Super Agent

Posts Tagged ‘first appointments’

Asking Questions Like the Pros

A recent article on FastCompany.com by Shane Snow provides advice on how to ask questions like the pros: Walter Cronkite, Larry King and others effectively formulate questions to provoke meaningful answers and lead the conversation with genuine curiosity and control. The list of journalistic tips Snow provides can also be used by agents to help prospects self-discover risks and successfully lead them through the sales process. Here is Snow’s advice:

(1) Don’t ask Multiple-Choice questions.

For example, asking “What would you do?” is better than asking “Would you do X?” Multiple-choice questions limit the buyer’s answer, and you will ultimately uncover, and help them discover more if you stick to open-ended questions.

(2) Don’t Fish.

Don’t ask questions to seek confirmation or that make assumptions about the buyer. Remember, you are also trying to identify whether or not the prospect is a right-fit to work with you and your agency.

(3) Interject With Questions When Necessary.

Snow says “a good journalist will steer the conversation by cutting in with questions whenever they need to. This helps reign in ramblers and clarify statements before the conversation gets too far ahead to go back.” The same is true of insurance agents. It is important to follow a systematic process in order to comprehensively assess the prospects needs, align goals and objectives, and gain agreements.

(4) Field Non-Answers by Re-framing Questions Later.

Producers often have to probe and dig deeper before a prospect will self-discover risks and reveal what they need. Snow explains that as long as you are genuine and sincere, gaining clarity around questions by reframing them won’t come off badly.

(5) Repeat Answers Back For Clarification, Or More Detail.

It is vital to gain agreements with a prospect as they move through the sales process and to establish clear next steps in order to create mutual accountabilities.

(6) Don’t be Embarrassed.

Snow explains: “the worst kinds of questions are the ones left unasked.”

Using this advice to ask the right questions can help you have successful consultative and client-focused conversations to get prospects on the same page and move toward a mutually beneficial business relationship.

6 Steps to Shorten Your Sales Cycle

What can you do to develop a strategy and action plan that will lead to closed sales within 3 to 5 meetings? Here are 6 critical components:

Step 1: Develop a concise and client focused value proposition. Why is this important? Your value proposition is designed to immediately capture the attention of the prospect—it communicates what value you have to offer, and it establishes a strong foundation for dialog. According to sales strategist Jill Konrath, “Weak value propositions are the root cause of most sales failures.”

Step 2: Establish credibility by being a thought leader in your specialized area of expertise. Provide articles, White Papers, and any other content with valuable information—doing so will help the buyer trust your expertise and positions you as an advisor and partner.

Step 3: Get in front of the decision maker. Be proactive and enter in at the highest level possible.

Step 4: Plan! Don’t wing it; you should always have goals in mind for every conversation. Ask yourself, “What do I want to accomplish during this conversation?”

Step 5: Address any objections early. It’s vital to be transparent with prospects and ask the uncomfortable questions to be sure that your goals and objectives are in line before moving forward. Buyers may cloak their objections and fears, but an article in the Tampa Bay Business Journal explains: “work on [objections] earlier during the sale and you’ll find your sales cycle shortened, your credibility enhanced and most importantly, more sales closures.”

Step 6: Establish clear next steps. It is vital to gain agreements and set goals with the buyer up front in order to establish mutual accountabilities.

Do you have any successful stories/strategies to help shorten your sales cycle? Let us know in the comments.

Testing Your Message

According to a CBS Money Watch article by Geoffrey James, “Your ability to sell is greatly dependent upon your ability to communicate sales messages. Unfortunately, many sales professionals don’t understand how to provide [messages] that actually motivate the customer to buy.” An agency with a distinctive message that piques curiosity will attract the type of clients that want what the agency has to offer, and a good, client-focused message will get the employer to say to the producer: “I want to hear more about how you can help me.”

Does your message resonate with prospects? Here are a few questions to test the effectiveness of your message:

(1) Do you mention specific issues or challenges your prospect may be facing and that you can address them?

An effective message is externally focused and communicates to prospects that an agency is seeking to work toward mutually beneficial goals with the objectives of both parties in alignment. 

(2) Do you make it known that you have done your research by expressing knowledge about the prospect?

It will capture the prospect’s attention if the producer has taken the time to learn about them and mentions that they’ve researched their business.

(3) Do you pique curiosity and interest?

A message that piques client curiosity entices the employer to meet with the producer, inquires about the employers’ business needs and objectives, and identifies potential fears the employer is facing to get them emotionally engaged.

If you answered “no” to any of these questions, you may want to revise your message—stay focused on communicating the leadership, value and capabilities you have to offer, and more right-fit prospects will begin gladly opening their doors for the first meeting.

Introductory Phone Call

As we’ve discussed in the past, it is essential for your messaging to clearly communicate that through a business relationship with your agency, a client can measurably improve the results of their business. Communicating clearly, confidently and effectively takes practice, and it’s important for producers to take the time to prepare by writing out a script or a list of objectives to successfully navigate an introductory call.

