Positioning & Opportunities: How you differentiate yourself in the mind of your prospect

Believe it or not, fourth quarter, and arguably the most important time of the year, is upon us. You’re probably nodding your head, having a little anxiety over all of the upcoming renewals and agreeing with the importance of dealing with them.

And that’s true. But what’s also true is that most of you have a team to help you get through those renewals. Let them handle the lion’s share of that responsibility. It’s time for you to focus on the real reason why this is the most important time of the year for you: your pipeline. Despite all of the distractions that come with this time of year, it is critical that prospecting remains a top priority.

While prospecting has always been challenging, in this era of differentiation it has become even more so. I assume by now most of you have modified your business model and are positioning yourself as somehow different in the marketplace. It’s exactly that repositioning of your model that requires a more focused approach to communicating with prospects.

Problems in message delivery

Here are some problems I regularly see as I coach agencies and producers about delivering the right message during the prospecting/sales process:

  1. Differentiation - You have to effectively explain what it is that makes your model different.
  2. Overcoming the industry brand – If the prospect doesn’t know you or your agency, they will assume you are a traditional insurance broker.
  3. Lack of personal preparation – The new differentiated model requires that you expand your knowledge to bring value to your future clients in new ways.
  4. Inconsistencies –
    • In the amount of time committed to prospecting
    • In the client experience we talk about versus the client experience we deliver
    • In the written messages (website, blog, etc.) we send versus the spoken message communicated during the sales process

Responses to overcome the problems

Differentiate yourself by defining your position. Your message has to be a reflection of your business model. It should demonstrate how you are different from the competition (your position), and how you bring value to your clients. Analyze your business model in order to develop your message.

As you work to define your position, answer the following questions, but be sure that you answer in a way that is unique (can’t be claimed by your competition – or at least by most of them) and compelling (allows your prospect to see what’s in it for them).

  • What do you sell? The reason you give your clients to do business with you.
  • How do you sell it? Write down the steps through which you take a prospect.
  • How do you retain clients? Describe why your clients remain with you.

If you can’t honestly answer these questions in a manner that meets the unique and compelling standards, you need to re-evaluate and adjust your business model.

Overcome industry brand and inconsistencies by developing your own message - Now that you have defined your position in a unique and compelling manner, it’s time to develop your message. Start by developing the core message that will be consistent throughout all of your communications. It is through this messaging that you must start separating yourself from the stereotype of the industry brand.

To create an effective message, but sure it is:

  • Simple – Don’t make your audience sort through a bunch of noise to find the core message. Make it obvious.
  • Visible – Be sure it paints a picture of who you are.
  • Rational & Emotional – Appeal to both sides of your audience as they are always present

An effective message will tell the audience:

  • What you do
  • How you do it
  • Why they should want it
  • Their call to action (e.g. asking for the appointment)

Plan to communicate - Once you have defined the message to be communicated, develop the plan as to how it will be executed.

  1. Marketing (Pre-sale) & Brand Communication – These are the ways in which you will reinforce the messages being taken to the market by your sales force. You can be sure that once a producer contacts a prospect, that prospect will go to these various sources to learn more about the agency and producer. Be sure all of the messaging is consistent, including website, blog, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.
  2. Sales Messaging for Agency & Producer – Develop the scripts to be used during the sales process. Allow producers the flexibility to personalize, but insist that they convey the core message developed above.
    • Cold call
    • Approach letters, emails
    • 30-second commercial
    • Asking for referrals – COI/Client

Deliver on the new model/message with personal preparation – If you have committed to somehow being different in the marketplace, it likely means that you are going to need new skills and knowledge to do so. You will never be able to truly meet the promises that come with your defined position if you haven’t made an agency-wide commitment, requirement, and investment to acquiring the skills and knowledge necessary to execute on the new model.

Look at the position you have defined and identify every skill set, talent and knowledge that is required to deliver it successfully. Compare that list with what is currently in place and create a plan to acquire what is missing.

Block time for consistent prospecting – As much as I would like to be able to offer one, there is no magic bullet when it comes to prospecting. (The closest there is to a magic bullet are the client referrals I talked about in my February article.) However, with the right messaging in place, scripts identified, appropriate knowledge and practice under your belt, you will be positioned to get better results.

However, those results won’t come without action. No matter what, it all comes down to blocking out time on your calendar every week for dedicated prospecting activities. The thing is, now that you are better prepared, I think you will find that it’s not the horrible task you have maybe allowed it to be up to this point.

When you think about having a consistently full pipeline, you just have to ask yourself, “How badly do I really want it?”

 

Photo by David J Laporte.