Super Agent

Posts Tagged ‘risk management’

Sales Process vs. Technical Knowledge: You Need Both

We often talk about the importance of having an effective and repeatable sales process.  Subscribing to a process shortens the learning curve for new producers, provides prospects with a consistent engagement experience and, most importantly, helps them self-discover what risks exist that threaten their business, and what they hope to accomplish. But ultimately, it’s just as important to have the technical knowledge needed to step in for your clients when things are going wrong and correct dangerous situations.  

For example, in a complex business transaction between two or more entities, you have to know what the rules are with respect to experience ratings and experience mods. If you leave a situation up to chance and let it play itself out, you could be unnecessarily costing your clients tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It’s not enough to simply talk about reducing risks—improving technical knowledge will not only improve sales outcomes, it will also allow you to rise to the occasion with confidence when there is a lot at stake, and provide measurable value to clients.

Do you feel that you have the depth and breadth of knowledge needed to understand issues and identify opportunities? It’s not easy, but it’s essential.

Bring a Sense of Urgency to Your Conversations

Employers face many risks and threats to their employees and companies, and they are often completely unaware of it. Because of this, agents can play a vital role in helping them recognize and decrease those risks.  For example, I recently had a conversation with a producer who told me this story:

A company sells and installs chair lifts in people’s homes who need help getting to the second floor. If a customer were to fall down the stairs because of a malfunction or other issue with the lift, the company would be liable. The employer  assumes they’re covered if an issue like this occurs because they have general liability insurance, but the producer discovers that they have no Products Coverage, so they’re covered for slips and trips on the showroom floor, but not when a customer is injured using their product at home.

This is an urgent situation! The employer is at a significant risk because they don’t know that their number 1 risk isn’t covered. But, the producer insists that they are “insured by ABC insurance company who I don’t represent”, or “their renewal date is too far away so I’m stuck.” The producer ends up leaving the employer in fast-moving traffic instead of snatching them out of the road and taking control of the situation.

It is important to bring a sense of urgency to your conversations when a situation is urgent. Gain agreements with the employer in order to move forward with the relationship in a way that will benefit both of you—work on a fee-basis until renewal, or become the agent the same day and worry about placing the policy later.

“It is not enough that we do our best; sometimes we must do what is required.”- Winston Churchill

Pick Your Customers

A recent blog post from marketing guru Seth Godin focuses on the importance of choosing your customers before deciding on what product or service to provide. He says: “too often, we pick the product or service first, deciding that it’s perfect and then rushing to market, sure that the audience will sort itself out. Too often, though, we end up with nothing.”

In our profession, we’re in a great position to pick our customers and decide what kind of buyer we would like to do business with before engaging. For example, do you like working with blue collar folks? High-hazard, high-work comp, high-general liability is probably the right way to go for you. Once you know who you want to work with, you can become an expert in an industry niche and set yourself apart.

Agencies can choose to develop distinct capabilities from a wide array of services to assist employers—the important thing is to be better than your competition at something unique and important to the success of the clients that you serve.

According to HBR contributor Daniel Gulati, “The choice between staying general and specializing is a difficult one, but often, the specialist wins. Those who successfully typecast themselves can seize new job opportunities, deliver value quickly, and move forward with confidence.”

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?

The Duck-Rabbit Paradigm: Why You Can’t Just “Go Back” to a Consultative Approach

 

In conversations with some of our members we find that too often, producers allow their fear to drive them to a place of comfort even when they know the behaviors they revert back to aren’t effective. Much like their own clients and prospects, it is hard for them to make the decision to change without looking back. We hear, “I’ll just do this for a while, take some pressure off, get a couple wins on the board, and then I’ll go right back to a more consultative approach.” The problem with this is that two, three, even 6 months down the road they’re still making transactional, commodity driven sales and there’s never a good day to switch back.

Take a look at the photo above. What do you see? If you see a rabbit, look for a duck and vice versa. Now, can you look at it again without seeing both? According to scientific research, most people would answer no. Once you’ve allowed yourself to make the shift, it’s very difficult to go back. The same is true in the sales process.

So, you have to ask yourself: Who do I want to be? Am I addressing the real challenges employers are facing? Am I leading them away from a dangerous path? It takes gumption to take a stand and make the decision to change, sincerely and entirely. But, we would argue that if you adopt a consultative, collaborative approach with the objective of helping the buyer self-discover risks to their business you will differentiate yourself from competitors and see greater success.

