Super Agent

Posts Tagged ‘sales’

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.

Everyone’s Plan

In a recent conversation with a producer and an account executive, they told us how they were moving through the sales process with a large account. And what they had to say about their approach is worth sharing with you here.

To start, the two of them conducted 3 separate meetings with 3 different groups of people within the organization—the feet on the street, middle management (including HR) and finally, the C-Suite. Each conversation was tailored to the needs and wants of the groups and assessments were made about the state of the company.

Then they made an interesting decision. Before going back to the C-Suite to deliver their proposal, they created a draft of it to take to the other groups. In that meeting, they presented their plan with the intent to not only gain agreements but to also collaborate. They said, “Here are our recommendations….did we miss anything?”

The result was enormously powerful.  The feet on the street people and the middle managers became invested in the plan, and everyone at all levels of the organization eagerly anticipated the next step—the meeting with the C-Suite. It became everyone’s plan, and everyone had a stake in it being received well.

Too often, we see producers trying to get around this person or that person in order to get to the people at the top who really make the decisions. But that’s a mistake. Engaging with teams of buyers at all levels is becoming more common, and, as this story demonstrates, if you can get the entire organization on board so that they are invested in the success of the proposal, you win.

Face-to-Face

With the rise of new communication technologies and the Internet, face-to-face interaction has been largely replaced by conference calls, emails, or text messages. But, although these modes of communication are necessary and important, don’t underestimate the value of engaging with someone in person.

In one of our first blog posts, we talked about an agent with a difficult issue who discussed the challenge with us and set a strategy for moving forward. Then, the agent asked: “Should I send my client an email detailing what we’ve discussed?”

In these types of situations, where important issues need to be resolved or discussed, an email doesn’t leverage the most powerful aspects of communication. In an article on Forbes, contributor Carol Goman wrote: “In face-to-face meetings, our brains process the continual cascade of nonverbal cues that we use as the basis for building trust and professional intimacy. Face-to-face interaction is information-rich. We interpret what people say to us only partially from the words they use. We get most of the message (and all of the emotional nuance behind the words) from vocal tone, pacing, facial expressions and body language.”

Investing your time and attention with your clients by having a conversation in person is the best way to resolve the tough issues. And, it’s also important to check in (in-person) periodically with your most important clients in order to sustain and grow the business relationship.

When was the last time you had a face-to-face meeting with a long-time client? Did you have an in-person meeting with a client the last time you were working to resolve a big issue?

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.

Apply the Power of Brain Science

In a recent article on Inc.com, Geoffrey James talks about ways to use neuroscience in order to improve presentations. He says that all of the effort and money put in to understanding how the mind works is good news for every business person, because there are significant insights that can be used to make business relationships better.

We’ve talked about the science of decision making before, and the huge impact it has on driving successful sales meetings. But, this article offers a few additional pearls we thought were worth breaking down:

- The first tip is to customize your presentations. Although the way we process information and make decisions is the same, each individual (even within the same organization) has a different set of objectives, goals and desires. In other words, don’t have the same conversation with the CEO that you have with the CFO. Do your research on what might be important to them and on what unique challenges they may be facing and tailor your stories and questions for each meeting.

- Next up, show and tell. James explains that “the latest neuroscience research has revealed that human beings process words and pictures in different physical areas of the brain.” In order to really engage people, it’s best to try to access both areas. If you do, they will be more likely to remember your message.

- Lastly, stick to the basics of your message. Don’t provide confusing and complex information or data up-front. Humans are naturally drawn to stories, and are likely to dismiss what you’re saying if it’s presented to them before they’ve become emotionally engaged and invested.

How are you applying the power of brain science during your sales conversations? Let us know in the comments.

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.”

6 Questions to Ask CFO’s

Many of the agents that we talk to, especially those working with larger accounts, struggle to drive sales conversations with CFO’s. The good news is, part of the role of the CFO is to have a long-view of the success of their organization, and so managing risk is often of special interest to them. But, most CFO’s want risk to be clearly identified and defined, and managed with specific responsibilities assigned. So, if your dialog with them is jargon-filled and vague then they’re likely to lose interest and take you back to price.

In order for a CFO to see the value of engaging with you, it’s necessary that you bring strategic ideas, data connected to strategy and, most importantly, thought-provoking questions to the table. Dialog is the pathway to discovery and change behavior, so here are 6 questions you might consider asking a CFO in a sales conversation:

How confident are you that…

1- …your risk profile and risk management strategies are in alignment with what you want to achieve as an organization?

2- …you are using non-financial information (along with financial information) to build your organization’s risk profile?

3- … you’re adequately assessing how risk events can potentially affect your business strategy?

4- … you’ve identified the smart risks that will create opportunities for success?

5- … risks are well integrated with operational management goals?

6- … risks and performance indicators are being continually monitored to gauge progress toward business objectives?

Having conversations with CFO’s around growth and sustainability, more effective and efficient use of their premium dollars, improved outcomes and a future based on their vision for their business is something that most agents aren’t doing. So, assess your prospect list, talk to your current clients… take advantage of this opportunity to differentiate and grow your business.

Who Is Your Biggest Competitor?

We say it all the time: many agents make the mistake of thinking that their biggest competitor is the agent down the street. In reality, it is the status quo creating the biggest obstacles to their success. The majority of prospects you meet are following an ineffective process to manage risk and buy insurance, but they’re unaware of the dangers they’re in and too risk averse to be actively considering making a change.

It would be nice if there were a large number of prospects in the “action stage” of change. But, most need leadership and a push in order to get there. In a recent Forbes article, Tim Riesterer of Corporate Visions was interviewed on this subject. He talks about the need to engage a buyer’s emotions in order to get them moving toward the action stage and offers these three tips to do it:

  1. Context- He says: “if a tornado siren sounds on a sunny day, most people don’t take action. But, on a cloudy windy day that same siren can lead people to take action. A simple change in context makes all the difference.” For agents, this means asking thought provoking questions and bringing forward new ideas in order to help prospects see the problems and challenges of the status quo
  2. Contrast- In other words, bring a sense of urgency to the conversation. If you create a stark enough contrast between what is and what could be, they’ll want to know more.
  3. Concrete- As we’ve discussed in the past, in order to engage the emotional centers of the brain that lead to change behavior, skip over talking about complex “features and benefits” that require heavy mental lifting. Talking about your capabilities should come later on, after agreements have been made to move forward and around existing issues in need of being addressed.

How are you taking on the status-quo? We want to hear your stories! And, if you’re interested in attending a unique conference for insurance professionals focused on overcoming the status-quo, you can check out more information here.