Super Agent

Posts Tagged ‘sales process’

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?

What Not to Do On a Sales Call

We recently had a call with a company who does excellent marketing and lead generation work. Their messaging is clear and consistent with no sales jargon or company-focused language. And, they push out a great variety of content including survey results, articles and engaging videos. So, we were expecting the same level of quality and seamlessness from their sales process.

Unfortunately, we were wrong. Here’s why the call blew up:

(1)    They didn’t do their research.

They started off by asking us to tell them a little bit about what we do and what we were looking to achieve on the call, immediately handing over the reigns as opposed to leading. We’ve said before that, during sales conversations, it’s critical to answer the questions prospect’s don’t know to ask by challenging them to think, proposing new ideas and revealing creative ways that you can help them. Instead, without research, the first portion of the meeting will be spent gathering information that could have been learned online.

(2)    They didn’t qualify us.

This goes hand-in-hand with the issue above. Because they didn’t qualify us before scheduling a call, during the meeting, it became clear that we were most likely not a right-fit to engage with them. Don’t get caught in the fear-of-losing-business trap. Many agents operate on the belief that they need to take advantage of every business opportunity that presents itself, but doing so is not in your best interest or in the best interest of the buyer.

(3)    They made it about price.

Even as we tried to steer the conversation away from price and toward what value they might have to offer, they continued to focus on the cost of their services instead. Imagine the difference in power between conversations that begin with “Here’s the bottom line, we offer ___ and it is ___ price.” versus “From the research I’ve done, I understand that you are facing these challenges…”

(4)    The conversation was company-focused.

“This is what we do.”

“This is who we do it for.”

“This is how much of an investment it will be.”

Dialog is only effective when it’s consultative and client-focused. Are you trying to sell your services to prospects, or are you trying to positively influence them to get to a better place?

Overall, it is important to ensure that the process you use to nurture prospective clients aligns with the conversations you have once they raise their hand. Also, remember the significance of researching and qualifying your prospects, and ask yourself how you will pivot if you identify early on that they are not a right fit. Do so in a way that still allows you to keep the door open in the event that your value proposition changes and the opportunity to engage with them arises in the future.

Are You Setting Yourself Apart In These 4 Areas?

We often talk about differentiation as one objective high on the list for producers. But, when does differentiation happen?

Here are 4 opportunities to differentiate along the sales continuum:

1- The first opportunity comes with your agency’s website and marketing activities. Buyers are busier than ever, and they’re resistant to self-focused marketing content and empty sales jargon. It’s important that the content you push out has a fresh design, piques the employer’s curiosity and always remains outcome-focused.

2- The second opportunity is in preparation for your first face to face meeting, where you will either take control of the sale by leading the buyer to follow your process, or you’ll begin following theirs. So, don’t wing it. You should always have goals in mind for every conversation.

3-  The third opportunity is when you’re positioning the exchange of value in the sales process. Will you engage with the prospect honestly and establish mutual accountability? It’s important to share the hard truth of what will be required of them in order for the relationship to be successful as well as your own commitments.

4-  Last is the opportunity to continue to prepare your existing clients for the constant changes that will occur throughout your business relationship. Part of your stewardship of the account is to provide them with as much insight as to what can be expected as the marketplace shifts and evolves.

The bottom line is that it’s your process—the way you engage across the entire customer experience—that ultimately differentiates you from your competitors, not your products or services. As HBR contributor James Allen wrote on differentiation: It “isn’t what you own or what you say you’re going to do, it is what you do, every day, through repeatable activities to serve your customers better than the competition.”

Selling to Multiple Decision Makers

Does this scenario sound familiar to you? After a few meetings with a prospect, you’ve established that there will be a number of stakeholders at the next meeting who are all important in the buying process. Maybe one of them is an economic buyer who is focused on the bottom line, another might care more about seeing a better opportunity for their business in the future, and another may be completely fearful of change and is putting up the most resistance to following your process of engagement.

It’s natural to feel overwhelmed when a team of buyers all have a say in the decision making process. It used to be that agents tried to get to “The Decision Maker”, the one whose ultimate choice it was whether or not to move forward. Today, business executives are more risk averse, and the stakes are higher. No one wants to take on complex and important decisions on their own. But, that doesn’t mean that they all have the same intentions. Each person in the room with you has a different set of priorities.

