Super Agent

Posts Tagged ‘decision makers’

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?

Everyone’s Plan

In a recent conversation with a producer and an account executive, they told us how they were moving through the sales process with a large account. And what they had to say about their approach is worth sharing with you here.

To start, the two of them conducted 3 separate meetings with 3 different groups of people within the organization—the feet on the street, middle management (including HR) and finally, the C-Suite. Each conversation was tailored to the needs and wants of the groups and assessments were made about the state of the company.

Then they made an interesting decision. Before going back to the C-Suite to deliver their proposal, they created a draft of it to take to the other groups. In that meeting, they presented their plan with the intent to not only gain agreements but to also collaborate. They said, “Here are our recommendations….did we miss anything?”

The result was enormously powerful.  The feet on the street people and the middle managers became invested in the plan, and everyone at all levels of the organization eagerly anticipated the next step—the meeting with the C-Suite. It became everyone’s plan, and everyone had a stake in it being received well.

Too often, we see producers trying to get around this person or that person in order to get to the people at the top who really make the decisions. But that’s a mistake. Engaging with teams of buyers at all levels is becoming more common, and, as this story demonstrates, if you can get the entire organization on board so that they are invested in the success of the proposal, you win.

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 Shouting into the Dark?

One of the greatest challenges producers face is their struggle to secure first appointments. So it wasn’t surprising in a recent training session when the topic of discussion turned to getting in the door strategies. As we all sat around a table, I said to them: “Before we can even begin talking about getting in the door strategies, it’s important to talk about who you want to work with. Who is your ideal client?” One by one, each producer shrugged or admitted that they didn’t really know.

Why is this an issue? Because without a clear picture of the kind of prospect you would like to work with, setting up a getting in the door strategy, or even developing a message is a waste of time, energy and resources. We spent two hours unpacking my initial question, and in the end we had answers to the following:

- What size organization do you want to work with?

- What is their level of complexity?

- What are the top challenges and problems they are facing that you can address with your capabilities?

Buyers today have higher expectations, greater demands and changing communication preferences as technology continually evolves. Forbes contributor Mark Fidelman says: “Customers are changing how they buy… They have access to more information than ever before. Their conversations, thoughts, frustrations and concerns are becoming increasingly more public and visible.” They expect you to know who they are before you reach out to contact them.

If you develop a getting in the door strategy after gaining clarity around who your ideal client is, you will be much more successful in moving forward to research, qualify and nurture leads. Without clarity, you’ll be shouting into the dark.

Selling to Multiple Decision Makers

Does this scenario sound familiar to you? After a few meetings with a prospect, you’ve established that there will be a number of stakeholders at the next meeting who are all important in the buying process. Maybe one of them is an economic buyer who is focused on the bottom line, another might care more about seeing a better opportunity for their business in the future, and another may be completely fearful of change and is putting up the most resistance to following your process of engagement.

It’s natural to feel overwhelmed when a team of buyers all have a say in the decision making process. It used to be that agents tried to get to “The Decision Maker”, the one whose ultimate choice it was whether or not to move forward. Today, business executives are more risk averse, and the stakes are higher. No one wants to take on complex and important decisions on their own. But, that doesn’t mean that they all have the same intentions. Each person in the room with you has a different set of priorities.

So, how do you successfully engage and sell to multiple stakeholders?

Julie Battilana, an associate professor of organizational behavior at Harvard Business School says: “You control when and how you pass information along. And you can [and should] adapt your message for different people… Pay attention to how people behave; ask questions, both direct and indirect, to gauge their sentiments; and keep a mental record of your observations.” It’s important to address each person in the buying network, and talk about how the change will impact their individual goals and objectives. The most successful agents will use real leadership and gumption to recognize the complex needs of today’s organizations and leverage that knowledge to offer value.

Share your stories with us. What strategies do you use to navigate a sale with many decision makers involved in the buying process?

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.

Disruptive Technology

Throughout history, new technologies have changed the way people think about the world. Galileo’s telescope disproved the widely accepted idea that the sun revolved around the earth, and as with anything disruptive, there were people who denied the results of his work. He was eventually arrested, and “the father of modern physics” spent his last years on house arrest. The community and church leaders who attacked his discovery were on the wrong side of history. Will you end up on the wrong side?

Today, the MRI machine has made it possible for us to see the way information is processed in our brains—from the inside out. The reptilian (survival) brain regulates the basic functions we need to live, like breathing, as well as our instinctual behaviors like fight-or-flight reactions. The limbic (emotional) brain is the primary part of the brain that motivates our actions. In his book, Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman describes the limbic system as the brains “first responder”. The neo-cortex (thinking brain) works out complex issues and allows us to use reason and logic to address them. So, in order for a message to make it to the neo-cortex, the person’s emotions must first be roused—the brain always has an emotional response before it produces a cognitive one.

Innovative speaker and author Simon Sinek talks about The Golden Circle which uses this idea to explain why “some people and organizations are more innovative, more influential, command greater loyalty and are able to repeat their success over and over.” They start with WHY (accessing the emotions in the limbic brain), then move on to HOW and WHAT (engaging the neo-cortex).

If you lead with a sales pitch about your services and capabilities, you’re on the wrong side of history. This new technology shows us that people aren’t inspired to act by reason alone. In order to influence change behavior, you must access the emotional centers in the limbic brain first.

That Sale You Lost, It May Be Your Fault

When we ask producers why they failed to close a sale, they often respond that the employer “just didn’t get it.” They will go on to explain, with frustration, that the employer decided to stay with their current agency, and that the solution to this problem is simply finding more prospects that “get it”.

But, producers are too quick to blame their prospects when things go wrong. Marketing expert Seth Godin recently talked about this issue in his blog. He says: “the thing is, blaming this group [of customers] for getting it wrong helps no one. They don’t want to be blamed, and they’re not going to learn.”

Many producers have been instructed to “pitch” their agency’s capabilities and services during the early stages of the sales process as a strategy to differentiate from competitors, but taking this approach is self-sabotage because, as we often say, buyers “don’t know what they don’t know.” The risks your services and capabilities address and mitigate aren’t yet on their radars, and instead of recognizing that you can help them improve their business they become overwhelmed. They nod along with you, letting you move forward, when they’re really thinking “Just get to the price.”

Leading with your “pitch” disregards the way the buyer’s brain works, and is too agency-centric to create any emotion. Great producers are able to help prospects self-discover threats and risks which they were previously unaware of before connecting their services and capabilities. Doing this evokes the important emotions that inspire decisions; a buyer will only be comfortable with change after they are unsatisfied and truly fearful that they are at a greater risk if they don’t.

Are you asking customer-centric questions at the start of the sales process?

Are you helping the prospect see a vision for a future relationship before introducing your agency’s services and capabilities?

Producers don’t need to find more customers who get it; they need to develop the skills to create more customers who will.