Vince Lombardi, the legendary football coach, built winning teams on a foundation of being exceptional at the fundamentals of the game. His success was not so much predicated on having star players (he often didn’t) as much as it was on flawless execution. He was so concerned about emphasizing the importance of the fundamentals that he opened his training camps by holding up the pigskin and saying, “Gentlemen, this is a football.”
Sales strategies for the new year
As we head into the holiday season and look ahead to 2020, I’d like to share my perspectives on the six basics of effective selling for insurance brokers:
1. Be customer-centric by always asking relevant, meaningful questions.
The essence of being customer-centric is to find out what the customer needs. This may seem obvious, but doing it right requires an ongoing effort. Customer satisfaction with your products or services can and will shift over time based on numerous factors, ranging from changing circumstances to experience dealing with your products and services. But don’t ask questions for the sake of asking questions. Ask questions based on researching the customer’s past, current and prospective situation, their goals and objectives, and other relevant factors. Of course, engage in active listening: Ask smart follow-up (and follow-up the follow-up) questions based on responses you get. Here’s the bottom line: Well-prepared, thoughtful questions that address issues the customer is concerned about are not only critical to sales success, they also communicate that you care. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be asking these kinds of questions in the first place.
2. Fine-tune your value proposition, on a continual basis, based on customer needs.
Your value proposition is that thing (or things) about you, your company, product, service and other characteristics that make you indispensable to the customer, and which make price less relevant. Don’t underestimate the value you personally bring to the table, in whatever form that value takes (e.g., experience, expertise, reliability, trustworthiness, dependability, etc.). Always challenge yourself as to whether your value proposition is compelling enough to win or retain your customer. If it is not, what needs to be done to reconfigure your value proposition (and how your products and services meet those needs) in order to retain your indispensability? In other words, the value proposition that was effective in winning an account may not necessarily be effective in retaining it. Customers inevitably change and we need to change, too, in order to best accommodate their needs.
3. Don’t be afraid to abandon ship.
Too many salespeople pursue opportunities for which they have little or no chance for success. The good news is that there is an abundance of prospects who need our help. The bad news is that self-delusion and unrealistic expectations set many of us off on wild-goose chases that waste time and energy. Be honest about the strength of the value proposition you and your company bring to the table with a specific prospect. If it’s not compelling enough, move on and work on something else!
4. Don’t take any relationship for granted.
As we all know, the insurance business is highly competitive. We need to prove our value to our customers and the company we work for every day. Otherwise, we will be a target for replacement. If you accept that reality, then it’s harder to take relationships for granted. The actual behaviors that demonstrate that commitment include (but are not necessarily limited to):
- Being customer-centric (see above)
- Being responsive (including returning phone calls and emails promptly)
- Adopting crucial actions to improve the customer relationship/experience (i.e., don’t wait around hoping everything will work out)
- Being innovative in finding new ways to help and support the customer
- Taking ownership of mistakes or problems when they occur and doing what needs to be done to get them fixed (i.e., don’t point fingers – the buck stops with you)
5. Embrace failure.
The key to successful selling is similar to what it takes to get into the National Baseball Hall of Fame: Learn to accept that failure is far more common than success. Great hitters hit around .300 – that means they fail 7 out of 10 times. Home-run hitters typically strike out far more frequently than hitting four baggers. (Hank Aaron hit 755 homers and struck out 1,383 times, nearly twice as often.) More precisely, you’re not failing when you’ve learned from an experience, as painful and as negative as that experience might have been. Each failure you experience brings you one step closer to a successful outcome.
6. Always ask for referrals.
I’ve said this in previous columns : The work we do to protect our clients from catastrophic loss exposures is the most important guidance they can get, if only because the best-laid plans, goals and objectives can be torn asunder in an instant if catastrophe hits – and it may only take one such hit. We all work hard to provide our clients with meaningful, actionable risk management and insurance advice, ideas and strategies. If you’ve done good work for a prospect or client, even if it doesn’t result in new or additional business, you have at least earned the right to ask for a referral. Quality referrals from trusted parties can truly make a difference in winning or expanding an account. Don’t be afraid to ask for a referral. The worst that can happen is you’re turned down. The best thing that can happen is that you develop more or additional business that reflects well on you and the person who referred you.
Happy holidays to everyone. I look forward to hearing from you about this article and in 2020! Please send me an email.
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