Why do we make "it" so difficult — the “it” being our job as a producer? The best definition I’ve ever heard for the responsibilities of a sales manager was to hire the right people and then be sure to keep the “stuff” out of their way. Unfortunately, most of the stuff in our way exists because we put it there ourselves. Be your own sales manager and clear your road.

Does the following sound familiar? You compete with a product over which you have no control. You play the game at the same time as everyone else. You are more focused on what you have to sell than on what the prospect/client needs to buy. I’m going to guess you have at least one of these slowing your progress.
Take control over what you sell
If you are ever going to be seen as anything other than a middleman, you have to control what it is you sell. We (producers) have a history of selling on relationships. That’s fine until our clients realize the necessity of making the best business decision. Thinking that business decision is about price/product of the insurance policy, many of us mistakenly believe our value is in delivering someone else’s product (the actual insurance policy). This approach was marginally effective, but only at a time when there were new carriers and plan designs coming into the market (when was the last time you had a viable new carrier?).

Once we come to the realization that the insurance policy is a commodity, we normally start adding “stuff” on top of the insurance policy. We call our stuff value-added services and expect it to be enough of a reason for our prospect/clients to hire us over our competition. Problem is, all of our competition has their own stuff and the value-added services are quickly perceived as a commodity as well. They become a commodity in the eyes of the prospect in as much as they perceive everyone’s list of “stuff” to basically be the same.

Now, don’t get me wrong, relationships, price/product, service and value-added services are all important. As a matter of fact, they are so important that if you don’t do them — and do them well — you’ll get fired. But that’s it; they are the minimum ante into the game. If you want to take control, you will put the focus of your sales approach on the value you bring. You have to show that by working with you, the prospect/client will better positioned in terms of their clients, employees, profitability, and/or owner satisfaction. If you can’t show how you will make them better in one of these key areas, you are simply another commodity offering.

Our timing stinks
We have been programmed to believe the first step in the prospecting process is to find out the prospects renewal date. Then we follow up 90 to120 days out and ask for an “opportunity to find you a better price.” Are you kidding me? Now, we are trying to compete using a product over which we have no control, and we are going to use this brilliant strategy at the same time as all of our competitors! How’s that working out for you?! Let me guess, the incumbent broker came back with the same spreadsheet as you did and they got to retain the business even though your spreadsheet was much prettier and your list of stuff was significantly better organized.

Actually, finding the renewal date is one of the first things we want to learn, but not for the traditional reason of quoting the decision. I always make that 90-day period prior to renewal off limits for my producers. I don’t want them trying to communicate their value proposition at a time when the only thing the prospect can think about is how to get their unacceptable renewal down to merely ridiculous. There is just too much noise surrounding the renewal for you to be heard.

It ain’t about you
Eventually we realize that our spreadsheets are all the same and we make our entire approach about how big our list of stuff is, thinking that size really matters. Our presentation becomes the backing up of dump truck and unloading everything we have on their desk. Then we are somehow surprised when they are overwhelmed and under impressed. They are overwhelmed because they know they can never effectively deploy everything and are under impressed because, from where they sit, your dump truck looks just like the other loads your competition dropped on their desk. Here’s the worst part — when you write a new account with this approach, you are now obligated to deliver every solution you have. Whether or not they really want or need it, by golly, they’re gonna get it!

Spend the time to make it about them. Before you can improve their situation, you both need to have complete clarity around what needs to improved and why as well as the proper strategy and solutions for doing so. Less really is more.

Clear the road and it will be simple
First, quit competing with a product over which you have no control. Everyone knows you can put together a spreadsheet, even the prospect knows that. Know how you can better help a prospect/client better manage the HR/benefits/people management part of their business and compete based on that value.

Second, if you were in real estate, it would be location, location, location. However, you’re not in real estate and for you it is timing, timing, timing. Have the discipline to not talk to a prospect within 90 days of their renewal date. I don’t care how good you are at the first item, they can’t hear you when they are thinking about the price of that product (oh, by the way, you have no control over the price of that product).

Third, it’s not about you. If the prospect isn’t talking they aren’t a prospect. For you to better help them manage this part of their business, you better spend the majority of your time listening to what they want to accomplish, their potential threats and opportunities, and develop a strategy around what they need to buy rather than what you want to sell.

It really can be that simple, just decide, “How bad do I want it?” and keep the “stuff” out of your own way.


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