When I ask you to quickly describe the stereotypical insurance agent, what comes to mind?
As a whole, the industry is pretty conservative, buttoned up, slow to change, and, dare I say it, boring. I know there are exceptions out there, but this is basically what a prospect who is meeting you for the first time is expecting, whether they are meeting you in person, via social media, or on your website.
And, I have been in this industry long enough to know that as accurate as the first stereotypes I mentioned might be, most in this industry are not boring, at least not when they are letting their personality come through. And the power of letting that personality come through cannot be overstated during the sales process.
I was reminded of this recently when I spoke at a conference of independent insurance agents. However, the reminder didn't come from the agents themselves, but rather from the hotel at which the conference was held.
The hotel was the Hotel Palomar in Chicago. While it is a part of the Kimpton network of hotels, it very much has an independent, boutique feel. The décor is just enough on the trendy side to feel sophisticated. The hotel staff are all ready to serve and very professional in their demeanor. The meeting facilities are clearly meant to help those using them be productive. I immediately liked the hotel, but it wasn't until I had a chance to experience its "personality" that it really kind of stood out for me. And that personality came through in a slightly unexpected place.
As I was trying to connect to their Wi-Fi, I saw they offered two options. The first was to pay for the service, and the second was to enroll in their loyalty program and get the Wi-Fi for free. I opted for the latter.
As I signed up for program it was clear they wanted to collect information about my preferences to make future stays as pleasant as possible. They wanted to know what newspaper I like to have delivered, what type of pillow I prefer, my ideal room location, etc. Not unexpected, except this is where their playful personality came through.
The options they offer for a pillow:
For room preference they ask, "How you would answer? I prefer a room that is . . ."
Yes, it was a little thing, but I appreciated the humor and the personality they put into their questionnaire! For me, it was a great example that professional and fun don't have to be mutually exclusive.
Insurance agents don't have to be boring. Don't be afraid to let a little personality come through. Sure, you need to be professional, but have a little fun on your website, when your participate in social media, and even when you're meeting face-to-face. I think being able to do so actually shows a level of confidence, makes you more real, and will put your prospect/client more at ease. And when they are at ease, that's when they will open up and discuss honestly how you might be able to help them.
Photo by Jukka Zitting.
Yes, this is a scary time in our industry, but let's face it: Fear is just a natural part of doing business. Whether you're building a business or a book of business, there's nothing easy about it. There are always threats, and if we let our fears get in the way, we'll never achieve anything.
Fear itself shouldn't automatically be seen as negative. A healthy level of fear can keep you sharp and focused and may actually help ensure your survival. To paraphrase the old saying, courage isn't the absence of fear, it's willingness to face the fear. Fear is a problem when it becomes irrational or comes from a source over which we have no control.
In working with producers and agencies, recently I have seen more fear in eyes and heard more fear in voices than at any time in the past.
Understandably, many of you are saying: "Of course we're scared! Do you have any idea what health care reform is going to do to our business?"
Let me ask a question in return: Just exactly what business are you in?
Before you answer that question, consider the message in an article I read recently in Inc. magazine. Back in 2000, the author was the CEO of a startup entertainment company. As part of a promotional activity, he found himself standing in the Times Square location of a national record store chain with the owners of the chain. He asked the owners why they thought so many people came into their store.
The CEO of the record store chain replied to what he obviously thought was a ridiculous question: "Well, to buy CDs."
To which the startup CEO responded: "I don't think so. I don't think anybody wants to buy a CD."
Record store CEO: "Do you have any idea how many millions of CDs we sell each year?"
Startup CEO: "Oh, I get that. But nobody wakes up in the morning wanting to go out and buy a round piece of plastic with a hole in it. They wake up wanting to hear that new song they heard yesterday, and they want to hear it now. They have to buy the CD, but what they want is to hear the song."
Record store CEO: "What's the difference?"
