Super Agent

Posts Tagged ‘change’

Leading By Example

We often talk about how to deal with and change the minds of today’s decision makers who are opposed to veering from the status quo—who make a change only after producers put in the hard work to lead them to discover the problems they’ll face if they don’t, and to see a future with better outcomes if they do.

But, what if you haven’t made it to that step yet? What if you’re dealing with a team putting up barriers to changes you’re trying to implement within your agency? Maybe you’re implementing a new sales process or you’re gaining new capabilities in order to focus on targeting larger accounts…but you’re not seeing the level of engagement and adoption you’d hoped for.

It might be because you haven’t addressed the emotional fears of your team or other likely barriers, but it could also have something to do with the leadership.

Are sales managers on board and committed to the changes? Do you have your own doubts about implementation? As Albert Einstein said, “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others, it is the only means.” If you don’t believe in what you’re doing with certainty and if you’re not engaged, excited and available to address challenges when they arise, then your team won’t be able to transition wholly and successfully. Even worse: they may have embraced the change and are ready to become better, but when a sales manager or leader has not then their motivation and their ability to be successful will be stifled.

So, if you’re thinking about what the barriers are that may be preventing a successful transition or evolution within your agency, don’t forget to consider leading by example as an important factor.

Why Adaptability is Key

In recent years there has been a lot of concern and talk about the changing role of the insurance agent. McKinsey released a report suggesting that in order for agents to succeed in the future they will need to develop new capabilities and tailored expertise. In response to ACA, headlines on industry websites and magazines included things like “Brokers Seek to Preserve Role in Marketplace”.

There are agents and agencies who choose to deny that they need to respond to the changes and those who are embracing them, but overall there is still uncertainty on all sides. Added to the effects of evolving technology and the impact of health care reform is the fact that buyers today are risk averse, they stick with the status-quo and most view insurance as a commodity purchase.

But even in the face of all these challenges, there will still be agencies and agents that not only survive, they’ll thrive. How?

Consider this story on Inc.com about a travel agency facing a “growing army of internet competitors”: Elaine Osgood launched her travel agency before the explosion of online sites like Expedia and Orbitz threatened her business. But rather than panic, she listened closely to what her customers wanted and answered the call by adapting her capabilities to suit their most pressing needs. She offered them better data made available by new technologies that helped them see “which airlines flew the same route and how much might be saved by consolidating all travel …or how much could a customer save by consistently booking 14 days in advance rather than 7?”

She combined access to these metrics with new self-service tech that provided her customers with instant access to Atlas agents able to take care of any unforeseen problems that might disrupt travel plans. In other words, she assessed what her capabilities were, how she might grow or adapt to better serve her customers and provide them real value, then made necessary changes to ensure her continued success.

In our industry, the disruption exists in various forms—“Big Data” isn’t going away, commodity transactions will increasingly be performed electronically, health care reform will continue to create uncertainty…

But, the good news is, we firmly believe that these challenges are actually opportunities for those agencies willing to embrace and leverage them. For example, are you utilizing the power of “big data” to help employers effectively bend their health care cost curve in the right direction? Are you pairing your knowledge and expertise with a consultative and consistent sales process?

In today’s ever-changing and complex marketplace, adaptability is key.

Will You Be Bold?

As most of you have likely heard, CVS has made the decision to remove all tobacco products from its pharmacies nationwide by October 1st, putting 2 billion dollars in revenue on the line. Why? CVS President and CEO Larry Merlo said: “Ending the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products at CVS is the right thing for us to do for our customers and our company to help people on their path to better health…put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose.”

This is a powerful stand that many have commented on in the media, collectively wondering how the decision will impact the company, whether any others will follow suit, and what it all means for big tobacco in the U.S.

But the biggest takeaway here is this: what they’ve done is to assess whether or not their practices are in alignment with the “Why” of their organization, and then took steps to make a change that shattered the status quo.

Are you willing to do the same?

We often talk about the opportunities that exist for agents and agencies willing to be bold—those who understand their “Why”, choose to reject the status quo and develop the skills to offer new insights during sales conversations, ask disruptive questions and steer prospects away from the transactional process that leaves them at risk.

When was the last time you evaluated whether or not your day-to-day activities are in alignment with your purpose? If it’s been a while, don’t be afraid to take a note from CVS and start making changes.

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.

Survival of the Most Adaptable

In a recent interview on 60 minutes, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos was asked his view on the power of Amazon preventing small book publishers and other small companies from having a chance at success. He replied:

“The Internet is disrupting every media industry… you know, people can complain about that, but complaining is not a strategy. And Amazon is not happening to book selling, the future is happening to book selling.”

