Super Agent

Archive for May, 2014

Are You Taking Advantage of This Untapped Opportunity?

Last week, we discussed Al Lewis’ dynamic presentation at our recent annual event, but we also wanted to share an opportunity touched on by two other engaging speakers. Don Phin and Joy Justus of ThinkHR encouraged the group to think about the impact uninsurable HR related risks have on employers and how agents can step in to help them mitigate those risks.

Consider these questions:

  • How much did bad hires cost your employer clients over the last 12 months?
  • How much did losing any good employee cost them over the last 12 months?
  • What would be the bottom-line impact of improving total productivity by only 5%?
  • What is it costing them to keep poor employees?
  • What added costs are your clients paying due to poor risk management or return to work practices?

If they have employees, your clients are facing these issues. Are you ready to have a conversation with them around HR Risk Management to position yourself as an advisor, bring more value, and build a consultative relationship?

The Straw That Broke the Camel’s Back

In an excellent article from Bain & Company, the writers point out something that we hear all the time from producers. They said: “When we ask communication executives what causes their customers to defect, they often point to the last thing that happened before a customer left. Often, that’s a competitor’s offer.” But the important thing to point out, and what the writers go on to say is that although “competitive offers do sometimes lure customers to switch…typically [its] after a long period of eroding trust that results from a series of misadventures.”

Assessing only the last few problems or bumps in the relationship won’t lead to a full understanding of why you lost the business. Instead, consider asking yourself:

  • Was the client a right-fit to start with?
  • Were the agency’s goals, your goals and the client’s goals all in alignment?
  • Were you able to communicate your value, and consistently evaluate where you might bring new value to the relationship over time?

Most agencies invest a great deal of time and effort in building initial client relationships, but the biggest mistake they can make is to let those relationships go unattended over time. The enemy here isn’t the competition, its complacency. How many of your clients are sticking around because their fear of change is bigger than the impact of your value? Are you focusing enough time, energy and resources into your current business relationships in order to ensure your long-term profitability and prevent a “series of misadventures” from building into the straw that broke the camel’s back?

Most Hunters Aren’t Farmers

Today’s buyers are busy, complacent and are being constantly bombarded with “marketing-speak” emails that don’t resonate with them. And, they are often tuning out the noise rather than actively looking for value. So to successfully get through these natural barriers requires an effective attraction strategy that includes on-going research, consistent and targeted messaging, and lead nurturing calls occurring on a regular basis. Think of these as “farming” activities.

This is why there are so many agents still struggling to get in the door, because it takes a huge amount of effort and requires them to engage over a long period of time and in a systematic way—something that most aren’t naturally wired to do effectively or to enjoy. Producers aren’t farmers, they’re hunters…they are outgoing, smart and likeable individuals who are capable of developing relationships and, most importantly, they are able to connect a prospect’s issues with the resources and capabilities of your agency to write business.

Individuals who are good at thinking on their feet, and engaging consultatively at a high level don’t typically possess the strong follow-through instincts needed to capture the attention of today’s prospects. Seth Godin explained the difference between hunters and farmers in his blog: “A kid who has innate hunting skills is easily distracted, because noticing small movements in the brush is exactly what you’d need to do if you were hunting. Scan and scan and pounce. That same kid is able to drop everything and focus like a laser–for a while–if it’s urgent. The farming kid, on the other hand, is particularly good at tilling the fields of endless homework problems, each a bit like the other. Just don’t ask him to change gears instantly.”

Many technology companies and other sales organizations have recognized this twofold need on the sales continuum, and so they’ve brought on a new role that we think deserves some contemplation—an Inside Business Development person.

He or she would be responsible for helping to create new business opportunities on a consistent and predictable basis, and support producers in ensuring that their pipelines remain filled with qualified prospects. This way, producers would be positioned to have more effective first meetings and could focus more closely on moving prospects through the sales process, while inside business development teams would play a critical role in attracting right-fit opportunities.

What are your thoughts on utilizing “farmers” to create an optimized agency structure?

Believe Your Own Eyes

At our recent annual event for members, Knowledge & Networking 2014, we were honored to have Al Lewis as the Keynote speaker. He launched the event with a dynamic presentation on challenging the fuzzy math of wellness industry experts and he encouraged the group to believe our own eyes when what we see contradicts the status quo.

Have you considered whether ROI vendor’s reports are plausible or mathematically possible? Does wellness really “move the needle”, or is it crediting a program with changes that would have happened anyway? These are the kinds of questions that he took on, and we found ourselves amazed at what we saw in the data.

The problem is, most people are unwilling to challenge the experts when we would suspect that there is an opportunity to reduce health care costs by providing incentives for employees to get healthier. And the same is true of many other industry standards or processes. But, it’s important to always question conventional wisdom and go against the tide if you want to find the best and most innovative ways to help employers achieve better outcomes.

