Super Agent

Posts Tagged ‘first appointments’

4 Steps to Craft a Powerful Story

 What’s the best way to get a buyer emotionally engaged and invested? Tell a story. Stories are powerful tools that can be used to influence change behavior and move the sales process toward a mutually beneficial relationship. But, most of us aren’t professional storytellers, and the thought of developing a compelling story can seem daunting.

So, we’ve put together these 4 steps to help you get it right:

Step 1: Provide a setting. What is the background of the story? For example, you may describe a frustrating scenario you think the buyer has experienced in the past.

Step 2: Introduce the conflict. The inspiration and influence in any story exists in the conflicts. Ask yourself: what is getting in the way of the protagonists success? Remember, in your story, the prospect is always the hero. Find out what is keeping them from achieving what they desire and build your story around that conflict to pack an emotional punch.

Step 3: Describe the “Ah-Ha” moment—the moment in time when there is a sudden realization or new insight. Think about your “Ah’Ha” moments. When did you realize that there is more to this profession than just the placement of policies? When the moment happens in your story, it should also happen for the buyer.

Step 4: Resolve the story. Paint a picture of a better future with improved outcomes.

Forbes contributor Jim Blasingame says this about the power of storytelling: “In a time of rapidly compounding technology generations, the most successful businesses will consistently deliver high touch to customers with one of our oldest traits – the telling of a story”

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

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.

Are You Really Consultative?

An excellent article by Scott Edinger on hbr.org starts out like this: “When I speak to audiences of sales professionals and ask, “How many of you sell value versus price?” everyone raises their hand. But my next question “So how do you do that?” is frequently followed by an uncomfortable silence…”

We see this all time. Producers truly believe that they are consultative sellers but aren’t able to articulate the value they provide to their prospects and clients. Edinger offers sellers these 5 tips on how to move from transactional to consultative relationships:

  1. Help clients see issues they hadn’t considered. Edinger calls this a process of “mutual diagnosis”. In other words, the best salespeople don’t tell their clients the problems they see, instead they help their clients self discover risks through dialog.
  2. Help clients examine issues they thought were benign, but aren’t.
  3. Help clients see opportunities they missed. Again, “jointly discovering such opportunities through back-and-forth conversation” is key.
  4. Help clients address problems with solutions they hadn’t considered. Be innovative and find new ways to address their specific needs.
  5. Help clients connect with additional support resources.

Check out the article and use these 5 tips as a test for you and your colleagues. Are you really consultative?

Win Over Executives with a Powerful Story

We often say that selling boils down to the conversations we have, and one of the most powerful elements of a “good” conversation is a purposeful and compelling story that engages the prospect and allows them to become a part of it.

Here is a real-life example of how a story won over a busy CEO:

A producer walks into a first meeting, sits down across from a CEO (who is looking down at a notepad prepared to take notes) and asks if he can tell a story before getting started. The CEO looks up from his pad, says “sure” and leans back in his chair, ready to listen, already more engaged than he was when the producer first walked in. The producer says: “I’m going to describe four scenarios to you. Let me know if any of these sound familiar to you.”

  1. You meet with a group of agents, all of whom promise they have access to the best markets, and they can get you the lowest price. They all deliver on that promise and come back with prices that are within dollars of each other;
  2. One agent is able to get a significantly lower price than the others, but you are so suspicious of it that you decide not to go with him anyway;
  3. You listen to a group of agents present who then just go away. They lose contact with you over time and you’ve wasted your time engaging with them;
  4. Or, a group of agents start coming at you with overwhelming information that does more to confuse than clarify, so you decide to stay with your current broker.

At this point in the conversation, the CEO is leaning toward the producer, fully engaged. “You know what?” he says. “I’ve experienced every scenario you just described. It’s so frustrating.”

“Well, I would like to approach this a little differently, if that’s ok with you,” the producer says.

And, now he has captured the attention of the CEO and can start asking customer-centric questions to move the sales process forward. Have you ever told a story in the sales process that helped you land the account? Let us know in the comments.

“There are three key skills that define a great salesperson: the ability to ask great questions, the ability to listen actively, and the ability to tell great stories.” – Tom Searcy

Your Prospects Are Talking, Are You Listening?

It has never been easier than it is today to conduct research on specific industries and individual companies. Search engines and social media can and should be used to identify the primary challenges of virtually any industry group. If you walk into a first meeting having done no research on your prospect, you are likely missing out on opportunities to show what value you and your agency have to offer.

For example, one of our members was working on a large opportunity and walked into a first meeting without realizing that the CFO he was about to sit down with had written a blog post on the company website titled something along the lines of “How I Want Salespeople to Engage with Me”. In the post, the CFO detailed his own experiences with salespeople who pitched their services up front and focused on delivering the best price, and expressed that he would rather be shown how the company, firm or agency could help address challenges and improve business outcomes.

In this case, the prospect was telling the agent exactly what he wanted from him. Imagine how powerful the conversation could have been if the agent started out by saying, “From the research that I’ve done, I understand that you expect…”, as opposed to starting out like every other agent with “let’s review your insurance program.”

Inc contributor Tom Searcy talks about this in one of his articles. He explains that in order to get prospects to pay attention you should “do your research… and build that credibility–then they’re going to want to talk to you again. When they talk to you, they should say, “Ooh, that’s interesting.” Products and services don’t make them say that.”

Research is more essential than ever, and your prospects are giving you insight into what’s important to them and what challenges they are facing. Are you listening?

Human Decision-Making: What Really Drives Change?

There is a field of neuroscience and behavioral science called “Behavioral Economics” that focuses on how people make decisions—according to a Harvard Magazine article, it was born out of the need to explain odd observations and human anomalies. For example, “People say they want to save for retirement, eat better, start exercising, quit smoking—and they mean it—but they do no such things.” The article also explains that for decades, the standard academic model of a decision-maker has been someone who is intelligent, analytic, rational, and logical. The problem: “when we turn to actual human beings, we find, instead of robot-like logic, all manner of irrational, self-sabotaging, and even altruistic behavior.”

As the examples above suggest, logic alone cannot explain human-decision making. If people were inspired to act by reason alone, everyone would exercise, eat healthy, save money, etc. The same principal is true of decision-makers in the sales process, but we often see agents trying to use logic to persuade them to make a change. Producers come to the first meeting prepared to provide a list of statistics and facts meant to affirm their expertise, but instead they create barriers rather than breaking them down and are ultimately unsuccessful. Why? Because emotion, not reason, drives change behavior. If decision makers are emotionally engaged at the start of the sales process, they will be much more open to trust the logic that comes as the next step.

So, how can you effectively appeal to the buyer’s emotions? There are two important steps:

Step 1: Believe. We focused on the importance of belief in our last blog post. If you are truly invested, the buyer will feel it.

Step 2: Use stories. A good story can provide important information while arousing the listener’s emotions and energy to act. Innovative business author Daniel Pink explains: “Humans are creatures of emotion as much as logic, and facts and arguments move us most when they are embedded in good stories.  The world’s priests, politicians, and teachers have always known this by instinct… storytelling is increasingly seen as an essential business skill.”

Are you evoking the emotions that will inspire your prospects to act?