Super Agent

Posts Tagged ‘value’

Can You Sell a 20 Minute Meeting?

In this crazy, harried world of time starved and distracted buyers, it is increasingly vital for insurance agents to be able to prompt a decision maker to take a 20 minute meeting.  Most business leaders and decision makers are defending their calendar like a rabid dog with a bone.  You don’t get on it, unless the decision maker feels they will get value from the first meeting with you.

Ask yourself the following questions before you pick up the phone to contact a prospect:

• Why should someone meet with you?
• What will they get from the first meeting?
• Why would they want to take the next step which is likely an assessment?

The days of, “I am an insurance agent and I would like to come by and introduce myself and discuss your insurance program,” are long gone.  Decision makers can stick their foot outside their door and trip insurance agents walking by that can deliver on that promise.

Decision makers don’t have time to waste.  They don’t need friends or new relationships.  They need people who will help them learn what they don’t know and to see around the corner at risks off their radar screen.

So, tell me.  What value will I get from a 20 minute meeting with you?

Be Better

Many agencies are using transactional selling strategies—they offer products and services without ever assessing a business’ needs, and they aren’t delivering true business value to employers. On the other end of the spectrum, the most successful agencies are employing a consultative sales approach to deliver value, establish long-term business relationships and grow organically over time.

But, there is also a large group of agencies in a state of flux. They’re trying to move toward a more consultative approach and to adapt to meet the needs of today’s employers, but producers aren’t always taking control of the sales process and are getting pulled back into engaging in a way that isn’t beneficial for either party. Does this sound familiar to you?

Anthony Iannarino talks about it in a recent blog post. He says: “The dangerous place to occupy is in the middle. In the middle, you might be a little better than the low price competitors, but you’re not “better” enough to make you worth paying more to obtain. This is how you lose to lower priced competitors. The gravitational pull here is to compete on price, and by doing so, giving up what makes you a little better. You might be a little faster and a little cheaper than the higher-priced, caring, consultative competitors, but not enough to make it worth saving a few bucks to miss out on the better outcomes they produce. It’s difficult to be better. You have to try harder.”

Differentiation takes hard work—it requires producers to engage in a new way, the willingness to have disruptive conversations, and the leadership to stick to the agency’s process when met with resistance.  But, don’t get caught in the danger-zone between these two strategies. Once you’ve fully committed to being better, and you’ve taken the plunge without looking back, you’ll be able to work with and capture big opportunities that your competitors won’t.

The Straw That Broke the Camel’s Back

In an excellent article from Bain & Company, the writers point out something that we hear all the time from producers. They said: “When we ask communication executives what causes their customers to defect, they often point to the last thing that happened before a customer left. Often, that’s a competitor’s offer.” But the important thing to point out, and what the writers go on to say is that although “competitive offers do sometimes lure customers to switch…typically [its] after a long period of eroding trust that results from a series of misadventures.”

Assessing only the last few problems or bumps in the relationship won’t lead to a full understanding of why you lost the business. Instead, consider asking yourself:

  • Was the client a right-fit to start with?
  • Were the agency’s goals, your goals and the client’s goals all in alignment?
  • Were you able to communicate your value, and consistently evaluate where you might bring new value to the relationship over time?

Most agencies invest a great deal of time and effort in building initial client relationships, but the biggest mistake they can make is to let those relationships go unattended over time. The enemy here isn’t the competition, its complacency. How many of your clients are sticking around because their fear of change is bigger than the impact of your value? Are you focusing enough time, energy and resources into your current business relationships in order to ensure your long-term profitability and prevent a “series of misadventures” from building into the straw that broke the camel’s back?

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.

Are You On Cruise Control?

Sales strategist and expert Jill Konrath linked to an excellent video on her blog recently about how to be an invaluable sales resource. She said, “prospects have so many options — and they know it. When you tell them, “We’re special” — they don’t believe you. If you say, “We have a passion for excellence” — they don’t care one little bit. Tons of companies have the same passion for excellence… I bring this up because lots of you are on cruise control. Believe me, I’ve been on cruise control before and had my whole career wiped out because of it.”

