Whether it’s through social media, email exchanges, or coaching calls, we spend most of our days talking to insurance industry professionals. As you might imagine, the topics and tone of those conversations have changed a fair amount over these past several weeks.
What’s interesting is there has been more consistency in the topics than ever before. Everyone is focused on the same issues.
What is most dramatically different is the tone of the conversations. Sure, there were differences in tone before the crisis hit, but they weren’t that far apart. It’s now changed. We see greater extremes than ever before.
As you might guess, some producers and agencies are living every day with a sense of panic. What might surprise you is the increasing level of confidence we are seeing in many other producers and agencies.
We really shouldn’t be surprised, though.
A crisis doesn’t build character; a crisis exposes character.
The crisis is exposing who we are at our core in the rawest fashion possible. Before the crisis, we were in an extremely healthy economic environment. Many agencies and individual producers were successful in spite of a frail, underlying structure. Many were able to avoid the heavy lift of reinforcing their organizational foundation and blissfully convince themselves all was good.
The crisis has shown up at our doors like the Big Bad Wolf threatening to huff and puff and blow our houses down. The wolf seems to be succeeding in some instances. At the very least, he has blown the façade off for many. They now have no choice but to face the harsh reality of what they need to do to survive.
Then there are other agencies and producers who, quite honestly, have never been more optimistic about their future. Don’t get me wrong; they are quite realistic and have had moments of doubt along the way.
However, we are far enough into this thing that their confidence grows each day as they appreciate the benefits of the difficult foundational work they have put into their business. They see unprecedented opportunities on the horizon at the expense of weaker competitors who, may I say it, built their businesses with proverbial sticks and straw.
The topic at hand
While we see extremes from panic to excitement in terms of tone, everyone seems to find their respective tone based on their confidence or lack thereof, in three building blocks of confidence:
- Client impact
- Sales process
- Prospect pipeline
These topics are top of mind for the panicked and confident alike, like never before.
Selling is a transfer of confidence. As a sales professional/organization, you are always working to give others (prospects AND existing clients) confidence that, by working with you, they will get better results than if they don’t.
You can’t give away what you don’t have. If you aren’t confident, nobody else will find confidence in you either.
This has always been a truth of inconvenience, but the big bad COVID-wolf has made it an undeniable fact of harsh reality. Those who have built their house of confidence with sticks and straw are rightfully scared. With the wolf still howling at the door, those who have built with bricks may still be hunkering a bit, but their giddiness is growing as they know he will be moving on.
They know there are unprecedented opportunities to be had at the expense of sticks and straw competitors.
Regardless of where you are starting, there is an opportunity to rebuild or boost your confidence. To do so, though, you must stay focused on the basic building blocks of sales confidence.
Sales confidence #1: Client impact
To have sales confidence, you have to believe in your heart of your and your team’s ability to deliver improved results when a prospect becomes a client. To do so takes a powerful combination of having access to the right resources and the ability to use them effectively.
Take inventory of the resources you already have (think value-added services – what we like to call non-insurance solutions). Even though you have had these for a while, look at them in a new light. Make sure you genuinely understand the problems they solve. I know that sounds obvious, but most of you haven’t gotten this far.
Sure, you can describe the features and benefits of these solutions. But, can you effectively define the problems they solve? More important than that, can you quantify the financial and/or operational impact a business may suffer if that problem afflicts them?
Just because you have access to a solution doesn’t mean you are able to provide your clients with access to its impact. For every solution you have access to, your team MUST have an implementation plan to ensure it is successfully put into effect. You also MUST have a management plan to ensure it is executed and maintained as necessary.
Sales confidence #2: Sales process
As important as this building block of confidence has always been, its significance has grown exponentially. Never before has it become so painfully apparent to employers the difference between a broker and an advisor. Many employers have found a sense of confidence and inner peace because of the support they have received from their benefits advisor. As you can imagine, they have gained a whole new level of appreciation for the relationship.
Sadly, others have learned a painful lesson. Way too many employers have found their brokers have gone radio silent and haven’t been there to support them during their time of greatest need.
Expectations of advisors are going to be significantly higher than before.
Your opportunity is to address those expectations during the sales process. Those brokers who continue to show up at renewal begging for a chance to quote, showing off a capabilities binder, and promising to deliver better service than anyone else will find a level of irrelevance they couldn’t even imagine before.
Employers are going to expect you to bring a sales process that isn’t built on your story. They are going to be expecting you to show up with a process that focuses on them. They need you to expose the shortcomings of their current benefits story and show them a path to one that improves with each chapter.
Sales confidence #3: Pipeline
This is perhaps the most essential sales confidence building block of all. It doesn’t matter how much of an impact you can make on the business of a client or how buyer-focused your sales process is if you don’t have anyone to share it with.
Prospect pipelines have been among the hardest-hit part of sales confidence during this crisis. Many are flat out non-existent.
For the duration of the crisis, and during the recovery period, prospecting is a different game than it’s ever been – sort of. The healthiest prospecting activities have always focused on discussing the problems a buyer may have, and this is more important than ever. But the “let me quote your insurance” approach that had been sufficient enough for many before the crisis, is all but irrelevant now.
Cost control always is, and will be even more so after the crisis passes, a critical part of the process. But client expectations will be at a whole new level, and price is only part of their benefits story.
Client expectations always start as prospect expectations. If your prospecting activities don’t address those broader expectations, you’ll never get a chance to prove yourself capable of meeting them.
It’s time to inspect your house and make an honest assessment. Have you built a home worthy of confidence? Even if you have, are you doing what is necessary to maintain that level of confidence?
The building blocks of confidence are incredibly strong, but without proper maintenance and attention, they crumble quickly.
READER WARNING – Confidence-improvement promotion ahead. Those who fear taking control of their future should exit the blog – NOW!
Really? You’re still here? Okay, you’ve been warned.
We are taking applications for an upcoming virtual confidence-enhancement program. For those who are accepted, you can expect to make a more significant impact on the business of your clients, build a sales process that will differentiate you from your competitors (and close more deals, btw), and fill your pipeline with more of the right opportunities.
Oh, as a bonus, you get to bring another little piggy along at no additional cost.
I know, right?!
Image by Christos Georghiou.