Super Agent

Posts Tagged ‘opportunity’

Beware of the “Hail Mary” Trap

We have entered the second half of 2014, and many Producers are not half way to their annual new business revenue goal. As a result, in the process of trying to catch up, we see Producers start chasing low probability opportunities and throwing “Hail Mary” passes toward the end zone. This pattern frequently repeats itself year after year and creates stress for the Producer and less than satisfactory results.

It’s tough to get off this treadmill, but at some point it is necessary to take the plunge. We encourage Producers in the last half of a calendar year to make certain they are positioned to open the next year strong. If a Producer can write 2 to 3 large accounts on January 1, the whole world changes for them. Entering a year strong allows the Producer to better select their prospects and gives them the “walk away” power with low probability prospects.

Typically you don’t open a new calendar year strong if you wait until 90 days before renewal to get engaged with prospects. Start now and sift through 10 to 15 suspects that renew on January 1. Determine which ones are the best fits to move forward, and gain agreements to do business before the holidays.

We encourage you to endeavor to avoid the “catch up” game. You may take a short term hit, but if you open the new year strong you can change the game for many years to come.

Is Your Prospect Really a Prospect?

According to Inc. contributor Geoffrey James, “finding out who is not a potential customer is just as valuable a discovery as finding out who is one.” In fact, if you take the time to assess whether or not your prospect is truly a right-fit for your agency, you’ll avoid wasting valuable time and resources pursuing an opportunity that doesn’t exist.

So, where do you start? Consider this:

- Unless the organization is ready to do business with you within the next 90 says, then they aren’t a real prospect. If they’re dragging their feet and you don’t have a commitment after 90 days of assessment, it might be time to walk away.

- Are your business objectives aligned? For example, if they aren’t interested in a consultative and collaborative relationship remember that they are the commodity, not you. Don’t let a prospect take control of the sales process and move it in a negative direction. If it comes to a point where they are insisting on the lowest price or are unwilling to explore your process, know that there are plenty prospects out there that will.

- Do they have a need for what you can offer? And even further, are they willing to make agreements around what issues are most pressing and put in the work necessary to improve their outcomes?

The most effective producers understand the importance of gauging the long-term probability of engaging in a business relationship. Don’t be afraid to ask yourself: “Is my prospect really a prospect?” in order to make sure you’re not leaving too early or staying too long.

Move Toward Your Fear

Are you afraid to move up stream because you believe large companies already have the best answers or an agent with better capabilities? Are you afraid to pursue a meeting with your dream account because you don’t feel 100% prepared? Are you being asked to step out of your comfort zone because your agency’s goals and objectives are evolving?

Seth Godin recently wrote: asking “How do I get rid of fear?” is the wrong question to ask. “Fear is not the enemy. Paralysis is the enemy.”

If you wait until you feel absolutely prepared for a big meeting, or for the perfect conditions to act, opportunities you could be capturing will be lost. So, rather than moving away from your fear and avoiding opportunities because of self-doubt, choose to believe in what you have to offer and be bold enough to go down the more difficult path.

Follow-Up After 1st Meetings

First meetings are the gateways to successful business relationships, and are increasingly more difficult to come by, but many producers aren’t effectively making the best of them. Even those who have successfully positioned a meeting by developing an agenda with specific goals and objectives to cover, sending it to the prospect beforehand and sticking to it are often missing a key last step in the process: providing meaningful follow-up.

It’s important to send your prospect an email or letter outlining the key aspects of your meetings, including issues identified, opportunities to be gained, strategies and next steps. According to an article on The Marketing Donut, “research shows… potential opportunities are lost without trace simply due to lack of follow-up. People and companies who don’t follow-up, who do nothing to build up that trust and relationship, cannot succeed, especially in today’s tough economic climate.”

Following up with your prospect not only provides you with an  opportunity to re-emphasize your value and differentiate from your competitors, it will also ensure that you have a record of the sales process and of your communication with the prospect to be used as a springboard in your next meeting or as a learning tool if the relationship doesn’t move forward.

Did you follow-up after your last 1st meeting? It sounds simple, but making this modest change can make a big difference if you’re looking to stop being commoditized and to successfully lead buyers.

3 Ways to Reduce Stress & Improve Performance

One of the most important factors to being successful is to make sure that you’re continually improving. Benjamin Franklin said: “Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” The problem is, it’s easy to let your goals slip away without a good plan in place to minimize stress and better your performance.

