Super Agent

Posts Tagged ‘capabilities’

Are You Making This Dangerous Assumption?

Client retention is an important component of an agency’s long-term profitability and stability, but too often, agencies invest a lot of time and effort into building initial client relationships and not enough time ensuring that those relationships are being continually nurtured over time. For example, in an article on Sales & Marketing Management, Rick Reynolds warns businesses not to make an assumption that we often hear:

“My clients would tell me if there was a problem…”

In reality, just like your prospects, your clients likely aren’t recognizing issues or problems that they’re currently experiencing or that might pop up due to things like marketplace disruptions or compliance requirements arising from new regulations. And if they are, and you aren’t proactively evaluating the relationship, you’re leaving the door open for a competitor to step in.

As a partner and advisor, you have the opportunity (and responsibility) to periodically assess your client’s needs, hidden or otherwise, and their expectations from the relationship. Reynolds says: Just like in any relationship, this becomes a refreshing dialogue once you get past the upfront discomfort of having such an honest conversation.”

Are you taking the time to assess your current relationships with clients? Are your goals and objectives still in alignment? Have you gained new capabilities that might be beneficial to them? By asking yourself these types of questions, you’ll increase retention and perform at your best.

Sales Opportunities Beyond Placing Policies

Many of the agents we speak with believe that only the broker of record (BOR) is in the position to establish a relationship with an employer and gain new business. But when your sales process and approach is truly consultative, this idea doesn’t hold up. Insurance policies don’t always address every risk or problem an employer faces. In fact, many (if not most) times there are issues that have been transferred year after year to an employer’s policy that are still unresolved. What’s more, the road to obtaining new clients is more complex in today’s selling environment.

So, when an employer has a problem that is exposed during a conversation, why not be prepared to offer them a solution for a fee?  Leading a prospect to recognize issues that exist and offering your specialized services, tools and capabilities on a fee-basis  not only helps diversify your revenue, it also differentiates you and allows you to establish an initial relationship that could lead to engagement in the future.

For example, what if your agents performed an injury management assessment for a fee and helped employers uncover underlying issues with their reporting process?

If a business is implementing dangerous practices or is struggling to assess their risks, the opportunity is there for agents to step in and offer solutions. Don’t be afraid to put a price tag on the value that you bring to your client relationships—value based fees are directly related to serving their best interests.

Address These 3 Barriers to Change

Agency owners and sales managers, before implementing a change throughout your agency do you consider what barriers you might face from your team? Maybe you’d like to move upstream and focus on large accounts that use Alternative Risk Financing methods like Large Deductibles, or maybe you are adopting a new sales process that all producers will be held accountable to follow.

Whatever the change is, we often see three common barriers surface during a transition.

(1)    Emotional Barrier

It’s that feeling of, “I’ve always done what I’ve always done” that often creates hesitation from team members. Just as we talk about risk-averse buyers who are comfortable with the status quo and afraid to change, team members are likely to put up an emotional barrier when they are pushed outside of their comfort zones.

(2)    Demographic/Geographic Barrier

If you are moving into a new space, producers will sometimes be concerned about the number of potential clients that exist. For example, if the size of your perfect-client is changing, they’ll want to be sure that significant opportunities are present in your area.

(3)    Lack of Capabilities Barrier

Let’s say you’ve decided to target larger accounts in the group health arena…having the capabilities to help them get better is critical. For example, a barrier to this change will occur if your team doesn’t have the selling skills or technical knowledge to assist employers in identifying their compliance and cost issues or align employers’ business goals with their health plan.

Remember that identifying barriers is only the first step in planning for a smooth transition. Be prepared to address them, and have timelines and resolutions in place to help your team jump on board with the changes, and give them peace of mind.

This Mistake Pushes Your Prospects Away—Are You Making It?

We often talk about the dangers of engaging in a transactional sales process—you undermine your own worth and the prospect is put at a greater risk because of it. But what about the middle ground—the space in between transactional and consultative selling? If you’ve ever said “If we’re close on price and you go with us, we’ll give you…. for free” during a meeting, then you’ve been there.

This “value-added” model is driven with the promise of additional services or enticements, but according to decision-making research discussed recently by Tim Riesterer, “when you add a feature that is positive, but weak or irrelevant to the conversation, it actually provides a reason against choosing your option”. In other words, empty add-ons push your prospects away. Presenting solutions to problems buyers haven’t identified only confuses them, and they don’t feel any sense of urgency to make a change. You’re more likely to lose the business, and if you win:

- The cost of delivery is increased,

- Your competitors are more likely to say “We have that too!”,

- There are potential rebating risks involved,

- And, there is often an unnecessary duplication of resources.

