Super Agent

Posts Tagged ‘producer’

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.

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.”

Should You Act or Assess?

Many of the producers we work with push back when we talk about engaging in a consistent and consultative sales process with prospects—one that allows employers to delve into the real issues they’re facing and discover where opportunities exist to get better.  It’s likely because leading, asking the tough questions, and offering innovative capabilities isn’t easy. So, even when they begin to believe in it, they are hesitant to jump in.

Then there are the producers who are satisfied with the status quo…rather than putting in the time and energy to break through existing boundaries to their own success, they are constantly on the go, moving from one transactional sale to the next.

Seth Godin explains this idea in an excellent blog post. He says, “Stalling is the last thing you need…[asking] why is often an escape hatch for people when they know what they should do, but fear doing it. The best answer for the stalling why is: Go.” But, “the best response to the impetuous, status-quo driven “Go” is to ask, “why?”

In other words, if you’re finding yourself on the verge of committing to a change that will enhance your success, rather than teetering on the fence, it’s time to forge ahead with belief and gumption. And, if you find that you’re still doing what’s worked in the past or you’re following the same flawed approach as most other agents, it’s probably time to take a step back and assess.

Producer & Agency Alignment: Gain Clarity Around These 5 Things

It makes sense that one of the most important aspects of an effective sales plan is that the agency and producers have a common understanding of their goals, motivations and capabilities. But, it’s not uncommon for us to see producers attempting to write business that can’t be profitably serviced, or agencies not allocating resources to purchase important business development tools like a CRM or email marketing software.

As you’ve likely seen, this disconnect often leads to frustration and gets in the way of an effective approach to acquiring new business. So, how do you ensure that you aren’t missing out on opportunities because of a lack of alignment? Start by gaining clarity around these 5 things:

(1)    Who is your perfect client?

(2)     What level of account complexity is best served by the agency?

(3)    What constitutes a profitable account?

(4)    What class of business does the agency have the greatest success in attracting and servicing?

(5)    What’s your story– what clear, effective message do you want to convey to prospects?

Agency principals, do your producers have the same answers to these questions as you do? Brian Tracy said: “Just as your car runs more smoothly and requires less energy to go faster and farther when the wheels are in perfect alignment, you [also] perform better.” In order to shorten sales cycles, increase retention and boost the probability of success, consider taking the time to align agency and producer strategies as part of your overall strategic sales plan.

Define Your Expectations

One of the biggest challenges and frustrations facing agency principals today is the failure of producers to perform. Producer sales goals aren’t being met, pipelines are weak and renewals are increasingly difficult. Unfortunately, most agencies don’t have an effective process in place to enhance producer performance.

There are a number of important strategies that can be incorporated into an on-boarding process or training program for existing producers, but the first step is to define your expectations.

If you’re focusing only on the revenue, you’re not setting your producers up for success. If other, more fundamental expectations are insisted on, then revenues will most likely be met. So, what expectations should you communicate to your team?

- Adhere to a sales/agency culture. Without a doubt, producers who are the most destructive to agencies are the ones who erode the agency brand. Failure to communicate the agency’s value proposition and follow the sales process can lead to decreased differentiation and confusion in the marketplace.

- Work only with right-fit clients that the agency has the capabilities to service effectively and consistently. Producers that use resources on deals that aren’t likely going to close or are a poor fit threaten the foundation of their agency.

- Develop and execute action plans to reach objectives and grow professionally. Producers who are expected to include performance activities on their calendars such as phone calls, first appointments, messaging campaigns, and networking opportunities are more likely to perform well.

“Our environment, the world in which we live and work, is a mirror of our expectations.” – Earl Nightingale

 

Make an Impact with Capabilities

According to a survey by Forrester Research, only 39% of executives say that meetings with salespeople are valuable and live up to expectations. Would the executives you meet with fall within that 39%? In our industry especially, client retention ratios are high because most employers aren’t seeing or feeling the need to change during sales conversations.

Unless they are provoked to recognize what problems threaten the success and sustainability of their business they will stick with what they have. And, they are unlikely to respond to slick jargon or a list of complex features and benefits. As Anthony Iannarino wrote on The Sales Blog, “Your dream client has seen and heard it all. Features. Benefits. Yeah. Who cares? Your dream clients don’t, that’s for sure.” Pushing a list of products, services, resources and tools isn’t value creation and doesn’t connect in the mind of the buyer with how their problems will be solved.

Instead, if you want your prospect the change, having the capabilities to help them get better is critical. Where has your agency created the greatest impact with existing clients? Maybe you have unique capabilities in the group health arena to assist employers in identifying their compliance and cost issues as well as their need to align their company’s goals with their health plan.

Identifying specific problems employers are facing and developing or honing your capabilities to address them will put you in the position to answer this question differently than the incumbent agent: “What can I do that takes on big issues and improve them in measurable ways?”

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?