So, the next time you find yourself arguing in favor of the conventional, ask yourself if you believe something is true simply because it’s widely accepted.

“All that I say is, examine, inquire. Look into the nature of things. Search out the grounds of your opinions, the for and against. Know why you believe, understand what you believe, and possess a reason for [that belief]. – Frances Wright

Is Your Prospect Really a Prospect?

According to Inc. contributor Geoffrey James, “finding out who is not a potential customer is just as valuable a discovery as finding out who is one.” In fact, if you take the time to assess whether or not your prospect is truly a right-fit for your agency, you’ll avoid wasting valuable time and resources pursuing an opportunity that doesn’t exist.

So, where do you start? Consider this:

- Unless the organization is ready to do business with you within the next 90 says, then they aren’t a real prospect. If they’re dragging their feet and you don’t have a commitment after 90 days of assessment, it might be time to walk away.

- Are your business objectives aligned? For example, if they aren’t interested in a consultative and collaborative relationship remember that they are the commodity, not you. Don’t let a prospect take control of the sales process and move it in a negative direction. If it comes to a point where they are insisting on the lowest price or are unwilling to explore your process, know that there are plenty prospects out there that will.

- Do they have a need for what you can offer? And even further, are they willing to make agreements around what issues are most pressing and put in the work necessary to improve their outcomes?

The most effective producers understand the importance of gauging the long-term probability of engaging in a business relationship. Don’t be afraid to ask yourself: “Is my prospect really a prospect?” in order to make sure you’re not leaving too early or staying too long.

Why “Showing Up” Isn’t Enough

Seth Godin recently asked his blog readers, “What’s your job?” and ended the post by saying, “If your only job is “showing up”, time to raise the stakes.”

Is it time for you to raise the stakes?

We often talk about the importance of finding your “Why” and gaining a real understanding of your purpose in order to remain motivated, to be successful, and mostly, to stay fulfilled in your professional life. The good news about our industry is that we are doing really important work. We’re facilitating better care for workers who are injured on the job. We’re creating big opportunities for our clients to improve their outcomes and their business.  We’re helping employers drive innovation, mitigate risks and enhance efficiency. So, if you’ve been simply “showing up” recently, we encourage you to think back on a time in your career when you felt most engaged, connected and excited about your work.

If you get back to that place, we’ll bet that you’ll be more successful moving forward.

Reject the Status Quo

This is what the skeptics said: California Chrome is the product of an $8000 mare and a completely undistinguished (at the time) $2500 stallion.  His trainer is a 77 year old man who pushed him too hard at Churchill Downs before the race. No California-bred horse has won the Kentucky Derby since 1962. Except the skeptics were wrong, and California Chrome is looking at a possible Triple Crown win after winning the Derby and defying the odds.

So, what does this have to do with you? The most interesting element of this underdog story was described in a New York Times article. It said: “there are few rules in racing, but one that is considered inviolable is never to turn down a suitcase full of cash. Steve Coburn and Perry Martin understood that, but two months ago, when one of the sport’s far wealthier owners offered them $6 million for 51 percent of the first horse they had bred, the offer did not sit well.”

Instead, California Chrome’s owners decided that they wouldn’t fade into the background of their own success story. They wanted to make history, and they trusted in their own research and their own instincts in order to make it happen.

So, commit. Go for the win. Take risks. Do the thing that you believe in and that you know is what’s best for employers even if it means rejecting the status quo.

“Kites rise highest against the win, not with it.” – Winston Churchill

Everyone’s Plan

In a recent conversation with a producer and an account executive, they told us how they were moving through the sales process with a large account. And what they had to say about their approach is worth sharing with you here.

To start, the two of them conducted 3 separate meetings with 3 different groups of people within the organization—the feet on the street, middle management (including HR) and finally, the C-Suite. Each conversation was tailored to the needs and wants of the groups and assessments were made about the state of the company.

Then they made an interesting decision. Before going back to the C-Suite to deliver their proposal, they created a draft of it to take to the other groups. In that meeting, they presented their plan with the intent to not only gain agreements but to also collaborate. They said, “Here are our recommendations….did we miss anything?”

The result was enormously powerful.  The feet on the street people and the middle managers became invested in the plan, and everyone at all levels of the organization eagerly anticipated the next step—the meeting with the C-Suite. It became everyone’s plan, and everyone had a stake in it being received well.

Too often, we see producers trying to get around this person or that person in order to get to the people at the top who really make the decisions. But that’s a mistake. Engaging with teams of buyers at all levels is becoming more common, and, as this story demonstrates, if you can get the entire organization on board so that they are invested in the success of the proposal, you win.