Recruiting top talent into our industry can be difficult and costly—just last month, an article on Property Casualty 360 was titled “Insurance Industry Crisis: 400,000 Positions to Fill by 2020.” So, how can you make sure you’ll be able to successfully recruit and retain the next generation? Understanding the way they work, and what’s important to them is the first step.
Here are a few characteristics millennials possess that can benefit professional, independent agencies:
- Millennials may be more in tune with working in a multi-generational environment—they work well collaboratively, and possess a strong sense of team unity.
- They develop relationships via social communities and they share experiences through technology. So, they would have the confidence to use integrated and portable technology to engage round-the-clock with prospects.
- They feel the need to connect to a bigger purpose. According to an article on 99U, millennials are focused on “the mission, the underlying purpose, the reason why the thing matters.” So they will most likely be attracted to an agency whose value proposition is client-focused and outcome driven.
Is your agency positioned to attract and retain the next generation of industry professionals and leverage their unique talents?
You may remember the phrase “opportunity cost” from your college economics class. Essentially, it’s based on the idea that when a choice must be made between two options, there is a cost involved in not choosing a specific option. So, you miss out on the benefits (monetary and otherwise) of the option you didn’t go with. Investopedia provides this example: “if a gardener decides to grow carrots, his or her opportunity cost is the alternative crop that might have been grown instead (potatoes, tomatoes, pumpkins, etc.)”
What does this mean for you?
Many producers we talk to get stuck when the buyer pushes for a low price, saying “if this is what the customer wants, isn’t it my job to give it to them?” But, what is the opportunity cost of engaging in the typical bid-and-quote process?
The most obvious cost is working on a low-probability, commodity-based prospect when you could be working on a high-probability, collaborative prospect. If you aren’t doing enough to qualify and work only with prospects that are in alignment with your business model and your objectives, you are missing out on right-fit, long-term and more profitable accounts (who appreciate the value you provide, not just the price).
Of the hundreds or thousands of employers who fit your profile, how many will you not meet or even speak with this year?
The more time you spend on transactional sales, the less time you spend with these right-fit employers. You weigh the opportunity cost—is it worth it?
According to one of our favorite sales strategists Jill Konrath, “since making any change is more work for your already stressed out prospect, you have to give them a really good reason to take action.” We’ve said it before: it’s necessary for your prospect to be dissatisfied before they will make the decision to change—dissatisfied enough that they are willing to abandon the status quo. Because of this, many producers dream of prospects who offer them a list of problems, expecting solutions that the producer has the resources to provide.
But, these producers are missing a big piece of the puzzle. What is the best way to trigger a change in behavior? A prospect must become aware of a previously unrecognized problem or risk, and then be presented with a solution that they did not anticipate. The best prospects aren’t the ones who’ve already figured out what issues they need to solve, it’s the ones who aren’t aware there are any issues.
Anthony Iannarino explains: “Your dream clients don’t recognize a gap themselves. You haven’t done anything to show them that they have good cause to be dissatisfied if they’re not. And they don’t have a compelling vision of a better state that they want to bring to life.” It’s your job to lead them through an effective process, help them self discover risks, and show them a vision of a better way.
Agencies invest a significant amount of money in online tools and outside resources, and the most common spending occurs in HR or safety areas where there is an amazing amount of content. But, are the resources actually a good investment?
Too many times, we have seen that tools aren’t necessarily in alignment with what the agency is trying to achieve, or they aren’t actually addressing the critical needs of clients. Some tools and resources are very valuable, just be sure to ask yourself the following questions before you make the decision to invest in them:
-So, what? Will the tool do something important for your agency and your clients, or are you just choosing to invest in what’s popular without really understanding its impact?
- How do you know? Have you done your research? What works for others may not be the best for you, so don’t move forward without looking into the specific purpose of a tool or resource, its implications, and its effectiveness.
As economist, statistician and writer Milton Friedman says, “One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.”
Recently, I was talking to a producer who told me he likes to “feel the deal” when he’s working with a prospect who he has some familiarity with. Unfortunately, many producers will do the same thing in a similar situation. Maybe they’ve worked with the prospect before, maybe the prospect was a referral, but whatever the case, abandoning your process for any reason is risky.
“Feeling the deal” might work for masters in the art of selling, but for most producers, adopting and sticking with an effective sales process is essential to their success. Why is it important never to skip steps?