The difference, as pointed out by the startup CEO, is that if the record store owners had understood what their customers really wanted, they might have invented the iPod and iTunes. Instead, they are now in bankruptcy liquidation.
Now answer the question: Just exactly what business are you in?
Are you selling pieces of round plastic, or are you putting music into the ears of your clients? Are you selling a health insurance policy, or are you helping your clients become the employer of choice?
These are critical questions. Your answer will either legitimize your fear or reduce it to a manageable, healthy level. Your clients have to buy the health policy, but what they really want is to be sure they have the strongest value proposition to offer their employees. In other words, they want to be the employer of choice.
If you identify your business as selling traditional employee benefits (i.e., insurance policies), there are basically two ways you can help your clients and get paid: (1) Sell them an insurance policy, and (2) fix the problems that result from the policy you just sold them. I see this as the epicenter of the fear I have been seeing and hearing:
The fear arises from the inadequacy of the typical agency's business model.
Even in the best of times, this seems legitimately scary to me. At a moment's notice, the foundation of your business can be taken away or altered almost beyond recognition. If your carriers, or the government, decide your services are no longer required, you're out of business. (This is a clear example of fear emanating from a source over which you have no control.)
Now, imagine having a business model based on "putting music in people's ears."
Let's say that you are in the business of helping your clients become the employer of choice. Start by listing how many ways you can help your clients (and how many ways you can get paid):
Oh, and don't forget:
This list could go on almost indefinitely.
I can hear you saying, "We already do all those things." Exactly! (Well, sort of.)
In all likelihood, your primary focus is on selling insurance, and, in an attempt to "differentiate" yourself, you give away many of the services listed above. Unfortunately, anything given away for free is worth exactly what is paid for it: nothing. It's worth nothing not because it doesn't have potential value, but because it isn't a primary focus of the business model/value proposition, and, as a result, it isn't used effectively, if at all.
The answer to most of our fears is right in front of us. It starts with redefining your role with your client. Here's how:
Take responsibility for creating "employer of choice" clients; look at all of your resources (including insurance) as possible solutions to help achieve that outcome; and assume the responsibility for helping your clients use what you provide.
Now you've begun to build a relationship that will be music in the ears of your clients. This is a business model that can't be taken away from you. This is how you face the fear that's associated with the typical agency's business model.
Unfortunately, the impact of business model fear doesn't stop here. I believe this fear creates other fears that have been an ingrained part of our industry for a long time: producers' fear of their clients and agencies' fear of their producers.
Sad to say, I often find that producers are actually afraid of their clients. I believe this fear exists because many producers have ceded control of the relationship to the client. Most producers realize that they get more out of the relationship than they give. In their hearts, they know they are being paid too much for what they actually do (assuming the model of placing coverage and fixing problems). And because what they do is largely transactional, they also know they can be replaced in a heartbeat.
Now let's look at the producer-client relationship in an "employer of choice" model. In this relationship, insurance coverage and problem solving are just two promises among many made by the producer. Fulfilling the other promises (see the list above) moves the relationship beyond the transactional. When producers deliver on these promises, they are delivering real value; they are contributing to the success of their clients. When the value you deliver increases, so does your confidence. When your confidence increases, so does your standing in the relationship.
Although the employer of choice model may have an element of fear, I believe it's a healthy fear. If we are selling based on a promise of delivering results, we'll always have some fear about not delivering on our promises. Unlike with the "place insurance and fix problems" model, however, the ability to deliver is now within our control. In this model, fear is a positive, driving force toward enhancing client value, not a negative, suffocating force that causes us to dread every renewal meeting. We now have complete control over our standing in each client relationship.
This may sound crazy, but I believe that some agency principals are actually afraid of their producers. Good news and bad news both come from the same misguided "place insurance/fix problems" model.
In the transactional model described above, the agency adds only one element: the relationship. And that relationship is almost always tied to the producer. In many agencies, principals avoid upsetting the producer-agency relationship at all costs. As a result, these principals end up behaving as if they work for the producer.
