Super Agent

Posts Tagged ‘best practices’

Don’t Overlook This Forgotten Treasure

When addressing injury management practices and processes, the person most likely to be overlooked to provide improvement in this area is the front-line supervisor. Supervisors are forgotten treasures in the injury management outcomes equation. Consider this:

  • They have firsthand knowledge of the injured employee, the work environment and the opportunities that exist in modified work assignments
  • They can directly influence the tone and message sent to injured workers on behalf of the employer
  • If they have an existing relationship with an employee based on trust and transparency, they can be made available to answer questions about their health and safety

In an interview with EHS Today, veteran of the chemical industry Paul Balmert said, “The guys doing the work pay a lot more attention to their front-line supervisor than they ever do the plant manager or the vice president,” Balmert said. “The biggest single mistake I saw in my 30 years was when managers didn’t understand or appreciate [that] and therefore didn’t take maximum advantage of that tremendously powerful leader out there.”

So, how can your clients make the most of this important asset?

Reviewing their training practices is the first step. Does training reflect and encourage return-to-work? Are supervisors encouraged to communicate and empathize with workers? Are they able to identify modified duty and transitional work assignments?

These are all good questions to ask when thinking about the best way to engage supervisors, and to ensure that a work culture of mutual respect exists. Having a conversation around supervisor training with your clients is a great way to help them discover the importance of focusing on better outcomes.

Make an Impact with Capabilities

According to a survey by Forrester Research, only 39% of executives say that meetings with salespeople are valuable and live up to expectations. Would the executives you meet with fall within that 39%? In our industry especially, client retention ratios are high because most employers aren’t seeing or feeling the need to change during sales conversations.

Unless they are provoked to recognize what problems threaten the success and sustainability of their business they will stick with what they have. And, they are unlikely to respond to slick jargon or a list of complex features and benefits. As Anthony Iannarino wrote on The Sales Blog, “Your dream client has seen and heard it all. Features. Benefits. Yeah. Who cares? Your dream clients don’t, that’s for sure.” Pushing a list of products, services, resources and tools isn’t value creation and doesn’t connect in the mind of the buyer with how their problems will be solved.

Instead, if you want your prospect the change, having the capabilities to help them get better is critical. Where has your agency created the greatest impact with existing clients? Maybe you have unique capabilities in the group health arena to assist employers in identifying their compliance and cost issues as well as their need to align their company’s goals with their health plan.

Identifying specific problems employers are facing and developing or honing your capabilities to address them will put you in the position to answer this question differently than the incumbent agent: “What can I do that takes on big issues and improve them in measurable ways?”

Are You Moving Too Fast?

When a producer see’s that a prospect’s current agent isn’t doing anything to help them, it’s easy to become excited about the opportunity to step in with real leadership and deliver value. But, too often, we see producers try to squeeze all the steps of their process into the first meeting, without meeting the objectives they’ve already outlined for each step. It’s like popping the question at the end of a first date.

Without clearly delineated steps and a strategy, the sales process is easily muddled and the prospect is less likely to leave their current agent. Are you losing opportunities by falling into this trap? Here are a few tips to consider:

- Before the first meeting, know your goals. Inc contributor John Treace gets it right when he says, “To make the most of the meeting, establish your objective[s] in advance and share it with all attendees.”

- The purpose of the first meeting is to get the prospect curious enough to engage in the next step. Don’t plow through to an assessment before you’ve met the following objectives:

(1) Communicate your value proposition

(2) Share your research

(3) Establish what the prospect’s current process for buying insurance and managing risk is, then share your own process

(4) Uncover the prospect’s top challenges

(5) Gain agreement on the next step

- In the second meeting, determine if there is really a need for what you have to offer through an assessment process. When used correctly, assessments bring clarity to the situation; they answer questions like: are our objectives in alignment? Is the prospect willing to engage in a consultative process? If the prospect doesn’t commit to the work necessary to improve their outcomes, don’t move forward.

- Once the prospect agrees that risks, threats and dangers are too high not to address them, you can move on to the last step—presenting your solutions and services.

As Samuel Smiles said, “Great results cannot be achieved at once; and we must be satisfied to advance in life as we walk, step by step.”

Ask These 3 Questions Before Creating a Marketing Message

Today, most buyers prefer to engage electronically before they meet with anyone face-to-face. In fact, it is becoming increasingly clear that the sales process no longer starts with the first face-to-face meeting—buyers are doing their research before allowing anyone a spot on their calendar, so an effective messaging strategy is now a key component of an effective sales process.

In a blog post on hbr.com by Steve W. Martin, he explains: “Successful communication is the cornerstone of all sales. Winners have the ability to tailor compelling messages that resonate with the various evaluators across the organization.”

Before crafting any message, it’s important to be clear on the answers to these three questions:

(1)   Who is your ideal client?

(2)   Why should the prospect buy from you as opposed to your competitors?

(3)   What problems does the prospect have that you can solve?

