We have all read countless articles discussing the power of using questions during the sales process. And we often see this advice for good reason – questions are powerful and help the prospect start to see the need to do something different.
You need that same perspective for yourself.
Given the challenges facing our industry, we all need to be considering what our businesses need to look like tomorrow. Which means you need to be asking yourself the tough questions to help gain the proper perspective and start identifying what "different" may need to look like for you.
So, knowing how powerful a motivator fear is, let's use that as the basis for our first question we need to consider:
When you think about the future of your business, what is your biggest fear?
Now, before you read any further, think about this question and actually write your answer down.
This isn't the time for false bravado; we all have something that scares us. And, now, more than ever, if you don't have some fear for the future of your business, you're not paying attention.
As I get to talk to owners and producers on a daily basis, I have been asking this question at every opportunity. The responses are always interesting as the answer alone largely tells me how successful that agency/producer is going to be a little ways down the road.
Let me give you a couple examples. Even though the exact words vary from conversation to conversation, the following two paraphrased answers capture a couple of the fears I hear most often.
Answer 1 – (Some responses are very tactical in nature.) I worry that my competitor may be offering a product that that I am not yet offering or I don't have access to.
Answer 2 – (Other responses are much more strategic.) I fear becoming irrelevant, that I won't meet the changing needs of my clients.
Wow, what a contrast! I don't think there is anyway to summarize more succinctly the reason why some agencies/producers will be lucky to survive (A1), while others have their best days still ahead (A2).
The A1 response exposes the frailty of the typical agency model. Too many agencies feel their value is tied up in a product. They are in an endless search for a holy grail of a product that doesn't exist. There is no such thing as product exclusivity. Oh sure, a specific vendor may grant you exclusive rights to their product in a given market, but there are a dozen other vendors offering the almost identical product/service to your competitors.
Agencies whose fear centers on a product are basically conceding their inability to control their own destiny. They will always be at the mercy of that someone else if they believe their success is tied to someone else's product. Sure, they may have periods of success with a product, but their run will come to a screeching halt as soon as there is a better product, cheaper product, or the provider takes it away from them. And, right now, having the medical product taken away is what has benefits producers/agencies in a panic.
Now, contrast that to the A2 responses whose biggest fear is irrelevance. These are individuals/agencies who recognize they control their own destiny. They understand that maintaining the status quo while the world changes around them is the quickest path to the irrelevance they fear. They understand the value they bring to their clients is based on the knowledge, advice, and consultation they provide. They understand a product is simply a tool. Their ability to build something special with that tool is what keeps them relevant.
Fearing irrelevance should be the strongest motivation there is to change. Knowing your relevance is tied to the needs/demands of your clients will ensure your remain relevant (assuming you are willing to do the hard work that follows).
Agencies who fear irrelevance and use that as motivation to always be focused on the needs of their clients are going to run circles around those agencies who are, instead, focused on finding the next vendor offering the next "best product ever".
One of my all time favorite quotes seems appropriate.
If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less. – Gen. Eric Shinseki
Someone else's product will NEVER ensure your relevance, only their own.
Photo by Stefany.