Insurance advisers are definitely in the sales business, but we need to focus on what type of relationships we have with our clients and prospects. For starters, how does that relationship develop and what is the basis of it? To have successful client relationships that drive your business, you need to be very clear about what those relationships are and how they impact your own business results.

Sales has changed significantly over the years for many reasons: moving from a product-based to a service-based economy; moving from local business-to-business sales to a national and global economy; and moving from a paper-based environment to an electronic one. But perhaps the largest influencer of all is that we have moved from having tightly controlled information to prolifically available information.

Bloomberg/file photo

With each significant change in business operations, a change in the way we sell to these businesses has also been required. Yet, what we see too often is that insurance advisers tend to keep thinking of selling and business relationships in the same way it was when men ran everything and women were secretaries. Some are still stuck in the mindset that most of your potential clients from the country club or the little league fields; or when deals were struck on the golf course or at the ball game.

It’s a different world now. Yes, every one of these scenarios above still exist today. But if you rely on those to grow your business, you’re selling your business and team short of its potential. Research firm CEB has studied selling and buying styles, and hands-down, the lowest performing sales reps are those who rely on typical personal and professional relationship development.

Furthermore, CEB found that the average buying decision is now made by a group of 5.4 formal decision-makers. However, the underlying theme with agencies is that they want to focus selling efforts on one person, which undervalues the relevance of others in the process.

The single-point decision maker is alive and well in many small companies. Yet agencies regularly express the desire to move up-market, and then tend to treat the relationship development with these up-market organizations as though they are still single decision-maker operations. Common sentiments are: “We work with CFOs, the decision-makers. HR managers just slow down the process.” Or “We work with HR managers; we have a hard time ever getting to the decision-makers.”

Very different approaches, but you are not respecting the reality of today’s businesses that there are multiple people involved in complex buying decisions. And the only basis for developing relationships when you have multiple people involved like this is around the commonality they all share, which is the success of their organization.

The sales person/team who successfully helps the buying team navigate the complexity of the process wins.

Achieving this level of relationship comes through having defined business practices that bring value to every interaction you have with a prospect/client for the duration of the relationship. This begins with your online and in-person marketing activities, continues through every sales conversation you have, and is baked into the value proposition delivered by each member of your team.

Developing relationships for sales and business opportunities shouldn’t be about friendships and camaraderie. It should be about the value you can bring.

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