Don't believe me? In the typical agency, who has the lowest level of accountability? Producers. No other position has fewer defined expectations or less accountability than a producer. Why? Because the agency has ceded control of the relationship to the producer.
The good news is that by redefining the business model, by becoming an agency that creates "employer of choice" clients, the principals can expand their value proposition well beyond the producer relationship. The responsibility for meeting client expectations is now spread throughout the agency, restoring a balance that makes for healthier relationships and a stronger business model. Nobody wants good producers to leave; but, if they do, a majority of what drives client value is still intact.
So let's face our fears. I'm convinced that both producers and agencies will have much greater confidence in the value they bring to the client relationship if they contribute measurably to helping each client become that "employer of choice." That is a relationship that any business owner will value.
The alternative is to quote the insurance once a year and fix the problems that arise. That's a business model whose time has passed. That's a relationship that can be replaced in a heartbeat. That's a relationship that would scare me too. Is this a fear you are capable of facing and overcoming? Absolutely, but you have to ask yourself, "How badly do I really want to?"
Originally published in Rough Notes Magazine December 2012.
Photo by Kevin B 3.
As a consultant, part of your job is looking out for the best interests of your clients. And part of that best interest should include looking at things outside of the scope of insurance.
As crazy as that may initially sound (after all, you are an insurance agency), it's important to recognize that you have access to an incredible amount of information about a client business and its operations. In some cases, it's more information than any other consultant or advisor with whom a business might work. The level of details and knowledge you potentially have access to runs deep from the financials, to the properties, products, services, partnerships, business risks, and to the employees, turnover and retention, communication, wellness, compliance...this list can go on for as long as your business is actively involved in helping clients manage their resources.
Traditionally this type of information has been collected and then simply submitted to the carrier. But, by tapping into the depth of information you have across so many areas of a business, there is potential to provide significant insight and advice to help clients improve both operations and profitability. This advice and influence can go well beyond the benefits or commercial policies you place on their behalf. From the client perspective, a lot of this information is gathered purely for the purposes of insurance submissions and not tracked and/or used internally for studying the state of the business. This provides even more opportunity for you to bring a wealth of information and value to your clients about their own business.
But using this information requires congregating it all, studying what it might mean, and finding potential solutions for what's not working or finding ways to capitalize on opportunities.
It also means being a student of business and keeping clients informed of issues that may not have hit their radar yet, or issues for which that they haven't fully considered the significance. When playing the role of consultant, rather than strictly being a broker, it's your job to bring theses conversations to your clients.
Especially as we find ourselves in times of unprecedented turmoil that have shaken the very foundation of everything we've known, there is no better time (except for about 5 years ago) to establish yourself as a bellwether for your clients. Keeping them informed and helping them understand the long-reaching implications that their business decisions of today are going to have on their business of tomorrow, and three years from now, should become your singular focus.
Studies are regularly conducted on the state of employee satisfaction and morale and business projections for hiring and growth, both locally and globally. Understanding the implications of what the results are saying, and educating your clients on these pitfalls and opportunities should be how you spend your time in personal and agency development.
It might feel like it's the time to dig in and focus on the traditional part of your business of offering more products or educating clients in more depth about the same products. Unfortunately, that approach is just getting you a better traditional answer to your challenges, and what your clients are seeing are much more complex problems that they need help navigating.
Instead, going against what might feel like the right direction, and reallocating a disproportionate amount of agency time on developing your team knowledge is actually an excellent use of time and resources. And this effort isn't just a one-time-use activity. A huge benefit to having a knowledge-based business, versus having one that is built on selling a product, is that the knowledge can and should be used again and again. Use it in developing stronger partnerships with your clients, demonstrating a clearly better business model to your prospects, and putting out a completely different message in your marketing efforts.
Having an extremely strong understanding of all products and services you offer your clients is critical. But even more critical for the transformation–leading agencies is proactively providing guidance and advice and being the leading source of education and solutions throughout all areas of the agency – sales, customer service, and marketing.
