Sales and Marketing Discipline For Insurance Agencies

Every great company has a key defining concept. Something that is woven into the fabric of people, products and culture. For example, 3M strives to use innovative technology and imagination to improve the daily lives of people. This concept becomes obvious when reviewing their history and how the company operates each day. The immense challenge for businesses, or in this case insurance agents, who want to achieve tremendous success like 3M, is to define that key concept – and then to make all decisions in alignment with that concept.

Successful insurance agency sales and marketing cultures should be built the same way. A truly honest assessment of how your insurance agent sales time is spent, and the associated results, can be a very enlightening exercise for both agent and agency alike. What is your agency’s defining concept, and how is this conveyed to your agents? Who is your best client or customer? How did you find them? How much of your time are you spending trying to repeat that same process? How much time are you wasting with less productive initiatives or people who are less likely to buy?

Here are a few steps to help you complete this exercise:

  1. Define your Ideal Insurance Agency Sales Prospect – Use your best customer as an example. Who are they? How big are they? What does their industry and client base look like?
  2. Determine your Most Effective Marketing Tools – What marketing initiatives provide the best results? Where do your closes come from? What is producing the right kind of prospects?
  3. Refine your Marketing Plan- Once the above two items are clearly and honestly defined, make sure your marketing plan is directed at repeating the process. Refine the plan so that it is accurately aligned with your findings.
  4. Stop doing Everything Else – This is a hard one. But to achieve the 3M type of success mentioned earlier, it is required. Throw away everything else that does not fit, and only spend time pursuing your best prospects and executing your most effective marketing campaigns.

It sounds simple, but if it was easy everyone would already be doing it – maintain focus on your best prospects and best marketing channels. As your agency discipline increases, your results will improve dramatically. Your insurance agents will focus on ideal prospect profiles and carry your defining message to these prospects. This discipline will result in an improved agency pipeline, with better insurance agency leads and prospects.

High and Low Sales and Marketing

Sales and marketing is all about alternating between high-level strategy and low-level detail.

Successful sales and marketing is about creating relationships. Be prepared for the ups and the downs, the goods and the bads, the sales and the rejections. The way to alleviate most any obstacle in the process is by switching from high level to low level and vice versa. When a customer gets caught up in a specific detail, change the focus of the discussion to the big picture. The converse is true as well.

Think about the last time you decided to purchase something. What was your thought process? Did you find it easy to decide or was your evaluation of each alternative a long and laborious process? In some cases we buy something because we just know it is what we are looking for. More generally our thinking follows the following steps which you should recognize and navigate with your potential buyers.

At each step, alternate from the big picture to zooming in to the smallest of details:

1. Need: The first question your buyer will ask themselves once you have attracted their interest is: does this product or service solve a need of mine? High-level needs include lifestyle needs such as looking good to others and making oneself more successful at one’s job. Low-level needs are the day-to-day technical challenges that your buyers face which you are trying to help them with

2. Requirements: With a need in mind that your buyer is looking to address, they will then draw up a set of requirements of how that need can be solved. Your goal should be to match your product or service to these requirements in your communications to potential buyers. Remember that features do not mean anything unless you connect them with high and low-level requirements

3. Evaluation: Once your buyer has drawn up a set of high and low-level requirements they will begin to compare your product or service against the ideal solution they have in mind. At this critical juncture you must remember to communicate both the high-level and low-level benefits of your product or service and help the customer visualize how your solution best services their needs on all fronts

4. Negotiation: It is only at this point that price can be considered a serious component of the sales and marketing discussion. Whether or not the previous steps happen in minutes, days or weeks, it is only after going through that thought process that your prospect qualifies themselves as a serious buyer. In negotiating with them you can now position price as an investment for high and low-level value

5. Purchase: In today’s economy it is especially important that the sales and marketing process does not end with a purchase or low-level transaction. You must nurture the high-level view of creating lifetime buyers by excelling in customer experience, post-sales service and staying in touch with buyers to communicate offers and the value that they are continuing to receive from their business with you

By following this advice you will begin to create a flexible mindset and so will your customers. If you receive a return or complaint then see it as a temporary setback and service the customer well. The high-level strategy behind doing so will enable you to foster healthy relationships and build long-term success. Each step of the process as well as your overall business can benefit from this approach.

If you get stuck at the high level, drill down to the tactical day-to-day details to find relief. “The price is too high? Well just think about how much time you are going to save.” The same is true the other way around. “You think the product is too complex? Well, let me assure you that the learning curve with our customers is only a week or so. What is more, the benefits will last forever.” Back and forth and back again…

Be a dive-bomber seller and marketer by zeroing in and then swooping out again.

Bizarro Sales and Marketing World

Believe it or not, you can learn a LOT about sales and marketing living in a small town.

Not lessons for what to do. But lessons for what not to do.

Here’s what I mean:

As much as living in a small town suits my introverted, Big Foot-hunting ways, it’s sometimes painful watching the local businesses commit suicide.

It’s like they do the exact OPPOSITE of what smart businesses do.

In fact, it totally reminds me of “Bizarro” Superman. Bizarro Superman is like Superman’s exact opposite who lives in the backwards Bizarro world. In other words… Up is down, down is up, he says hello when he leaves, says goodbye when he arrives, has freeze vision (instead of heat vision), flame breath (instead of frost breath), etc.

And that’s exactly how many of these local businesses operate.

For example, we got Bizarro customer service.

Instead of making you want to come back and even tell your friends… you get yahoos at the counter purposely making people stand in line for several minutes while they talk to a friend in line or on their cell phones.

We also got Bizarro hotel staff.

Instead of hiring competent people who, you know, tend to do a good job, some of these locals ONLY hire cronies and family members who KNOW they can’t be fired and treat people (especially tourists — the town’s “bread ‘n butter”) like lepers.

Heck, we’ve even got Bizarro INVESTORS around here.

This one dude’s pouring $30 million smackeroos into a new, high-end hotel/spa/thingy seemingly without much accountability or strategy.

Believe it or not, a chamber of commerce person actually said:

“We don’t need customers, we got $30 million.”

Dumb.

Anyway, here’s the point:

All of this is the exact OPPOSITE of what (most of us) do in marketing — where we test, measure and bend over backwards to make customers happy. And it really puts things in perspective.

It also proves the late Earl Nightingale right when he said:

“If you want to succeed, just look around at what everyone else is doing, and do the exact opposite.”

That simple advice has served me well for a long time now.

And it can serve you well, too.

When you see the “bizarro marketers” out there doing things you know are hurting them, even if they have “goo roo” status, do the opposite. Fight that urge to blindly follow people, and do what’s right.

Do that, and you’ll probably never go wrong.