Super Agent

Posts Tagged ‘status quo’

Believe Your Own Eyes

At our recent annual event for members, Knowledge & Networking 2014, we were honored to have Al Lewis as the Keynote speaker. He launched the event with a dynamic presentation on challenging the fuzzy math of wellness industry experts and he encouraged the group to believe our own eyes when what we see contradicts the status quo.

Have you considered whether ROI vendor’s reports are plausible or mathematically possible? Does wellness really “move the needle”, or is it crediting a program with changes that would have happened anyway? These are the kinds of questions that he took on, and we found ourselves amazed at what we saw in the data.

The problem is, most people are unwilling to challenge the experts when we would suspect that there is an opportunity to reduce health care costs by providing incentives for employees to get healthier. And the same is true of many other industry standards or processes. But, it’s important to always question conventional wisdom and go against the tide if you want to find the best and most innovative ways to help employers achieve better outcomes.

So, the next time you find yourself arguing in favor of the conventional, ask yourself if you believe something is true simply because it’s widely accepted.

“All that I say is, examine, inquire. Look into the nature of things. Search out the grounds of your opinions, the for and against. Know why you believe, understand what you believe, and possess a reason for [that belief]. – Frances Wright

Reject the Status Quo

This is what the skeptics said: California Chrome is the product of an $8000 mare and a completely undistinguished (at the time) $2500 stallion.  His trainer is a 77 year old man who pushed him too hard at Churchill Downs before the race. No California-bred horse has won the Kentucky Derby since 1962. Except the skeptics were wrong, and California Chrome is looking at a possible Triple Crown win after winning the Derby and defying the odds.

So, what does this have to do with you? The most interesting element of this underdog story was described in a New York Times article. It said: “there are few rules in racing, but one that is considered inviolable is never to turn down a suitcase full of cash. Steve Coburn and Perry Martin understood that, but two months ago, when one of the sport’s far wealthier owners offered them $6 million for 51 percent of the first horse they had bred, the offer did not sit well.”

Instead, California Chrome’s owners decided that they wouldn’t fade into the background of their own success story. They wanted to make history, and they trusted in their own research and their own instincts in order to make it happen.

So, commit. Go for the win. Take risks. Do the thing that you believe in and that you know is what’s best for employers even if it means rejecting the status quo.

“Kites rise highest against the win, not with it.” – Winston Churchill

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.

Why Adaptability is Key

In recent years there has been a lot of concern and talk about the changing role of the insurance agent. McKinsey released a report suggesting that in order for agents to succeed in the future they will need to develop new capabilities and tailored expertise. In response to ACA, headlines on industry websites and magazines included things like “Brokers Seek to Preserve Role in Marketplace”.

There are agents and agencies who choose to deny that they need to respond to the changes and those who are embracing them, but overall there is still uncertainty on all sides. Added to the effects of evolving technology and the impact of health care reform is the fact that buyers today are risk averse, they stick with the status-quo and most view insurance as a commodity purchase.

But even in the face of all these challenges, there will still be agencies and agents that not only survive, they’ll thrive. How?

Consider this story on Inc.com about a travel agency facing a “growing army of internet competitors”: Elaine Osgood launched her travel agency before the explosion of online sites like Expedia and Orbitz threatened her business. But rather than panic, she listened closely to what her customers wanted and answered the call by adapting her capabilities to suit their most pressing needs. She offered them better data made available by new technologies that helped them see “which airlines flew the same route and how much might be saved by consolidating all travel …or how much could a customer save by consistently booking 14 days in advance rather than 7?”

She combined access to these metrics with new self-service tech that provided her customers with instant access to Atlas agents able to take care of any unforeseen problems that might disrupt travel plans. In other words, she assessed what her capabilities were, how she might grow or adapt to better serve her customers and provide them real value, then made necessary changes to ensure her continued success.

In our industry, the disruption exists in various forms—“Big Data” isn’t going away, commodity transactions will increasingly be performed electronically, health care reform will continue to create uncertainty…

But, the good news is, we firmly believe that these challenges are actually opportunities for those agencies willing to embrace and leverage them. For example, are you utilizing the power of “big data” to help employers effectively bend their health care cost curve in the right direction? Are you pairing your knowledge and expertise with a consultative and consistent sales process?

In today’s ever-changing and complex marketplace, adaptability is key.

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.

Will You Be Bold?

As most of you have likely heard, CVS has made the decision to remove all tobacco products from its pharmacies nationwide by October 1st, putting 2 billion dollars in revenue on the line. Why? CVS President and CEO Larry Merlo said: “Ending the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products at CVS is the right thing for us to do for our customers and our company to help people on their path to better health…put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose.”

This is a powerful stand that many have commented on in the media, collectively wondering how the decision will impact the company, whether any others will follow suit, and what it all means for big tobacco in the U.S.

But the biggest takeaway here is this: what they’ve done is to assess whether or not their practices are in alignment with the “Why” of their organization, and then took steps to make a change that shattered the status quo.

Are you willing to do the same?

We often talk about the opportunities that exist for agents and agencies willing to be bold—those who understand their “Why”, choose to reject the status quo and develop the skills to offer new insights during sales conversations, ask disruptive questions and steer prospects away from the transactional process that leaves them at risk.

When was the last time you evaluated whether or not your day-to-day activities are in alignment with your purpose? If it’s been a while, don’t be afraid to take a note from CVS and start making changes.

What You Can Learn From a Hot Dog Eating Champion

Authors of Freakonomics, Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt didn’t use a PowerPoint presentation during their keynote address at the Live Your Story conference; instead they spoke to the room about the power of stories by telling stories. One of these was an account of competitive hot dog eater Takeru Kobyashi who decided to try his luck in a hot dog eating contest when he and his girlfriend were low on money.

He began to train using techniques he found, through experimentation and practice, to be most efficient—he separated the dog and the bun, dunked the bun in water so he wouldn’t have to take time to drink it separately and squeezed the bun into a ball that was easier to chew and swallow. Picturing it might make your stomach turn, but Kobyashi smashed the record by eating 50 hot dogs in 12 minutes when no one before had eaten more than 25.

So, what does Kobyashi’s story teach us?

-          Never accept the status quo barrier or limit.

Most decision-makers are currently satisfied and are unaware that there are any significant risks to their business. They see no unavoidable reason to change or look for alternatives. Are you offering new insights in your sales conversations, asking disruptive questions and developing the skills to steer prospects away from the transactional process that leaves them at risk? Successful producers help prospects discover what exists past that status-quo barrier—better outcomes, decreased risks, and a mutually valuable partnership.

-          Redefine problems and solutions to discover the story that no one else is telling.

For example, maybe a prospect believes that one of their problems is the high cost of their workers’ comp claims, and the only way to reduce that cost is to bid on their insurance. By engaging in honest dialog you can help them redefine the problem. Are their injured employees getting the right treatment by the right doctor at the right time? Is their experience mod incorrect or mismanaged? By leading them to reshape the problem they become aware of the real factors playing into their coverage, and you’ve created the emotional catalyst necessary for them to change.