If you are truly a consultant, then keeping your clients informed, discussing bigger business issues affecting their operations and profitability, and watching out for their best interests should be one of your primary responsibilities.
Photo by digitalART2.
As an industry, we have to start delivering more value. Anybody in this industry who doesn't, won't find themselves in the industry much longer.
By its purest definition, value is getting something of equivalent worth compared to what we pay. In the book "Go-Giver", the authors define the Law of Value in the following manner: your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment. By either of these definitions, I would argue we are not an industry that truly delivers good Value.
First of all, let me ask you a question:
How many people do you have that do any work for you that you don't know exactly how much you pay them? I'm guessing it's a very short list.
Now another question:
How many people do you work for who have no idea at all what they pay for you? If you are like most brokers, and are being honest, that list is way longer than it should be.
The reason is, in our hearts, we don't believe we aren't a good Value for our clients. If you believed you were, you would have no problem going into that $40,000 account and having an open and honest conversation about what you are getting paid and, more importantly, what you deliver in return.
If your business model is like too many, what you are doing for that $40,000 is placing the insurance and then fixing the problems that arise from those same policies. It would be hard to argue that many are truly doing $40,000 worth of work, much less delivering more than what is being received in payment.
So, it appears that if you want to be someone who is considered a good Value, you need to adjust one side of the equation or the other. I'll argue that the right answer isn't on the payment side. If you take that route, you will be setting yourself up to compete against those competitors who will always do it for less. That's a race to the no-profit zone.
The business model of the typical agency needs to be overhauled. To that point, a future blog will explain what I mean in more detail. I will tell you that it has to stop being about selling insurance and has to start focusing on how to improve the business of your clients. However, even before you start overhauling your business model, there are opportunities at every step of the current way to deliver more value than your prospects/clients are expecting.
Marketing – Look at your collective marketing efforts: brochures, website, LinkedIn profiles, blogs, etc. Do you sound like most every other agency bragging about your 112 years in business, offering a free quote, and listing the carriers you represent? Or, do you demonstrate how you truly understand the issues being faced by your clients and make it clear you can offer a solution?
Value test in Marketing – Even if the audience never engaged you in a face-to-face conversation, they should have learned something that will help them in their business as a result of your marketing efforts. Especially with your social media marketing, you should be a regular stop as they look to build their own business acumen.
Selling Process – This is a natural extension of your marketing efforts. Your selling process has to be focused on the needs (known and otherwise) of the buyer and be more of a process of education than anything else.
Value test in Selling – Someone would write a check to go through your sales process. (Don't snicker, I see it happen all the time.)
Customer Service – I know that many of you provide countless Value Added Services to your clients. You probably think that this makes you the exception to the Value deficit I have described. It doesn't. Most of your VASs never get used and therefore have zero value. Worse than that, the frustration that comes from them not being used actually hurts you.
Add value by ensuring that every VAS you offer to your client is implemented and executed as intended. If you aren't going to have a formal implementation plan, then don't even offer the VAS.
Value test in Customer Service – If asked what you do for them, your clients would state the implementation/execution of your Value Added Services ahead of quoting insurance and fixing problems.
No matter what you do, there is always an opportunity to add more Value than was expected. Be a Value Driven producer/agency and you will quickly become invaluable to your clients. You might even be able to ask for a raise.
I was recently speaking to an agency owner who shared a conversation he had just had with one of his producers. The producer had come into the owner’s office, plopped down in the desk side chair and asked, “When did this industry become not fun?” He then went on to tell the owner that he had just gotten word from a long-time account that they were moving to another broker.
Now, I get that losing an account makes for a bad day. In fact, if there is ever a day when you lose an account and it doesn’t totally ruin your day, then it was either such a toxic account you should have fired them as a client a long time ago or else it’s just plain time for you to get out of sales.
