Super Agent

Posts Tagged ‘story’

Turn Skepticism to Belief

In her recent column in HBR, CEO of the American Red Cross, Gail McGovern talks about her journey from the private sector to a non-profit. In her new role, after assessing what changes needed to be made within the organization, she and her team first came up with a logical restructuring plan to present to the board. But that plan failed to capture the interest of or change the minds of the board members. So, they decided to take a different approach.

At the “make-or-break” meeting, she instead delivered an emotional talk that pointed to recent disasters, how local chapters responded and asked the board to join her in saving the Red Cross. As a result, she saw skepticism turn to belief.

In her words: “Now I look back on my career in the private sector and realize how I should have been leading all along. Non-profits don’t have a monopoly on meaning…Your job as a leader is to tap into the power of that higher purpose—and you can’t do it by retreating to the analytical.

How are you leading prospects? Are you seeing skepticism turn to belief by tapping into the emotional drivers that cause people to make a change, or are you falling into the common logic trap?

In a first face-to-face meeting with a prospect, you usually have 20 minutes or less to move the sales process toward a business relationship; don’t let the prospect dismiss you by opening with information that requires heavy mental lifting right from the start. We’ve said it before—the most powerful way to lead and persuade a buyer to make a decision is by getting them to a point where they are emotionally engaged and can see and feel the value of moving forward.

But you have to see and feel it first. Ask yourself why you do what you do—what higher purpose or meaning is a part of your agency’s story? When you know it, and you believe it, you’ll be able to help prospects see it too.

Why Should A Prospect Engage with You?

We often encourage the agencies we work with to ask this question: Why should a prospect choose to engage with us over our greatest competitor? If your answer sounds the same as the rest of the pack—we have excellent service, access to markets, we’ve been in business for X number of years … then you’re not answering “Why you?”. Instead, you’re playing into the prospect’s belief that insurance is a commodity, and that all agencies are the same.

“When you find yourself in the bake-off,” Corporate Visions explains, “your salespeople’s ability to deliver a highly-differentiated experience becomes even more important.” So maybe your answer is that you help employers reduce the number, cost and duration of employee injuries, or that you help employers to select right-fit carriers that focus on their specific needs. Whatever it is, producers must not only know it, they must also believe in it in order to convey it effectively to prospects.

The answer you come up with is your unique story, so take the time and energy to develop it. But, more importantly, continually assess whether or not everyone in your agency is living it. Management guru Tom Peters said “the development isn’t worth anything without the live.”

It’s one thing to say something once; it’s another to live it every day. How are you living your story? Let us know in the comments!

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.

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.

Win Over Executives with a Powerful Story

We often say that selling boils down to the conversations we have, and one of the most powerful elements of a “good” conversation is a purposeful and compelling story that engages the prospect and allows them to become a part of it.

Here is a real-life example of how a story won over a busy CEO:

A producer walks into a first meeting, sits down across from a CEO (who is looking down at a notepad prepared to take notes) and asks if he can tell a story before getting started. The CEO looks up from his pad, says “sure” and leans back in his chair, ready to listen, already more engaged than he was when the producer first walked in. The producer says: “I’m going to describe four scenarios to you. Let me know if any of these sound familiar to you.”

  1. You meet with a group of agents, all of whom promise they have access to the best markets, and they can get you the lowest price. They all deliver on that promise and come back with prices that are within dollars of each other;
  2. One agent is able to get a significantly lower price than the others, but you are so suspicious of it that you decide not to go with him anyway;
  3. You listen to a group of agents present who then just go away. They lose contact with you over time and you’ve wasted your time engaging with them;
  4. Or, a group of agents start coming at you with overwhelming information that does more to confuse than clarify, so you decide to stay with your current broker.

At this point in the conversation, the CEO is leaning toward the producer, fully engaged. “You know what?” he says. “I’ve experienced every scenario you just described. It’s so frustrating.”

“Well, I would like to approach this a little differently, if that’s ok with you,” the producer says.

And, now he has captured the attention of the CEO and can start asking customer-centric questions to move the sales process forward. Have you ever told a story in the sales process that helped you land the account? Let us know in the comments.

“There are three key skills that define a great salesperson: the ability to ask great questions, the ability to listen actively, and the ability to tell great stories.” – Tom Searcy

Human Decision-Making: What Really Drives Change?

There is a field of neuroscience and behavioral science called “Behavioral Economics” that focuses on how people make decisions—according to a Harvard Magazine article, it was born out of the need to explain odd observations and human anomalies. For example, “People say they want to save for retirement, eat better, start exercising, quit smoking—and they mean it—but they do no such things.” The article also explains that for decades, the standard academic model of a decision-maker has been someone who is intelligent, analytic, rational, and logical. The problem: “when we turn to actual human beings, we find, instead of robot-like logic, all manner of irrational, self-sabotaging, and even altruistic behavior.”

As the examples above suggest, logic alone cannot explain human-decision making. If people were inspired to act by reason alone, everyone would exercise, eat healthy, save money, etc. The same principal is true of decision-makers in the sales process, but we often see agents trying to use logic to persuade them to make a change. Producers come to the first meeting prepared to provide a list of statistics and facts meant to affirm their expertise, but instead they create barriers rather than breaking them down and are ultimately unsuccessful. Why? Because emotion, not reason, drives change behavior. If decision makers are emotionally engaged at the start of the sales process, they will be much more open to trust the logic that comes as the next step.

So, how can you effectively appeal to the buyer’s emotions? There are two important steps:

Step 1: Believe. We focused on the importance of belief in our last blog post. If you are truly invested, the buyer will feel it.

Step 2: Use stories. A good story can provide important information while arousing the listener’s emotions and energy to act. Innovative business author Daniel Pink explains: “Humans are creatures of emotion as much as logic, and facts and arguments move us most when they are embedded in good stories.  The world’s priests, politicians, and teachers have always known this by instinct… storytelling is increasingly seen as an essential business skill.”

Are you evoking the emotions that will inspire your prospects to act?