In our industry, there is a significant amount of disruption in the marketplace. The Internet and “Big Data” are not going away, commodity transactions will increasingly be performed electronically, health care reform is creating uncertainty and just as Bezos said, complaining (or blaming) is not a strategy. The agencies that will survive are those that continually assess where they need to re-invent themselves.

Writer Max McKeown said: “Change is inevitable, progress is not.” Are you embracing and leveraging the opportunities that arise out of change in order to progress? Or will you fail to adapt and let the future happen to you instead?

What You Can Learn From a Hot Dog Eating Champion

Authors of Freakonomics, Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt didn’t use a PowerPoint presentation during their keynote address at the Live Your Story conference; instead they spoke to the room about the power of stories by telling stories. One of these was an account of competitive hot dog eater Takeru Kobyashi who decided to try his luck in a hot dog eating contest when he and his girlfriend were low on money.

He began to train using techniques he found, through experimentation and practice, to be most efficient—he separated the dog and the bun, dunked the bun in water so he wouldn’t have to take time to drink it separately and squeezed the bun into a ball that was easier to chew and swallow. Picturing it might make your stomach turn, but Kobyashi smashed the record by eating 50 hot dogs in 12 minutes when no one before had eaten more than 25.

So, what does Kobyashi’s story teach us?

-          Never accept the status quo barrier or limit.

Most decision-makers are currently satisfied and are unaware that there are any significant risks to their business. They see no unavoidable reason to change or look for alternatives. Are you offering new insights in your sales conversations, asking disruptive questions and developing the skills to steer prospects away from the transactional process that leaves them at risk? Successful producers help prospects discover what exists past that status-quo barrier—better outcomes, decreased risks, and a mutually valuable partnership.

-          Redefine problems and solutions to discover the story that no one else is telling.

For example, maybe a prospect believes that one of their problems is the high cost of their workers’ comp claims, and the only way to reduce that cost is to bid on their insurance. By engaging in honest dialog you can help them redefine the problem. Are their injured employees getting the right treatment by the right doctor at the right time? Is their experience mod incorrect or mismanaged? By leading them to reshape the problem they become aware of the real factors playing into their coverage, and you’ve created the emotional catalyst necessary for them to change.

Be the Trigger Event

During the “Live the Story” Conference, participants were told about a company that took the time to brainstorm and map out the top three challenges they thought their solutions could address. Interestingly, the second challenge the team came up with was not on the radar of a large group of prospects who had recently been surveyed by the company.

So, their first instinct was to avoid #2 altogether and come up with a solution that better aligned with the results of the survey. But, instead they decided to create dissatisfaction by leaning into that gap and having conversations around the challenge that prospects weren’t even aware they were facing.

Salespeople are often trained to recognize trigger events that will prompt decision makers to buy. For example, maybe a new CFO has just been hired, or an acquisition recently occurred. Sales strategist Jill Konrath says: “Organizational change creates urgent and compelling needs. So do changes in the business environment. These “trigger events” create openings for your products, services or solutions.”

Although it is important to monitor events like this within your pipeline and take advantage of the opportunities they provide, the most powerful forces of change are your conversations.

If you can steer prospects to see that they are not safe through disruptive and honest dialogue, you become the trigger event that creates an undeniable need for change moving forward.

How Do You Deal with Non-Believers?

As we mentioned last week, one of our team members recently attended Corporate Visions’ Live the Story Conference in Chicago, and one of the first presentations of the event centered on the following clip from the popular TV show ‘Mad Men’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5y4b-DEkIps

After playing the clip, the presenter (Tim Riesterer) referenced John Kotter’s book The Heart of Change which argues that there are two change sequences:

- Analyze, Think, Change

- And See, Feel, Change.

The first is used most often by salespeople but the second is almost always more successful, and ad-man Don Draper taps into its power during this scene. First, he is willing to walk away from a non-believer, someone who seems staunchly opposed to veering from the status-quo message his company has been using. “We have lots of colors to choose from” is the same as “we have access to the best markets, and a 75 year history…”

Second, he is willing to step into the tension of the moment to challenge and engage the client. Although we wouldn’t recommend taking such an unsympathetic approach (think genuine curiosity and humility!), the clip does reveal how important it is to believe in the value you have to offer, and to stick to your story in the face of resistance from non-believers.

Do your conversations lead the prospect to see and feel what they will gain from working with you, and what they will lose if they don’t?