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Do you know the 11 mistakes most producers make? Do you understand the art of the probe? Are you familiar with the concept of consultative selling? Do you sell by building value rather than cutting price? Do you know how to make FIFTY (or more) sales calls in one day? Do you know the most effective way to ask for (and get) referrals? Do you understand needs-based selling? This single area of the VU research library can turn your new or low performing producers into sales powerhouses.

Most problems and complaints both outside and inside your company arise from poor communication. Poor communication most often results from either miscommunication or a lack of communication. This article identifies thirteen steps to ensure you communicate effectively.
If it’s not measured, it can’t be managed. Every agent and agency must be able to measure specific sales ratios to effectively plan for the future. Two commonly measured ratios are retention ratio and closing ratio; but a new metric not often discussed is the “effective production time.”
One of the best ways to ensure you make more sales is to make sure you’re taking excellent care of your customers and one of the best ways to do that is to go back to the basics of GREAT customer service. Providing great customer service ensures that your customers feel appreciated and are being taken care of; if you take care of customers, they will take care of you.
There are two primary ways to create an uninsured motorist: (1) no auto liability coverage, or (2) auto liability coverage that has an exclusion for what happened. According to an Insurance Journal article, UM experience has gotten decidedly worse. Could it be that this is due, at least in significant part, to increasingly stripped-down auto policies being sold on price alone?
To solve the problem of a declining agency client base, the answer for insurance agency owners is to recruit producers who will both grow the agency in support of their compensation needs AND become the agency owners’ successors.
The cry we hear loudest from agents is that they are losing customers to cheaper alternatives. Yet watching the buying habits of these same customers, they don’t buy the cheapest clothes they can find, the cheapest cuts of beef, and the cheapest cars on the market. WHY?
Insurance agency consultant Chris Burand sheds light on the fallacious opinion held by some agency owners and even some agency consultants that a bad producer is better than no producer at all. Burand puts this to the “dollars and sense” test. (Yes, I know it says “sense.”)
According to Insurance Thought Leadership, it costs a business seven-to-nine times more to acquire a new customer than to retain a current client. So why aren’t today’s agents focusing more on cross-selling? This article examines ways to cross sell, with a thorough list of cross-sell coverage opportunities.
The title pretty much says it all. Are you a “many” agent focused on the price-based easy sell or are you among the few who understand that insurance requires a consultative approach?
One of the reasons that the direct writers and internet-based companies do so much business is that the buying public feel that insurance is a commodity—we’re all the same and the price is the only differentiation. In an impersonal internet-based world in which texting replaces actual conversations this concept makes sense—until a sour experience with a claim or service issue illustrates the need for personal service and relationship.
Everyone occasionally comes across those hard to place accounts. Hopefully, your first shot will be our own Big “I” Markets at Other alternatives include and In this article, technology guru Steve Anderson discusses a web-based platform with a different approach.
A freelance journalist was working on a story about what questions a consumer or business owner should ask when buying insurance. She was seeking five questions each from several insurance “experts.” These were the five questions I suggested that prospects ask whomever they are purchasing insurance from…just in case YOU are asked these questions by someone who read the writer’s final article.
How do you get new clients? If you are like most independent agents, most of your clients come to you by word-of-mouth from other clients. These clients are invaluable because they already know OF you and the contact is for them to get to know you personally. If you get along and they like and trust you and if you can solve their problems, a relationship can begin that will likely end with them purchasing insurance from you.
You got your start as a personal lines producer and you’re ready to make a move to commercial lines production. How do you get started? How do you “write” a commercial lines account? Where do you get the coverage and sales training necessary to be successful? In this article, the VU faculty make some recommendations and we link to a few other VU articles and outside resources.
Is too much of your staff’s time being spent responding to telephone requests for auto quotes? One agency getting 80 calls a day seeks a way out and the VU faculty deliver.
Search the internet for “how to reduce your car insurance cost” and you should get about 58 million hits. Hundreds, if not thousands, of articles have been written about how to save money on car insurance. Unfortunately, almost all of them are full of bad advice, one example being dropping your physical damage coverage. This article explains why that’s usually not a good idea.
As the commodity-pricing frenzy of auto insurance intensifies, you become aware of agents who are cutting premiums by deliberately failing to disclose teenage drivers and advising prospects or insureds that they are still covered and would only have to pay the additional premium if a teen driver has an accident. What do you do?
If you’re a newly licensed producer, or transitioning from a customer service representative to sales, figuring out where to start in the sales process is key to your success. Here are 10 top tips you can use now to build your book of business.
To understand the problems in your agency, sometimes it takes someone on the outside looking in. This article addresses four of the most common positions held by agency owners that create immovable and serious roadblocks to their agencies’ success.
Partnership Marketing is the joining of two diverse organizations with a client base that can use the services and products of both. In its broadest terms the concept can apply to almost any two businesses that serve the same type of client base. But in reality Partnership Marketing can be very beneficial and profitable, but only to synergistic product or service providers.
What is YOUR role if you are no longer able to influence pricing for your clients and prospects? You'd be wise to figure it out now.
Agencies and insurers often provide policy coverage summaries. Is this a good idea? As is often the case, the agency must balance the sales and service function with their E&O exposure. This article suggests a reasonable way to do this, if warranted, including a sample disclaimer.
Successful selling can be broken down into 6 key areas or character traits which in this article we will refer to as the 6 Cs. If you are new to sales, or are struggling a bit, you’ll find that by focusing on these 6 keys, sales success will quickly follow. If you are already a highly successful salesperson, refocusing on these 6 factors will make you even more successful.
For as long as I have been in the insurance business agents have sought ways to promote themselves to their marketplace to get people to know them. The agents believe that if they were allowed access to prospects, the sales would follow. The obvious fact is that many agents are not salespeople. This is evidenced by the decades-long trend away from selling a trust relationship between producer and prospect and toward offering quotes, hoping to sell because of price.
Many of the so-called experts claim that agents cannot compete with the direct insurance marketing channel because of, in the case of online quoting and sales, the inherent efficiency of the internet. But at some point this alleged efficiency becomes as efficient as it possibly can be. If your marketing strategy is focused almost entirely on price and “convenience,” what happens next? The logical answer does not bode well for consumers unless agents and regulators address the likely detrimental consequences of unbridled price competition.
High performance agencies inevitably maintain controllable customer retention rates of 95% or more regardless of the market conditions, regardless of the insurance economy and regardless of competition. And these high retention levels at these successful, profitable agencies are not accidental.
As an emerging insurance agent, pointing out your customers’ various coverage needs can not only generate more income and a more committed client, but can also prevent a potential allegation that you failed to offer a vital coverage. This article highlights the difference between an agent’s servicing or selling.
When producers reach a critical point, you notice that their New Business production diminishes each year. They are still active, but they spend their time managing their client relationships to keep the clients happy and renewing. Something is happening that needs to be addressed if you agree that a producer’s job in your agency is to build an ever-growing book of clients for the agency. But there are two types of Producer personalities and each must be treated differently if you want to continue to grow your business.
Like statutory minimum limits standards, should states consider minimum coverage standards to protect the general public? Isn’t this the primary responsibility of regulators? How are they serving consumers if they approve policy forms that provide very restrictive coverage? As outlined in a previous VU article, the continuing race to the lowest priced auto policy is only going to hurt the innocent.
The insurance industry has long gone through periods of “hard” and “soft” market conditions. In hard markets, insurance premiums increase and capacity – the ability of insurance markets to accept coverage – typically shrink. In soft markets, premiums decrease, and market capacity typically increases. Many newer agents have never experienced a hard market. The ability to navigate a tight insurance market and explain the market fluctuations to your clients can mean the difference between winning an account and losing a valued account to a competitor.
We’ve all seen the media stories about the demise of independent agents from organizations ranging from Google to Walmart getting into the insurance industry. Likewise, even our own publications refer to start-up “disrupters” like Insurify and Lemonade “revolutionizing” the industry. Is this PR or reality? Are their real downsides to consumers buying insurance from such “aggregators” or online comparative rating sites?
The internet and online insurance buying are incredible. Early in 2017, agency producers will become obsolete. Shortly thereafter, agencies themselves will become obsolete. This will happen because three progressions will occur simultaneously.