Of course, this wasn’t the first time I’ve heard someone ask the question. In fact, I imagine many of you reading this have asked yourself the same question at some point. As common as the question might be, it still gets my attention when I hear it asked. Sure, it can just be a momentary expression of frustration, but it can also be a signal of bigger issues. It may imply that the producer feels there is some greater industry force at work that has control over him and that it is somebody else’s responsibility to make sure he is having fun. Not feeling you control your own destiny is a scary place to be.
I explained to the owner that “fun” (feel free to also substitute “success”) is like the answer to a math equation. Subtract the number of bad days (losing an account) from the number of good days (picking up an account), and the answer is how much fun you are having. When your good days exceed bad days, you are generally having fun. When your good days significantly exceed bad days, you’re almost giddy. On the flip side, when you are losing more accounts than you are winning, the producer was right – it’s no fun. In fact, it just plain sucks.
Like most things in the universe, our industry has a balance. With the exception of new businesses opening or existing businesses closing, there are an even number of bad days and good days. Whenever one producer has a good day there is another producer somewhere having a bad day as a result of the same decision. That’s just the way it is.
The industry becomes no fun the very same day you quit working hard enough to ensure you have more good days than bad. When we start out, we have no choice. We have to have wins just to survive. When survival is on the line you are driven by your hunger and you have to work hard. Being aggressive is all you know, and the immediate reward of the adrenaline rush that comes from closing deals becomes addictive and further fuels your drive and the next success. Of course it was fun back then – you were winning on a regular basis.
One of the ironies of success is that at some point, (and it’s different for everyone), it quits becoming fuel for your competitive fire and may actually cause that competitive flame to flicker and die. All too often, I have seen producers achieve more success and financial reward than they could have ever conceived possible, and they stop competing, they become complacent. That is the day the industry becomes no fun for them.
When you are no longer the aggressor, it is only a matter of time before you become the victim. Not only the victim of a lost account, but the victim of allowing your control and your fun to be taken from you.
I predict there will be more account movement over the next couple of years than we have ever seen. Convincing yourself that you need to be more focused on defending what you already have is an easy trap to fall into. It’s also incredibly dangerous. You have a team whose responsibility it is to be the primary defense of existing accounts. Your responsibility, as a producer, is to go out and get more and make sure you are on the winning side of that account movement.
Bad days are inevitable; they are going to find you. In an economy like this, the balance is harder to maintain. Some clients will go out of business. Others will get acquired. And yet other clients will be taken from you because of other producers who are committed to building a surplus of good days for themselves.
Unfortunately, good days don’t just show up. It is up to you to create them. It’s up to you to ensure they outnumber the bad. It’s up to you to ensure you are having fun.
If you find yourself relating to the question asked by my producer friend, if this industry isn’t as fun for you as it once was, don’t sit and disparage the industry. Don’t make excuses. Don’t go into defense mode. Get out there and create your own fun.
Go take control. Find your appetite and become the aggressor you once were. Reintroduce yourself to the adrenaline rush of closing deals and feed that habit on a regular basis.
For those who are willing to make it so, the most fun days this industry has ever offered are still ahead. It can be that way for you. You just have to ask yourself, “How badly do I really want to have fun?”
Photo by Lucy Boynton.
Election season is chock full of opportunities to talk about candidates, parties, platforms, and issues. Unlike anything else, politics stimulates emotionally charged responses and debates. People like to jump on board and support their party and their favorite issues, which is part of our great American system.
Politics requires us to review the issues, form an opinion, and take a stand for what we believe. The same goes for being a consultant. Being able to review multiple options, make an informed decision, and offer an opinion and advice is a critical part of being an advisor to clients. It's definitely a skill that needs to be honed to be successful, especially as we're moving to a knowledge/advice-driven model.
The tricky part of this as it relates to politics is being able to understand and distinguish between personal beliefs and the role your business plays with clients and prospects. Getting on your political soapbox or using your company messaging platform as a bully pulpit is where the tide turns from being an active political citizen to creating a sense of negativity that surrounds you and your company.
