Super Agent

Archive for June, 2014

Are You Making This Dangerous Assumption?

Client retention is an important component of an agency’s long-term profitability and stability, but too often, agencies invest a lot of time and effort into building initial client relationships and not enough time ensuring that those relationships are being continually nurtured over time. For example, in an article on Sales & Marketing Management, Rick Reynolds warns businesses not to make an assumption that we often hear:

“My clients would tell me if there was a problem…”

In reality, just like your prospects, your clients likely aren’t recognizing issues or problems that they’re currently experiencing or that might pop up due to things like marketplace disruptions or compliance requirements arising from new regulations. And if they are, and you aren’t proactively evaluating the relationship, you’re leaving the door open for a competitor to step in.

As a partner and advisor, you have the opportunity (and responsibility) to periodically assess your client’s needs, hidden or otherwise, and their expectations from the relationship. Reynolds says: Just like in any relationship, this becomes a refreshing dialogue once you get past the upfront discomfort of having such an honest conversation.”

Are you taking the time to assess your current relationships with clients? Are your goals and objectives still in alignment? Have you gained new capabilities that might be beneficial to them? By asking yourself these types of questions, you’ll increase retention and perform at your best.

The “Value-Added” Problem

Speaker and innovator Simon Sinek told a story on his blog about a Groupon deal from an auto center offering headlight restoration. The catch? The deal was only for one headlight. He explains: “What the company appeared to be saying was ‘Come get a great deal on headlight restoration!’ What I understood was ‘Come let us take care of half of what you really need…’”

How are you engaging with prospects to offer value? If you’ve ever said “If we’re close on price and you go with us, we’ll give you ____ for free” during a sales conversation then you may want to think about whether or not your prospects are having a similar reaction to Simon’s.

Are you offering value-added services to try to influence transactions? And, even if you’re landing a few accounts this way, what does it say about your genuine interest and capabilities to help employers get better?

We’ve said it before: it’s not your services that differentiate you, its how you engage, and how you collaborate. It’s your process.

If your goals are to grow your business, build mutually beneficial business relationships, help your clients uncover problems and achieve the best outcomes, don’t undermine these goals by offering empty incentives or services that aren’t connected to employer needs.

Ask Yourself Smart Questions

Inc. contributor and Sales Source blogger Geoffrey James recently wrote a great article on why the quality of the questions business owners ask themselves determines the success of their business strategies. For example, consider the following two questions:

“How can we beat the competition?” versus “What do we do that is uniquely valuable to customers?”

So, how would your answers and subsequent business strategies differ for these two questions? The first question is the wrong one to ask because it directs your attention away from your customers and toward your competitors. On the other hand, the second question is customer-focused and it helps you find out what’s distinctive about your process and offerings. James also explained: If you ask Question #1, your strategy will probably involve dropping your price. If you ask Question #2, your strategy will be to emphasize more strongly whatever it is that makes your company special.” And, understanding what differentiates your agency is the first step in building, following and believing in a strong and consultative approach to selling.

Here’s another example to consider: “How can we make our numbers better?” versus “How can we serve our clients better?”

Agency owners and sales managers: Are you asking smart and client-focused alternatives to common questions business leaders ask themselves? What questions have you asked yourself in order to help you improve your business strategies? Share them with us in the comments.

Be Better

Many agencies are using transactional selling strategies—they offer products and services without ever assessing a business’ needs, and they aren’t delivering true business value to employers. On the other end of the spectrum, the most successful agencies are employing a consultative sales approach to deliver value, establish long-term business relationships and grow organically over time.

But, there is also a large group of agencies in a state of flux. They’re trying to move toward a more consultative approach and to adapt to meet the needs of today’s employers, but producers aren’t always taking control of the sales process and are getting pulled back into engaging in a way that isn’t beneficial for either party. Does this sound familiar to you?

Anthony Iannarino talks about it in a recent blog post. He says: “The dangerous place to occupy is in the middle. In the middle, you might be a little better than the low price competitors, but you’re not “better” enough to make you worth paying more to obtain. This is how you lose to lower priced competitors. The gravitational pull here is to compete on price, and by doing so, giving up what makes you a little better. You might be a little faster and a little cheaper than the higher-priced, caring, consultative competitors, but not enough to make it worth saving a few bucks to miss out on the better outcomes they produce. It’s difficult to be better. You have to try harder.”

Differentiation takes hard work—it requires producers to engage in a new way, the willingness to have disruptive conversations, and the leadership to stick to the agency’s process when met with resistance.  But, don’t get caught in the danger-zone between these two strategies. Once you’ve fully committed to being better, and you’ve taken the plunge without looking back, you’ll be able to work with and capture big opportunities that your competitors won’t.