Have you ever wondered why customers buy from independent agents? According to research, the two main reasons are claims management and remarketing.
What's your 'pickup' line? 'Hi sailor, been in town long? I'm a Libra, you must be a Capricorn.' For a business, the pickup line for buyers might include the trigger words 'Free,' 'Sale,' 'Bargain,' etc. In a business-to-business relationship the message is more subtle, talking about 'quality,' 'integrity,' 'reliability,' etc. Somehow a seller must attract buyers. Using a 'courting' analogy, sales guru Bob Ayrer will show you how to move from love at first sight to a lifelong relationship.
“Live” coaching is coaching that you do based on your observations of your people. Certainly it is critical to look at the metrics of how salespeople are performing against objectives to guide your coaching. Equally and maybe more important is to sit down and work with your salespeople to find out firsthand what they are doing, what they know, and where they need support so they can achieve the metrics.
Many agency owners/managers are like river rocks...solid with rounded edges, they don't like to cut people the wrong way. Unfortunately, while this approach may work with customers, it may not with staff. Many agencies have producers who are like anchors dragging the agency in the current or, worse, to the bottom of the river. Here's how to solve the problem....
I have received many incredulous looks and many e-mails asking what planet I was from in response to my speeches and articles suggesting producers must produce $200,000 gross commissions for an agency to break even on their producers. In particular, many small town agents think this is impossible. Think again....
Over the years, we have observed the mistakes of many salespeople in many different types of 'selling situations' in trying to acquire and retain business. Although the actual approach or style will always vary, there are many common pitfalls that can trap salespeople. Here are the most prominent:
Many people in the P&C industry, particularly agency CSR's and a number of producers have not yet had the pleasure of experiencing a hard market. It's been about 15 years since we last had a significant hardening of prices. A hard market presents a number of selling problems. On the other hand, it also presents opportunities. Below are 12 tips that might improve your sales results in the hard (or any) market.
Personal lines competition continues to intensify unabated as more and more players enter the marketplace. However, independent agents CAN fight back...IF they are willing to make some fundamental changes in the way they do business. In this article, I'll present seventeen ways your agency can compete and WIN in personal lines.
Do you hate to make calls on the phone? Would you rather do anything, anything, than dial that stranger? Do you find yourself reading the newspaper, taking an early lunch, cleaning your desk, even filling out paperwork, rather than making those calls? Do you tell yourself you'd make those calls more easily if you only had some guidelines to help you know what to say?
Most desirable prospects are deluged with offers for insurance. Another letter or call will not differentiate the agency from all others. A sales letter sent in bulk is NOT a marketing program. Prospects are more likely to do business with agents with whom they're familiar and comfortable. Knowing this, how do you implement an effective marketing program?
Generating a profitable, high-margin book of business requires a balanced approach to marketing and sales – built on processes that are sustained over the long haul. Steve lays out how an agency can achieve such a successful marketing and sales process that is both high-touch and high-tech.
Even in trying economic times, smart agents understand the critical need for feet on the street, bringing new clients to the agency on a regular basis. Only one of every seven people on earth has the characteristics of a producer, and unfortunately, many of them do not end up in sales jobs. What are those characteristics?
We dare to say that our newsletter subscribers (you) are wealthier and have more potential for wealth creation than 99.1% of the population on the planet. Check that statistic out for yourself. When considering the world stage, your current and future earning power is staggering. Keep in mind, though, that it’s not all about your financials – it’s also about your standards and values. And for those worried about losing their jobs, look out your window....
What is it that empowers some people to change smoothly and effortlessly, while getting others to modify their behavior seems like moving a mountain? It is something that is becoming increasingly rare -- a motivating sense of personal responsibility. That is, a deep and imbiding belief that one is responsible for one’s own behavior as well as the consequences of that behavior.
What's an account profile form? An account profile form isa form full of questions, or more precisely, spaces for the answers to questions. The questions are all about one of your accounts, or one of the individuals within that account. The form is the document on which you store that useful information. A well-designed, systematically executed account profile form can be one of your mostpowerful strategies for acquiring a competitive edge.
The “TiVo” phenomenon is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to consumer-centric product and service marketing. This change, most noticeable in television advertising, is in itself a remarkable change in the way we spend and manage our recreational and spare time. But, more importantly, the “TiVo phenomenon” in all of its forms will doom media advertising and marketing as we have known it and learned it for our own industry.
After your final sales proposal, while the prospect is making a decision, there are some important things you can do to, as Rev. Jackson says, 'to keep hope alive.'
Sometimes you can get so caught up in learning about the client's needs and so excited by your own enthusiasm for your solution, that you can miss asking about the competition even if the client mentions 'competitors.' Although you can, you may not want to ask about the competitor the minute the client brings it up, but you must get back to it....
All the modern forward thinking gurus of selling agree: 'Telling ain't selling. Listening is.' Without question, it’s the number one skill of closing sales. But what the gurus often fail to tell you is what to listen for...and how to listen. In this article, legendary sales trainer, Bob Ayrer, will give you six steps to closing more sales.
Many agents don't do a good job of explaining to clients just how much value-added service they provide. Sometimes you must lift the water to their lips because they have tasted bitter water before – they don’t know that you offer them sweet water. In this article, I'll provide six “Arrows in your Quiver” that you can use to point out that you are not “just another insurance agent.”
With the new year comes a new page. Before you begin to fill the page, get a sense of what your clients and colleagues see as your strengths and your opportunities for improvement. Identify five clients and at least two colleagues from whom you will get feedback. The reason to ask for feedback is because we all need an outside view. We can only see so much about ourselves.
The best salespeople know their clients. They know more about clients than their competitors know. They know how to ask questions that go beyond product needs. They know how to listen and drill down. They ask questions that allow them to understand their client’s strategic objectives and personal needs and aspirations. Gaining this kind of client information requires the ability to ask questions that can be challenging to ask, questions about the decision-making process, budgets, how the client feels about your solution, organization, and you, how they feel you stack up to the competition, and “sensitive” questions that have the potential, if asked in the wrong way, to offend the client. Here's how to ask them....
Time and again we encounter successful producers, urban, suburban and rural, who continue to grow regardless of the economic or insurance conditions. These producers invariably follow the same guidelines, although every one of them feels that the guidelines are his/her personal secret. This short article presents three timeless guidelines for producers that will make them more successful in their sales efforts.
I respond to marketing calls, letters and telemarketers for insurance purposes. Yes, I am that guy who actually does this. But I respond to these campaigns because I desperately want to find agents and other insurance professionals who actually follow up on their marketing programs. So far, the results are dismal....
We have all heard 'He/she is a closer.' There are salespeople who are really good at closing and others who find it much more difficult to close. In the current business environment, even the closers are finding it harder to close. In this article, we'll look at the reasons some producers have trouble closing and what they can do about it.
The silliest of all marketing and advertising mistakes is when agency owners get caught up designing fancy headlines, logos, slogans and toll-free numbers, and forget the number-one feature of their firms: their people. You build a local insurance brand with people. Your employees literally are living the brand every day. They touch your customers and prospects every day in words and deeds. They are your paths to revenue growth. Don’t hide them in the cubicles.
There are many things you can do to improve your sales skills such as training, sales books, tapes, and team calling. But since you are often out there alone, one of the most important things you can do is reflect back and self-coach. Self-coaching takes time, but not a lot. What it takes is discipline. Here's how to do it....
Every salesperson talks about 'Closing the sale.' The best salespeople understand that before you can close the sale, you must open it.  'Opening' means using well designed and delivered questions to thoroughly uncover as many aspects of the buying decision as possible. Too many sales people mistakenly concern themselves with only the technical aspects of the sale, and neglect entirely some of the other issues...
In the early days of organized selling, when behavioral science was coming of age, some of the companies fielding large numbers of door-to-door sales people turned to the new science for help. They adopted highly manipulative psychological tactics to their selling processes. After championing selling as an honorable profession (and spending over ten years teaching sales people how to sell with integrity and honesty), I was distressed to find a program sponsored by a leading university that taught the kinds of manipulative behavioral skills that helped give selling a bad name over 80 years ago....
Selling may be simple but consulting is hard -- and it's different! You're kidding yourself if you think you can hire a 'sales trainer' to teach your sales people how to be consultants -- No way! We're talking about a completely different set of skills. It's not about 'Selling skills.' Let's back up. What is consultative selling and why do you need it now? To find out, keep reading...