It's important to recognize that as a business owner or a broker, you are likely working with clients across a broad spectrum. As such, you and your clients may not hold all of the same views. Understanding this and responding appropriately can go a long way in securing business.
On the flip side, if your opinions and communication are passionately and consistently "us vs. them" and your recommendations are overtly based on a strong political bias, you run a couple of risks for your business.
The first risk is offending or alienating those clients with differing beliefs or those who prefer to leave politics out of the office. Clients or prospects who disagree with you, or feel pressured by you, may chose to take their business where they feel more aligned or just don't have to deal with the pressure of the politics.
The second risk, and perhaps the most critical, is that you may inadvertently be demonstrating to clients that you are unable to objectively approach a situation. If they see your belief system as being so rigid that you have blinders on and are not open to differing opinions, the message they might be receiving is that you approach everything with a bias. Clients may feel that with these preconceived beliefs you tout so openly, you are unable to review and assess their needs without prejudice.
As brokers are becoming more reliant on their own knowledge and advice to earn and retain client business, being able to demonstrate the balance of objectivity, along with opinions and sound advice, is critical for business growth.
Make sure the message you and your employees are sending on behalf of the company is what's going to best serve this future growth. Be sure that what you're saying speaks to your audience in a way that resonates positively with them: it makes them want to ask for your opinions and advice; and it makes them want to do business with and refer you.
If you speak more passionately and more consistently about your political beliefs than you do about your company and how you help your clients, the politics are going to overshadow the company message and that, instead, becomes your brand.
Prospects who don't agree, or are turned off by the continuous ranting, dismiss you as being a relevant business option. Clients don't necessarily want their situation always put though your political filter.
There are costs associated with these choices and not ones that can even be measured. For all the clients who leave, they will likely not say it's because of your message. And for all the prospects you don't turn into clients, or the ones you never even talk to because of the brand that precedes you, you have no idea what that potential revenue could be. If the message you're sharing is their reason for not doing business with you, it's probably the last thing they'd ever tell you. So just because you're not getting negative feedback, doesn't mean people aren't listening and forming their own opinions.
Photo by jaydensonbx.
Every employee exposes his/her employer to significant cyber risk every single day. To say this is a huge area of risk for all businesses would be a monumental understatement. Computers, cell phones, laptops, iPads, flash drives, copy machines – anything that stores information and connects to the Internet is a potential opportunity for a data breach. If that's not alarming enough, here are a few stats to consider.
All of this exposure and all of these breaches, and only about 25% of companies are buying stand-alone cyber coverage.
Our friends at LeBaron and Carroll Insurance have shared the following ideas with us about what you and/or your clients should be doing to prepare your businesses for the inherent risks of using computers and mobile devices.
And, because you never know where the next threat lies, and no safeguards are likely foolproof, especially in the area of data breach, you need to be financially prepared. Not properly protecting yourself and your clients in this critical area could prove, well... critical.
Photo by mikogo.
It’s not about the quality of your product; it’s about the quality of your insight.
I read this recently in the book, The Challenger Sale, and feel that it’s such an important idea that it deserves some special focus.
While we all recognize the need to know our “product” inside and out as a critical part of our job, very few recognize that maybe the most important part of our job is to ensure we can regularly bring new insights to our prospects/clients.
So, in the spirit of the book, my challenge to you is to expose yourself to as many new insights as possible. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how quickly and frequently you are able to put those ideas into play.
And to get you started, I have some suggestions as to where to find those ideas.
Read a book – May as well as start with the most obvious. If you’re not always in the middle of a business book of some sort, you are completely missing out on unbelievable ways to gain insights. A couple of my recent favorites include:
Publications & blogs – Being a reader of information through social media is good, but the greatest insights come from being engaged. In other words, participate in the online conversations, discussions and even debates. Don’t be afraid to take a stand and share your opinion. Start with something easy – maybe compliment an article you found insightful – but don’t be afraid to offer a differing opinion either. The more you participate, the more insights you will take with you. Here are a couple of places you should be engaging:
Thought leaders – Ask the experts in various business specialties about the one idea they feel is most important for business owners to know. Your centers of influence and clients are great places to start.