So, how do you successfully engage and sell to multiple stakeholders?

Julie Battilana, an associate professor of organizational behavior at Harvard Business School says: “You control when and how you pass information along. And you can [and should] adapt your message for different people… Pay attention to how people behave; ask questions, both direct and indirect, to gauge their sentiments; and keep a mental record of your observations.” It’s important to address each person in the buying network, and talk about how the change will impact their individual goals and objectives. The most successful agents will use real leadership and gumption to recognize the complex needs of today’s organizations and leverage that knowledge to offer value.

Share your stories with us. What strategies do you use to navigate a sale with many decision makers involved in the buying process?

4 Steps to Craft a Powerful Story

 What’s the best way to get a buyer emotionally engaged and invested? Tell a story. Stories are powerful tools that can be used to influence change behavior and move the sales process toward a mutually beneficial relationship. But, most of us aren’t professional storytellers, and the thought of developing a compelling story can seem daunting.

So, we’ve put together these 4 steps to help you get it right:

Step 1: Provide a setting. What is the background of the story? For example, you may describe a frustrating scenario you think the buyer has experienced in the past.

Step 2: Introduce the conflict. The inspiration and influence in any story exists in the conflicts. Ask yourself: what is getting in the way of the protagonists success? Remember, in your story, the prospect is always the hero. Find out what is keeping them from achieving what they desire and build your story around that conflict to pack an emotional punch.

Step 3: Describe the “Ah-Ha” moment—the moment in time when there is a sudden realization or new insight. Think about your “Ah’Ha” moments. When did you realize that there is more to this profession than just the placement of policies? When the moment happens in your story, it should also happen for the buyer.

Step 4: Resolve the story. Paint a picture of a better future with improved outcomes.

Forbes contributor Jim Blasingame says this about the power of storytelling: “In a time of rapidly compounding technology generations, the most successful businesses will consistently deliver high touch to customers with one of our oldest traits – the telling of a story”

Data Wrapped In a Story

If you had to guess, which of these two people would you except to have a higher auto insurance premium?

-        A 19 year old boy with a red Corvette

-        A 49 year old woman with a silver Toyota Camry

If you guessed the 19 year old, you’re with the majority of folks who get asked this question. And, until recent technology made it possible to see the real-time data associated with these two drivers, you would have most likely been right. However, now that insurance companies are using their own data analytics to make decisions about pricing policies, they can see that the woman is actually the less safe driver.

Big Data is changing the way things work in our industry—carriers are moving beyond utilizing basic metrics, and agencies must adapt. As we discussed in a previous post, the future belongs to those agencies who can leverage this technology and who can get the data moving in the right direction. Simply telling a great story about a prospect won’t cut it when companies can reference their analytics. Data trumps story every time in these situations.

But, we’re not suggesting that you should rule out the power of utilizing stories. The best agencies will use both data and story to win new business. How? Move the needle, but wrap it in a compelling story during the sales process. Cognitive psychologist, Jerome Bruner explains: “A fact wrapped in a story is 22 times more memorable.”

For example, let’s assume that you have developed the skills and processes to eliminate or improve circumstances that put an employer’s business at risk (decreasing the number and duration of injuries, helping them build new business relationships, etc.). By doing this, you’re moving the data. Weave this information into a story, and you not only provide the facts, but you also arouse your listener’s emotions and energy to act.

Ask These 3 Questions Before Creating a Marketing Message

Today, most buyers prefer to engage electronically before they meet with anyone face-to-face. In fact, it is becoming increasingly clear that the sales process no longer starts with the first face-to-face meeting—buyers are doing their research before allowing anyone a spot on their calendar, so an effective messaging strategy is now a key component of an effective sales process.

In a blog post on hbr.com by Steve W. Martin, he explains: “Successful communication is the cornerstone of all sales. Winners have the ability to tailor compelling messages that resonate with the various evaluators across the organization.”

Before crafting any message, it’s important to be clear on the answers to these three questions:

(1)   Who is your ideal client?

(2)   Why should the prospect buy from you as opposed to your competitors?

(3)   What problems does the prospect have that you can solve?

Buyers demand value from you up front, even before they meet you, so top producers must learn to frequently and consistently convey how they create value for businesses beyond the placement of policies. Answering these questions will position you to develop client-focused messages that pique curiosity, affirm your expertise and prompt the prospect to say, “I want to hear more.”