uncertainty and just as Bezos said, complaining (or blaming) is not a strategy. The agencies that will survive are those that continually assess where they need to re-invent themselves.

Writer Max McKeown said: “Change is inevitable, progress is not.” Are you embracing and leveraging the opportunities that arise out of change in order to progress? Or will you fail to adapt and let the future happen to you instead?