I had a conversation last week with a good friend and colleague. During our discussion he talked about his agency and shared that he has some really outstanding technicians but really only two sales people. He has a top notch agency and they have developed some great programs for the industry that they sell both as retailers and wholesalers. Be that as it may though he has only two pure sales people in what is touted as a sales organization.
If you have been looking at the futurists and prognosticators for business in general and insurance specifically you will see a common thread in their predictions. In the next decade there will be a reduction in bodies in the insurance industry as more and more functions become digitized. These jobs will be largely administrative and clerical.
So most insurance agencies are facing a cross roads. If you take an honest look at your agency workload how much of the day is transactional? Most agencies are heavily weighted towards reactive transactions. And many of these transactions will be done by machines. Reporting claims, paying bills, making changes etc. are things that we do all day every day and the customer will be less dependent on this type of service. Machines are more convenient and also more available to the customer.
Ok…Ok, don’t jump off of your building!
The one thing that these studies show is that there will not be a drop off in our industry for sales jobs. People still see value in this. Many years ago agencies were seen primarily as sales organizations but over time we became more bogged down into service hubs for the customer.
So if sales is still part of the future, are you ready to adapt to that?
“I’m not a Sales Person”
I have been a CE instructor for almost thirty years and often in my classes I will ask the participants “who is in sales?” It is a trick question, because everyone is in sales. Your teenager, who is trying to get the nice car to drive, the spouse lobbying for the big screen TV or new curtains, everything in life is part of a negotiation. And even in your agency every interaction should have an element of sales.
Often an administrative person on the staff will rebuff the idea that they are in sales but a true professional will see their role as a risk advisor and have discussions with clients and prospects about how our products solve potential issues they may face. And now more than ever it is survival because if you ever thought you were “not in sales” you may not be in anything!
So now you know my position on sales but I also know that many other people agree with me but lose out when it comes to execution. Does your organization have a road map for sales? Have you ever sat down and actually mapped it out?
Having an established workflow for sales has several critical outcomes.
1) First, it is a more efficient way to measure success both organizationally and individually.
2) Second, it is a good tool to avoid professional liability.
So what are the components of a sales process? The different parts of the process include;
- Attracting (Marketing)
- …maybe more Nurturing
- …maybe more Nurturing.
- And the most important part is Keeping Score!
Let’s take a moment and dive into what each of these are.
Attracting and Nurturing
Buyers today are different. They are more educated, knowledgeable and a bit jaded towards sales. The days of capturing opportunity with traditional methods like advertising, direct mail or cold calling are on life support. You have to imagine a prospects journey, from their shoes. And you have to develop ways to be at every stop along the way. The idea of Omni Channel sales comes from delivering your message in a fashion that they will be seeking knowledge. There is a difference between information and knowledge.
Do you have a sustainable presence in the marketplace?
One of my favorite lines and not my own is “Where is the perfect place to hide a dead body?” That would be on the second page of Google!
When a buyer is seeking knowledge about a solution you offer, is your presence and message in a position to capture the opportunity?
Now that you are looking for prospects that frankly are looking for you or your product, you also should have systems in place to help your agency identify the quality of the prospect. From “tire kickers” to “Hot Prospects” you should have some measurable markers everyone can identify to let you know these are “Yes”, “No” or “Yes/No at the Present Time.” (The “Yes/No at the present time” are the ones that need continued nurturing.
This is part of the qualifying stage but also the stage when you would send the time matching your solution to their problem. How do you do that?
Do you have a set workflow for dealing with a prospect? Does everyone use the same map?
This is where you can build around past success and also make sure that even though the process is standardized it still is built to make each journey individualized. On top of the technical diagnosis you need to gauge the emotional temperature of the prospect.
Today even the smallest Personal or commercial prospect has been trained by Amazon and Facebook Ads. They expect the solutions to be tailored to them individually. Do you prepare solutions with cookie cutters or do they have an artistic flair? You have to draw them into the solution and they have to move from implied issues “Buildings sometimes burn down” to explicit issues “My building could very possibly burn down.”
Do you rehearse your presentation? As a group or even while shaving or applying makeup in the mirror, do you imagine the presentation? Think of athletes who visualize their high jump or swing at the plate prior to actually doing it.
It seems to be out of step with my earlier statement that you need to individualize your presentations but they have to be built on a common platform. Something that is structured to make sure you individualize your discussions and also make sure you cover your professional obligations.
Have you ever been ready to make that call back or are driving to the closing meeting and thinking “What is the best way to get the person to say yes?” I know I have. But here is the bad part, more often than not, if you are going to the close with the purpose of closing, success is not as likely as if you were going to do clean up.
By this I mean in the earlier part of the process you should already have a clear indication that this is a yes. If you don’t feel that then the process should allow you to walk away or continue to nurture.
Many businesses have a loose method of Keeping Score. They live in a world of “I have a bunch of stuff” or “I have a lot of callbacks.” This can often be translated to “I got NOTHING!”
Every organization needs to measure every aspect of this process. There should be benchmarks and KPI’s. Do you have a CRM? You need a CRM, you really do! Do you have a way of sharing results and measuring your pipeline? Keeping score is sometimes ugly but it really is a game changer.
Closing on Closing
I have been very general in my talking points today but I hope it made you think about your organization. You need to plan today because tomorrow is, well, its tomorrow. And if you are not engaged in the changing marketplace you will find yourself, very yesterday.
The good news is we are sales organizations and according to the Soothsayers, we are here to stay. The bad news is we will not all be here to stay. Which part of the future do you want to be?
I would love to hear about your process. And even more so, if you are not sure of your process or where to begin, let’s talk. I have built teams and processes. Some better than others but I understand the science of sales and realize it is a cornerstone to your future relevance and viability.