A salesperson I know recently walked into a client's office he had visited often. Everything seemed the same as usual. But he quickly sensed something was wrong. When the client told him they had decided to pass on his latest proposal, he was not surprised. He'd been warned by the staff's body language.
During our 20 years in consulting, Agency Consulting Group, Inc. has identified several ceilings above which an organization can not grow without severe hardship – or extensive changes. We call these points the Glass Ceilings because we can see the benefits of growth beyond them but we can’t seem to break these invisible barriers. In this article, we'll present the first three 'glass ceilings' an agency may face.
Buggy whip manufacturers thought they were in the business of selling buggy whips. They failed to realize that technology was passing them by and they were really in the business of providing for the transportation equipment needs of the American public. Agents are at that same crossroads today.
This comprehensive article addresses the issues of building a successful sales organization, for outstanding customer service to the critical need for formal sales training. Al presents some startling statistics dealing with the 'producer trap,' then goes on to present some solutions to the dilemma. Finally, he provides some practical tips that will enable small agencies to develop a productive sales culture.
If you don't know how to build value, you'll be faced too often with the alternative of cutting price. The best way I know to build value in the prospect's mind is to talk needs-based benefits. We build value by showing how our product, service or idea can satisfy those needs.
In this article, I'd like to present six points that are the core of sales oriented insurance agencies that we encounter and assist as a consulting firm. If you are not yet a sales-oriented agency, follow these guidelines to become one. If you feel that these efforts are too strenuous for you to accomplish, acknowledge that you are not an insurance SALES organization and that your forte is in excellent service.
In spite of your best efforts to meet client expectations, requests, and demands, there are times when you can't deliver exactly what the client wants and/or exactly when he or she wants it. When you can't meet a client demand, meet a time line, or deliver in spite of your best efforts, how you handle the situation can make a tremendous difference in how the client feels about it.
Sometimes customer relationships become damaged. What to do? Client recovery takes time, skill, and heart to get the relationship back on track and to win back trust. When credibility is tarnished, there is no easy fix. If you are lucky, you can find a way to be a “hero” on another front the client is facing, but while that works wonders, it is also rare. But you can rebuild relationships. Here's how....
Customer retention has been trending negatively for the last ten years. Customer retention in recent years has averaged 87% and, while a few percent retention loss doesn’t seem like much, consider the following: If you have 1000 clients, the difference between the 94% retention of the best agencies and the 85% retention of the typical agency is 90 CLIENTS (about 7.5 customers every month)!
More and more salespeople are facing sales situations in which clients are delaying the close. To begin to get the sale back on track the salesperson has to first really understand what is causing the delay. Is it really a delay? Does the opportunity exist? If so, what are the best steps to regain momentum?
Closing isn't a bag of tricks. It has more to do with what you do before the Close than the words you use to ask for the business. In this article, we'll look at the three phases of closing that can help increase your close ratio.
To maximize the first call with a prospect so you have the best chance of closing later, it is critical to ask questions and understand needs and avoid presenting solutions prematurely. While you must listen and learn, it is also critical to 'give' during the first call. Here's how....
Probably the toughest part of the sales process for most producers is closing the sale. However, by the time you get to that point, the sale should almost close itself. One of the reasons many producers have difficulty landing the account is they haven't done the prep work that should have put the prospect in a buying mood.
All the books you've read, all of the 'rah-rah' rallies you've attended, all of the workshops you sat through don't mean squat if you don't convert the knowledge into skill. Take a lesson from the pros and get yourself a coach....
In order to reach a desired premium, an insurer may ask if the agent wants to 'chip in' commission, for example, reducing the commission from 15% to 10% in order to make the premium more competitive. The process is invisible to the insured or prospect. Is this rebating?
No one likes price increases, but they are a fact of life. As a professional salesperson, you can manage this process with excellence or you can allow it to upset you and your customers. Implement these seven strategies and you will handle the inevitable price increase with finesse and confidence.
Our insurance companies give us lists of their desired markets every year. They claim that they have competitive products and pricing to permit you to sell to those markets. But those markets are suspiciously similar for most carriers. Why?
The use of conference calling continues to increase.  Travel, a desire to save time, reduced costs, and added convenience have increased the use of conference calling, not only for introductory and follow-up sales calls, but also for closing deals. You can create a competitive advantage if you know how to maximize the conference call.
A “Legendary” agency is one who rarely loses customers unless the customer dies, moves or sells his/her business. It also has a regular, measurable, flow of referrals generated both by customers and by the agency requesting them. A “Legendary” agency is easily identified by the positive and proud attitude of both employees and owners.
Did you know that at least half of all young, good producers leave their jobs after a short time due to their agencies' poor sales environments? A new producer costs a minimum of $150,000 the first three years with minimal production, so these are very costly losses. How can agencies turn this around?
Although e-mails have taken a front seat in business communications, the business letter remains an important communication medium for salespeople for more formal or complex situations. Also, since the business letter is used less frequently than even a year ago, writing a letter can be a way to differentiate yourself. Sales letters can be powerful. Unfortunately, most fall short. Here's why....
Credentializing is the process of positioning yourself and your organization to help establish your credibility. Although salespeople constantly must credentialize their organizations and themselves with prospects, many are not prepared to do so in a way that shapes their prospect's perceptions and puts them and their organizations in the best light.
How you credentialize yourself goes beyond how you introduce yourself (name, organization, position) in that it helps build your credentializing and forms the impression clients have of you. It also says something about how you view yourself. The time to credentialize yourself is usually in the Opening of the call with a prospect/new client, after the Rapport and Purpose, but before the Need Dialogue.
There are two critical dimensions to resolving objections, especially regarding complex and critical corporate-wide issues.  First technical knowledge — you know how important it is to have the technical knowledge you need to develop a credible, substantive response.  The second is communication skills.
Many salespeople resist using their CRMs (Customer Relationship Management systems).  When asked why, their reasons vary from no time, no value to them, tool for management to evaluate and track them, difficult to use, slow, repetitious to their other systems, and so on.
When contemplating a cross-sell strategy, it is important to fully analyze the strategy and set realistic expectations to ensure it is successful. With better analysis, agents can improve their strategy and tactics or maybe choose a totally different strategy, but to assume cross-selling is going to be universally successful is pure folly.
What is GOOD customer retention? If you consider the fact that some customers move, sell their business or die every year, a 95% retention rate or better is considered strong. But having strong retention without knowing and controlling the reasons for the retention makes you “lucky” more than good.
Today's buyers are more sophisticated than they once were. They are more knowledgeable, less loyal and more cautious. Given these changes, buyers will no longer simply allow you to 'sell.' Successful salespeople will be those who provide information and recommendations, who anticipate problems and offer solutions, who look at the sales process as long-term and provide guidance along the way....
One or more of your salespeople has leveled off. Their performance hasn't improved much in the last few years. Where before you were able to count on significant increases each year, now you cannot. You know that these experienced salespeople can do better, but they seem unable or unwilling to break out of a certain level of performance. You are scratching your head, frustrated, and losing sleep at night wondering how to improve the situation. What do you do?
If you like feeling appreciated by your clients, if you want to strengthen relationships, and if you want to win more business, start making thank-you calls today. Here are some tips and guidelines to get you started....
What salesperson has not been disappointed to hear he/she has lost a deal as the result of selling to the wrong person? Despite asking, many salespeople, without knowing it, find themselves pitching to someone other than the decision maker. Because this can be a fatal error, let’s think about how to identify and get to the true economic decision maker.
We've been taught for years to not make price an issue when selling insurance, so often it's not even mentioned in detail during the sales presentation, but rather in a follow-up communication. NEVER give the price of your product/service without first discussing it with the client, positioning the pricing, and linking it to value. Here are some guidelines to consider....
Do advertising and marketing work? The short answer is a resounding, 'Yes!' The real questions are how do you know which advertising campaign or marketing program works best and how do you measure their success? As John Wanamaker said, 'Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, and the trouble is I don't know which half.' This article will give you some ideas on how to determine which half isn't wasted.
