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What Level of Risk Are Your Clients Willing to Assume?

In the 1971 song by Janis Joplin, “Me & Bobby McGee” Joplin opines, “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” Unlike in the 70’s classic, your prospects and clients have plenty to lose.

Understanding the risk-tolerance of your prospects is a critical aspect of the assessment process, but it’s a conversation that is sometimes overlooked.

In a workshop a few years ago, a gentleman shared how he broaches this important subject with his prospects. He starts by drawing a line on a blank piece of paper. At the beginning of the line he writes down the date the business was started, for example, 1985. He then engages the prospect in the following dialogue:

“I assume, way back her in 1985, you didn’t have too much to lose. I suspect you were willing to take more risk than you are today.”

Going back to his drawing, he writes down 2016 at the other end of the line and says,

“Here we are in 2016. I suspect you’ve created a lifestyle and a certain level of wealth that you’d like to protect. Is that correct?”

By utilizing a simple illustration on a blank piece of paper, he is able to engage the business owner in a fairly intimate conversation about what’s important to him today; and focus on what it is he’s trying to protect.

Entrepreneurs, though sometimes cowboys, most often want to protect the wealth and other assets they’ve accumulated through hard work. Even though their business may be strong, and appropriate for a risk financing strategy other than guaranteed cost, doesn’t mean they’re willing to assume a greater level of risk that comes along with some alternative risk financing methods.

The strategy shared can help you engage your prospects in an important conversation that sometimes gets overlooked in the sales process and will help you present solutions that are in alignment with the level of risk your clients are willing to assume.

How are you initiating this conversation with your prospects?

How to Begin Your Messaging Strategy

While working with a new producer it is not uncommon to wonder, “Where do I begin with my messaging, do I start with an email or make a phone call?” The truth is it doesn’t matter.

A study by The Bridge Group of three-hundred fifty-five companies found that there was a 50/50 split between how inside business developers approached getting sales. Among the successful sales reps who met their goals, it didn’t really matter, there wasn’t a better way. Half focused on piquing curiosity with emails while the other has felt more confident on the phone.

The key word here is confident. Interrupting prospects, trying to engage in a dialogue, writing emails that don’t get deleted; these are all important steps and require a level of confidence, because each step almost always is met with rejection at some point or another.

Found out what works best for you and stick to it. Just because your colleague has had success one way doesn’t mean you will. Scheduling the appropriate amount of business development time and consistently delivering valuable content to your prospects with the requisite amount of follow up activity will help you build a strong pipeline of prospects. Just do what feels right for you consistently overtime and you’ll be far more successful than your competitors who spend their time just contemplating how to get started.

Are You an Intrapreneur?

One of the many benefits of being an agent is that you have the opportunity benefit from the structure of an agency, and the freedom and flexibility to shape and grow a business to reflect the life you want to build.

As an intrapreneur you have the best of both worlds; the ability to select the profile of your perfect client type and the service team to support your delivery of service and value. The autonomy to create a vision for the lifestyle you want to create for yourself and your family with the backing to help you get there.

As an intrapreneur you didn’t have to secure a loan to buy a building, lease equipment or create the infrastructure of an agency. You aren’t responsible for making payroll or building a brand.

With all its upside, being an intrapreneur is a pretty sweet deal. But with this tremendous opportunity comes a level of responsibility.

The responsibilities to select clients that will help your agency grow profitably;

The responsibility to work on the type of business that leverages the capabilities of your team;

The responsibility to never stop growing and never settling for ‘good enough’;

The responsibility to walk away from prospects who commoditize you and therefore devalue the work of your support team;

The responsibility to continually learn, grow and develop so you can protect your asset and the reputation of your agency;

And, finally, the responsibility to nurture and protect the brand that someone else risked so much to develop.

You’ve got the best of both worlds as an intrapreneur.

Leverage, protect it!

Purposeful Interruptions

One of the challenges we often help new producers overcome is their disdain, ambivalence or frustration with making “cold-calls.”

