Super Agent

Posts Tagged ‘process’

The “Value-Added” Problem

Speaker and innovator Simon Sinek told a story on his blog about a Groupon deal from an auto center offering headlight restoration. The catch? The deal was only for one headlight. He explains: “What the company appeared to be saying was ‘Come get a great deal on headlight restoration!’ What I understood was ‘Come let us take care of half of what you really need…’”

How are you engaging with prospects to offer value? If you’ve ever said “If we’re close on price and you go with us, we’ll give you ____ for free” during a sales conversation then you may want to think about whether or not your prospects are having a similar reaction to Simon’s.

Are you offering value-added services to try to influence transactions? And, even if you’re landing a few accounts this way, what does it say about your genuine interest and capabilities to help employers get better?

We’ve said it before: it’s not your services that differentiate you, its how you engage, and how you collaborate. It’s your process.

If your goals are to grow your business, build mutually beneficial business relationships, help your clients uncover problems and achieve the best outcomes, don’t undermine these goals by offering empty incentives or services that aren’t connected to employer needs.

Ask Yourself Smart Questions

Inc. contributor and Sales Source blogger Geoffrey James recently wrote a great article on why the quality of the questions business owners ask themselves determines the success of their business strategies. For example, consider the following two questions:

“How can we beat the competition?” versus “What do we do that is uniquely valuable to customers?”

So, how would your answers and subsequent business strategies differ for these two questions? The first question is the wrong one to ask because it directs your attention away from your customers and toward your competitors. On the other hand, the second question is customer-focused and it helps you find out what’s distinctive about your process and offerings. James also explained: If you ask Question #1, your strategy will probably involve dropping your price. If you ask Question #2, your strategy will be to emphasize more strongly whatever it is that makes your company special.” And, understanding what differentiates your agency is the first step in building, following and believing in a strong and consultative approach to selling.

Here’s another example to consider: “How can we make our numbers better?” versus “How can we serve our clients better?”

Agency owners and sales managers: Are you asking smart and client-focused alternatives to common questions business leaders ask themselves? What questions have you asked yourself in order to help you improve your business strategies? Share them with us in the comments.

I Hear and I Forget; I See and I Remember

We recently came across an interesting article that talks about the “Achilles’ ear—a weakness that lies not in a mythical hero’s heel, but in the real-life way the brain processes sound and memory.” According to the findings of a University of Iowa study, auditory memory lags far behind both visual and tactile memory (and the gap only increases over time).

The study comes as a reminder that engaging multiple senses is your best bet for making a strong and memorable impact on employers during sales conversations. This is not to say that what you say isn’t important. Engaging in a consultative sales process, asking thought provoking questions, and gaining verbal agreements are vital to successful meetings. But you’ll likely be even more successful if you remember to engage a few other senses.

For example, consider using graphic overviews in your meetings to represent your sales process, an idea or other detailed information. Even better, allow prospects to interact with the graphic on an iPad, or leave them with a hard copy at the end of your conversation.

The brain remembers what it sees and feels more than what it hears, and taking advantage of this by utilizing visual and interactive tools not only positions you in a unique way it also helps you to stay in control of your process.

Your One Shot At A First Impression

According to a recent report by Corporate Visions, studies have “shown that buyers remember only 10% of your message just one week after you leave the room. But, if you make the effort to attach your story to a simple, concrete visual, your buyers remember 65% of your conversation.”

Today, most of us are accustomed to everything being streamlined, simplified or one-click away. So, although utilizing a visual tool during a meeting may seem like something small, you are much more likely to capture a decision maker’s attention and keep them engaged if you do.

For example, a graphic overview that represents your implementation process, a complicated idea, your sales process or other detailed information can not only help you be remembered, but will also help you:

  • Have more effective conversations by allowing you to take control of the sales process,
  • Provide a memorable representation of the potential relationship between the prospect and your agency,
  • Turn complex concepts into something tangible for your prospects,
  • Position yourself in a unique way that differentiates you from your competitors.

Are you using visual tools to give prospects a clear sense of your story and your process? How might using them enhance communication and engagement?

Value Creation Leads to Growth

In a recent blog post by sales expert Anthony Iannarino, he told a story about a struggling restaurant whose owner, in an attempt to increase profitability, switched to a less expensive meat supplier. The problem? The meat was of poor quality, business continued to decline, and cutting costs didn’t address the real issue—the owner “was creating too little value.”

