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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.

Inspire Your Prospects with Email Messages About Them!

One of the biggest challenges facing producers today is developing enough quality 1st appointments. And it’s no wonder why, prospects are busy, distracted and overwhelmed. Capturing the attention of prospects has become increasingly difficult, leaving many producers frustrated and asking the question, “How do I fill my pipeline if I can’t get my prospects on the phone?”

To break through the noise producers and agency owners must evaluate the strategies and messages they use to get in the door. One thing is for sure, messages that are about you, your agency and the resources you have won’t inspire your prospects to meet with you.

So, what does work? To pique the curiosity of your prospects your messages should focus on them, their interests, concerns or industry.

Let’s take a look at 2 different types of email messages that will help to differentiate you from your competition.

Trigger Event Messages

Trigger event messages are messages that focus on the news of the day. For example, let’s say you are focusing on developing restaurant and hospitality prospects; one of the big stories of the day is food contamination. The recent outbreak of E. Coli linked to Chipotle restaurants has been all over the news. A quick email to your prospects with a subject line of: “Would Your Restaurant Survive?” is likely to spur your prospects interest. In the body of your email you could share a link to a recent article on the subject and invite your prospect to consider if their current risk management strategies are adequate.
Closing your email with an invitation to continue the conversation demonstrates that you have knowledge and something to offer.

Congratulatory Messages

Everyone likes to get noticed. Savvy producers know that following their prospects on LinkedIn and through Google Alerts is one way to keep abreast of what they are up to. If you receive an alert about a recent bid your prospect was awarded or speaking engagement they recently conducted, let them know you noticed.

A quick email with a subject line of: “Jim, Congratulations on Your New Client!” will certainly prompt your prospect to open your email. In the body of your email you can share a message of how you’re impressed with the quality of work they do (as long as you’re sincere), and congratulate them on the big win. Close with a desire to learn more about the project and why you’re interested in learning more.

For example, “I’m interested in learning more about how you landed that account. We also focus on mid-size [account type] and enjoy working with businesses of that caliber.”
This strategy aligns your objectives with your prospects’ and creates a common bond.

It’s important to remember, that there is no one ‘silver bullet’ messaging strategy. But, we do know that a steady flow of messages focused on your prospect, rather than on your agency, are far more likely to resonate. Give it a try!

Who Would You Reach Out To?

Your best prospect in months is ready to do business with you. As a final act of due diligence he/she wants to speak with 3 of your current clients to learn how you’ve impacted their business.

Beware of the “Hail Mary” Trap

We have entered the second half of 2014, and many Producers are not half way to their annual new business revenue goal. As a result, in the process of trying to catch up, we see Producers start chasing low probability opportunities and throwing “Hail Mary” passes toward the end zone. This pattern frequently repeats itself year after year and creates stress for the Producer and less than satisfactory results.

It’s tough to get off this treadmill, but at some point it is necessary to take the plunge. We encourage Producers in the last half of a calendar year to make certain they are positioned to open the next year strong. If a Producer can write 2 to 3 large accounts on January 1, the whole world changes for them. Entering a year strong allows the Producer to better select their prospects and gives them the “walk away” power with low probability prospects.

Typically you don’t open a new calendar year strong if you wait until 90 days before renewal to get engaged with prospects. Start now and sift through 10 to 15 suspects that renew on January 1. Determine which ones are the best fits to move forward, and gain agreements to do business before the holidays.

We encourage you to endeavor to avoid the “catch up” game. You may take a short term hit, but if you open the new year strong you can change the game for many years to come.

The 2 Anchors Hindering Producer Performance

In a recent conversation with an insurance agency principal we were discussing the role of the producer. Actually the many roles of producers; business developer, sales person and account servicer.

Each role asked of the producer requires a different set of wiring. The business development role requires someone to make multiple phone calls, over an extended period of time with the idea of creating a highly qualified sales ready opportunity. Focus, consistency, the ability to connect with different buying styles and “sell a first appointment” is essential. A true producer, one whose only goal is to grow their book organically, requires leadership. They must be able to deal with buying teams, business complexity, and lead change behavior. Account management and servicing requires a steady hand to drive implementation, calendars task and execute the agency’s value proposition in a timely and efficient manner.

With their hands in so many roles is it any surprise that producers struggle to write new business? Perhaps it’s time to remove the anchors that hinder producer performance. The technology companies and other forward thinking industries recognized years back that greater rewards are possible for all when sales professionals focus on selling instead of developing and nurturing leads or servicing accounts.

What kinds of anchors are hindering organic growth in your agency?

Can You Sell a 20 Minute Meeting?

In this crazy, harried world of time starved and distracted buyers, it is increasingly vital for insurance agents to be able to prompt a decision maker to take a 20 minute meeting.  Most business leaders and decision makers are defending their calendar like a rabid dog with a bone.  You don’t get on it, unless the decision maker feels they will get value from the first meeting with you.

Ask yourself the following questions before you pick up the phone to contact a prospect:

• Why should someone meet with you?
• What will they get from the first meeting?
• Why would they want to take the next step which is likely an assessment?

The days of, “I am an insurance agent and I would like to come by and introduce myself and discuss your insurance program,” are long gone.  Decision makers can stick their foot outside their door and trip insurance agents walking by that can deliver on that promise.

Decision makers don’t have time to waste.  They don’t need friends or new relationships.  They need people who will help them learn what they don’t know and to see around the corner at risks off their radar screen.

So, tell me.  What value will I get from a 20 minute meeting with you?

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.

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.