Super Agent

Posts Tagged ‘meetings’

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?

Belief Influences Non-verbal Communication

According to Michael Bosworth and Ben Zoldan, authors of What Great Salespeople Do, “People tend to think of spoken language as our primary means of communication, but studies suggest that words alone make up only 7 percent of human communication. The other 93 percent consists of tone of voice and nonverbal cues such as facial expressions, gestures, and body posture.”

Sales conversations are reciprocal; the more you engage, listen and communicate effectively the better the conversation, and body language plays a large role in showing the buyer that you are sincerely curious, caring, knowledgeable and a confident leader.

An article in Insurance Journal suggests that “if the non-verbal communication is not congruent with the verbal communication, there will most likely be a failure in the overall communication.” So how can you be sure your body language is consistent with the message you are trying to convey?

Have belief—buyers respond to sincere empathy and concern. Your body language, tonality, facial expressions and gestures will convey your message if you truly believe your leadership is critical to the prospect’s success.

Selling to a Team of Decision Makers

In today’s world, most people don’t want to take on change and risk alone. Instead, they prefer to have others involved in the decision, and this enhanced risk-aversion has generated an increase in consensus decision making. What does this mean? “Getting to the decision-maker” is no longer possible. Consider this excerpt from a blog post by Seth Godin:

“When making a b2b sale, the instinct is always to get into the CEO’s office. If you can just get her to hear your pitch, to understand the value, to see why she should buy from or lease from or partner with or even buy you… that’s the holy grail. What do you think happens after that mythical meeting? She asks her team.” In most sales situations today, there are multiple decision-makers involved.

So, how do you persuade a team of risk-averse executives who have access to a wealth of information online and have no time to listen to a conventional sales pitch that sounds like every other agent or agency?

Reach across the entire team with leadership and vision—be a “Challenger.” Prompt them to think, bring innovative ideas, and find creative ways to help their business. Most importantly, be mindful that although the CEO, CFO and other high-level executives all ultimately want to make the best decision for the company, they each have their own set of objectives. Address questions to them individually to find out what specific challenges they are facing before moving forward. Only when there is clarity around what is important to each stakeholder can you link agency resources and capabilities to address the business’ risks and threats.

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.

Using an Assessment to Stay Client Focused and Differentiate

If the goal is to be valuable, improve employer outcomes, and differentiate from competitors, a well-crafted assessment can be a powerful tool for producers to use in the sales process. Conducting an assessment of the employer’s business and processes focuses the conversation on their success and outcomes.

What is an assessment? It is a prepared list of questions that provide the producer with a repeatable and consistent structure for dialog. Most importantly, it can be used to help the employer self-discover risks and threats to their business that they were previously unaware of. According to writer Tim Donnelly, you should “avoid jumping in right away with your pitch and talking about how wonderful your company is; instead, sit back and ask some probing questions of the prospect.”

It is important to remember that although these are prepared questions, you should (1) spend a significant amount of time practicing so that the questions are natural, (2) approach the conversation with genuine curiosity (3) be comfortable with the purpose of the questions, and (4) be sure that you have the ability to respond expertly and insightfully.  

A good assessment should:

 - Facilitate employer-focused dialog
 - Allow the employer to self-discover problems
 - Align the producers resources and capabilities with the goals of the prospect 

Additionally, an assessment should be used to determine if the prospect would benefit from new or added coverages or processes, and in turn, can be used as the groundwork to establish agreed upon goals and action plans that hold both parties accountable.

Leveraging Your Centers of Influence

In the last post we discussed the importance of segmenting your pipeline to manage leads. In addition to this, it is also important for producers who work on referral to have a comparable process for managing their centers of influence. Centers of influence can be clients, coworkers, or other professionals (accountants, bankers, lawyers, etc.) who have a level of influence with the prospect. As a result, their recommendation of your service and their introduction provides you with additional leverage in the sales process. According to business blogger David Chwalek, COI’s “have great potential to be among your best referral sources.”

So, how can you create opportunities to effectively utilize your centers of influence?

1) Clearly define your perfect client-type.

2) Clearly articulate how and why a business relationship with you will be advantageous for their contacts.

3) Identify which of their contacts you are interested in meeting—it is more effective to state who you would like to be introduced to rather than ask your center of influence to determine which prospects would be appropriate to meet with.

4) Create a short presentation about your sales process to inform your center of influence about the way you will engage with the prospect.

5) Express true curiosity about what your center of influence’s perfect-client type is in order to reciprocate and develop a mutually beneficial relationship.

Leveraging your centers of influence “will allow you to build strong relationships with key people, help you obtain useful information and open doors of opportunity for your career.”- Thomas Barrett

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?