Is this a picture of a mutually beneficial business relationship?

The thing to remember is that it is not your services or tools that differentiate you; it’s your process. Are you leading buyers into a relationship where your interaction and collaboration will create value over a period of time? Anyone can buy the tool, or offer the service and describe features and benefits, but few can help buyers see and feel how the agent and agency’s capabilities will decrease risks and impact their business for the better.

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?”

What Not to Do On a Sales Call

We recently had a call with a company who does excellent marketing and lead generation work. Their messaging is clear and consistent with no sales jargon or company-focused language. And, they push out a great variety of content including survey results, articles and engaging videos. So, we were expecting the same level of quality and seamlessness from their sales process.

Unfortunately, we were wrong. Here’s why the call blew up:

(1)    They didn’t do their research.

They started off by asking us to tell them a little bit about what we do and what we were looking to achieve on the call, immediately handing over the reigns as opposed to leading. We’ve said before that, during sales conversations, it’s critical to answer the questions prospect’s don’t know to ask by challenging them to think, proposing new ideas and revealing creative ways that you can help them. Instead, without research, the first portion of the meeting will be spent gathering information that could have been learned online.

(2)    They didn’t qualify us.

This goes hand-in-hand with the issue above. Because they didn’t qualify us before scheduling a call, during the meeting, it became clear that we were most likely not a right-fit to engage with them. Don’t get caught in the fear-of-losing-business trap. Many agents operate on the belief that they need to take advantage of every business opportunity that presents itself, but doing so is not in your best interest or in the best interest of the buyer.

(3)    They made it about price.

Even as we tried to steer the conversation away from price and toward what value they might have to offer, they continued to focus on the cost of their services instead. Imagine the difference in power between conversations that begin with “Here’s the bottom line, we offer ___ and it is ___ price.” versus “From the research I’ve done, I understand that you are facing these challenges…”

(4)    The conversation was company-focused.

“This is what we do.”

“This is who we do it for.”

“This is how much of an investment it will be.”

Dialog is only effective when it’s consultative and client-focused. Are you trying to sell your services to prospects, or are you trying to positively influence them to get to a better place?

Overall, it is important to ensure that the process you use to nurture prospective clients aligns with the conversations you have once they raise their hand. Also, remember the significance of researching and qualifying your prospects, and ask yourself how you will pivot if you identify early on that they are not a right fit. Do so in a way that still allows you to keep the door open in the event that your value proposition changes and the opportunity to engage with them arises in the future.

“I Want to Differentiate”

It’s the first thing many producers say when we ask them to list their top objectives, but differentiation takes hard work—it requires engaging in a new process, the willingness to have tough conversations, and the leadership to step out of your comfort zone when met with resistance. Often, agents say they want to differentiate, but end up holding themselves back. They devalue their roles by delivering the same old sales pitch that only enhances the buyer’s view that insurance is a commodity purchase.

It’s like climbing up the ladder to the high dive. On the way up you’re excited and ready to go, but once you’re looking over the edge, it’s a lot harder to jump.

For example, we’ve discussed the great opportunity for agents to differentiate around the big data conversation. In today’s world, as technology continually evolves, data analytics and data mining models are emerging as powerful tools impacting our industry, and employers expect agents to show analytical capabilities. But, because the topic is unfamiliar and uncomfortable, producers avoid it rather than using it to have more consultative conversations.

You can’t differentiate without experiencing some tension, and that’s why so few producers do it. , But that’s also why there are endless opportunities when you do.

Ask anyone who’s taken the plunge from a high dive—it’s worth it. Don’t be afraid to jump.

Selling The Stretch Goal

We’re often attracted to the people who need our skills. As Anthony Iannarino puts it in his blog, “it’s a wonderful thing to develop latent dissatisfaction. It’s important to help your clients discover their blind spots.” When prospects don’t know what outcomes they should expect, and you can step in with new ideas and disruptive insight to help them learn, customize solutions and impact their business, it’s a great feeling.

But, the best opportunities are usually in the people (or organizations) who challenge us to develop new skills, to stretch our capabilities, and to grow in order to help them. To achieve continued success, it’s important to open yourself up to new learning experiences.

Take the risk, and you will become better because of it.

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”- John F. Kennedy