Buyers demand value from you up front, even before they meet you, so top producers must learn to frequently and consistently convey how they create value for businesses beyond the placement of policies. Answering these questions will position you to develop client-focused messages that pique curiosity, affirm your expertise and prompt the prospect to say, “I want to hear more.”

The “Wow Me” Trap

Producers love wowing; most are passionate go-getters who like to take on challenges. So, when a prospect says “Wow me”, “Tell me all about yourself”, “Why should I do business with you?” it’s easy to get sucked in. It’s an attractive direction for a producer to follow, but it’s a trap. Instead of falling down the rabbit hole and discussing all of the services and solutions you can provide, always stick to the cardinal rule—never share any resources, processes, tools or intellectual capital without first gaining awareness and agreement on the prospect’s area(s) of dissatisfaction.

If you start talking about what you have to offer before you know what they need, it won’t resonate with them, and they won’t become aware of the real value you can provide.

Instead, take the time to engage in dialog that will:

  1. Lead the prospect to self-discover what their greatest risks and needs are by asking pointed questions and challenging assumptions;
  2. Come to an agreement that your prospect will be at a greater risk if they don’t engage in a business relationship with you;
  3. Paint a picture of a better future (one that allows the prospect to eliminate risks, and capture opportunities).

It’s important that producers have the ability to take a step back in this situation, avoid declarations and articulating solutions, and instead follow a process to allow the prospect to truly understand what they hope to accomplish.

“All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come.” – Victor Hugo

Do the Hard Work

Selling insurance in today’s marketplace is complex, and it requires skills greater than old school likeability, desire and great connections. Agencies and producers today have to know not only who they are in the marketplace, but who they want to be it to, and how they’re going to compete without getting sucked into the bid-and-quote game. Engaging in the right way is difficult, and that’s why you want to do it with the right people.

In a great blog post from Seth Godin, he says “If it’s easy to get a meeting or make a first sale, consider that the very ease that enabled that sale might be a sign that the long-term value of this customer is pretty low. It’s easy to get the door answered if you’re selling vacuum cleaners house to house, not so easy to get a meeting with the head of merchandising at Wal-Mart.”

So, are you taking the road of least resistance? Or, are you leading your prospects through an effective process that takes hard work on both ends, but always yields the most rewarding outcomes?

Ask yourself these questions to find out if you’re doing the long-term work needed to sustain success:

-Are you creating and utilizing centers of influence to grow opportunties?
-Are you only engaging with prospects that fit your agency’s perfect-client type?
-Are you helping employers self-discover risks through meaningful dialog and identifying agency capabilities to address those risks?
-Are you establishing new business relationships based on more than price?

“I know you’ve heard it a thousand times before. But it’s true— hard work pays off.”- Ray Bradbury

Are You Riding the Revenue Rollercoaster?

We see it all the time—producers become obsessed with a group of prospects they’ve hooked and are trying to reel in, and they let their lead nurturing activities go by the wayside. They spend all of their time focusing on them, they’ll even spend a day or two in the office just thinking about them. In the end, a few of these prospects do become clients, but, when it’s time for the producer to get back to work prospecting, he or she realizes that their pipeline is empty. When the business doesn’t come they move on to a new set of prospects to blitz, and the cycle of peaks and valleys continues.

What if this producer had spent only 3 to 6 hours per week, in the weeks leading up to these sales, on lead nurturing activities? Even better, what if these activities were already on his calendar as part of a client-attraction program focused on the long-term? 

When producers focus solely on managing their book, they are setting themselves up to be trapped in this cycle. If they consistently take the time to develop, qualify and nurture leads through a pipeline they will grow steadily and organically and see greater success.

“Lead-nurturing is having consistent and meaningful communication with viable customers regardless of their time to purchase.”—Brain Carroll

Stay Focused on the Outcome

Mark Goulston, Harvard Business Review contributor recently wrote an article that focuses on how effective leaders successfully influence decisions. As part of research for Goulston’s book, he and his co-author interviewed over 100 people who “get things done, but who aren’t pushy.”  They found that the most successful leaders are “not trying to persuade people to do something important. They’re trying to positively influence them to get to a better place.” They are focused on the outcome, and at the end of the conversation they are able to move things forward.

Here is a common example of this dynamic at play in the sales process:

During a conversation with a prospect, a producer will say: “let me explain to you why our process is better than the process you’re currently using.” The prospect will most likely put their guard up when change is framed with the agent and agency as the main focus. In this example, the first part of what’s necessary in the process is there—the producer believes that the buyer is truly at risk and wants to help them decrease those risks and improve their business, but the buyer only hears “it’s all about me”. Dialog is only effective if it is 100% percent focused on the prospect. Consider this question that addresses the same issues but is framed differently:

“What if it is possible for you to reduce the number of employee injuries that occur and decrease the costs associated with those injuries— is that something you would be interested in discussing?”

Are you trying to sell your process to your prospects, or are you trying to positively influence them to get to a better place?