When was the last time you evaluated your path to success? If it’s been a while, here are 3 things to consider doing in order to help you get there:

#1- Execute a Plan to Protect Your Existing Book of Business

This is one of the biggest stressors that producers face—ensuring that their clients are still feeling connected, engaged and working in alignment with the agency. We often hear, “I’m so busy managing my book of business that I don’t have time to develop new business opportunities.” So, in order to prevent this from happening we suggest that you plan ahead. Determine which accounts drive 80 percent of your revenue, then calendar regularly scheduled meetings with them in order to conduct assessments, establish action plans, and measure the improvements to their business.

#2- Identify and Monitor Your Key Performance Indicators

A few examples of these are research calls, face-to-face meetings, COI meetings, and marketing emails. Most producers don’t block out time on their calendars for anything other than meetings. For example, many will use a free hour here or there to make phone calls, but nowhere on their calendar is there time to follow-up with those prospects…the time spent calling becomes time wasted. So make appointments with yourself to develop thought leadership, send out messaging, and make prospecting phone calls. Just be sure that you are treating the appointments you make with yourself with the same level of importance as those you make with others.

#3- Modify to Stay on Track

Don’t be afraid to modify your plan if it’s not working. Schedule your own performance review time to ask yourself if you’re meeting your goals and what activities should be increased or reduced. And, don’t forget to reward yourself for any growth and improvement that you see.

Discovery = Opportunity

What kind of producer are you? Do you search to find what most prospects think they want—the lowest price—or do you help them discover what they didn’t know they needed?

Seth Godin recently wrote an excellent blog post on the difference between search and discovery. He said: “Search is what we call the action of knowing what you want and questing until you ultimately find it…discovery is what happens when an organization, or a friend help you encounter something you didn’t even know you were looking for.” He argues that helping your clients find something they didn’t know they needed is a huge opportunity, and we agree.

Most employers are satisfied with where they are; they have no idea that their business may be at risk or that their process for engaging with insurance agents is putting up barriers to their own success. The good news is, the majority of agents aren’t leading prospects through a process of discovery. So, if you do, you’ll not only help the prospect along the road to better outcomes, you’ll also differentiate yourself.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “We are all inventors; each sailing out on a voyage of discovery…the world is all gates, all opportunities.”

6 Questions to Ask CFO’s

Many of the agents that we talk to, especially those working with larger accounts, struggle to drive sales conversations with CFO’s. The good news is, part of the role of the CFO is to have a long-view of the success of their organization, and so managing risk is often of special interest to them. But, most CFO’s want risk to be clearly identified and defined, and managed with specific responsibilities assigned. So, if your dialog with them is jargon-filled and vague then they’re likely to lose interest and take you back to price.

In order for a CFO to see the value of engaging with you, it’s necessary that you bring strategic ideas, data connected to strategy and, most importantly, thought-provoking questions to the table. Dialog is the pathway to discovery and change behavior, so here are 6 questions you might consider asking a CFO in a sales conversation:

How confident are you that…

1- …your risk profile and risk management strategies are in alignment with what you want to achieve as an organization?

2- …you are using non-financial information (along with financial information) to build your organization’s risk profile?

3- … you’re adequately assessing how risk events can potentially affect your business strategy?

4- … you’ve identified the smart risks that will create opportunities for success?

5- … risks are well integrated with operational management goals?

6- … risks and performance indicators are being continually monitored to gauge progress toward business objectives?

Having conversations with CFO’s around growth and sustainability, more effective and efficient use of their premium dollars, improved outcomes and a future based on their vision for their business is something that most agents aren’t doing. So, assess your prospect list, talk to your current clients… take advantage of this opportunity to differentiate and grow your business.

Are You On Cruise Control?

Sales strategist and expert Jill Konrath linked to an excellent video on her blog recently about how to be an invaluable sales resource. She said, “prospects have so many options — and they know it. When you tell them, “We’re special” — they don’t believe you. If you say, “We have a passion for excellence” — they don’t care one little bit. Tons of companies have the same passion for excellence… I bring this up because lots of you are on cruise control. Believe me, I’ve been on cruise control before and had my whole career wiped out because of it.”

Are you on cruise control? Are you engaging in the bid-and-quote cycle that is ineffective and dangerous to employers, are you scrambling to fill your pipeline because you haven’t spent enough time on prospecting activities, do your marketing materials still highlight your agency’s features and benefits?

There are a lot of people on cruise control in our industry, but that only means that there are big opportunities for agents who take back the controls and drive against the wind. Jill’s advice is to be constantly growing and learning, to be students, “to make more connections, go to a conference, sign-up for newsletters, learn more.”

If you haven’t done anything recently to increase the value you provide to your clients and to increase your own success, now is a great time to start.

Check out the full video here and let us know what you think.