Google – Create a list of challenges you know most business owners struggle with and block time out each week to research a topic. Searching “(topic) + best practices or challenges” will be a great start.
TED Talks – With the tagline, “Ideas Worth Spreading”, you know this is a good place to visit regularly. Go to www.ted.com and you will find a free library of short, idea-inspiring videos on just about any subject you can imagine.
Track and develop – Always carry something with you to capture good ideas as they come to you. Then, regularly block out reflective time to go back to your list of ideas and give them a chance to develop into powerful insights that are worth sharing.
Writing – A great way to further absorb, develop and integrate information you’ve learned is to write. Write your own blog post or whitepaper about what you’ve learned, or simply write an email to someone with whom you want to share the idea/article–you might surprise yourself at how much better you understand the topic or see the potential applications after just a little bit of writing.
Observe – There are powerful ideas/insights all around you. You just have to watch and listen, and you might be amazed at how almost everything you learn can somehow apply to business. For example:
Be genuinely interested – Don’t let an interesting comment from someone pass without exploring it further. Ask for clarification. If you hear someone share a success, be curious and ask questions to learn what led to the success. Not only will this be a huge compliment to the person with the story, think what insights you may pick up that could lead to someone else’s success.
Change your routine – The same routines tend to expose you to the same ideas and thoughts. Change up your routine and I promise you will find new ideas, thoughts and insights. This could be the publications you read, where you regularly exercise or even where you stop for coffee.
Public speaking – Expose yourself to great public speakers (from multiple fields and disciplines). And, if you truly want to put yourself “all in” to develop your ideas and insights to their fullest, find your own speaking opportunities.
Smart people - Have conversations with really smart people. Better yet, have debates with really smart people. Agree to meet on a regular basis with the agreed upon price of admission to the discussion being a new idea or topic to discuss.
There are countless other ways to gain new insights. Whether you follow my suggestions or pursue others, nothing will happen until you write “gaining insights” into your job description and block out the time on a weekly, if not daily, basis to make it happen. It will take work, but the improved value you can deliver will make it all worthwhile. You just have to ask yourself, “How badly do I want it?”
Photo by Brandon Fick.
Do you have an idea of the type of client you want to work with? Do you have them so well defined that everyone in your agency knows what they look like and everyone in your network knows what they look like?
If you don’t know and/or haven’t clearly communicated it to everyone, then you’re missing out on opportunities to find and connect with those potential clients.
You might know the size of business, have a targeted area in which they’re located, and possibly identified an industry or two that they’re in.
That’s a good start and you should definitely have an idea of what you’re looking for in each of those areas.
But you should also have a lot more to really paint that picture for yourself and everyone else. The more specific you are and the better the visual you can create, the more readily you and your network will be able to identify it when you see it.
Also having such a specifically defined audience will help you to better focus your message and general communications.
Provide a holistic view of the person and business
Take it to the next descriptive level
Give him/her a name and personality. Search for a picture of what this ideal person or company looks like. Maybe it’s just an ideal you have in mind, or perhaps you’re even modeling this after a current client. Make that your picture and share it with everyone.
I’ve worked with clients on this exercise who immediately understood where we were going with it. Following are a couple of great examples: the first written by an individual producer, and the second written at the agency level.
She named him Booming Bob.
Bob owns a successful business that hung tight during the recession by being efficient with his people and processes. Ready to start growing from 25 up to 30 then 40+ employees. Ideally hanging out at the 50 to 75 arena. Wants to stay efficient and wisely looks to his advisors keep him on track. He knows the power of delegation and isn’t afraid to use it. Knows the value of relationships and endeavors to build them whenever possible. Not afraid to tell someone they’re doing a good job and takes good care of his employees without spoiling them.
