The greatest time to be an employee benefit adviser is right now, but today’s adviser must embrace the fact that they not going to succeed in the same way as they did in the past, says consultant Kevin Trokey.

Historically, producers have focused on what an employer has to buy — insurance.  “We feel like we’re in a position of power … because we have something they have to buy,” Trokey, partner and coach at Q4intelligence, told attendees at the benefitsCONNECT Benefits Technology Summit in San Diego.

However, that mentality, he added, has them at the center of a commodity purchase. Such a purchase focuses on lowest price and features, and “only works as long as you’re guaranteed a role in the middle,” he said.

As advisers today know, that role is no longer guaranteed. Just as the music store owner who didn’t understand customers were purchasing CDs for more than access to the hardware was supplanted by a computer company that understood the music itself was the desire, advisers need to start focusing on what consumers want to buy versus what they have to buy, Trokey said during the April 23 session.

 “Employers want more than just price and product,” he said, but rather they find confidence in an adviser who brings “a level of improvement to their business.”

A lot of brokers rest in a false sense of security around the “value-added services” they bring to clients, when in fact, Trokey said, “almost no value comes out of them because they are used so ineffectively.”

5 sales profiles

Trokey urged attendees to read The Challenger Side by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson, which breaks down five sales profiles and their level of effectiveness.

The five profiles include:

1)      The relationship builder, who wins business when accepted to a prospect’s inner circle.

2)      The hard worker, who flat-out outworks the competition.

3)      The lone wolf, who is deeply self-confident and loves to break rules.

4)      The reactive problem solver, who feels good when they find themselves in second place and will wait in the wings for the first guy to screw up.

5)      The challenger, who uses their knowledge to push the thinking boundaries of the buyer and intentionally put constructive tension into the conversation in order to get the buyer to think differently. “That’s when the challenger wins,” said Trokey.

There is an even distribution among the five profiles when it comes to average sales performers. But during a typical sale, high performers are most likely to be challengers (39%), followed by lone wolves (25%), hard workers (17%), reactive problem solvers (12%) and lastly, relationship builders (7%).

In a complex sales situation, not surprisingly, the high-performing challenger stands out even more from the others, with 54% of them succeeding in a complex sales environment. Trokey explained three practices that make the challenger the most successful sales profile:

1)      They recognize their job is to teach clients something about their own business.

2)      They tailor their message to the audience and know who the decision maker is in the room.

3)      They control the sales conversation and know the standard they have to hit to reasonably expect they’ll win the business. They also know when to walk away if it’s not achievable.

Know your why

Another excellent sales resource, Trokey said, is Simon Sinek and his Ted talk on the greatest leaders who inspire action. Sinek says people don’t buy what you sell, but why you sell it. While most people will approach the three critical elements in a sale — what, how and why — from the outside in because it’s the easiest way to do things, it’s the reverse order, starting with why, that will give you an advantage, Trokey said.

“The influential communicate from the inside out,” he said. The message you lead with will determine who in your audience will get your attention, and leading with the “why” will “get people who fundamentally believe what you do,” Trokey added.

Then, use “how” and “what” to get people to validate the decision they’re already making emotionally from the “why” you led with, he said. For example, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a why-filled message, while a politician who wants to share their 12-point plan with you is delivering a what-filled message.

Trokey shared the example of one of his broker client’s why-how-what sales strategy: We help build organizations worth committing to (why) through a unique process that evaluates the key areas of solution, process and results and builds the appropriate customized plan (how) with benefits, communication, engagement, cyber risk and other elements (what).

9 critical beliefs

Developing a new sales approach is not easy, Trokey said. We must understand how to get there by recognizing what drives us. The results we produce are driven by our habits, he said, which are based on behaviors and driven by our beliefs. Beliefs are powerful and “will make us do a lot of things,” he said.

With that in mind, Trokey shared nine critical beliefs from the adviser’s perspective that will help a firm succeed:

1)      I have two priorities and need to schedule time for both: Sales and service. “You have to put a barrier up to hold that service work in place,” he said, otherwise, serving existing clients will fill up your whole week. Trokey will often hear advisers say it’s not possible to carve out more time for prospecting, but he pointed it out can be done. “People’s most effective week is the week before their vacation,” he said.

2)      The clients I have are the ones I choose:  “You have to believe it’s a privilege to work with you,” Trokey said. For example, a broker client came to him struggling with his $800,000 book of business. Of the broker’s 300 clients, they discovered the bottom 100 only brought in $10,000 worth of business annually. “That’s not an anomaly,” he said, adding that, on average, only 5%-7% of revenue comes from the bottom half of a brokerage’s accounts. “You need to identify a client profile as a filter for your current book and your pipeline,” Trokey said.

3)      Constant learning is part of my job: “We have to be committed to constant learning,” he said. An adviser must invest in technical knowledge, strategic HR and general business acumen.

4)      Results are all that matter: “People come to your website not to learn your story … they’re looking for someone who can improve their story,” Trokey said, suggesting that brokerages collect agency and producer success stories and discuss them in meetings, share them on social media.

5)      I am responsible for my own success: “If you truly want success,” Trokey said, “you must define it on a weekly basis.”

6)      Every client should know how much they pay me: “The competition will only talk about how over-paid you are,” he said. Trokey recommends discussing it as part of a renewal agenda, start with “safe clients,” with the goal to make them all safe. “Deliver the value or take a pay cut,” he said. “Build a stewardship report and lead with it.”

7)      I will never lose because my competition was better prepared: Loses will happen, Trokey said, “but it should never be because of this.” Have a preparation check list for every client and a proposed meeting agenda: company goals, probable challenges, how do they define success?

8)      Serve rather than being served: Building your business using a product that you like because it serves your needs is most common, Trokey said, but it’s also exhausting and unpredictable. “Clients will tell you what they need to be successful,” he said.

9)      I have a responsibility to improve the business of my clients: “We can’t do for others what we haven’t done for ourselves,” he said.

Revamping a brokerage is hard work, Trokey added, but “don’t let the fact that it’s hard work discourage you. Let the fact that it’s hard work be your motivation,” because your competition won’t.

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