We may not control the insurance products we sell, but our real opportunity lies beyond the product. And we do control the knowledge we have and how we use it.
Selling solutions that fill clients’ business needs requires a solid understanding of how business works
Without an understanding of how business works, you won’t know what questions to ask. When you don’t know where your line of questioning is going, then you won’t know when you’ve reached that pivotal point in the conversation where the real answers lie. If you jump on the first problem you find and begin offering a solution without allowing the opportunity to dig deeper, it’s almost guaranteed you’re going to be leaving opportunities on the table.
Being a business owner or partner in a business does not automatically make you business savvy, or even mean that you understand what the fundamental drivers of a business are. You need to understand the financials of your own company and know what the profit and expense drivers are and how to talk about all of it. When you really understand this information, you are then able to have peer-to-peer conversations with prospects & clients about the financial drivers of his or her business. It’s at this point that you’re able to move from selling a product to selling business solutions and partnerships.
Let's look at some sample areas to explore for insight into the organization
Do they Understand their Own Business?
- What is their client retention trend? Are they earning new clients?
- Have they identified why they are picking up or losing clients? Is it just happening or do they know why, and can it be replicated or stopped?
- What areas of their business give the greatest ROI for investments made?
Answers to these questions will show if their business is in a place of stagnation, growth, or decline. You will also begin to understand how well they know their own business and how much control they have over their future success.
Are Revenues & Profits Growing?
- Are their revenues following the same trend as their client growth?
- Are their profits consistent with their client growth?
Answers to these questions will give you an idea if their profit margins are growing, shrinking or holding steady. To find the reason for that you need to understand if it’s a change in the costs of sales, pricing, or cost of goods, or perhaps there are operational issues that have impacted a positive or negative change.
Are they Proactively Managing the Business?
- Do they have non-profit-generating products, services, or business activities? Why?
- Do they proactively practice eliminating unnecessary expenses?
- Are there parts of the business that could be done more effectively by someone else on the outside?
- Are they allocating resources internally in a way that maximizes individual skills and value to the company?
- Do they actively engage employees in practicing high productivity?
- Does the company share financials with employees?
Answers to these questions will show how they are dealing with business efficiencies and how they are driving employee participation in business practices. These can be very intermingled issues because it’s all dealing with human behaviors and making the difficult decisions to create changes for the good of the business, which may not always good for individual employees.
Of course, these are just a few ideas for digging deeper into your client's business. If selling beyond a product offering is a priority, then understanding how a business makes money and drives a profit is a requirement. If you’re new to this idea, I recommend getting a copy of ‘What the CEO Wants You to Know’ by Ram Charan. It’s a great primer on understanding financial drivers and how companies make money and make decisions. If you're in the business of talking to people about their business, this is information you need to understand.
Photo by re-ality.