Sales people are the front end of many businesses. For many companies, they are the most influential person in the client relationship. For this reason, if for no other, it is critical that sales people know, understand, believe and support the company’s goals and objectives. They should have internalized the company spirit so that it comes across to the customer. Continue reading to learn how this can be accomplished...
According to a recent study, about 67% of apartment dwellers and house renters do not have an HO-4 (renters insurance) policy. What does this mean to you? Given the number of renters in the U.S., this is a vast untapped market. Admittedly, the commissions aren't great, but what better place to start a newly licensed producer or a CSR. In addition, if you explain it convincingly, it could be an opportunity to sell additional coverages even homeowners are reticent to buy, along with commercial lines now or in the future.
Over the past decade, bigger, national sized competition has come to Doug's small town. These big boys have come in with national advertising budgets, recognizable names and low prices that Doug simply can't match. But that doesn't mean that he can't compete.
How much time should I spend entertaining my customers? Good question. The world of the field salesperson is changing rapidly these days, and everything is in question. The practice of entertaining customers is one of those issues that needs to be rethought. First, let's consider whether or not you should entertain your customers.
Escalation can be a highly effective negotiation strategy. Having unlimited authority in a negotiation can seem, and is, powerful, but it can be equally dangerous. If your client thinks that you have unlimited authority, he or she can read that as a green light to keep driving for more.
How often have you heard it said “Salespeople don’t listen?” When clients say salespeople don’t listen, they usually don’t mean that during the sales call salespeople zone out. Few salespeople do that. In fact, most salespeople do try to listen. Yet they are perceived as not listening.
After days or weeks of preparation, after a strong presentation, don’t drop the ball as you near the finish line.  How you follow up after your sales presentation will help you get across the line.
It used to be the $1 Million ceiling. That was the level of revenue at which an individual agent with a few helpers had to become a business with different people handling different clients and responsibilities. Everyone still worked for the agent, but the agent no longer made every decision in the agency. However, a running an agency as a business does not result in automatic growth and professional service at high levels...
The issues of attitude and motivation seem to confound most sales organization. Companies will go looking for a 'motivational speaker' to pump life into a lethargic sales group. Sales managers will search high and low for the latest gimmick to try to stimulate their sales effort. What they don't seem to understand is that they have the power to unleash the motivation of their organization by focusing on the significant contributions. What do we normally focus upon? Budgets! Sales Forecasts! Expenses! Activity Reports! Here's where we should be focusing our attention....
You need to ask questions to start a sale, but you need to ask the right questions to close one. Unless you learn to probe and clarify throughout the entire sales process, you'll never uncover a prospect's hidden objections. Uncovering the information you need can be difficult. Here are the four basic barriers and how to overcome them....
Most sales people have problems with closing because they don’t understand the Big Secret of selling. They think you close the sale by asking for the order. Wrong! You close the sale by getting the buyer to acknowledge that they are going to get everything they want from your proposal. The Big Secret: Close the sale before you ask for the order! To find out how to do that, just keep on reading...
Too many agents are devoting 100% of their time to existing clients without prospecting for new ones. The increased earnings generated by these existing clients are creating a level of complacency. Their conscious (or subconscious) mantra is, “I’m making more than I expected or need, so why should I work harder.” As a result, prospect pipelines are not as fat as they have been or could be.
You believe that the agents of a particular company are deliberately underinsuring homes under an HO policy because the carrier's rates are not competitive. They are allegedly relying on the carrier's guaranteed replacement cost provision on the home, but you believe that this results in gross underinsurance of other property, and it definitely puts you at a competitive disadvantage. What do you do (besides submitting an 'Ask an Expert' question to the VU)?
Most salespeople handle rapport casually compared to how important recognizing client rapport is. Few really prepare for rapport, and in not doing so, miss a big chance to differentiate themselves and make critical personal connections. Like all other aspects of the sales dialogue, being excellent at rapport takes thought. The goal is to create a connection and build on it in a way that is concise and genuine.
The hardest hire you will ever make is finding and hiring a good sales person. Sales people are trained to mask their behaviors and feed a prospect what they want to see. Now they are selling themselves to you. In this article, you'll learn how to use proven techniques to look behind the mask and improve your chances of hiring an effective sales person.
Not everyone is that comfortable with holiday parties. One reason is that even salespeople, most of whom like to talk, can feel they are not good at “small talk.” Some think that if they are not talking about business, they won’t know what to talk about. Here are a few ideas....
As the year wraps up and you focus on closing business and reaching your goals, pause for a moment and make a list of clients to call with a holiday wish — whether Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza…or the New Year. Think about the message you want to convey live or in a voice mail. Here are a few ideas to help you prepare to express your appreciation for the trust, business, and time your clients have given to you to maximize the impact of your call.
An RQ is a Relationship Quotient. It is a combination of client focus, interest in and concern for the client, courtesy, and energy. Clients begin to assess your RQ in a matter of seconds from the moment you approach them...whether face-to-face or phone. From the first moment, you send a message to clients of who you are and what they can expect from you.
How many of you are driving used Yugos? Or wearing a suit you bought at a garage sale? Or watching an 8-inch black & white TV? You've got the picture. You don't always buy on the basis of low price, so why should you think that all your customers do? The truth is, they don't. And here's a secret that almost nobody knows, including all those gurus telling you to sell 'value'....
The words you choose — spoken or written, letters or e-mails, delivered face-to-face or by phone — help shape the client's perception. Take every opportunity to shape perceptions by positioning what you say. Every word that you utter to a client should be 'positioned' vs. 'exchanged'. Language helps sell! Here's how....
How can I get greater productivity out of my salespeople? In one form or another, that's a question every owner and sales manager ponders regularly. As a sales trainer and consultant, it is the basic question that I confront. And it is the underlying question behind every attempt to train salespeople. Investing in training and developing your salespeople is always a good idea. But it isn't the entire solution for many organizations....
Mention 'branding' and people generally think in terms of company names...McDonalds, Nike, Disney, Ford, Xerox, etc. Or, they think of burned cattle flesh. Aside from the cattle flesh, Webster defines 'brand' as 'a class of goods identified as the product of a single firm or manufacturer.' What is your 'class of goods' and how can you distinguish or brand it?
According to one study, 86% of surveyed customers would refer their broker to their friends, yet only 12% had ever been ASKED. Another study found that a referral is up to 15 times more likely to do business with you than a cold prospect. Cold calling is HARD and statistically unproductive. Referral based selling can be significantly easier and more efficient IF you know how to do it effectively. Here's how....
The title of a popular book is “Swimming with the Sharks.”  It teaches you how to get along in the world of “sharks” – the voracious salespeople of industry. Well there’s a group of people who welcome circling sharks – The Shark Hunters – and you can learn how to compete and beat the price-shoppers and quoters of the marketplace, our version of Sales Sharks.
A few years ago we visited an agent who boasted about continuous strong advertising and marketing efforts but bemoaned the lack of growth in his agency. Our consultants asked the agency for the marketing layout and the results. His “continuous strong marketing and advertising efforts” consisted of a full one page ad in the Yellow Pages.
That's probably the question I'm asked more than any other. Frustrated CEOs and sales managers express that thought over and over, in one way or another. They harbor a feeling that some of their salespeople just aren't doing what they want them to do, and they don't know what to do about it. If that thought occasionally passes through your mind, read on....
The #1 factor that distinguishes high from low producer production is goal setting. This article does not address the specific methodologies of goal-setting, but rather demonstrates how the goal-setting process can be used in a practical application. The figure of '50%' used in this illustration is arbitrary...each producer must establish a sales improvement goal that is realistic and attainable for their unique situation.
Sounds good, doesn't it? Fifty or more sales calls in a single day? Obviously, making this many (or more) individual sales calls would be pretty difficult. But what if you could get that many prospects in a room at one time? Well, you can. All you have to do is hone your public speaking skills....
No matter how clever the marketing program, how creative the advertising, or how friendly the customer service reps, if you mishandle the sales call, everything else is a waste. Mishandle the sales call and you may lose a customer for years. Handle it correctly and you'll take the first step toward a lifetime relationship.
The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, dictates that for most salespeople, 20% of their customers produce 80% of their revenue. If that is true for you, it means that losing one of your good accounts to the competition can be devastating to your business. But losing a good account impacts your business in additional negative ways as well. So, how do you go about protecting your most important accounts from the competition?
