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Posts Tagged ‘insurance’

The 2 Anchors Hindering Producer Performance

In a recent conversation with an insurance agency principal we were discussing the role of the producer. Actually the many roles of producers; business developer, sales person and account servicer.

Each role asked of the producer requires a different set of wiring. The business development role requires someone to make multiple phone calls, over an extended period of time with the idea of creating a highly qualified sales ready opportunity. Focus, consistency, the ability to connect with different buying styles and “sell a first appointment” is essential. A true producer, one whose only goal is to grow their book organically, requires leadership. They must be able to deal with buying teams, business complexity, and lead change behavior. Account management and servicing requires a steady hand to drive implementation, calendars task and execute the agency’s value proposition in a timely and efficient manner.

With their hands in so many roles is it any surprise that producers struggle to write new business? Perhaps it’s time to remove the anchors that hinder producer performance. The technology companies and other forward thinking industries recognized years back that greater rewards are possible for all when sales professionals focus on selling instead of developing and nurturing leads or servicing accounts.

What kinds of anchors are hindering organic growth in your agency?

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?

Don’t Always Believe In Conventional Wisdom

When I was a kid, we were told to get out in the sun, eat enriched white Wonder bread, and drink plenty of milk. Since then, the science has shown us that everything on that list is bad for us. So, the conventional wisdom, when vetted by science and data, often contradicts usual standards or what we might call common sense.

The same is often true in our industry, so it’s important to question everything, go against the tide and don’t assume that conventional wisdom is the right path to follow. For example, we would suspect that the greatest opportunity to reduce health care costs is to provide incentives for employees to get healthier. This is not a bad idea, but it’s tough to do and data suggests it’s not working.

Cracking Health Costs blogger Tom Emerick explains: “Everyone mistakenly assumes wellness is perfectly safe and has only an upside…Common types of company wellness schemes have been shown to lead to misdiagnoses, false positives, and overtreatment.”

Instead of buying into conventional wisdom, in order to reduce health care costs we should be focused on eliminating or reducing unnecessary surgeries and medical procedures—the first step is to keep people out of the hospital unless it’s necessary for them to be there. Over 100,000 people a year die in the hospital due to complications and infections.

Are you looking for data, or are you assuming something is true because it’s widely accepted.

“Re-examine all you have been told.” – Walt Whitman

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.”

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.

Do the Hard Work

Selling insurance in today’s marketplace is complex, and it requires skills greater than old school likeability, desire and great connections. Agencies and producers today have to know not only who they are in the marketplace, but who they want to be it to, and how they’re going to compete without getting sucked into the bid-and-quote game. Engaging in the right way is difficult, and that’s why you want to do it with the right people.

In a great blog post from Seth Godin, he says “If it’s easy to get a meeting or make a first sale, consider that the very ease that enabled that sale might be a sign that the long-term value of this customer is pretty low. It’s easy to get the door answered if you’re selling vacuum cleaners house to house, not so easy to get a meeting with the head of merchandising at Wal-Mart.”

So, are you taking the road of least resistance? Or, are you leading your prospects through an effective process that takes hard work on both ends, but always yields the most rewarding outcomes?

Ask yourself these questions to find out if you’re doing the long-term work needed to sustain success:

-Are you creating and utilizing centers of influence to grow opportunties?
-Are you only engaging with prospects that fit your agency’s perfect-client type?
-Are you helping employers self-discover risks through meaningful dialog and identifying agency capabilities to address those risks?
-Are you establishing new business relationships based on more than price?

“I know you’ve heard it a thousand times before. But it’s true— hard work pays off.”- Ray Bradbury