After 10 years as a sales coach to benefit professionals - both core and voluntary - I have had an epiphany of sorts. My epiphany was this: Sales success is really very simple, regardless of your product or service. It boils down to this:
* Make more sales calls.
* Focus on finding the best prospects.
* Identify a back door.
* Talk in terms of deliverable outcomes.
* Ask really great questions.
* Surprise and delight customers.
* Recognize that revenue per client is more important than attracting more clients.
While this is really simple, it is not necessarily easy. It takes some work to identify your deliverable outcomes. Then it takes thought to develop really great questions, followed by practice, if you want to use them successfully. Finally, there will have to be a shift in how you think about what you do.
Make more calls
At the end of the day here is what I know with absolute certainty: Regardless of your product or service and regardless of your skill level, if you make enough calls you will make sales. A wise salesman once was quoted as saying, "If you tie an order form to a dog's tail and set it loose in New York City at lunchtime, someone will sign it."
The biggest obstacle between where you are today and amazing sales success tomorrow is simply a lack of motivation when it comes to making more calls.
Right now many of you are saying to yourself, "Mel just doesn't get it! Between my renewals and my service work there just isn't any time to go out and make more calls." To that I respond, "Hogwash!"
Organizing the census data for quotes does not take up that much time, and unless you are an extremely new agent, identifying the best option for a prospect or client is not that difficult.
You already know your products and the details will not have changed dramatically since the last round of quotes for the last prospect. Plus, most of you utilize proposal templates where the only thing that changes is the spreadsheet - which shouldn't be included anyway.
Using organizing proposals for a renewal as an excuse for not making calls is more of a smokescreen than reality. How do I know this? Many of my coaching clients who were serious about increasing their business found that they actually had more time available than they thought when it became a priority. And, of course, making more calls inevitably led to more closed sales.
One of the biggest obstacles faced by insurance agents marketing group major medical is the fact that it has become increasingly more difficult to get prospects to allow you to quote on their plan. Nonetheless, if you want to be little more than the human equivalent of an online quote engine and ask for an opportunity to quote in the hopes of saving the prospect money, you can write an amazing amount of new business if you simply make enough calls. How many calls will be enough? The only answer is: as many as it takes.
Making your calls count
The easiest way to make your calls more valuable is to have a product or service that is distinctly different from that of your competitors and that has a compelling story.
In marketing my dental product, for example, my story is simple: "I have a revolutionary new design in dental insurance that eliminates the annual deductible, lowers premiums 20% or more and increases employee appreciation of the benefit."
If I did nothing more than share that line with 10 business owners per day, I would write more business than I could handle without help.
Of course, getting in front of 10 decision makers every day is easier said than done. The business owner must be available, and there are gatekeepers to get by. But if I went out every day and kept making calls until I spoke with 10 business owners, I would get multiple opportunities every month to make a presentation.
If you do not have a unique product, then you must have a compelling sales proposition, and the promise of great service is not a great sales proposition.
The 'Columbo' approach
In the absence of a compelling product, service or proposition, you must be prepared to look for a back door into the prospect's group. A back door is simply a fallback to another product or service utilizing the "Columbo" approach.
When a prospect says: "I am not interested" or tries to get rid of you by giving you the major medical renewal date, you ask about another potential opportunity. The conversation will go like this:
Agent: I would love a chance to quote on your health insurance and see if I can lower your premium.
Prospect: We renew in nine months, so why don't you call back in six months?
Agent: No problem, thanks very much.
(Start to leave ... then stop)
Agent: Can I ask you one quick question?
Agent: I have a revolutionary new design in dental insurance that eliminates the annual deductible, lowers premiums 20% or more and increases employee appreciation of the benefit. Would you be open to talking about this?
Prospect: Sure. If you can reduce my dental premiums by 20%, I'll hear you out.
I share this technique with every group health agent that I talk with, but few implement it because they are so focused on the potential revenue of the group major medical sales that they fail to see the value in selling ancillary line as a stand-alone sale.
The most common response that I get from the group health agent is this: "There is no money in selling a dental plan to a group with 30 employees."
That is a completely false belief. An employer-paid dental plan in a 30-life group would generate approximately $100 in monthly commission. In a voluntary sale, the agent would generate approximately $40 in monthly commission, which obviously is not a lot of money. But, if you walk away from that prospect without asking about the dental insurance, you make zero.
My extremely poor mathematical skills tell me that $40 per month is way more than zero per month. If I write 10 groups over the course of the year, I have added $400 to my revenue stream, and there is very little work involved in the dental sale.
Plus, if I sell a two-year rate guarantee, I will create a total of $960 in total revenue per group - not bad for an "oh, by the way" sale.
But here is the most important aspect of this sale: I now have a relationship with the business owner/decision maker, so that at the renewal of the group major medical, I have an advantage over other agents that do not have a relationship.
Here is my challenge: Take the next 90 days and schedule sales calls into three of the five working days with a goal of talking to 10 decision makers each day.
Do not quit making calls until you talk with 10 decision makers.
I do not care what you use as the basis of your call, but have a back-door strategy ready to go. You only try the back door one time.
If at the end of 90 days you have not increased your revenue, I will provide two free one-on-one coaching sessions to help identify what went wrong. I will ask for your call records first - so be prepared.
Regardless of your sales proposition, I guarantee results using the more sales calls strategy combined with a back-door alternative.
Schlesinger, RHU, REBC, has more than 26 years of insurance sales experience and provides sales and marketing coaching to both life and health insurance agents. To learn more about creating killer content, visit getmoregroup clients.com or call Mel at (336) 777-3938.
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