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Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Helping Your Prospects Overcome ‘Good Enough’

Understanding the Real Competitor

Why don’t your prospects move to you and your agency? Is it because they’re receiving the best consulting and services the marketplace has to offer? Or, is it because they’ve engaged in an effective process to buy insurance and manage risk? Likely, it’s neither. The fact is most businesses stay with the incumbent not because of what they are getting from them, but rather, because of what they aren’t getting from you.

It’s easy to fall into believing that your biggest competitor is the larger more sophisticated agency or the agent who is a brother-in-law or golfing buddy. The truth is your greatest competitor is the status quo. And, your toughest job is helping your prospects overcome it.

In many cases your prospects believe that where they are is ‘good enough’. And why shouldn’t they?
From their perspective, nothing bad has happened and so their belief is, why should I fix what isn’t broken. Unfortunately, it’s that complacency that is putting their business and maybe their personal assets at risk, without them even knowing it.

So, how do you overcome ‘good enough’? First, you must recognize that your prospects don’t want to make a change. Business owners are time-starved and overwhelmed and would rather focus their attention on issues that seemingly are of a higher priority. Secondly, and this is a tough one to swallow, they aren’t expecting you to bring any real value or insights. See, your prospects likely believe that all agents are the same. And if the one they have is ‘good enough’, why change?

Show Them You’re Different

The human brain, even with all its complexity, can be triggered to respond in your favor if you know how. One way is to demonstrate contrast: Our Approach vs. Their Approach.
Ask your prospects the following, “would you please share with me your current process for buying insurance and managing risk?” What response do you think you’ll get? Often times, it will go like this, “we typically bid it out every year or two, just to see what the market has to offer.” They may make it sound a little more sexy and sophisticated, but chances are it’s the same process that you’ve encountered time and time again. A process that you know won’t help them and certainly doesn’t favor change to you. In fact it is flawed and dangerous. But, by asking that question, you’ve perfectly positioned yourself to show them an alternative process, your process.

Notice it wasn’t suggested that you tell them you’re different, but rather to show your prospect that you’re different. Saying, “we’re different, we don’t bid and quote”, will mean nothing to your prospect, in fact, chances are they have heard that before. True contrast comes from your demonstration of differentiation. Here’s how:

1. Share a graphic overview of your process. This creates an anchor. Not only are you sharing what your process is, you’re showing them that it is tangible. Visual impact is another trigger. By having a picture or flow chart of your process, you create a greater impact and impression in your prospects mind.
2. Lead them through your process. It’s probable that your prospects have been following their ‘flawed and dangerous’ process for years. Not because it’s effective, but because no one has showed them an alternative approach.

Your prospects believe that where they are is good enough, because no one has challenged their status quo. And as a result they are assuming risks they don’t know about. Your job is to change their perception and move them from believing they are ‘good enough’ to “we are at risk.”

This can’t be accomplished by the typical producer who allows the prospect to follow their flawed buying process and then tries to ‘wow’ them at presentation. At that point it’s too late, and they’ve already acted like every other agent.

The next time you find yourself in front of prospect who believes they are ‘good enough’, take it on. They don’t know what they don’t know and likely have never been challenged to think differently. If you want to be treated differently, then you need to act differently.

I Love These Clients

For the past few weeks I’ve been coaching a team of relatively young producers. They are bright, eager and want to win. You’d be surprised at how often in our consulting we run across clients who lack this kind of motivation.

These guys want to win every day. They want to get better every day. They are open and want to learn from failure every day. As their coach I am rewarded emotionally by the sense of accomplishment I feel when they take something away from our conversation and implement it. I am rewarded intellectually by having to connect with them from where they are vs. where they strive to be. They are doing great work and I’m confident in how our engagement is helping them see a bigger picture and contributing to their success.

How do you connect with your clients? Are your relationships rewarding. Do you learn something new everyday? Do you have a sense of accomplishment from what you do? If not, maybe it’s time to gain clarity around who you want to work with, and why..

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.

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?

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

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.

Apply the Power of Brain Science

In a recent article on Inc.com, Geoffrey James talks about ways to use neuroscience in order to improve presentations. He says that all of the effort and money put in to understanding how the mind works is good news for every business person, because there are significant insights that can be used to make business relationships better.

We’ve talked about the science of decision making before, and the huge impact it has on driving successful sales meetings. But, this article offers a few additional pearls we thought were worth breaking down:

- The first tip is to customize your presentations. Although the way we process information and make decisions is the same, each individual (even within the same organization) has a different set of objectives, goals and desires. In other words, don’t have the same conversation with the CEO that you have with the CFO. Do your research on what might be important to them and on what unique challenges they may be facing and tailor your stories and questions for each meeting.

- Next up, show and tell. James explains that “the latest neuroscience research has revealed that human beings process words and pictures in different physical areas of the brain.” In order to really engage people, it’s best to try to access both areas. If you do, they will be more likely to remember your message.

- Lastly, stick to the basics of your message. Don’t provide confusing and complex information or data up-front. Humans are naturally drawn to stories, and are likely to dismiss what you’re saying if it’s presented to them before they’ve become emotionally engaged and invested.

How are you applying the power of brain science during your sales conversations? Let us know in the comments.

Discovery = Opportunity

What kind of producer are you? Do you search to find what most prospects think they want—the lowest price—or do you help them discover what they didn’t know they needed?

Seth Godin recently wrote an excellent blog post on the difference between search and discovery. He said: “Search is what we call the action of knowing what you want and questing until you ultimately find it…discovery is what happens when an organization, or a friend help you encounter something you didn’t even know you were looking for.” He argues that helping your clients find something they didn’t know they needed is a huge opportunity, and we agree.

Most employers are satisfied with where they are; they have no idea that their business may be at risk or that their process for engaging with insurance agents is putting up barriers to their own success. The good news is, the majority of agents aren’t leading prospects through a process of discovery. So, if you do, you’ll not only help the prospect along the road to better outcomes, you’ll also differentiate yourself.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “We are all inventors; each sailing out on a voyage of discovery…the world is all gates, all opportunities.”