- Without structured dialog coupled with genuine curiosity, the producer will miss out on the opportunity to bring the element of self-discovery to the sales process for the prospect.
- Without asking the right questions, the prospect’s level of dissatisfaction won’t increase enough for them to want to leave their current situation, and feel the risk of staying in it.
- Without gaining agreements, the opportunity for both the buyer and the producer to continually qualify each other will be lost.
- Most importantly, if you don’t follow an effective process, you’ll never know when it’s time to walk away.
Developing an effective process takes time, and consistently following it takes perseverance, but you will reap the benefits if you take the lead and follow your process regardless of the selling circumstances.
Have you won new business with a prospect you knew by sticking to your effective process? We want to hear your stories in the comments!
If you’re an agency owner then you’re also an entrepreneur, which likely means that you thrive when you have the opportunity to take risks and grow your business. You might be ready to share and deploy new ideas and strategies with your team, but before moving forward with big changes, it’s important that they’re on board with you. If you ever leave a meeting discouraged when your team seems to feel deflated and like they just can’t meet the mark, it’s probably time to take a step back and consider the following:
- Are you plowing forward too quickly? You don’t want to be a parade leader who is walking so far ahead of the parade that the audience can’t even tell you’re a part of it. Rosabeth Moss Kanter, HBR Blog contributor says: “Innovators who take risks must reduce the risk for others. Think long-term trends but short-term steps.”
- Does your current team have the capabilities needed to successfully implement your plans? In an article by innovation expert Clayton Christensen, he says that when leaders “assign employees to tackle a critical innovation, they instinctively work to match the requirements of the job with the capabilities of the individuals they charge to do it.” But, unfortunately, some leaders “don’t think as rigorously about whether their organizations have the capability to successfully execute jobs that may be given to them.” Have you focused on developing the processes, gaining the resources, and growing the capabilities you need before introducing new innovations?
Creativity and innovation are necessary, and adapting to marketplace changes over time ensures that you maintain a competitive advantage. Just be sure you’re taking enough time to plan and prepare.
Selling insurance in today’s marketplace is complex, and it requires skills greater than old school likeability, desire and great connections. Agencies and producers today have to know not only who they are in the marketplace, but who they want to be it to, and how they’re going to compete without getting sucked into the bid-and-quote game. Engaging in the right way is difficult, and that’s why you want to do it with the right people.
In a great blog post from Seth Godin, he says “If it’s easy to get a meeting or make a first sale, consider that the very ease that enabled that sale might be a sign that the long-term value of this customer is pretty low. It’s easy to get the door answered if you’re selling vacuum cleaners house to house, not so easy to get a meeting with the head of merchandising at Wal-Mart.”
So, are you taking the road of least resistance? Or, are you leading your prospects through an effective process that takes hard work on both ends, but always yields the most rewarding outcomes?
Ask yourself these questions to find out if you’re doing the long-term work needed to sustain success:
-Are you creating and utilizing centers of influence to grow opportunties?
-Are you only engaging with prospects that fit your agency’s perfect-client type?
-Are you helping employers self-discover risks through meaningful dialog and identifying agency capabilities to address those risks?
-Are you establishing new business relationships based on more than price?
“I know you’ve heard it a thousand times before. But it’s true— hard work pays off.”- Ray Bradbury
We often talk about the importance of understanding your “Why”—the reason you do what you do—an idea inspired by innovator Simon Sinek who says “those who know their Why are the ones who lead. They are the ones who inspire.” Maybe you want to help employers avoid risks, or create opportunities for their organizations in the marketplace that you feel is under-serving them? Whatever it is, it’s important that you know it, and that you can clearly convey it to prospects.
In a recent conversation with a producer, she asked me: “What comes next? I communicated my Why, and I didn’t know where to take the conversation from there.” The producer reverted back to her old process and started listing off all of the great things about her agency: “We value our customers”, “We offer these services”, and so on. The problem? According to an article on Inc.com, “Most customers are drowning in a flood of information and time-stressed to the max.” Staying prospect-focused is one of the most important elements of your conversations. The prospect isn’t interested in you, they want to know what your ‘Why’ means for them.
You can’t assume that prospects will be able to make the connection between your ‘Why’ and their success, so you have to make it for them. Why is your ‘Why’ meaningful to them? Tell that story, and you’ll be on the right path.