The restaurant owner’s fatal mistake was failing to ask himself why his customers weren’t returning and what they really wanted. When was the last time you asked:

(1)   “Why should a prospect choose to engage with us over our competitors?”

If you believe in your value and your process, don’t narrow the conversation to focus only on price. You’re only doing yourself a disservice and playing into the prospect’s belief that insurance is a commodity, and that all agents are the same.

(2)   “What do my clients really want?”

It’s important to consider not only how you can demonstrate past performance to them, but most importantly, how you can prepare them for future opportunities based on their vision for their business. Continually assess where you can help them—think sustainability, more effective use of premium dollars, better outcomes and reduced risks.

Its’ not easy to stick to your process, have tough conversations with prospects, improve sales outcomes or gain the capabilities to understand issues and identify opportunities for clients. But, these things are what differentiate you. Don’t make the same mistake the restaurant owner did by failing to recognize that value creation is what leads to growth.

The Fear of Going Back

On a recent coaching call with a group of producers, we found that a few of them were facing the same issue—they were experiencing the fear of going back. During the sales process, skipping steps had caused them to miss important opportunities to help the prospect. But, instead of circling back and addressing what they missed, they let it go. They let their fear drive them and ultimately both parties lost out.

Consider this: A college professor realizes he included a faulty question on an exam. Instead of letting everyone get the question wrong for fear of revealing his mistake, he sends out an email to inform his students and allows everyone to receive credit for it. If this happened to you, would you be thinking: “My professor made a mistake” or “my professor cares enough to review his own work, reach out to me and fix an issue”?

Most prospects and clients appreciate transparency and humility and would be pleased to know that you care enough to think about them post-meeting. As Jill Konrath said in her recent blog post, “selling is a thinking-intensive profession today. It requires you to engage your brain, to invest time learning, to strategize and create.” Taking the time to think about, review and assess is impressive to buyers, even if you missed something the first time around.

Don’t let your fear prevent you from bringing your prospect closer.

Don’t Wait to Be Picked

One of our favorite bloggers, Seth Godin, recently wrote: “skip depending on being found on the shelf and go directly to the people who care.” He suggests that because your odds of getting found on a crowded shelf are slim, the shelf shouldn’t be your goal.

What does this mean for you?

Likely you don’t want to work with every business owner that wants or needs to buy insurance—you want to work with those who are willing to adopt your process, who are interested in building a collaborative relationship to address risk management strategies and who motivate and reward you intellectually, emotionally and financially. But too often, we see producers hoping to be found instead of acting with intention to attract the clients they want to work with.

Are your messages and thought leadership focused on the issues your ideal client might be facing, or the opportunities that exist for them to get better? If not, then you’re simply creating content for content’s sake.  Are you allowing yourself to be treated like a commodity during the sales process? Instead, think abundance. Don’t leave too early, but don’t stay too long if the prospect isn’t open to your leadership.

Allow yourself to believe that the decision makers you want to do business with would be best served by engaging with you, and don’t wait to be picked from the shelf.

Seth said it best: “Be the one and only dominator in a category of one, a category that couldn’t really exist if you weren’t in it.”

Planning with Intention: Do You Know the End at the Beginning?

When you step into a meeting with a prospect, do you have a clear sense of where you want it to end and the steps you need to take in order to get there? Do you spend time at the end of the year putting activities on the calendar that will help you reach your goals for the following year? According to Seth Godin: “Critical path analysis works backward, looking at the calendar and success and at each step from the end to the start… most organizations focus on shiny objectives or contentious discussions or get sidetracked by emergencies instead of honoring the critical path.”

It might be easier to follow a prospect’s process instead of leading them through your own, and the same goes for focusing on the front end of your pipeline instead of filling it from the back end. But those producers who plan for the end at the beginning will be able to pivot when the time is necessary but never lose sight of the path to the end goal.

For example, if you are clear on the value you provide and who you want to work with then you are much less likely to engage in a transactional sale with a buyer who was never the right fit to begin with. And, if you include business development activities on your calendar as you look toward 2014, you will be comforted in knowing that you have commitments in place that will help you achieve your goals.

Oliver Wendell Holmes said: “To reach a port we must sail, sometimes with the wind, and sometimes against it. But we must not drift.” Do you want to drift, fighting fires as you face them, or do you want to approach your year, your day or your meeting with intention?