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be able to tell people that I made $75,000 my FIRST YEAR actively selling insurance on the Internet. And it looks like the coming year will be even better. Through our web site, our small four person San Francisco family agency is selling an average of 50 or more policies and bonds per month as I write this....
That's right. Serving, not selling. I know you are concerned with sales. It's easy to determine how well your people are selling to your customers. That's what sales reports are for. But your customers are more concerned with how well they are being served by your salespeople. Why is that important? Keep reading....
In our constant search for the easy way to sell (there is no easy way but we continue to look), one consistent factor is that the most successful sales organizations are aware of their numbers and make course corrections by them. Organizational and individual patterns of success can be duplicated and challenges recognized and overcome. Do you know your referral ratio?
There are significant opportunities to improve agency processes for marketing commercial lines accounts to carriers. This article outlines commonly found problems in these processes and then makes several practical recommendations to help agencies take total control of every piece of the renewal process except the time frame for receiving quotes and receiving the actual policy which are in the carrier’s control. These process improvements reduce staff stress and backlog, establish clear accountability, and free up the staff to perform as professional insurance consultants providing pro-active client service, rather than as paper pushers racing to meet last minute deadlines.
The time has long passed when every breathing human should be considered a prospect. Most agencies only segment their markets by size and account type, such as personal lines, small commercial, middle market, truckers, high-end personal lines, contractors, and so forth. These delineations still apply, but more important divisions exist.
Like many sales consultants with many years of experience under their belts, we have found that there is no “free lunch,” the IRS is NOT here to “help” us, no, he WON’T still love you in the morning --- and “Get Rich Quick” schemes in sales are a sure-fire way to spend your time and money and get little results from the efforts.
Prepare what you are going to say. Pay careful attention to your posture, tone of voice, and eye contact. Review and practice it. Tailor it for each client/colleague. Update it as needed. Do you know how to properly introduce yourself to prospects? We are providing a crisp, clear model we hope helps.
We recently read an article in a national training magazine that, in the course of making a point about sales training, used 'insurance' as an example of a commodity sale. Do you agree with that? Is 'insurance' a commodity? Do you sell it that way? Should it be sold that way? How do your insureds and prospects view it? In this article, we'll explore some of these issues.
The more your customer trusts you, the less risk your customer feels in dealing with you, and the less time necessary to invest in understanding the product, service or program you are offering. From the customer's perspective, it's easier and less risky to deal with someone you trust than with someone you don't. And that can translate directly into dollars. I'm always willing to pay more for something if I can buy it with less risk.
In our work across the country, sales people are pressured for sales results while simultaneously being pressured to complete non-sales activities. We see this all over, regardless of industry. No surprise here. In your judgment, is what you are working on right now related to sales? If yes, carry on. If not....
What's gunk? Any practice that detracts from the salesperson spending time with customers. In other words, other things the outside salespeople do instead of meeting with customers. When we boil down the job of the typical outside salesperson to its essence, it is clear that the one thing we want of them, the one place that they bring value to the organization, the one thing they do that is the essential reason we have them, is interact with the customers. Everything else is a means to that end....
“Just send me (or tell me) the price.” Salespeople hear these words early in the sales process from clients every day. But the wise ones know the pitfalls of this seemingly reasonable client request and the skilled ones know how to turn this trap into an opportunity to identify needs and position value.
Jeff is a 22 year old producer who has been in the insurance business for less than a year. He came from a finance industry company where he was involved in outside sales. He's having trouble launching his insurance sales career and is curious what can benefit him right now and what he can do to become better. What can a frustrated insurance sales newbie do?
Listening is more than being quiet when the client is talking. That is just a start and anyone who makes it in sales can do that fairly well. Effective listening is what you do with what you hear. It is my experience that for every percentage a salesperson's listening ratio goes over 50% of the call, there is a greater chance of closing. As a rule of thumb, listen at least 50% of the time in each sales call.
Not all customers will opt for higher quality services and products, but we can educate our prospects and clients about the genuine risks involved with a lower quality solution and provide true motivation for choosing a higher quality services and products. Here's how....
We know you've been taught that people buy based on value, not price. But, let's face it, you don't believe it do you? In the real world, too often you experience losing an account because your bid was higher...or at least that's what the prospect tells you. In this article, master salesman, Bob Ayrer, draws from his past experience in the contracting industry where the same issue has been debated for years. While the focus is on a different industry, the points made easily translate to insurance.
An 18-wheeler slid into a ditch. A little old lady pulled up with her two Chihuahuas in the car and called to the driver, 'Throw me a chain and I'll have my dogs pull you out of the ditch.' 'Lady!' he replied, 'How are you going to get those two little dogs to pull this diesel truck out of a ditch?' 'I'll use whips!' she answered. The moral? If the plan is flawed, using whips will not help! According to the IIABA-commissioned Insurance Distribution Study, less than half of all agencies even have a formal sales plan, much less a flawless plan. Here's how to get one....
If you target a particular industry, a prime marketing vehicle could be a trade show within that industry. Trade show attendance and participation have been declining in recent years...fewer attendees and fewer exhibitors. However, the good news is that the attendees are more likely to be serious buyers. This, coupled with fewer exhibitors (i.e., fewer competitors ) makes for a unique sales opportunity.
Your agency has a commercial marketing department, but you have the option of either marketing an account yourself or using the marketing department. Most producers do it themselves since they have a perception of not getting a thorough and complete job from the department. Assuming that you have a completed submission, what do you do?
Question: I was wondering if there were any specific marketing techniques that other insurance agents have used that could help a young agent (less than one year in the business) get more of a 'grip' or hold in the market. Is there a tried and true method utilized to get a young agent's name more 'readily' recognized in a saturated market?
Personal lines, like life insurance, can be a more difficult sale than commercial lines. Generally speaking, most consumers look at home and auto insurance as a commodity. So, if you want to grow your personal lines book, what can you do? Recently, we were asked just that question, so we solicited some suggestions from our faculty, plus an agent who spent 23 years successfully marketing personal lines.
Your agency has rosters of employees that are submitted to you annually in order to write the business's workers compensation coverage. Your sales department would like to use these lists to send marketing letters/brochures to employees to solicit their personal lines accounts. Is this a violation of privacy laws or is it otherwise a good or bad idea?
What do you do AFTER... have automated to increase efficiency... have eliminated functions and personnel... have cut your expenses to the bone......and you are still losing ground or earning less money yourself to keep the business afloat?
As we all know, insurance seminars and articles can be a little on the 'dry' side. So, every now and then, when you select an article from the Research Library, you may get the unexpected. We want the Virtual University to be more than some stale, stoic repository of insurance technica...hey, let's have a little fun! Now, on with the topic at hand...
At the end of a negotiation, you may be tempted to make an unwarranted and costly concession. Before you agree to the final concession, make sure you fully understand its true cost now and in the future. In this article, you'll find a list of issues you should consider before giving in.
For many years we have criticized the common practice of price quoting as the insurance agent's primary sales method. Price is certainly important. But it’s rarely the only issue facing insurance customers and, while it is the easiest issue to address, there are often more important triggers to buying decisions than price. This article discusses means to negotiate the sale other than price.
Many people are shy when it comes to working a room and engaging in small talk with people they don’t know or with whom they don’t normally interact. The holiday office party is a fertile ground for “small talkitis.” It is also a perfect opportunity to hone your networking skills to expand your contacts beyond the coworkers you already know.
In order to compete against the direct writers, we must direct our advertising and marketing toward the most important aspects of the clients’ insurance protection. That is, of course, integrated coverage at a fair price with CHOICES that can only be afforded by a professional that offers a variety of products and coverage options. This can be illustrated by comparing why consumers choose full service groceries over convenience stores.
When advertising, ALWAYS make sure that the consumer understands the significance and value of an independent insurance agent by stressing this, regardless of the form of advertising.
We often encounter agents whose growth goals require them to penetrate new geographic territories. They open offices, hire or move employees and expect a flow of business. Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen. Here's why and what you can do about it....
Your very first face-to-face meeting with a prospect is critical. Being able to execute the elements of an exceptional opening takes preparation. It is worth the effort because it sets the direction for a client-focused dialogue vs. a generic product pitch. Here are the critical elements of an effective opening....