Our clients are profitable businesses run by sophisticated, smart, down to Earth people who want to work with an advisor. They depend on us to deliver on services, they trust in us, use benefits for recruiting and retention, value their employees, are strategic thinkers in their business and the people they hire, they want to be challenged. We like them. (Technical details of profile omitted for this post.)
After describing what they wanted in their ideal, they quickly identified a current client as the “picture” for who this ideal client is.
Everyone in the agency now knows exactly what they’re looking for and what they’re trying to replicate, not only in technical details, but on the human side of the business, as well.
Having a clear vision of your brand and audience is key for prospecting, and it should also be used as your guide for your marketing communications, as well: in-person activities, printed materials, and all online postings and interactions.
The better you know the targeted audience you are trying to attract and speak to, the better you can target your message and your services, and the more helpful and valuable you can be to those potential and current clients.
I recently attended my son’s 8th grade “Gold N” ceremony. To brag a little, the “Gold N” is awarded to those students who maintained an “A” average throughout their middle school career. One of the keynote speakers was the district’s Teacher of the Year.
Now, this particular teacher is one of those rare individuals who knew what she wanted to do from a very early age. She knew from the time she was still in elementary school that she would be a teacher. Obviously, given her recent award, she was right. Not only did she know what she wanted to do with her life, but she had a passion and conviction that blinded her to any possible obstacles.
She had managed to collect outdated textbooks from which she would use her spare time to create lesson plans. She also went around to the teachers requesting their excess “Weekly Readers”. Of course, the teachers were more than happy to oblige her request.
So, now, she has textbooks, lesson plans and an abundant supply of “Weekly Readers”. The next obvious step was to build a classroom. She managed to talk her dad into converting part of the basement into a classroom complete with a chalkboard, pencil sharpener, and desks (for any of you dads with daughters, you know there wasn’t much resistance).
So, now she has textbooks, lesson plans, “Weekly Readers”, chalkboard, pencil sharpener, and desks. However, there was one critical piece missing. You guessed it – students. So, this 11 year-old girl with a passion for teaching decided it was time to troll the neighborhood recruiting students. It took a while, but she enrolled her first student, a 6 year-old neighbor girl.
Evidently, her new student thought that her new teacher was the greatest thing ever. That doesn’t surprise me. Think about it. With as much obvious passion as this 11 year-old had, how could you not get caught up in it?!
Anyway, they spent the next few weeks working on subtraction, cursive writing, and I’m sure discussing the most recent “Weekly Reader” article. After many lessons and a fair amount of progress, the young teacher decided it was time to report on the progress. You might think that she wrote up a cute little report card to send home with the student.
Well, you would only be partially right.
She also invited the student’s parents in for a parent-teacher conference. And guess what?! They showed up!! They sat there at the little desks in the basement classroom and listened to an 11 year old “teacher” discuss the progress of their 6 year-old daughter.
How awesome is all of that?! I mean really, think about it. There was every legitimate reason in the world why none of this would have happened, but you know why all of it did? Passion, confidence, and determination.
It was this young girl’s passion to be a teacher, her unwavering confidence in her ability, and her determination to make it happen that caused her teachers to supply her with the necessary teaching materials, her dad to build her a classroom, her 6 year-old neighbor to enroll, and the neighbor’s parents to show up for a conference! Wow!
Now, think about what you can do when you can tap into your passion, find your own level of confidence and decide you won’t stop until you succeed. I’m guessing you would be able to attract the resources you need to help your clients, I bet your organization would be more than willing to create the environment for you execute successfully, I’m guessing you would have no problem in getting prospects/clients to listen to what you have to share, and I bet you would be more than anxious to report on what you accomplished.
The right resources, organizational support, prospects/clients, and accountability for what you accomplished added to your own passion, confidence, and determination, and it sounds like a pretty powerful formula to me. If it worked for an 11 year-old little girl, why wouldn’t it work for you?
Photo by misskprimary.