Consistency is key for sales success.
But excuses don't pay the bills, and some producers continue to enjoy significant increases in their books despite formidable obstacles. In good times and bad, some producers consistently make new sales. How do they do it?
Consistent producers have a plan.
Ask a consistent producer for his or her sales plan, and you're likely to hear not just yearly goals, but a detailed description of how those goals will be met. The planning process is more formalized with some producers than with others, but typically it begins with an analysis of their current books of business, including the mix of business, current sales focus and account retention. Then they consider the circumstances within the marketing territory, like the condition of the local economy, unemployment and principal industries. Consistent producers also are keenly aware of the competition regarding the products and services offered, pricing, marketing tools and underwriting requirements.
Based on this analysis, the producer can now identify the opportunities for growth, seek out any training needed to capitalize on these opportunities and determine the individual prospecting activities needed to successfully carry out the sales plan. Now the producer knows exactly what is needed each week to accomplish overall sales goals.
Sales goals are specific, so there is no question as to what has to be done; they are attainable in the mind of the producer, but require him or her to "stretch" to reach them. Sales goals are measurable and can be tracked on a chart or a graph, and they are usually written to be referenced often.
Consistent producers hold themselves accountable to achieve the goals they have set. A goal to a consistent producer isn't something that would be nice to achieve; it is a target that keeps producers focused on their daily activities. Many producers have a sales or personal coach to help them stay focused and provide a different perspective. Sometimes it's a professional coach or sales manager, but often it is another producer or even a friend not in the insurance business who helps producers stay on track.
MANAGING THEIR TIME
Surveys over the years have shown that many potential new producers are attracted to insurance sales in part because of the absence of close supervision, and the freedom and flexibility the business allows. Ironically, the No. 1 reason new producers fail is their inabilities to effectively manage their time. Consistent producers have learned how to get the most output from the time they put into the business. They identify the most important tasks to accomplish each day, and then perform those first. That way, if everything doesn't get done, it's the most important things that are completed. The most important things, of course, are those prospecting and sales activities that produce new business.
Consistent producers set aside time specifically to generate new business. A favorite approach is to "blitz" at least one day each week by first sending pre-approach letters to targeted prospects, and then following up with a face-to-face visit.
Consistent producers are not afraid to walk away from accounts that have a low possibility of resulting in a sale. If the decision maker isn't available, the relationship with the incumbent is apparently unbreakable, it's a price only deal, or the decision maker isn't forthcoming with needed information, or the risk doesn't meet carrier underwriting requirements, the consistent producer moves on to the next prospect. The Diagnostic Appointment Questionnaire (DAQ, from the Dynamics of Selling program) is one of the most important tools a consistent producer uses to maximize efficiency. Consistent producers know they can't afford practice quoting, and the best time to lose a sale is the first time you realize it's not your sale.
THE LIKEABILITY FACTOR
If people buy from people they like, what is it about some producers that makes them so likeable? Legendary football coach Lou Holtz said there are three things he wants to know when he first meets someone: "Can I trust you? Are you committed to excellence? Do you care about me as a person?"
Consistent producers treat everyone as though he or she is truly important. This extends to administrative assistants, CSRs, competitors, agency and company personnel and everyone else. That's why the support staffers of business prospects so often influence the decision maker to meet with the producer, and sometimes even help the producer make the sale.
Being likeable means being a good listener. Consistent producers listen more than they talk. They focus attention on the other person, not on themselves or their products and services. Consistent producers adapt to their prospects' communication style and mirror the other person. They realize each prospect or client is unique, with wants and needs particular to themselves.
Consistent producers exude confidence. At first, their confident appearances may have only been an act. But by acting confident, they inspire the prospect's confidence, which in turn makes the producer more confident. With experience, the feeling of confidence became reality. Self-confidence is an important part of being "likeable."
Consistent producers get up close and personal with new prospects. They sometimes visit new prospects multiple times just to get to know them before asking for a formal appointment. That way, they're no longer a stranger when it comes time to ask the prospect to buy. This personal touch makes the consistent producer stand out as a provider of unique value when compared with the competition. Consistent producers enjoy a closing ratio of 70 percent, 80 percent and even 90 percent with brand- new prospects because they bring much more to the relationship than price or even product.
Consistent producers know their prospects and clients on a personal level. They're not just a number on a policy file or a commission check. Their clients become their friends. This is why consistent producers have such high persistency ratios and why they do so much business by referral.
Consistent producers never have to start selling because they never stop.
By KENNETH L. FIELDS, CIC, CPCU, assistant VP, State Auto Insurance Cos.
Kenneth L. Fields. CIC. CPCU. is an
assistant vice president with The State Auto Insurance Cos. Co-developer of the nationally recognized PaceSetter new producer sales development program, he has been personal coach to more than 1,000 new property-casualty producers. He also is on the national faculty for the National Alliance's Marketing and Sales James K. Ruble Seminar. For information on The National Alliance for Insurance Education & Research and its Dynamics of Selling program, call 800-633-2165 or go to www.TheNationalAlliance.com.