First, let’s define “cold-call.” It is not calling someone with whom you do not have a relationship for the sole purpose of either soliciting their business or “introducing yourself,” rather it is a call with the purpose of gaining permission to share industry or business information which will help them cultivate awareness around potential risks, threats or waste which may be occurring within their business.

This mental framing serves a couple of purposes. First, from a producer’s perspective, the idea that your calls may actually help your prospects gain value from the information you share or the questions you ask is far more motivating than thinking that you are interrupting a prospect’s day or being perceived as a nuisance.

This is also true from your prospect’s perspective. While a “sales” call may be unwelcomed, taking a call that may teach them something new or help them gain valuable insight may be worth considering.

When you set out to make contact with a prospect, ask yourself:

“What is the purpose of this call?”

“What do I want the prospect to consider as a result of this conversation?”

“If I don’t make this call is there a possibility that this prospect’s business could continue to experience a risk, threat or potential financial waste?”

Here are a couple of positioning examples for your “purposeful interruptions”:

“Hello, _____, This is (you) with XYZ Agency, the purpose of my call today is to see if you’re aware of the recent changes to _____?”

“_____, I’m glad I reached you today, the reason for reaching out is _____.”

Framing your calls and, more importantly, preparing your calls to make them more purposeful will not only improve your results, they will differentiate your calls from your competitors more “salesy” approach.

Remember, purposeful interruptions lead to purposeful conversations and ultimately more successful first meetings.

The Complex Insurance Sale

Let’s face it, selling insurance and risk management solutions is challenging. As producers, you’re faced with a multitude of challenging buying scenarios ranging from inexperienced or commodity buyers, to boards of directors and the often reluctant to change C-suite. The problem is, it isn’t likely to get any easier. We know through the extensive research of the corporate executive board that there are more buyers at the table, in fact 5.4 of them. This alone increases the complexity of your job.

Today, more than ever, you must understand group-buying dynamics and the challenges which arise from within. And there will be challenges. Unfortunately, group-buying dynamics tend to favor the incumbent, not the outsider.

So how can you take control and navigate these choppy waters?

First, you need to identify a true champion within the group. This may or may not be the CEO. It will be the person who is advocating for change. This champion is the one who can help you and influence other members of the buying team on your behalf.

Secondly, you’ll want to make sure your champion is clear on your process for engagement. They must understand not only how you engage, but also, why you engage in the manner you do. They will need to be armed with insights about your capabilities and resources, and how they will help the team avoid risks and improve outcomes. This is not a features and benefits presentation. They need to be able to answer questions as they arise and help you build consensus with what problem the group is actually trying to solve.

Next, it will be important to understand challenges, barriers and concerns members of the team have. This is where an assessment can be particularly helpful. Your assessment will likely identify where silos exist in the organization. While you’ll want individual feedback, you won’t want to get caught in the trap of trying to solve individual problems. Doing so will only increase the complexity of the sale. Again, you’ll want to continue to gain consensus amongst the team as to what problem or problems you all agree must be solved.

Your champion will act as a coach to the team. Because you’ve taken the time to help them understand your process and they have an insider’s view of the group dynamics, they will help you navigate and overcome challenges.

As you progress through the sales process, you’ll want to educate each member of the team. You’ll want your training to remain focused on the large issues facing the entire team. If you identify disagreements as to strategy or issues being addressed you’ll want to take it on. Ignoring challenges could end up costing you the sale.

Following these steps isn’t going to be easy. In fact it’s going to seem like you are spending more time trying to manage a dysfunctional team then selling them something. And you’re right, you will be. But that’s what it’s going to take to win.

Creating a Lifestyle Changing Suspect List

Building, refining and segmenting your top-100 list is a critical step to help you stay focused on creating first appointments. Your top-100 is based on the profile you developed for your perfect client-type and typically of the revenue size you most frequently pursue and close.

These accounts may be 5, 10, 20, or even 50 thousand in revenue depending on the book of business you are creating.

Today, think about accounts that are outside the size of the accounts you typically write. For those of you who focus on writing 10,000 in revenue accounts- think about accounts that perhaps 25,000-50,000 in revenue. If you typically write 25,000-50,000 accounts- think about the accounts that generate 100,000-150,000 in revenue.