If there is a chance to win deals in a competitive marketplace, we must be more assertive, have established rapport, and make a second and third effort. It's not easy to stay composed when you get bad news. As salespeople, it is important to be ready to acknowledge, question, and find a way to reposition.
The average producer is literally wasting tens of thousands of dollars a year quoting on accounts they have either little chance of writing or shouldn’t even be trying to write. Why? Simple. They have no real clue how much their time is worth, how much of it they waste, how many accounts they solicit with little or no chance of closing, and how many quality accounts they never approach because they have used up all their time and effort chasing accounts that will earn the agency little or nothing.
Many insurance entities, both agencies and companies, simply “exaggerate” or pose vague statements about their capabilities such as “lowest rates” in an effort to attract the consumer's attention. But the few “gems” in the insurance industry actually have points of differentiation that makes their products and/or services genuinely different and better than that of their competitors.
Valentine's Day is a day to 'pop the question.' In the spirit of that, let's focus this month on closing. Just as a sweetheart's answer should not come as a shock to the one asking, you should have a strong indication of how the client will respond when you close. By asking for feedback throughout the dialogue with questions like, 'How does that sound?' or 'How will that work?' you can gauge where you are and gain the confidence to close.
A client agreed to meet with a salesperson based on a referral. The client was predisposed to use the salesperson’s services. In spite of this — no sale! What happened? As the client described it, she was “completely turned off.” A debriefing of the call showed the salesperson had the solution, but the way he presented it resulted in his losing the opportunity. Here's why....
For many people, Valentine's Day is a day of hearts and flowers and other expressions of affection. Although we are not suggesting that you send flowers to your salespeople, all salespeople want to feel appreciated. So why not make a special effort this month to provide praise to recognize the extra effort and what your sales team members have accomplished?
A painfully uncomfortable sales scenario is the team call with a senior that does not go well.  Whether the senior has been blindsided or the salesperson just wasn’t prepared, a bad call with a senior not only hurts the client relationship, but also internal credibility.  Before you make your next call with a senior (or a colleague), take steps to make sure the call is a win for everybody involved.
The smartest agents train their producers to quickly identify those classifications of prospects who have no intention buying insurance from you. These prospects fall into various categories but are fairly easy to recognize if your cognizant of their personality.
Few priority client relationships are managed by one sole salesperson anymore. Whether the team is large or small, local or international, it takes a team to meet the demanding and complex needs of big clients. The more complex the relationship, the more team communication you need.
Most insurance agencies would like to be driven by a regular flow of new business from their producer force. However, most agencies find that their producers spend most of their time caring for existing customers with production relegated to a secondary position. In this article, you'll learn how to establish a producer validation program to get your producers back on the production track.
Start your agency on its way to making money on its sales, rather than losing money. Take a detailed look at ALL of the costs of making a sale. Do not let your brother-in-law or your producers leave you holding the bill for your operating expenses! To learn what producers, brothers-in-law and lawn chairs have to do with your agency, read on....
Some agency owners believe they need a producer regardless of whether the producer generates a profit for the agency. They believe they need the business to keep their companies happy and to stay competitive. This is like skinning your knee and asking the doctor for an amputation to stop the pain. Better solutions do exist!
Reaching a prospect is no easy feat. One salesperson experienced a voice mail obstacle that was more daunting for him than most. Here is the voice mail message: “If you are calling to sell me X, don’t hold your breath for a return call.” Better cross this one off the list, huh? Not so fast....
Knowing all you can about the client’s decision process can give you an edge in winning the business. Most clients expect to be asked about decision criteria and most salespeople do ask these questions. However, the real value comes by drilling down once they get an answer.
Every time you speak with a client/prospect, whether at a meeting, by e-mail, voice mail, or letter, before and after you do so, ask yourself, did this communication: (1) hurt the relationship, (2) get nowhere, or (3) move the relationship and sale forward? This will provide you with a red, yellow, or green alert.
Much has been written about how to reduce insurance premiums. Unfortunately, too much of this advice has been BAD and much of this bad advice comes from consumer web sites and publications that have little understanding of insurance and risk management. The purpose of this article is to identify some of the bad advice being bandied about and to reinforce some of the good advice.
Relationship Selling is the differentiation of you and your agency from your competitors - without considering price. Sales can be made on the basis of price. But relationships cannot be created or maintained on price. The agencies that rely on price to sell accounts will lose those accounts on the same basis at renewal or within a few years.
Most salespeople work hard to find business, identify new prospects, and close the deals that are in the pipeline. As much as salespeople truly want to sell, it is surprising how few keep track of inactive and/or former clients. Regardless of why you lost the client, it's a good idea to occasionally return to the scene of the crime.
A client recently had me work with them to prepare their teams for price increases. The concern was that new and existing business would fall off and therefore pressure on the staff to give discounts was expected to be high. Here are some things we discussed which I share with you to consider for a more successful year.
Most salespeople take how they open a sales call for granted — many hardly think about it at all. The opening is a place to differentiate yourself and get your calls (especially first calls) off to a great start. This requires taking the time to plan how you will open. Although it takes a small amount of time, you create the foundation of the entire call with your opening. By giving in the opening, you will get a lot more in the remainder of the call!
Many larger businesses and governmental entities shop their insurance via an RFP (Request For Proposal). The most common proposal mistakes are being generic, not well organized, not adhering to the client's prescribed sequence/headings, and ignorning instructions. This article provides some ideas that will enable you to gain a competitive advantage when responding to RFPs.
With all of the discussion in recent years about the importance of understanding our customer's needs, it's a valuable exercise to try to see ourselves as we might be perceived by our customers. For example, if a customer glances out the office window as we march from the visitor's lot towards their fortress, briefcases and laptops in hand and a pocket full of business cards, do they see friend or foe? Invader or partner?
The year was 1943, World War was raging. Spies and saboteurs had infiltrated our country, establishing themselves as normal citizens and were busily (and invisibly) at work trying to destroy our ability to make war. This internal threat became known as 'The Fifth Column' (a term from the 1938 Spanish Civil War and memorialized by Hemmingway’s book of the same name). Is there a 'Fifth Column' in your agency?
Most claims of success by sales trainers are a fraud. Many sales trainers are like roosters taking credit for the dawn...they crow about the effectiveness of their workshops when, in fact, there is virtually no way to substantiate their claims. Most sales training is done because management doesn't know what else to do to improve performance! Wake up! More of what doesn't work still doesn't work! So, how do you make sales training work? Keep reading....
Salespeople are often alone as they make sales calls. Many say they don’t get coached. Most are hungry for good feedback and would benefit greatly from it. However, you can be an effective SELF coach. After each call, critique the call by specifically reviewing your strengths and areas for improvement. Focus on one area at a time and set a plan on how to improve in that area. Here's how....
'How do you create a perceived value to differentiate yourself from the competition when you are both selling a commodity?' That's a question I'm often asked in my seminars. Here's how you make a difference....
The marketplace has been tightening up for the past year or so. Premium increases in the range of 15-50% (or even higher) have been anticipated. Now, with the events of September 11, this seems a bargain and we are beginning to face one of the hardest markets in industry history. As a producer what can you do to prepare your clients for significant rate increases? 2003 Update...a new article download has been added below that examines the changes of the past year and what could happen in the coming year.
Can agents compete with direct writers and others in selling insurance over the internet? According to IIABA member Gary Savelli of Basic West Insurance Agency in San Francisco, the answer is a resounding YES! Because Gary runs a small agency and wants to keep it that way, he has found it necessary to REDUCE the amount of insurance he's selling from his web site. To learn how even the smallest agency can generate $100,000 or more in commission income from a web site, keep on reading....
Once upon a time, insurance buyers who wanted auto and homeowners policies found it necessary to visit their insurance agents (or be visited by them in their homes) in order to properly insure their property and liability.  Once upon a time, you had to visit a travel agency to arrange for a vacation.  Once upon a time, the airlines had local offices to permit travelers to purchase, pay for and pick up ticket.
How often have you heard the sales gurus talk about the 'pain and gain' issues in selling? And how to identify those sensitive targets as buying motivations and sell to them. In fact, the real issue is Passion. What is the Buyer (not you) really interested in doing? What problem requires solving? That's the hidden, often unspoken, see-if-you-can-find-it Passion Point. The trick is to find the passion point and sell to it....
