Super Agent

Archive for the ‘Branding’ Category

How Prospects “Check You Out”

A recent study by Hinge found the top 4 ways buyers “check out” sellers in today’s crowded marketplace. In the age of the internet, most no longer turn to referrals of references to get a better perspective on the capabilities, resources and expertise an organization has to offer.

So, what are the top methods?

(1)    Website. According to the study, over 80% of buyers evaluate you through your website before turning to any other method.

(2)    Online search. The next most common strategy is utilizing a search engine to look more deeply at your online presence.

(3)    Friends and colleagues. Word of mouth is a powerful tool when you have advocates.

(4)    Social Media. We’re often surprised by how many agencies aren’t utilizing social media tools to help build their brands. Social media plays an important role in establishing yourself as a thought leader and industry influencer.

The study suggests that “in most cases, a buyer can Google [you], check out your website, and explore conversation about your work on social media in less time than it would take to get in touch with a reference you’ve provided…. As buyers increasingly look online for solutions, it is more essential than ever that sellers address their online brand. Social and search are no longer optional.”

Have you been building your brand using strategies of the past? Does your marketing plan rely heavily on referrals? If you’re still considering whether or not to invest in quality website development or in committing to building a social media presence, there is no better time to take the leap than now.

“The key to success is often the ability to adapt.” – Anthony Brandt

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.

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.

Why Should A Prospect Engage with You?

We often encourage the agencies we work with to ask this question: Why should a prospect choose to engage with us over our greatest competitor? If your answer sounds the same as the rest of the pack—we have excellent service, access to markets, we’ve been in business for X number of years … then you’re not answering “Why you?”. Instead, you’re playing into the prospect’s belief that insurance is a commodity, and that all agencies are the same.

“When you find yourself in the bake-off,” Corporate Visions explains, “your salespeople’s ability to deliver a highly-differentiated experience becomes even more important.” So maybe your answer is that you help employers reduce the number, cost and duration of employee injuries, or that you help employers to select right-fit carriers that focus on their specific needs. Whatever it is, producers must not only know it, they must also believe in it in order to convey it effectively to prospects.

The answer you come up with is your unique story, so take the time and energy to develop it. But, more importantly, continually assess whether or not everyone in your agency is living it. Management guru Tom Peters said “the development isn’t worth anything without the live.”

It’s one thing to say something once; it’s another to live it every day. How are you living your story? Let us know in the comments!

Are You Setting Yourself Apart In These 4 Areas?

We often talk about differentiation as one objective high on the list for producers. But, when does differentiation happen?

Here are 4 opportunities to differentiate along the sales continuum:

1- The first opportunity comes with your agency’s website and marketing activities. Buyers are busier than ever, and they’re resistant to self-focused marketing content and empty sales jargon. It’s important that the content you push out has a fresh design, piques the employer’s curiosity and always remains outcome-focused.

2- The second opportunity is in preparation for your first face to face meeting, where you will either take control of the sale by leading the buyer to follow your process, or you’ll begin following theirs. So, don’t wing it. You should always have goals in mind for every conversation.

3-  The third opportunity is when you’re positioning the exchange of value in the sales process. Will you engage with the prospect honestly and establish mutual accountability? It’s important to share the hard truth of what will be required of them in order for the relationship to be successful as well as your own commitments.

4-  Last is the opportunity to continue to prepare your existing clients for the constant changes that will occur throughout your business relationship. Part of your stewardship of the account is to provide them with as much insight as to what can be expected as the marketplace shifts and evolves.

The bottom line is that it’s your process—the way you engage across the entire customer experience—that ultimately differentiates you from your competitors, not your products or services. As HBR contributor James Allen wrote on differentiation: It “isn’t what you own or what you say you’re going to do, it is what you do, every day, through repeatable activities to serve your customers better than the competition.”

Are Your Clients Fiercely Loyal?

In an interview on Inc.com, Sarah Robinson, author of Fierce Loyalty: Unlocking the DNA of Wildly Successful Communities talks about why developing a community of loyal clients requires a commitment that goes beyond great service. She says “You’ve got to be willing to listen for and acknowledge the specific needs your customers have, and most importantly, you’ve got to invest in a way to meet those needs.”

Think about what companies or brands you’re loyal to. Are you a die-hard Apple fan who’s first in line at the store for every new iPhone launch? Do you forgo a soda during lunch if the vending machine is stocked with Pepsi products instead of Coke?

Our loyalties to specific brands develop over time and through reinforcing, positive experiences. Customers who are loyal often act as brand ambassadors, and will provide you with honest feedback on what’s working and what you can improve on—both are valuable benefits in today’s crowded marketplace. So, how can you foster fierce loyalty in your clients?

Here are a few questions to ask:

  1. Can you, your producers and other team members clearly articulate who you are, and who you want to be it to?
  2. Does your value proposition or “brand” communicate more about you, or does it focus on outcomes for the client?
  3. Are your producers able to articulate and provide tangible value to prospects and clients?
  4. Are you investing time and resources in meeting the specific needs of your existing accounts rather than focusing solely on winning new accounts?

 

Creating Your Asset Vault

Does your agency have content ready to leverage at each stage of the sales process? According to a recent article on CMO.com from Corporate Visions, you “should grasp [the] opportunity to drive content deeper into the selling process, improving the consistency and quality of selling conversations.” If your messaging content isn’t consistent with or doesn’t augment your process, it may be time to develop or enhance your asset vault. The first step is to assess where you currently stand:

  • How much content is your agency creating?
  • How much of it are you actually using?

  • And of that amount, how much content is in alignment with what you’re looking to achieve?

Whether you’re trying to impact your prospects’ business by reducing the number, cost and duration of injuries, determining the right risk financing mechanism, or bending the health care cost curve, the materials that comprise your asset vault should include valuable information about what it is you are trying to help employers achieve. If it’s not in alignment with your purpose, throw it out. If it is, begin organizing and adding more to your vault so it includes a combination of self-published work, industry publications, and additional thought leadership in the form of webinars, articles, Whitepapers and videos.

Once you have a good mix of content you can use these resources as marketing tools, sales conversation starters around the problems a prospect is facing, or as a way to challenge the status quo in your niche market.

Forbes contributor John Hall gets it right when he says: “Thought leadership doesn’t have to be a mystery. If you do it right, you’ll find it not only gives you more time to do what you do best, but it will also bring more business your way.”