Here are a few tips:

1)  Do your research. In today’s technology and information loaded world, there is no reason not to know several things about your prospect before you call them. The goal is to gain information that you can use to tie into your message. By demonstrating that you have done research on their business, you can confidently suggest that you have something of value to offer.
2)  Make sure to share why you are calling.
3)  Determine if you’re speaking with the right person—if you are not speaking with the right person, verify a way to reach them.
4)  Having done research on your prospect, share what you are offering and how it may benefit them—remember to keep the conversation focused on their success, and decide what the appropriate next step in the process should be. (A second, more in-depth phone conversation, or a first appointment)
5)  Pique enough curiosity to secure the next step. Why is piquing curiosity important? Jill Konrath explains: “It creates an opening for you to establish a relationship, at the same time it positions you as an invaluable resource.”

Utilizing a set of objectives will keep you productive and focused on advancing the relationship forward.

Asking the Right Questions

In this blog, we’ve frequently discussed the importance of building a relationship with a prospect that is based primarily on common objectives and goals, and focuses on the value that an agency has to offer. Leading with a pitch about your agency’s services and capabilities is less successful than beginning with a customer-centric conversation to help prospects understand how you can help them if they choose to pursue a business relationship with you. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t present your capabilities and services. It’s not about whether or not you present them; it’s about when.

So, how can you have successful consultative and customer-centric conversations to get prospects on the same page? Start out by asking the right questions.

In a recent article published by Inc.com, Erik Sherman says “Success is never a given, but you’re more likely to find it when you look the right way, and that means asking the right questions up front.”

The right questions may change depending on the prospect and the circumstances, but here are a few general suggestions:

- What are your business needs and objectives?
- What challenges is your business currently facing?
- What emerging risks have you identified in your industry?
- What new opportunities would you like to seize?

Once you’ve asked these questions, prospects are more likely to understand the risks and threats they are facing, and you can step in to connect how your services and capabilities will improve their business and help them achieve success. This way, prospects won’t be initially overwhelmed by a lengthy list of services they don’t understand. The ultimate goal is to move the sales process toward a mutually beneficial business relationship.

“You create your opportunities by asking for them.”- Patty Hansen

Define Your Perfect Client Type

As an agency, if you want your producers to develop rewarding business relationships with the right clients and successfully increase their number of first appointments, defining your perfect client type needs to be a fundamental component of the client-attraction process. If an agency fails to define their perfect client type before attempting to “get in the door” with a prospective client, they end up wasting valuable money and time pursing prospects that aren’t a right fit.

Tammy Lenski, a business negotiation expert, explains: “The big danger is that without a target market, it’s like standing in a park shouting in the wind. When you have a target market, it’s like standing in a park and talking to a specific group of people.”

To identify the perfect client type, you must go through the process of describing what type of employer your agency wants to attract. What are the demographics, company size and industry of your agency’s area of focus? Once an agency has determined this, its resources can be used more efficiently, its producers will develop focus and industry expertise, and it will become more profitable.

This gives agencies permission not to pursue a business relationship with an employer who is a wrong fit. Simon Sinek, a leadership expert, says that “the goal is not to do business with everyone who needs what you have. The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.”

An agency that has identified its perfect client type removes itself from the position of having to compete on price instead of value. It will ultimately close more business because it’s connecting its capabilities directly to prospects that are seeking the capabilities and leadership that it provides.

Has your agency defined its perfect client type?

What Insurance Agents Believe

I have asked countless insurance agents the following question.  Do you believe the vast majority of employers manage risk and purchase insurance in a way that is flawed and potentially harmful to their business?  A resounding “YES” is the typical reply.

So, if so many insurance agents believe that employers are executing a flawed process, why do so few take on the issue and invite the employer to engage in a conversation about it?

The rationalizations are many, including but not limited to:

  • “I might offend the decision maker;”
  • “I will follow their process at the early stages and try to pivot later in the sales process;” and
  • “I am trying to give them what they want.”

We encourage insurance agents to lead and take on the tough conversations.  Allowing an employer to follow a flawed process is like letting your children play in the traffic.  They may not get hit by a car, but they are at greater risk and danger. 

Ask yourself, are you enabling risky behavior, or are you leading employers to a better and safer future?

First Appointment Tension

Insurance agents like to be liked.  As a result, they tend to avoid engaging in conversations that might elicit tension or consternation on behalf of the prospect.  However, it there is not the least bit of tension during a first meeting, then it is unlikely the agent is bringing new ideas. 

Employers want, if not demand new ideas.  They don’t have time for the same old story.  They are too busy and stressed to listen to a pitch they have heard countless times.  They may not tell you, but they want to be pushed out of their comfort zone and see their challenges in a new way.

Ask yourself, is there any tension in the room when you are engaged in a first meeting?  If not, how are you different from every other agent?  Why should the prospect continue to engage with you?

Creating some tension does not mean you should be arrogant or prickly.  It just means that there is rarely positive change without some uncomfortable moments.  Your tonality and body language will provide the cues that it is safe to take on the tough issues with you.

Can you create tension without alienating the prospect?  If not, this is a critical skill you must enhance.