Most people would agree selling can be a scary and challenging job. Most salespeople would agree prospecting is the scariest, most difficult part of that job.
I've always believed this, but a poll I put out on LinkedIn recently more than validated my belief. Why did I create this poll? Well, for several reasons.
Healthy pipelines are pipe dreams
The most consistent challenge we hear from producers is the effort to keep a full pipeline of prospects.
And I don't mean a pipeline of price-shoppers asking five other brokers to help keep their current broker honest.
I'm talking about doing what it takes to keep a pipeline filled with prospects who appreciate the value you can bring to them and who would be a profitable account.
The thing is, there are only so many ways to put opportunities in the pipeline: cold asks, referrals from clients and other centers of influence (COI), and marketing campaigns. Unfortunately, most seem to scare producers. More than half of the respondents were more afraid of pipeline-filling activities than staring at an empty pipeline.
The poll's premise was simple. I asked producers to look in the mirror and be honest with themselves and with us. I wanted to know if they are more afraid of doing the prospecting and marketing part of their job or failing to hit their new business goal.
"As a benefits or insurance producer, which of the following do you find to be the most difficult and terrifying?"
- Making cold calls – 35%
- Asking clients for referrals – 6%
- Creating educational content – 10%
- Facing an empty pipeline – 49%
Do you find this as shocking as I do? Okay, maybe shocking isn't the right description. As I already said, keeping their pipeline healthy is the biggest challenge for most producers. I guess it's just quantifying this that makes me shake my head.
A majority of producers have a greater fear of prospecting than they do staring at an empty pipeline.
Overcome the fear
As much as I'd like to tell you I have all the answers, I don't. But I do have some ideas that make prospecting easier.
Believe in your value
It starts with believing in your value proposition and overcoming the angst that your prospecting/marketing efforts are an imposition on your audience. If you genuinely believe you and your team can make a meaningful impact on your clients' businesses, your prospecting efforts aren't an imposition; they're an offer to share valuable business insights.
Keeping their pipelines healthy must be a priority activity for producers every single week. Way too many producers wait to "find the time" for these activities. Inevitably, they don't find the time until they reach a point of desperation. This leads to associating the fear of desperation with the activity of prospecting, making it even scarier.
If every producer were honest about what percentage of their time must be committed to prospecting/marketing/sales activities and schedule that time on their calendar, they would get into a rhythm that keeps their pipeline healthy and keeps the irrational fear at bay.
Pipeline filling activities
Here are a handful of how-to ideas to get the prospecting kicked into gear.
I get it; cold calling will never be easy. We see articles all the time proclaiming, "cold calling is dead." It isn't. The more others convince themselves it doesn't work anymore, the more it can work for you. Besides, if you're just getting started in sales, you don't have a choice.
The key is to develop a script with which you're comfortable and then make cold calling a daily habit. Here's one of my favorite scripts.
Hello. My name is Kevin. I'm a benefits advisor with (agency name). I'm going to be completely up-front: This is a cold call, and I TOTALLY understand why you may want to hang up.
OR, if you're feeling generous today, maybe you'll allow me 30 seconds to explain why others are willing to listen a bit longer?
Those who decide to meet with us do so because they are frustrated with their benefits program in one of three areas:
- Their costs are out of control.
- They are terrified of hidden compliance exposures.
- Or they don't feel their employees understand or value the benefits they provide them.
Of course, maybe you are one of the few who have figured this out. But, if you aren't one of those rare few and would love to have an answer in one of the three areas, which would it be?
Client and COI referrals
I never cease to be amazed at how few producers consistently (and effectively) ask their best relationships for referrals and introductions. When producers do ask, they are usually asking for two things: 1) the favor of making a referral, and 2) for their client/COI to figure out to whom they can give a referral.
It's this second ask where referrals fall apart. It's not fair to give someone else your job. Do some research to figure out what other decision-makers your client/COI knows who would be a good fit for you. Now, when you ask for the favor of the referral, you can make it easy for them by handing over a ready-to-go list.
And, if the thought of asking for the favor gives you anxiety, read the book "Go-Giver."
One final idea on this topic. Instead of asking for "referrals," ask for "introductions." Words are powerful, and, for some, "referral" feels a bit heavy. However, as social animals, almost all of us are comfortable making a simple "introduction."
Many find it scary to put their opinions out there in writing; they sell themselves short on the value of the insight they can provide. You are an expert when it comes to benefits. Sure, your target audience knows a bit about employee benefits as well but probably nothing close to your level of knowledge.
More likely than not, you have so much insight to share that you end up talking over their heads. If the advice you consider sharing feels almost too obvious to you, it is likely approaching a level that will make sense to your audience.
If you are struggling with topics, put yourself in your audience's heads: what are they struggling with? What do they want to find answers for?
Hint - they aren't interested in learning about your products and solutions. Your audience is interested in learning about the problems they have that your products and solutions could eventually solve. Talk about those problems, and you will find an eager and appreciative audience.
The advice here is straightforward. Start every day reviewing your pipeline. What you measure improves.
Producers need to change the reality of unhealthy pipelines. As the saying goes, "We won't embrace the pain of change until the pain of not changing becomes greater."
Force yourself to face the pain of your empty pipeline; build your confidence and abilities in pipeline-building activities; and, soon, your prospecting momentum will be unstoppable.
If you are a producer and want to know how to put together a killer annual plan, follow the arrows to download our nifty Producer Annual Plan! ⬇️⬇️⬇️
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Photo by iakovenko