Over the years, I've noticed that people tend to believe and perpetuate certain myths about sales. Webster's defines a myth as "any fictitious story, person or thing." So I'd like to debunk some of the more popular myths that many agents regard as the truth and then add a dose of reality.
Myth: More is more.
In order to grow I have to write lots of new clients.
Reality: Less is more.
By employing the 80/20 Rule, the best producers will continually trade down customers and write fewer accounts, not more. Of course, the key is increasing the revenue per relationship, which I've discussed before. We consistently see that there is a direct correlation between the size of your book of business and the size of your average customer. Ideally, the large commercial producer will write only between 40 and 50 customers on average.
Myth: Work harder if you want to grow.
Reality: That has to be one of the worst clich around! We all know that the key to growth is not to work harder, but to work smarter, right?
The key to growth is to work in your areas of unique talents or, as we call them, "factoryinstalled equipment from the Big Guy upstairs." We try to get producers to focus on the four key moneymaking activities: sales, relationship management, continuation (the renewal process), and earning and generating referrals and introductions. Great producers have great talents in all four areas. Further, they know how important it is to focus exclusively on those areas and delegate everything else.
Myth: Personal service must come from me.
I must be available to my clients at all times for everything.
Reality: PS is BS! Too many agents believe that personal service is synonymous with taking a handson approach to addressing every client need. However, it's the job of the agency-not the agent-to provide personal service. The best way to give personal service is to ensure that it is always available through an assigned account manager. Day-to-day service calls must go through that person. Addressing service issues promptly and efficiently is what they do best, which frees you up to do what you do best. Not only does this save time for everyone involved, it facilitates customer satisfaction.
Myth: I can't ask clients for referrals-they might say no.
Reality: Are you afraid that asking for a referral will make you sound like a used-car salesperson? First of all, by NOT asking for a referral, you've already heard a no. Furthermore, you won't sound like a used-car salesperson. You just have to realize that your best customers want to help you. So unless you're in their face, pushing them to reveal names, there's absolutely no way you'll come across in a negative light.
On the other hand, if you ask for a referral and don't get one, what does that tell you about your relationship with that client? Let's face it: Every businessperson has at least 150 to 200 acquaintances in the business community. If you're not impressing clients enough to elicit their endorsement (in this case, in the form of referrals), there could be a problem. That tells me you're doing just well enough to keep them as clients, but not well enough that they're proud to "share" you with their business associates.
Myth: I'm not on par with my client's attorney, banker or CPA.
I'm not on the same level as other professionals who do business with my client; I'm not worthy.
Reality: There's something wrong if you have a "vendor" relationship with clients, and here's why. Many, if not most, of your clients have more of their assets and future in your hands than with their other trusted advisors. Just think about it. You have a fiduciary responsibility to protect their most valuable possessions and assets. Without adequate coverage, they can lose the most with you, from both physical and financial loss. When you consider how much you control their financial well-being, shouldn't you be viewed as one of their top, trusted advisors? If not, they should get a different agent.
Myth: Once in a while you get lucky and write a big account.
Reality: You might get lucky getting the account, but luck has nothing to do with keeping it. Sure, an insurance company might give you an unbelievable price on a new account because they really want to get it. However, you still earned it. You earned your way in there and you earned the right to get a good price from the insurer. You earn every renewal, too. So don't chalk up your good fortune to something as random as luck. You've earned that account-and the right to ask for a referral, too!
Myth: I must be all things to all people.
Reality: No one is that important or omnipotent. However, if you truly are all things to all people, then you're a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. You have to specialize. For one thing, specialists always make more money than general practitioners. Also, being a specialist is a much more efficient way to do business. You can't be the go-to person for sales, service, accounting, placing and other areas of expertise, and expect to excel in any of them. You need to figure out what you do best and focus on that one area.
Along with the urge to be all things to all people is the idea that no one is as good are you or can do the job as well as you can. The truth is, unless you possess unique talents, most people can probably do most things better than you!
Myth: I've got to respond immediately to e-mails and voice mails.
Reality: This is a great example of confusing activity with results. Check your e-mail twice a day at most. The same goes for your voice mail. Otherwise, you'll get sidetracked and find yourself wasting valuable time. Naturally, a common concern is, "What if I miss something important?" A good way to address that is to have an automatic reply to incoming e-mail that lets senders know when you'll be checking your e-mailbox.
By the same token, your voice mail message should include an automated "service hand-off." For example: "Hi, this is Jack Smith. I'm not available right now. If you need immediate service, please press, 123 for Jane Doe. If you'd like to leave a message for me, please do so and I'll call you back in 24 hours or less." In fact, that's what my message says now. It works well because I don't check my voice mail constantly. I don't see the point in doing that. Remember, the technology is there to serve us and make life easier, not to control us and make our days more chaotic. Slow down!
Myth: With our prospects, it's still all about price.
Reality: Have you ever offered a lower price and still not written the account? Conversely, have you ever quoted the higher price and kept an account? Most agents will answer "yes" to both, which underscores the fact that it's not always about price. Oh sure, price is important in the overall scheme of things, but what really gets and keeps accounts usually is a combination of price and value-added services.
Myth: Our competition's doing nothing to improve and, besides, we're not worried because we're already better than they are.
Reality: Every great agency is trying to improve. They believe that if they're not getting ahead, they're falling behind. They also realize that if they just keep doing what everyone else is doing, they'll never get ahead because they'll never be able to distinguish themselves from the competition. So they work diligently to capitalize on what makes them unique. In other words, they refuse to be complacent or average.
I believe that the key to excelling in any competitive field is to work so hard at outdoing everyone else that you are the competition your rivals strive to beat. You've probably heard the saying, "You either fear the competition or you become the competition that is feared." Unless you're constantly working to improve, it's doubtful you'll be the one leading the pack.
Myth: Our agency has the best people.
Reality: All agencies believe: "We have the best people; they're so much better than anybody else." While I hope that's true, the reality is that they're not alone! Most agencies have at least some employees with outstanding credentials, as well as advanced degrees and professional certifications or designations.
You may have some exceptional people supporting your agency, but are they really the best in the world? More important, are you allowing them to do what they love to do? Are they truly engaged and involved in the job, or do they just show up? Typically, the best employees are those whose employers capitalize on their unique abilities, allowing them to maximize their talents.
Myth: Prospects and clients know what we do; we don't have to explain it.
Reality: This may come as a shock, but we're not the center of the universe to our clients and prospects. To many of them, insurance is simply another line item-hardly a subject of fascination. Few people outside of the insurance industry have much understanding of what we do or how an agency functions. It's not their job to know, although it is ours to familiarize them with it.
This is also a prime opportunity for you to acquaint clients with the value-added services that you offer. In fact, some of our best agents show prospects and clients an "evidence book" of sample reports, testimonials and other illustrations of what they do and how well they do it.
Create your own reality
Many people go through life accepting these myths as truths, but that's not reality. It's conventional wisdom, which is little more than what hordes of average, ill-informed people believe are facts. Ultimately, if you believe what everyone else believes, you'll get the same kinds of results that everyone else gets. And if you look at the average agencies' numbers, they're not that great. You'll see that the average salesperson really doesn't grow by that much per year, get many referrals or boast impressive retention rates.
The bottom line is that you have to create your own reality. Base your operating standards on truth, not myth. Decide what you really want your vision to be and set clear goals for the next three to five years. In three years, where do you see your book of business? How many customers will you have? What will your closing ratio be? What will your prospect pipeline look like? If you can't answer these and other questions, you probably need a reality check.
As always, the choice is yours.
© 2006 Rough Notes Co., Inc. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Source: Rough Notes