As agencies grow, eventually they require a producer and bringing in a nonowner producer seems to be the Achilles heal of so many very successful agency owners. But, there are two important things you can do: (1) hire a good sales person, and (2) provide sales training. In this article, I'll give you some tips on how and why to do this.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to glide through objections easily, comfortably and with success? Objections are the bane of most financial advisors and salespeople. Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid them – you must answer them satisfactorily to close the sale. However, objections are not insurmountable – they are hurdles, not walls. With the right mind set, you can answer them. And, once you do, you will never have to worry about closing again – it will be easy, natural and frequent.
Most agents who call us asking how to motivate their producers to sell more and retain more clients in this soft market are concentrated on only two things: getting into more prospects and getting them quotes that beat the incumbent. No matter how often we explain how relationships develop stronger, longer lasting clients, these agents are attuned only to the ‘hunt and kill’ method of sales.
Most agents have been conditioned to be exactly what the client suspects...salespeople trying to get them to change from their current insurance program to another similar program in order for the agent to earn commission. Most agents will spend their entire careers exchanging clients with other agents as pricing changes in the companies they represent. Yet, the best agents in the country don’t work that way at all.
'Ready, shoot, aim.' Unfortunately, that's the all too common description of the field salesperson's modus operandi. In a misguided attempt to stay busy and see as many people as possible, too many salespeople subscribe to the theory that any activity is good activity. There was a time when this was true. Customers had more time, sales was a simpler job, and any conversation with a prospect or customer was a good thing. But times have changed, and the job of the salesperson has become much more complex.
Because clients’ needs have become increasingly complex, most salespeople recognize that to meet those needs a team effort is required. Being able to gain access to team members, preparing with them, and performing in front of the client as an effective team are essential to meet clients’ broader and more complex needs.
Have you ever had a hard time persuading people to see your point of view, to do something for you, or to sell them a product or service? Most of us have. But you can learn to be a powerful persuader by becoming a 'persuasion detective.' Successful detectives both ask smart questions and listen very carefully to the answers they get. A detective is always probing and clarifying suspects' answers so he can uncover hidden clues.
As Gershwin wrote in the title of this article, summertime is the season when many people tend to take it a little easier...including your competitors. Sales guru Tom Redmond illustrates how this could be the opportune time to take advantage of someone else's summer sluggishness.
Team call situations are ripe for confusion and frustration unless the team members agree on a clear call plan. Team calling demands a much more specific definition of roles. To ensure that you and your teammate are on the same page, create an agenda. Clearly designate roles, agenda items, times, and transitions.
Business customers usually have very limited patience with any sales person who hasn't taken the time to become at least a little acquainted with their business. This is even more true in insurance sales, as one of an agent's primary duties is to have sufficient grasp of the prospect's business exposures to make solid coverage recommendations, including risks the prospect may be unaware of...
Probably no myth is more pervasive than the idea that there are 'born' sales people. What a crock. Granted there are some people who seem to naturally have the attributes we associate with 'good selling.' However, most of the vision of what constitutes selling is manufactured by media portrayals of sales people, not what they really are. That high-energy dynamo that is out to change the world is every sales manager's dream....
Have you heard of the “My Guy' philosophy? It goes like this: Our customers seem to have “their guy” or “their gal”—and as long as their business partners are providing simply average service at a competitive price, they will continue to utilize the services of that vendor. Wrong!
Sales manager is an incredibly important and difficult job. Unfortunately, it is often the most under-trained job in the entire organization. Instead of providing information on the best practices and processes of the job, most companies hope that their sales managers will have learned enough during their days as a field salesperson to provide some roadmap as to how to do this job well.
Most of us have enough food. shelter, clothing, and transportation. We don't need much more. But we want more. We need food. But we want fast foods, diet foods and gourmet meals. Most of us don't need a six-bedroom, 2 ½ bath home. But many of us may want one. We don't need expensive designer clothes. BUT we want them. We may need a car. But we want a Lexus or a BMW. We've all heard or read that the essence of marketing is to 'find a need and fill it.' Your marketing efforts will yield a better response if you follow this formula instead: Find a want and fill it.
The salesperson was persistent and managed to reach and get to see the client. When he got there, he identified the problem and uncovered the competitive risk. But, what he didn’t do during the appointment phone call was ask an Agenda Question. An Agenda Question is the question to ask once you secure a date and time to meet with a prospect.
There is so much emphasis placed on probing, but so little time spent doing it. I have video taped over 1,000 sales interviews and only one person had an accurate perception of what percentage of time he spent actually probing and listening. The other 999+ felt they were asking and listening over 60 percent of the time. In actuality, they were talking over 70 percent of the time.
The Asset Protection Model (APM) is a radical change in agency operations and relationships with both current and prospective clients. It converts agencies from price-driven quote machines always trying to ‘get it cheaper’ as a method of gaining clients to relationship-driven businesses becoming true consultants to their clients, whether the APM agency writes the insurance account or not.
By now, you’ve probably heard how creating a website or using social media can help increase visibility and generate leads for your agency. But there's one tool you may not have heard about, even though it's a fast, easy way to reach thousands of people in your local area who are shopping for insurance right now. And, it’s free.
Yes, they're failing... the DotComs are going under by the droves, and if you've been reading the news, you're even LESS inspired than ever to build a web site, or to keep struggling to make your agency website succeed than ever before. Right? WRONG!! Here's why....
The Contact Grid is the management system by which the agency employees manage their relationships with the clients and prospects, and the agency management controls and knows that the expected contacts are being made as scheduled. The Contact Grid is a concept that can be done manually, automated through MS Office (in Excel) or managed through one of several contact management software versions (i.e. ACT, Goldmine, etc.).
According to consultant Chris Burand, 'I have found that producers usually drastically underestimate the time required to quote and write an account.' Do you know how long it takes to quote an account? More important, do you know what it COSTS to quote an account in the aggregate? When you look at the numbers, it's easy to understand why the more business you place, the more money you lose....
As if I didn't get enough punishment via our 'Ask an Expert' service :-), at one time I served as one of the insurance 'experts' at During that brief stint, I had a question submitted from someone who purchased his auto insurance through a web site, without the aid or counsel of an agent. Here's his story....
In many organizations, we are now seeing the modern equivalent of the World War II Stockholm Effect (see below), with sales people transferring alliances to the customer. This could lead to your worst nightmare...your best sales people taking your customers away to a newly formed company or a competitor. To combat the Stockholm Effect....
Over the decades that I've been involved in sales, I've worked with tens of thousands of salespeople. Certain negative tendencies – mistakes that salespeople make – keep surfacing. Here are my top five. See to what degree you (or your sales force) may be guilty of them....
How do I sell to an account that is firmly in the hands of a competitor? In one form or another, I hear that question at almost every sales seminar I teach. It's a great question, reflecting one of the most perplexing and frustrating situations every sales person faces. If you haven't yet been faced with this problem, be patient, you will soon be. So, how do you approach this account? In this article, I'll tell you what to do, and what NOT to do, giving you two proven techniques to penetrate these kinds of accounts.
There are lots of pro’s and con’s in the arena of marketing debate as to which is better – a well-aimed shot with a .22 caliber rifle or a broad sweep of buckshot from a shotgun. Well, I don’t intend to argue the arsenal! Instead, I am taking a middle position which will allow you to target all of your products to two significantly large, but defined, markets: ethnic minorities and women.
Do you have a sales prevention department in your company? That question was posed by the publisher of Telemarketing, Nadji Tehrani. That question served as a reminder of the many mistakes I’ve made over the years–excuse me, a reminder of my many learning experiences. No one is likely to admit to sales and marketing sabotage, because it seldom occurs on a conscious level. In this article, I hope to stimulate thought about your sales and marketing process by reviewing a number of typical mistakes that may be occurring in your operations.
Studies indicate that in 1950, customer loyalty was at 66%. A half century later, customer loyalty had decreased to 12%. We believe that the insurance industry has tracked this trend. But what does customer loyalty actually mean? How was it originally achieved? How was it lost?
