Be your own biggest fan And biggest critic. We’re all selling ourselves. More specifically, we’re selling our ability to make an impact on the business of our clients. If you don’t believe passionately in your ability to do that, and speak about it with energy, you’ll never allow anyone else to see that potential either. This is about justified confidence in the result you deliver, not artificial arrogance. Live by the idea that what was exceptional yesterday is adequate today, and will be unacceptable tomorrow.
Blind faith is a requirement. We all want immediate results. All too often, that’s not the case and we give up on a good idea prematurely. Engaging in social media is a perfect example. I’ve been active in social media and writing/publishing since I started BGN almost four years ago. However, it’s only been in the past year that I have seen tangible results. The lesson is that if you still believe an idea is a good one, stick with it. Stick with it because it is at this point where most of your competition will give up.
Study, discuss and debate. Increased knowledge equals increased success. Study and read as much as you can. Become a student of business, of human behavior, of emerging trends. While reading is a great start, finding someone with whom you can share your new ideas and have lively discussions and debates is what will open whole new worlds of how you can put your knowledge to work.
Jump in the deep end. When something is missing or needs to change in your business, find a way to get it in place. Rather than tiptoeing into the water and trying to get there incrementally, just jump right in. I’m not suggesting commitments to unrealistic ideas. They can be big ideas and big goals, but you have to have a plan and accountability to make them happen. Let everyone know your plans; committing to others that you will create/implement/deliver something is the most powerful catalyst you can find.
Love what you do. There has to be at least one significant aspect of your career/business for which you are wildly passionate. Building a successful business is hard to do under ideal circumstances. To try and do so without passion makes it is almost impossible. And, when you really believe in something, be selective about those to whom you allow access. After all, life is way too short to accept clients you don’t enjoy. However, when you find your professional passion and only allow yourself to work with people you like, it will never feel like work.
This article was originally published in the February 2013 issue of Benefits Selling Magazine.
Photo by mRio.
I recently had the opportunity to spend three days with some extremely talented high school students, and they completely blew me away with their abilities, focus, presence, and drive.
Kevin has talked about recruiting a new generation into the insurance industry and based on what I saw, the talent is readily available, anxious to get started, and extremely well prepared to come in and shake up the traditional way of doing business.
My daughter is in the DECA club and they’ve been faced with nothing but obstacles this year. Having lost both their marketing class and their advisor, they took it on themselves to form a club, find a stand-in advisor, get ASB support, study business principles, bring in outside coaches to help, get registered for competition, and send 12 students to the state competition!
While this might sound like a nice story about high school students, think about what that kind of drive and determination looks like in your own agency. Do you have people on your team that feel so passionately about what they’re doing that they blaze right through all the “I’m sorry, we can’t do that” answers in order to make it happen?
If you don’t, you should find them. People like this transform not only companies, but also entire industries.
However, it can only happen if:
It wasn’t just getting there that impressed me. It was also the student presentations.
As former business partners, my fellow parent chaperone and I were really intrigued with the whole DECA experience, and quite unexpectedly, we found ourselves judging at the competition. It was an incredible experience that I would encourage every businessperson to try. You’ll find a whole new way of looking at “I can’t” excuses from yourself and your team.
The students entered the competition hall with only their nametags. They were given a role-play scenario and 10 minutes to prepare their ideas, notes, and presentation materials with only the paper and pencils provided on the tables.
I saw detailed notes pages. I saw 6 page presentations with agendas, talking points, charts, graphs, and business cards. I saw professional dress and professional level poise and presentation. I heard cohesive and well thought-through ideas. I heard discussions about the principles of HR management and how effectively managing employees can improve the overall productivity of the company, improve relations with customers, and attract better employees.
All prepared in 10 minutes. And delivered in a competitive setting to a judge they’d never met.
Impressive? I certainly think so.
Practicing can be intimidating because you feel like you’re being judged. These kids actually were being judged. We had to give them scores and feedback. Yikes.
Now think about practicing your own presentations in front of a mirror, or in your office with the door closed, with a partner, or even with your sales team. In comparison, it seems like a cakewalk, doesn’t it?
If these teenagers can put together a presentation and impress the hell out of me in 10 minutes, just think what proper preparation and practice can do for you and your producers in front of your clients. It’s worth every minute you put into it. Trust me.
