A neighbor once told me that she had recently gone to the doctor and he described her as one of the skinniest, fat patients he had. I asked, “What the hell does THAT mean?” 

From outside appearances, she seemed to be in decent shape; she was certainly on the slim side. But, the inside was a different story. Her blood pressure was high, her cholesterol was high, you get the picture.

Looks can be deceiving. So can our own self-perception.

I have always been active. I’ve been a runner since college and still run most days. On top of my running, I have always gotten into the gym for some additional weight training. Because I’m pretty disciplined, I’ve always just pushed myself to put on my running shoes and get out the door or to push through another set on the bench.

Things are not always as they appear

I’ve always felt I was reasonably strong, reasonably fit. But I didn’t realize how “fat” I was. At least until I went to a new fitness class.

I decided it was time to mix things up. Instead of just going through my same old runs/workouts, I decided it was time to put myself in the hands of someone who truly understands an effective workout. I joined an instructor-led program.

After a class or two, it was apparent I wasn’t as strong or as fit as I like to think I have been.

The first thing I learned is that proper technique is TOUGH. If you want to lift properly, you have to drop WAY down on weights. The next thing I learned is that to be overall healthy, one or two focused exercises is nowhere near enough.

After the first week, my entire body was sore.  Not in pain, but very aware that every part of my body worked at a level that it hadn’t before. Overall fitness is way harder to achieve than I realized.

The last lesson is that healthy competition is just that, healthy.

In these classes, everyone does the same workout, but it is scaled to their current ability. It’s not that you have to compete pound-for-pound on the bar, but you want to keep pace as you do that day’s workout to the maximum of your current ability. To have your competition offer a word of encouragement or a fist bump provides a surprising amount of motivation.

What's the sales lesson in all this?

You know this isn’t a post about me going to a new fitness class. These posts always come back to you and how you are doing your job. : )

I know most of you are reasonably successful producers. I’m sure you see yourself as “sales strong” and “sales fit”.

But, are you truly strong? Are you truly fit? Or are you simply projecting a strong/fit image and covering up your internal “obesity”?

“Sales fitness” is based on three things:

  1. A healthy pipeline
  2. An ability to address the complex needs of today’s business owners
  3. An effective sales process

Healthy diet

Your pipeline is the equivalent of your diet and too many of you are junking out, if not flat out starving.

Fat – Waiting for prospects to find you and then working on absolutely any opportunity that will allow you to.

Fit – Dedicating time every week (if not every day) to prospecting activities. Defining what your ideal opportunity looks like (potential revenue, buying style, benefits philosophy, etc.) and being disciplined to walk away from any opportunity that doesn’t fit that profile.

When you have a steady stream of high quality opportunities to consume, you will be shocked at how much sales energy you bring into each day.

Holistic workout

Your sales process is the equivalent of being a lean, mean fighting machine.

Fat – Showing up at renewal time looking for a chance to quote, bragging about your platinum status with the carriers, showing off your “just like everyone else’s” capabilities binder, and promising that YOUR team delivers better service than anyone else. You may be exceptionally articulate and tell this story better than anyone else. You may think you are a lean, mean selling machine. You may be wrong.

Being able to tell your story effectively is like going in the gym and only doing one exercise, and then doing it every time you go to the gym.

Fit – To be a truly lean, mean selling machine, you must recognize that it’s not about your ability to tell your story of how you help with their insurance needs. No, it’s about your ability to improve their story by focusing on the many needs they have beyond that of insurance.

Start with really studying the resources you keep in that capabilities binder. Take each one and study them the way you have the insurance solutions. For each of those resources:

  • Identify very clearly what needs they address;
  • Determine the negative impact (operationally and/or financially) a business would have if they struggled with that need;
  • Research to determine the challenges most businesses struggle with that would lead to them having that need;
  • Identify what questions you would need to ask to uncover whether or not a prospect/client is suffering from each need; and
  • Determine the very specific steps you would follow to implement each solution once you know a client needs it.

When you start studying your non-insurance solutions at this level and doing the hard work to be able to leverage their true potential, you will be humbled at how your “all about us” sales conversation has left you weak and vulnerable.

Engage a coach or co-worker to oversee your workouts

If you have to report to someone what you are eating each day and have them oversee your workouts, you will always end up with better eating habits and more intense workouts. Your pipeline and sales conversation are no different.

Fat – Thinking that just because you have been selling for 20 years, you can just go into any given presentation and “wing” it.

Fit – Finding someone who can help you maintain discipline. Regularly report to them on how many opportunities you have in your pipeline, the quality of those opportunities, and if you are predictably moving them forward. Role play your sales conversation with them on a regular basis, have them push and challenge you as a real prospect would, and ask them to offer constructive criticism.

No, it isn’t easy to achieve true sales fitness. But the fact that it is so difficult may be the greatest motivation for you to commit to the hard work.

Because it is so difficult, most of your competition won’t show up at the gym. They’ll keep eating that junk food.

Get up off the couch, clear out your pipeline of the junk-food opportunities, and start building the muscle it will take to truly serve the broader needs of your clients. Then, when you bring the new “fit” you to the fight for the next opportunity, well, let’s just say that your competition will be rubbing their rear end after the ass-kicking you will have delivered.

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