Super Agent

Posts Tagged ‘Consultative Selling’

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.

Are Your Clients Fiercely Loyal?

In an interview on Inc.com, Sarah Robinson, author of Fierce Loyalty: Unlocking the DNA of Wildly Successful Communities talks about why developing a community of loyal clients requires a commitment that goes beyond great service. She says “You’ve got to be willing to listen for and acknowledge the specific needs your customers have, and most importantly, you’ve got to invest in a way to meet those needs.”

Think about what companies or brands you’re loyal to. Are you a die-hard Apple fan who’s first in line at the store for every new iPhone launch? Do you forgo a soda during lunch if the vending machine is stocked with Pepsi products instead of Coke?

Our loyalties to specific brands develop over time and through reinforcing, positive experiences. Customers who are loyal often act as brand ambassadors, and will provide you with honest feedback on what’s working and what you can improve on—both are valuable benefits in today’s crowded marketplace. So, how can you foster fierce loyalty in your clients?

Here are a few questions to ask:

  1. Can you, your producers and other team members clearly articulate who you are, and who you want to be it to?
  2. Does your value proposition or “brand” communicate more about you, or does it focus on outcomes for the client?
  3. Are your producers able to articulate and provide tangible value to prospects and clients?
  4. Are you investing time and resources in meeting the specific needs of your existing accounts rather than focusing solely on winning new accounts?

 

Can You Pivot?

In a group of people at any organization there are often those who are experienced and those who are inexperienced. So, whether it’s from a service standpoint or in a sales presentation, it’s important to be able to convey complex concepts to those at a higher level while still providing value to those at a lower level.

We often see agents struggling with this, particularly when they become aware of a variance in knowledge levels during the sales process. When confronted with this situation, instead of taking a step back, assessing how to move forward and pivoting, they get stuck or move ahead without gaining a comprehensive understanding and agreements from all stakeholders.

Pivoting doesn’t mean deviating from your process, or abandoning what you believe when a customer insists on a low-price, it simply means having the capability to tailor your message, insights and opportunities based on the knowledge level of those you’re addressing.

Can you pivot? Comment with any tips or experiences you would like to share.

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.”

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

The Heroic Myth

In an interview with strategy + business, author and professor Betty Sue Flowers talks about five common myths that influence human decision making. One of them is called the heroic myth, and it’s based on the idea that in every situation there is a winner and a loser, a David and Goliath. Have you seen this myth played out in sales situations?

Sales Source writer Geoffrey James says that selling “becomes difficult (or even impossible) when one or both parties view the negotiation as a conflict between two positions, where the person who abandons his position is the ‘loser’ and the person who sticks to his position is the ‘winner’.”

Here’s an example scenario:  A prospect doesn’t seem interested in engaging in a conversation with a producer unless they can push him to offer them a low price. In an effort to avoid losing the sale, the producer thinks, “I’ve got this shiny new product to show you”, and abandon’s his process. In the prospect’s mind, if the producer gives them a low price, they win. In the producer’s mind, if he doesn’t lose the sale, he wins.

What’s the matter with this picture? Everyone actually loses.

Instead of delivering true business value, the producer has diminished his role. And, the prospect is put at greater risk because of it. Don’t get caught up in the heroic myth. Your process is what differentiates you—stick to it, and you will be viewed as a business ally who helps employers improve outcomes. And, don’t be afraid to walk away from a prospect who (after engaging in dialog with you to uncover risks and threats) still doesn’t recognize that the bid-and-quote approach doesn’t serve their best interests either.

The Best Behavior Change Trigger

According to one of our favorite sales strategists Jill Konrath, “since making any change is more work for your already stressed out prospect, you have to give them a really good reason to take action.” We’ve said it before: it’s necessary for your prospect to be dissatisfied before they will make the decision to change—dissatisfied enough that they are willing to abandon the status quo. Because of this, many producers dream of prospects who offer them a list of problems, expecting solutions that the producer has the resources to provide.

But, these producers are missing a big piece of the puzzle. What is the best way to trigger a change in behavior? A prospect must become aware of a previously unrecognized problem or risk, and then be presented with a solution that they did not anticipate. The best prospects aren’t the ones who’ve already figured out what issues they need to solve, it’s the ones who aren’t aware there are any issues.

Anthony Iannarino explains: “Your dream clients don’t recognize a gap themselves. You haven’t done anything to show them that they have good cause to be dissatisfied if they’re not. And they don’t have a compelling vision of a better state that they want to bring to life.” It’s your job to lead them through an effective process, help them self discover risks, and show them a vision of a better way.