Super Agent

Posts Tagged ‘prospect’

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.

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.

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.

Use Action Plans to Manage “Initiative Overload”

A recent article from Bain & Company talks about the common problem that occurs when organizations are bogged down with initiative overload—they “are like swimmers buffeted by cross currents coming from every direction”, and the result is often fragmentation and unremarkable results for the company and the client or prospect.

As an agency owner, producer or service team member, you’ll likely relate to the problems that arise from “initiative overload”…maybe you have to tackle a surprise request from a client, address an unforeseen risk or scramble to deliver on promises made during the sales process.

The article provides a few great tips for overcoming initiative overload such as (1) managing your time to determine what your strategic priorities are, (2) clearly defining your responsibility for each initiative, and (3) determining your involvement by establishing distinct decision processes and maintaining open communication. But in order to avoid initiative overload all together, we would recommend creating action plans.

So, when and how do you create an action plan? Action plans are the culmination of agreements gained during the sales process, and depending on the size of the agency, the prospect and producer should agree to take on 1 to 2 initiatives per quarter or year. They represent the work that needs to be accomplished by both parties in order to strengthen and protect the client’s business.

In many ways, in order to retain accounts and grow your book of business, implementation of agreed upon initiatives is not only necessary; it also provides a big opportunity to differentiate. But, successful implementation only happens when there is a strong action plan in place. In today’s challenging marketplace, an action plan ensures that timelines won’t become hazy, promises won’t be broken, and both parties will get the most out of the relationship.

Sales Opportunities Beyond Placing Policies

Many of the agents we speak with believe that only the broker of record (BOR) is in the position to establish a relationship with an employer and gain new business. But when your sales process and approach is truly consultative, this idea doesn’t hold up. Insurance policies don’t always address every risk or problem an employer faces. In fact, many (if not most) times there are issues that have been transferred year after year to an employer’s policy that are still unresolved. What’s more, the road to obtaining new clients is more complex in today’s selling environment.

So, when an employer has a problem that is exposed during a conversation, why not be prepared to offer them a solution for a fee?  Leading a prospect to recognize issues that exist and offering your specialized services, tools and capabilities on a fee-basis  not only helps diversify your revenue, it also differentiates you and allows you to establish an initial relationship that could lead to engagement in the future.

For example, what if your agents performed an injury management assessment for a fee and helped employers uncover underlying issues with their reporting process?

If a business is implementing dangerous practices or is struggling to assess their risks, the opportunity is there for agents to step in and offer solutions. Don’t be afraid to put a price tag on the value that you bring to your client relationships—value based fees are directly related to serving their best interests.

How Prospects “Check You Out”

A recent study by Hinge found the top 4 ways buyers “check out” sellers in today’s crowded marketplace. In the age of the internet, most no longer turn to referrals of references to get a better perspective on the capabilities, resources and expertise an organization has to offer.

So, what are the top methods?

(1)    Website. According to the study, over 80% of buyers evaluate you through your website before turning to any other method.

(2)    Online search. The next most common strategy is utilizing a search engine to look more deeply at your online presence.

(3)    Friends and colleagues. Word of mouth is a powerful tool when you have advocates.

(4)    Social Media. We’re often surprised by how many agencies aren’t utilizing social media tools to help build their brands. Social media plays an important role in establishing yourself as a thought leader and industry influencer.

The study suggests that “in most cases, a buyer can Google [you], check out your website, and explore conversation about your work on social media in less time than it would take to get in touch with a reference you’ve provided…. As buyers increasingly look online for solutions, it is more essential than ever that sellers address their online brand. Social and search are no longer optional.”

Have you been building your brand using strategies of the past? Does your marketing plan rely heavily on referrals? If you’re still considering whether or not to invest in quality website development or in committing to building a social media presence, there is no better time to take the leap than now.

“The key to success is often the ability to adapt.” – Anthony Brandt

Having Difficult Sales Conversations: Part 1

In a great post on The Sales Blog, Anthony Iannarino says that in order to create greater value, you have to have difficult conversations—“You are going to have to talk openly about the big changes that are going to need to occur for your client to succeed, for you to succeed together… What makes you strategic is your willingness to deal with the biggest, nastiest, foulest issues.”

We often talk about the importance of producers leading the sales process during the first meeting and willingly stepping into tension filled moments to challenge and engage a prospect. Without a little discomfort, it’s unlikely that anything new is being brought to the table. And today’s buyers expect new ideas.

So, if you find that you’re reluctant to have difficult and probing conversations with clients, it’s important to assess where your fear is stemming from. Do you need to gain new capabilities in order to confidently address the issues a prospect or client is facing? Are you letting self-doubt or the need to “be liked” get in the way of your success? Do you know the impact you have on your clients and the outcomes you help them to achieve?

Getting comfortable with uncomfortable topics of conversation is a big step toward differentiation, as long as you do so with humility and without pushing away the prospect.

Iannarino asked: “Will you go there? Will you give the elephant a name and tame him?”

What strategies do you use to create positive tension during your sales meetings? Are you trying to overcome your fears around this issue? Let us know in the comments, and be on the lookout for Part 2 next week.

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?