“A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.”- James Cook

Sparking New Awareness

I’ve recently been reading  Shift: How to Trigger Events that Turn Prospects into Customers, a book written by Craig Elias and Tibor Shanto focused on leveraging important “trigger events” to get ahead of motivated decision makers at the opportune time. According to the book, a buyer is in one of three phases before you engage with them for the first time.

(1) Status Quo mindset: this is the stage that you will find most decision-makers in; they are currently satisfied and are completely unaware of any risks or threats to their business. They see no reason to change or look for alternatives.

(2) Window of Dissatisfaction: Decision-makers in this stage are unhappy with the status quo; they have some awareness of dissatisfaction, but they aren’t actively seeking out alternatives.

(3) Searching for Alternatives: At this point, decision-makers are already dissatisfied and are actively seeking out new solutions. They have probably already engaged with one or more of your competitors.

When a buyer has entered into the Window of Dissatisfaction, their perception of the value you provide is much greater than in either of the other phases, and they are more likely to change. The greatest opportunity for agents is when buyer’s are in this phase—after they have become dissatisfied with the status quo, but before any competitors enter into the picture. A movement into this phase can be triggered by one or more of these events:

-The buyer has had a bad experience

-There has been a change in their organization. For example, a new CEO is hired.

-A new awareness has been sparked, particularly with regard to risk.

Agents can’t control the first two factors, but they can spark awareness.  Engaging in client-centric dialog with a decision-maker and asking pointed questions allows agents to help buyers self-discover risks and threats to their business so that they become dissatisfied with the status quo and are ready to make a change. One of the most powerful triggers and catalysts of change is to craft a narrative of “what is” vs. “what could be”. Only when a decision maker is dissatisfied will they come to a turning point and make a commitment.

3 Tips to Stop Being Commoditized

How can producers facilitate dialog to help prospects uncover risks and reduce the possibility of being commoditized? Here are three tips:

Tip #1: Follow a Process 

Developing and following a repeatable process will allow you to build conversations utilizing the kind of disruptive dialog necessary to facilitate change behavior in the buyer and help them self-discover risks to their business. It also helps to sharpen and strengthen your brand, and it ensures that each prospect who engages with the agency has a similar experience.
An article on Inc.com examines the importance of subscribing to a process:  “For successful businesses, the sales process has become a communications process that evolves through a series of decisions both you and your customer will be making. At each decision point, you will be achieving mutual understanding and establishing clarity about what you are saying to each other and how you will proceed.”

Tip #2: Understand Your Why

Ask yourself and your colleagues this question: “Why should a prospect engage with us instead of our greatest competitor?” Knowing why your agency engages in the way in which it does is essential. Simon Sinek explains: “Those who know their Why are the ones who lead. They are the ones who inspire.” Is it because you are certain your process is more effective and will yield the best outcomes? Is it to help employers select the right-fit carriers, or help them more effectively navigate the complex buying experience? Whatever the reason, producers must know the answer to this question and be able to convey it to prospects.

Tip #3: Believe

Do you believe that most employers follow a flawed process to manage risk and buy insurance that is potentially harmful to their organization? Do you believe most prospects are underserved in the marketplace? Developing a belief system in what you do and why you do it will help you stay motivated throughout the year to help your clients achieve better outcomes.

Leveraging Carrier Assets

Just like agencies, not all insurance carriers are created equally, and both are facing similar challenges in today’s uncertain business environment. Although agents become frustrated when they are treated as a commodity, they often play carriers against each other to get the lowest price and essentially take the same commoditizing approach they despise from their own customers.

Carriers have the ability to assist agents and buyers in the transfer of risks, in reducing and avoiding losses and in helping make better risk-management decisions. For example, some carriers have stronger loss control and safety teams, some have experience and knowledge in specific industries, some have more effective claims teams, etc. How frequently do you conduct a comprehensive assessment of the buyer’s risks and needs, and then seek out a carrier that is best suited to address them?

According to an Insurance Journal article that breaks down a survey of independent insurance agents conducted by Channel Harvest Research, “Independent agents named customer price as the leading factor that influences them to select another market over their preferred market.”

Opportunities await agencies and carriers that take the initiative to align their partnerships to improve their respective outcomes, and most importantly, to better serve the buyer. By combining the unique capabilities of the agency and the unique capabilities of the carrier, producers will position themselves to best address the risks of their clients, and prospects will see the value of engaging, even if the relationship comes at a higher price.