The purpose of the exercise is to identify 5-10 accounts within your marketplace that are significantly larger than your “average” account size. They are still in the geographic footprint that you serve, still within the niche of business you focus on, but are significantly larger in size and perhaps complexity.

In fact, if you were to land one of these accounts, it would likely take the place of one of your top-10 accounts in terms of revenue. Bumping one of your top-10 accounts down to #11 is rewarding more than just financially. It helps you build confidence and a new level of excitement for selling. It also can give you the “space” necessary to pursue other larger opportunities.

Often your book of business and your pipeline is a reflection of the lifestyle you want to achieve. If your pipeline and the top-100 are only filled with accounts that look like every other account you have, then maybe it’s time to think bigger and explore and build a separate list of Lifestyle Accounts.

You may be surprised that it really doesn’t take an altogether different strategy to write accounts twice the size you typically focus on. Sure, there may be greater complexity managing these accounts, but you can do that with the support of your team and the resources you have available here at Oceanus Partners.

Why not give it a try?

You have everything to gain and virtually no downside!

Create a New Habit

Creating new habits can be exceedingly difficult. It is said that it takes 30 days to really have a habit stick. But, what if the outcome of that habit helped you become more productive, increased effectiveness and potentially rewarded you with more time? Would you give it a try?

One such habit exists and it’s encouraged you try to make it a habit yourself.

One of the biggest distractions of our day is the constant barrage of emails. If you’re like many, you wake up, start your coffee and grab your phone. These are habits. While drinking your coffee you delete the messages that aren’t important, read the urgent, and then filter through the remainder.

That simple habit can change the course of your day, and in many cases not for the best. All of a sudden new priorities have emerged and what you had planned to do, make marketing calls, research a prospect, gets pushed to the bottom of your agenda. This can happen frequently throughout the day as well.

Here’s a new habit to consider. Instead of looking at email throughout the day, pick two times during the day that you will review and respond to email messages, perhaps once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Create an out-of-office message that can be utilized between your designated responding hours, something to the effect of “Unavailable to respond until ____.” Make sure to give instructions about what to do in the event of an emergency. You’ll find that few of your messages are.

Creating this simple habit of designating times to respond to emails frees you up on what’s important to you. If you don’t make your priorities a priority, someone else will!

Give it a try for 30 days and see how much time you gain.

Create a Center of Influence

If you’re looking to get in the door with leverage, there’s no better way than gaining an introduction from a Center of Influence. A well thought out, multi-channel approach is the way to go. While most well-developed Centers of Influence are happy to introduce you to their clients or colleagues, the quality and content of those introductions can actually harm your chances of entering with leverage if not done correctly.

Assuming your Center of Influence is eager to assist you, how confident are you that they can actually facilitate you in a manner that effectively positions your differentiators? Developing a “Center of Influence Presentation” will ensure that your prospects understand how you will bring value to them. How meeting with you is worth their time.

If you haven’t taken time to develop a Center of Influence Presentation, you could be missing an important step in developing successful referrals. Here are a few steps that will help your Centers of Influence get you in the door with leverage:

- Share your value proposition: Your Center of Influence should know what makes you different than other insurance agents in the marketplace. They should be able to clearly articulate what your process for engagement is, how you do it and why you do it differently. In addition, it’s important that they understand the impact it has created for your clients.

- Make sure they understand your perfect client type: Getting a referral for a prospect that isn’t a right-fit for you or your agency can put you in an uncomfortable and useless position. Make sure Centers of Influence know what makes someone a good prospect for you. Start with the basics: Number of employees, industry, geographic location and business complexity. Share the names of prospects you are looking to connect with and what makes them a good fit.

- Keep your Centers of Influence in the loop of your successes. Once they better understand the challenges you help your clients address, the risks you help them avoid and the opportunities you create as a result of your engagement, they will be more effective in telling your story.

Finally, put the information together in a brief presentation and schedule a business appointment with them. Then ask them to do the same for you. Building reciprocity is an important component of a long-term Center of Influence strategy.

These steps can help you better leverage your relationships and help you get through the door with more right-fit opportunities.