And if you want to start judging and scoring your practice sessions, just let me know and I’ll make up a scoring sheet for you!
These are some follow up thoughts on Kevin’s post about having a job or a career. It’s something I think about quite a bit because I really do love my career immensely, and we work with people every day who love their careers, too. We also work with some who are struggling to find that “right fit”. It’s a common point of discussion around here.
If you don’t have a level of passion about what you’re doing, then you need to take some time and really think about where you do find passion. I’m not talking about blindly following some desire that has no potential for economic success. We’ve talked about finding that center where your passion intersects with both your talents and your economic drivers. That’s where the magic really happens.
When you commit yourself to a career, it might be for a lifetime or it might be for a period of time. Whatever that timeline is, it should be one that includes a great personal enthusiasm and intrinsic motivation for what you are doing.
It should be something that you think about in your “on” hours and your “off” hours. You should be seeing connections to your work everywhere you turn. You should be so thirsty for more information about what you’re doing that no one ever has to remind or coax you to read or study. You should be looking for ways to make your agency and your clients better at what they’re doing and looking for any opportunity to talk about your learning every day with anyone who will listen. Because you want to!
You can reinvent yourself and your career several times over, but whatever you’re doing at the time should be your total focus and commitment. Without both of these things – the focus and commitment – you will perform poorly. And you’re cheating your clients, co-workers, and your company.
I love the philosophy Gary Vaynerchuck shares in his book, The Thank You Economy:
Encouraging people to leave their jobs is not (necessarily) my focus here, but rather encouraging people to do what they love to do each day. Maybe that just requires a focus on the right parts of your job and getting rid of those pesky things that you’re not very good at anyway.
But really, if you’re not doing what you love now, then when are you going to do it?
Photo by Alex & les temps qui passe.
I don’t know about you, but I know about a grand total of 5 people (outside of those in family owned agencies) who had planned for a career in insurance. It seems that most of us sort of wander into the business by accident. However, at the same time, it’s amazing about how many stay once here.
Yeah, there is the stigma of being an “insurance salesman”, but when you look past the stereotype to the reality of what we do, it really is an amazing way to make a living. It’s an industry where you can maintain an incredible work/life balance, you are in position to truly make an impact on the business of your clients, and it’s an industry whose financial rewards are unbelievable rich.
Unfortunately, I think in the past few years the industry shine has lost a bit of its luster. Medical premiums keep going up, we’ve been in a recession that has been harsh on both us and our clients, and healthcare reform brings a whole host of unknowns.
I have heard many times that our industry is threatened by its inability to attract young talent. If we allow ourselves to be defined and limited by our industry stereotype that may be a valid concern. However, I have seen a very clear recent example of that not having to be the case.
Wendy and I were recently taking a member agency through strategic planning. The principal of the agency invited her 23 year old, soon to be graduating from college, daughter into the planning session. Danielle (the daughter) is an energetic, very entrepreneurial-minded individual. She has already started multiple businesses and is clearly destined to do amazing things in the world of business. I think she initially asked to participate in the session only because of her sincere interest in business, not because she had any intent of it becoming her career path.
However, as the strategic plan took shape and the vision of the agency was formed, she realized that what they were planning for wasn’t the stereotypical “insurance agency”, it was clearly a vision of an organization positioning itself to help its clients find higher levels of success in very innovative ways. She clearly saw that the “insurance agency” stigma didn’t have to be what defined the agency and its relationship with its clients. Now, I don’t know with any certainty that she will pursue a future at the agency, but she clearly saw how exciting and rewarding a career option it can be.
If our industry can still be that exciting to the Danielles of the world, I know it will continue to be the unbelievable opportunity we have all come to know, even those of us who maybe wandered in by accident. I think that what Danielle experienced in a fairly intense couple of days is what most of us learn much more gradually over the formative years of our careers. Fortunately, the stereotype doesn’t have to define who we are or what we do. When you think about the unique relationship we have with our clients, we are in an almost unparalleled position in terms of the breadth of scope of opportunities we have to make a positive impact on their business.
In my humble opinion, this remains an unbelievable industry in which to make a living. I’m not sure as many young people will wander into careers with your agency as they have in the past, but if you help them see that the stereotype “need not apply”, we may, in fact, find a whole new generation who join our ranks intentionally.
What about you? Do you still believe? If you were starting over, would you make the same choice?
Photo by rduta.