Are you on cruise control? Are you engaging in the bid-and-quote cycle that is ineffective and dangerous to employers, are you scrambling to fill your pipeline because you haven’t spent enough time on prospecting activities, do your marketing materials still highlight your agency’s features and benefits?

There are a lot of people on cruise control in our industry, but that only means that there are big opportunities for agents who take back the controls and drive against the wind. Jill’s advice is to be constantly growing and learning, to be students, “to make more connections, go to a conference, sign-up for newsletters, learn more.”

If you haven’t done anything recently to increase the value you provide to your clients and to increase your own success, now is a great time to start.

Check out the full video here and let us know what you think.

Value Creation Leads to Growth

In a recent blog post by sales expert Anthony Iannarino, he told a story about a struggling restaurant whose owner, in an attempt to increase profitability, switched to a less expensive meat supplier. The problem? The meat was of poor quality, business continued to decline, and cutting costs didn’t address the real issue—the owner “was creating too little value.”

The restaurant owner’s fatal mistake was failing to ask himself why his customers weren’t returning and what they really wanted. When was the last time you asked:

(1)   “Why should a prospect choose to engage with us over our competitors?”

If you believe in your value and your process, don’t narrow the conversation to focus only on price. You’re only doing yourself a disservice and playing into the prospect’s belief that insurance is a commodity, and that all agents are the same.

(2)   “What do my clients really want?”

It’s important to consider not only how you can demonstrate past performance to them, but most importantly, how you can prepare them for future opportunities based on their vision for their business. Continually assess where you can help them—think sustainability, more effective use of premium dollars, better outcomes and reduced risks.

Its’ not easy to stick to your process, have tough conversations with prospects, improve sales outcomes or gain the capabilities to understand issues and identify opportunities for clients. But, these things are what differentiate you. Don’t make the same mistake the restaurant owner did by failing to recognize that value creation is what leads to growth.

Stop Using the Word Value in Sales Conversations

It’s nebulous, ambiguous and it means different things to different people.

According to Inc contributor Jeff Thull, “most salespeople present their value proposition as: “This is the value we provide… [but] it is definitely seen as “selling” and therefore, whatever value you suggest it is, the customer is likely to reduce its value.”

Instead of telling prospects that you and your agency provide value, demonstrate it through your engagement process. Facilitate disruptive dialog with the intention of helping prospects uncover what problems might exist in their current processes, and what unknown risks they might be facing. Create a plan of action and vision for a future relationship. Align agency goals and capabilities with employer goals and needs. Rather than simply telling them value exists and letting them define what it means, these things show the prospect what real value you have to offer.

This Mistake Pushes Your Prospects Away—Are You Making It?

We often talk about the dangers of engaging in a transactional sales process—you undermine your own worth and the prospect is put at a greater risk because of it. But what about the middle ground—the space in between transactional and consultative selling? If you’ve ever said “If we’re close on price and you go with us, we’ll give you…. for free” during a meeting, then you’ve been there.

This “value-added” model is driven with the promise of additional services or enticements, but according to decision-making research discussed recently by Tim Riesterer, “when you add a feature that is positive, but weak or irrelevant to the conversation, it actually provides a reason against choosing your option”. In other words, empty add-ons push your prospects away. Presenting solutions to problems buyers haven’t identified only confuses them, and they don’t feel any sense of urgency to make a change. You’re more likely to lose the business, and if you win:

- The cost of delivery is increased,

- Your competitors are more likely to say “We have that too!”,

- There are potential rebating risks involved,

- And, there is often an unnecessary duplication of resources.

Is this a picture of a mutually beneficial business relationship?

The thing to remember is that it is not your services or tools that differentiate you; it’s your process. Are you leading buyers into a relationship where your interaction and collaboration will create value over a period of time? Anyone can buy the tool, or offer the service and describe features and benefits, but few can help buyers see and feel how the agent and agency’s capabilities will decrease risks and impact their business for the better.