We all want that 1st appointment… but make sure you get it right!
All sales people age from the pressure of getting “the appointment.” Appointments are a vital start to the insurance sales process and we live or die at our sales meetings by the numbers of sales calls we make. I think I learned a long time ago, and really have to give credit to an industry sales course I took “Dynamics of Selling,” for making me understand that getting an appointment isn’t the goal. Getting a good appointment is the goal!
What makes a GOOD appointment?
In the olden days using the “Death of a Salesman” technique, it was all about numbers. If someone even looked our way, it was time to present and close. Now we are in an era more controlled by modern consumer patterns and inbound insurance sales requires you to do several things to make sure you have quality appointments.
What makes for a good appointment
- Is the prospect qualified
- Do you have a bona fide reason to meet
- Have you navigated and mapped out expectations that you and the prospect agree with
- Have you established yourself as a trusted and valued thought leader
Flying by the seat of your pants ain’t gonna cut it today! You should have a specific well thought out flow on how to establish that first appointment successfully.
The rest of this article is going to take you through three steps of the appointment process which will help you start your insurance sales process off right.
Stage one – Before you meet
In order to even get the attention of your prospects, you have to stand out. In most cases today, the prospect has done their research and has begun their journey. Believe it or not, but the insurance sales process starts before someone even meets with you. Prospects are qualifying agents and you have to demonstrate that you are a fit.
Many old school salespeople think that if I can get in front of the client I will dazzle them. And while I don’t disagree, the “get in front of them” portion of their argument has changed. If you do not use modern sales techniques they will not find you and not consider you.
How to be seen as credible
No one wants to buy from someone they are not sure of. There are plenty of options if a prospect is not comfortable buying from someone. But how can you make yourself credible and trustworthy without meeting and speaking with someone? Well, I have a few ideas on ways to be be seen as a trusted and credible adviser:
- Referral – Probably the best way to get a warm meeting is by getting the blessing of a mutual contact. How can you do this? One really effective tool is go to LinkedIn and see who the prospect and you share as 1st level connections.
- Past Success – I am limited in my enthusiasm for this method. Case studies can be effective but only if they strike the pain point of the prospect. If you have stories that they can envision as being their solution, door opens.
- A Random Idea – If you hit on something that catches the prospects eye, it can be an ice breaker even if it is not the one they agree is the ultimate solution for them. You have to individualize nowadays but really in most cases there are a small number of scenarios that many people share that you can sort of mass individualize.
- Internal Advocate – Use leverage with someone inside. They are often a great way past the gatekeeper.
- Your Personal Resume – You have to stand out as much as and even more than your company brand. Again in today’s marketplace one of the best places to do this is in LinkedIn. If someone wants to check you out, your profile can make or break it for you. Express your capabilities and not your title.
- Online Reviews – This can be almost as good as a referral. When someone sees how great you are it lends to your credibility. Facebook reviews can really be powerful because someone can see that their real life friend actually loves doing business with lending to your credibility and trustworthiness.
- Marketing Materials- Again this is different than it once was. The day of the business card stapled to your tri-fold brochure is over. But having information that you can use to follow up with your initial contact can be beneficial. If the prospect has tipped their hand at all on what they are looking to do, material specific to their journey is very effective and makes you stand out because it does not highlight what is great about you but what you have to help them.
Once you deem yourself as credible you have a better chance of connecting and getting your foot in the door.
Stage two – OK I’m Listening
If you get the ear of the person who is your ideal prospect you are not done. You need to have a strong and valid business purpose and reason to be considered as a viable advisor. It is the kiss of death if the reason for the appointment is it helps you get your weekly number. The entire insurance sales process has to be centered on the prospect. They have to want the appointment and remember that they are giving you the valuable commodity of their time.
So what makes up a valid reason for you to have an appointment:
- You have given them a reason that makes you more of a priority than other things on their daily plan.
- It’s not about you wanting to meet them, it’s them looking forward to meeting you.
- The meeting is built around what you have found out about them, their needs and their challenges. Things you learn from your inside advocate, referral source or information from the firm itself.
- You have the chance to connect, show understanding, competence and that you actually care about helping them.
Here are some good and bad examples for setting an appointment:
“Hey I was next door meeting the owner and thought with the price of gas I would just drop in to see if you would be interested in my new and improved solution for your business, what is it again that you do?”
You’re getting warmer example
“Our company has been a leader in providing solutions to your industry and I have several of your competitors using us and have been very satisfied.”
Knocking it out of the park example
“I saw that you were expanding to a new location and will be increasing your product line. I know that this will be challenging to keep everything aligned and thought I could share how we worked with XYZ last year who did pretty much what you are planning and how we helped them avoid (list three things). I am not positive that we are the best fit but if you would have 30 minutes to see if we could be an asset, I would be delighted to help.”
Remember that not getting the desired result from the 1st attempt does not mean you give up. Persistence has always been part of a successful sales career. Sometimes it is yes, sometimes no but often it is no at the present time but may be a yes later.
Stage three – Does yes really mean yes
In the old legacy sales model at this point you would bring the vacuum cleaner, contract and the hard press to move in for the kill. In today’s inbound world getting the initial yes means it is time to seek more clarification and set expectations.
Making sure you and the prospect are on the same page is so critical at this point of the insurance sales process. It is important that they are comfortable with the agenda and what is to be accomplished, but selfishly, you also should be comfortable that it is time well spent for you and them. So what do we need to agree upon:
- Date, Time and Place – I strongly recommend that you follow up and confirm. Remember it is your time as well.
- Duration – Set the expectations with a “I will need about” estimate. When that time approaches address it. And maybe you need to say, “I promised I would only take x minutes and I have a hard break.” You agreed on a time and unless it is mutually agreed upon and still productive for both sides, respect the clock.
- Who is going to be there – Set the rules. It doesn’t mean that you don’t go if not all the decision makers are there. But it does help to establish who is going to be there and map out how decisions are made.
- Why you are there – Establish the agenda and what you are talking about. Don’t get caught in the “I am confused” speech from your prospect.
- What are you not going to talk about – Again, agenda and time needs to be respected. You are going to be able to tell early on if this meeting is moving where you do not want it to go.
- List the deliverables for the prospect – From this meeting the prospect should expect the benefits to be summarized and easy to understand.
- Establish what is a desirable win-win outcome – You should be able to know and so should the prospect as well, that the meeting met it’s expectations and it is a move forward, not move forward or move forward but later decision. But ask them to verbalize their expectations. This allows you to better understand and also set the rules of engagement. This will help down the line making sure you are both moving together.
At this point your prospect has found you to be credible and trustworthy. They have taken the time to meet with you and you have both found moving forward (or backing out) to be a favorable outcome for both of you. They have even said yes and shaken your hand. This however, is not the end to the insurance sales process.
At this point, your prospect can take this information back to the other decision makers, think on it some more, or sign on the dotted line right then and there. Either way, the next step in the insurance sales process is to follow up.
You can follow up to ensure they buy, or follow up to ensure they are happy with your services. In our next blog post, we are going to discuss different follow up scenarios and what to do during this part of the insurance sales process.
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What has been your experience with appointments? Are they hit and miss? Are they always great? Feel free to drop us a comment with your experience or questions below.