Know why price is perceived by so many sales people to be the driving force? Simple: Most sales staff are trained by BUYERS, not employers! What has happened over the decades of poor sales training is that buyers have filled the void and have trained the sales people...but, of course, to their advantage. Added to that, the majority of ordinary sales training teaches techniques and strategies, not HOW to sell....
In another article, I described how an advertisement directly influenced me to seek out a product due to the timing of the advertisement coinciding directly with my need for it. Now I’d like to tell you about the process of the sales call and how it worked out – it was fascinating.
It is important to continually raise the level of relationships within an account. It is the producer's job to identify prospective customers out of the field of buyers and move them through being a buyer to a satisfied buyer, to a loyal customer -- this requires cultivating relationships at every level of the account. However, the role of relationships in making the sale and retaining customers is largely mythical and certainly misunderstood....
Most experienced agents have found themselves saving some money when they have good sales months in expectation of lean months ahead. Why is that? Why is it that some producers NEVER seem to have lean months. Their major complaint is that they are busy all of the time. The busy producers are those who have learned the inherent value of the Sales Funnel.
Why do the unsuccessful marketers constantly seek the 'Holy Grail' of sales and marketing when the answer has always been well within reach? I assume that the fads in the sales and marketing profession are the 'divining rods' and tarot cards of our industry. Everyone seeks a shortcut to success. Well, I have bad news and good news....
The rules are changing. We are at the beginning of a new paradigm for the field salesperson. The new paradigm is this: Today, not only must the product or service bring value to the customer, but the time you spend with the customer must also be of value to him or her. In this article, Dave Kahle will show you how....
If you are like most salespeople, you feel that you know what your clients are doing, especially when the relationship is longstanding. But take a step back. Client needs and situations change so fast and so do your capabilities. Without checking in, you may be missing opportunities.
A sales person can’t create genuine value for a client if the focus is on unit pricing. Price is always a product of poor selling and inept sales management. If your company genuinely offers value and you are not getting the margins you deserve, it is time to change the way your sales people take your program to market. Change your processes, change the results. If you don’t, you won’t!
Jeff is a 22 year old producer who has been in the insurance business for less than a year. He came from a finance industry company where he was involved in outside sales. He's having trouble launching his insurance sales career and is curious what can benefit him right now and what he can do to become better. What can a frustrated insurance sales newbie do?
I spend a lot of time with insurance agency owners and producers. So I see and observe a lot about sales. Based on these observations, I believe producers generally fall into four categories: (1) Lazy and Undisciplined (LU's), (2) Stalwarts, (3) Charisma Maniacs, and (4) Torpedoes. Do you know in which category your producers fall?
The most often misunderstood function in a sales plan is the training of staff. The first rule of training is that nothing stays fixed. Training is an ongoing process that occurs whether you want it to or not. Your choice is not whether you train or not. The choice is whether you train your staff deliberately, to the achieve positive results; or, unthinkingly, to behaviors that may not be positive to the goals of the enterprise.
We surveyed 160 Administrative Assistants and Executive Secretaries and asked them to identify the key things salespeople could do to gain their support in reaching their bosses. Many of these things apply to the CSR/producer/owner situation in an agency.
By virtue of your getting this newsletter via e-mail, you are participating in the greatest information overload in human history. In 2008, 5 EXABYTES of data was created and transmitted. This is more data than was produced in the last 5,000 years combined. So what do we do to gather the information that is important to us personally or from a business standpoint without having to read exabytes of information to determine where the valuable information lays?
The one skill that I see the superb salespeople excel in is positioning. In light of my book title, Stop Telling, Start Selling, this may seem odd because positioning is the 'telling' skill. But it is really a contradiction because positioning (vs. telling) is the end product of questioning and listening. Positioning is not possible without questioning, listening, and preparation.
What business are you in? The answer is not always obvious. If your answer is selling insurance then prepare your agency for a slow demise. No future exists in selling insurance. Going forward, traditional P&C insurance will become less and less important. Insurance is only one means for protecting assets....
What causes the uncomfortable feeling that many of us get when shopping for a car? How different is the gut-wrenching feeling related to buying a car from the similar feelings expressed by many respondents in our focus groups on shopping for insurance? The answer is that these two exercises appear uncomfortably similar. Both tend to feel that the consumer is not in control. The seller appears to be in control of the situation. Is this what the seller desires?
The primary value of an insurance agency is its book of business. The solicitation of an agency's accounts represents THEFT, pure and simple. This theft is worse than the burglary of jewelry from your home. In the case of jewelry, you have lost the value of the pieces once (and any emotional attachment you may have had to them). In the theft of accounts, you lose the revenue value of the accounts EVERY YEAR.
Compensation depends upon what the producer does for the agency and client, NOT how long he’s been with the agency or even how much he has produced in the past. Producers are paid for selling insurance. Producers are paid for maintaining the customer relationship in order to retain those customers, and premium and commissions.  Producers are not paid to service clients since most agencies have service staff to fulfill that function.
I was in the midst of a sales slump when my sales manager offered to have lunch with me and discuss the situation. Afterwards, I was back on track to becoming my company's top salesman in the nation.  What made the difference in my performance was the skillful intervention of an astute and professional sales manager. He made the difference in my job performance, and that made a difference in my standing with the company. And that has made a difference in my career.
Incentive Compensation defines a change in compensation method in which employees achieve increased compensation (raises) for increased productivity. It teaches employees the shocking truth about growth and profitability — we can only afford to keep paying more to employees if we grow and are profitable (without taking money from agency owners’ pockets).
All too often businesses get caught up in the “product trap.” From advertising to sales presentation, the “product” takes center stage. Afterwards we wonder why we didn’t get the sale. Or if we did, why we didn’t retain future business from the client. The answer in both cases is simple: we made the wrong sale first. By selling the product first, we lost sight of the most important sale...ourselves and our company.
Price is always a part of the final equation in selling, but the real reason people choose one supplier over another is almost never price, nor does it have anything to do with your product lines or core services. To learn what you can do to overcome the price dilemma (and learn about the problems of the 'Show Up and Throw Up' school of selling and the 'Stump the Chump' method of closing a sale, keep reading...
A very high percentage of agencies have a common complaint: the lack of production staff capable of growing the agency's book of business. Many agencies ask us for assistance finding producers. But producers are HARD TO FIND. And we think we know why.
I'm going to give you 25 reasons why producers fail. Some of you will laugh. Some will cry. Some will curse. Some will think I am unfairly picking on producers. Some will think I’ve hit the mark. Regardless of your reaction, the point of this list is the same: Every one of these reasons for failure has a solution and it is management’s, not the producer's, responsibility to identify and implement the solution.
Key accounts can be significant for a variety of reasons: their premium volume, profitability, marquee status, relationship with producers, or a combination of these factors. Losing them is never easy. In this article we discuss learning from the experience, replacing it, and preventing future losses. On the positive side we also talk about winning a new key account, maximizing the experience and replicating the success.
One of the best sales techniques is to ask for referrals from your happy customers. As much as I want my sales people asking for referrals, I would much rather have my happy clients refer business to me without having to ask. Wouldn't you just love for that phone to ring with a constant stream of new business that comes as a result of your happy customers or clients voluntarily spreading the word about you?
In order to migrate (develop) a prospect up to buyer and then on to loyal customer requires a sales person to have an overall account management vision. What's needed is a new view of how to 'get out of the box' of being a Willy order taker. The game is to raise the relationship between the vendor and client to an ever higher purpose. And, at each level, the sales person is required to raise him or herself to a new level of professionalism. Let’s consider the 'pull' strategy, or 'Wrap Around selling'....
Apologies are not an admission of wrongdoing. A simple, 'I'm sorry that happened. What can we do to make it right?' can go a long way towards restoring faith and keeping a customer. In the long run, you gain a lot through improved retention and increased referrals. Click Emily's photo to visit her web site.
Did you enjoy what you had for dinner last night?  You are probably wondering what that question has to do with sales. Bear with me a moment, and answer the question. Now, pause a moment, and think about what you did when you read that question. Your mind probably flashed back to yesterday evening, and you saw a picture...
Many companies exploring alternative distribution channels believe that some people don't want the advice and counsel of an agent. Know what? They're right! Know something else? You're better off letting them have those customers! In fact, the best way to 'compete' with direct sales (e.g., via company internet sites) is to stop selling 'insurance.'

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