Tips for Overcoming a Sales Slump

After a break for Thanksgiving week, I am back to highlighting information I have come across that I think may help insurance agents become better and more efficient at what they do.  Last week, there was an article on Property Casualty 360 that discussed what to do if an agent finds themselves in a sales slump.  As the author noted, even otherwise successful agents can go through a slowdown in their sales for reasons over which they have no control.  When that happens, the sales slump can become self-perpetuating if the agent does not take action to avoid the loss of confidence that can  result from a lack of sales success.

Not surprisingly, the author’s first suggestion is to remain confident, focus on the process that lead to previous sales success, and have faith that it will result in future sales success.   However, it is a good idea to evaluate your current work routine to make sure that you have not gotten into bad habits (e.g., focusing more on service than sales) and that you are actually doing those things that lead to past sales success in the same way you had done them.  Along these lines, the author suggests that you review the prospects that you have been pursuing to decide if further pursuit is warranted.  If you have done everything you can to interest a prospect in your products without success, it’s time to move on to other prospects who may be more likely to be interested in them.  Not doing so will result in the wasting of valuable time on prospects who are not going to become customers and the further loss of confidence that can bring.

One way to find more prospects is networking.  There was an article last week in Employee Benefit Adviser that discussed 12 things done by all highly effective networkers.  All 12 are basic things that every person who uses networking to find prospects should know, but it is good to be reminded of the basics, especially when things are not going well.  That article focused on in person networking.  An article at the beginning of this month in Property Casualty 360 discussed why you should never ask for a referral on LinkedIn.  The author’s main point is that referrals should only be requested after you have actually talked to the referral source and done the kind of things with the source that you would do when networking in person.  As the author notes, the rules for relationship building online are no different from doing so in person.

The above three articles offer helpful insights into how best to break out of a sales slump and continue to fill your prospect pipeline.  Please feel free to offer any thoughts you may have on what to do in this situation.

Thanksgiving Thoughts & Georgia’s YAC

Last year at this time, I wrote a post that expressed my thanks to my readers for their interest in my blog posts and encouraged you to post comments about what I have written or suggest topics of interest for future posts.  It’s that time of year again and I want to say thanks to my readers for their continued interest in my posts.   My invitation to suggest topics of interest for future posts still stands.  I am close to 200 posts on this blog and finding new things to write about that would be of interest to my readers is always a challenge.

In addition to being thankful for my readers, I would also like to acknowledge yet another award for the Young Agents Committee of the Independent Insurance Agents of Georgia.  At the IIABA Fall Conference in New Orleans last month, Georgia’s YAC was given the Outstanding Communications Award “for achievement in establishing and maintaining an excellent communication vehicle for the young agents in their state.”  After winning the award two out of the past three years, the Outstanding Young Agents Committee of the Year went to the Young Agents Council of the Florida Association of Insurance Agents this year.  I see a pattern developing, as the one year out of the past three that award was not given to Georgia’s YAC, it won the Outstanding Communications Award.  If the pattern holds, Georgia’s YAC is on course to be named the Outstanding Young Agents Committee in 2016.

Regardless of what may happen in the future, congratulations are due to YAC’s chair, Jarrett Bridges, the Vice Chair, Robbie Moore, and the Secretary-Treasurer, Jimbo Floyd, during the time period covered by the Outstanding Communications Award, as well as the Communications Chair on YAC’s Board of Directors.  As noted in my post about last year’s Outstanding Committee award given to Georgia’s YAC, the future of the Big I is in good hands with these outstanding young agents and its strong Young Agents Committee in general.

Finally, although the upcoming holiday is mainly about giving thanks for our many blessings, it is also a time to acknowledge those who are not as fortunate and to think about what we can do to make their lives better.  There was a post last week on the LifeHealthPro blog that discussed seven things independent insurance agencies can do with respect to charitable causes that will create a beneficial impact on their agencies, as well as on their communities.  Building a sense of teamwork within an agency, as well as with its referral sources, while providing needed items, services, or money for charitable causes in the local community, can be a great “win-win” for any agency.  Read the post for ideas on how to make that happen.



Using Technology to Make Agencies More Productive

In my last blog post, I discussed the need for insurance agents to focus on doing things that educate their customers and potential customers about the benefits of having a particular insurance coverage.  By doing so, an agent can come to be seen as a resource for them, instead of someone who is just trying to sell them something.  However, such an approach takes time and thus, requires an agent and by extension his or her agency to be as efficient as possible in performing their other tasks, so they will have the time it takes to successfully implement this approach.

The natural inclination for agents and agencies who are looking to become more efficient in their work is to look to technology.  I wrote a blog post over two years ago about some apps and other technology solutions that can improve efficiency for agents and agencies.  But the IIABA’s 2014 Future One Agency Universe Study found that 66% of the agents surveyed were disappointed in the increases in efficiency obtained by the use of technology.

A recent article in the IA newsletter explains how to approach the implementation of technology in an agency so that it is likely to get the greatest benefit from the technology.  The author advises agencies to “start simple” by defining the problem to be solved (the “pain point”) and then researching the technologies available to address that problem.  If the problem is lack of productivity, Applied has created an e-book that provides productivity standards for each agency function and suggests ways to meet those standards using technology.  If an agency is looking for a way to better organize its customer prospecting efforts, interactive prospecting management systems offer a solution (click here for a post about them).

Before making the decision to buy one of those technologies, agency owners need to make sure they are committed to taking the time that it will require to fully implement the chosen technology and then be willing to do what it takes to get buy-in from their employees on the use of the new technology.  Without such buy-in, it is unlikely that the new technology will be used for the greatest benefit, if it is used at all.  Such buy-in can only be obtained if the employees are shown and understand how the proper use of that technology will make their jobs easier.  Consulting with employees about the problems they face and what would help them do their jobs more efficiently before a decision is made on what technology to implement is one sure way to help achieve the needed buy-in, as they will better understand why the new technology is being obtained.

When carefully thought through and then fully implemented, technology has the ability to make an agency’s employees much more efficient in the performance of their duties, thereby giving them more time to become a resource for the agency’s customers and potential customers.

Are You a Problem Solver?

There is an article in this week’s IA Newsletter that makes the argument, to be  successful in today’s information overloaded world, an insurance agent must first be a teacher, not a salesperson.  Instead of asking yourself how can I sell this policy to customer X, an agent should be asking how can I show customer X why having the policy will benefit them, their family, or their business.  What problem in the customer’s life will having the policy solve or at least, make more manageable?   By helping your customers and those who you would like to have as customers understand how having a particular insurance product will make their lives easier, you can become a resource for them, not just a salesperson.

The article suggests asking yourself three questions as a way to begin the transformation from salesperson to resource.  First, what questions or concerns do my customers and target customers have about the insurance products I am trying to sell?  Second, how can I best answer those questions or address those concerns, and third, what is the best way to reach my customers and target customers with the answers to their questions?  The idea, which is not a new one, is for the agent to be seen by their customers and target customers as some one who can make their life easier by solving insurance related problems.  (Click here for the website of a Georgia insurance agency that has branded itself as the “problem solvers.”)

In becoming a resource for your customers and target customers, it is important not to include sales messages in your communications that are intended to explain how a particular insurance policy will solve a problem they have or otherwise make their lives easier.  Including such a message will only lead your customers and potential customers to conclude that you are just trying to sell them something, so why should they believe anything else you have to say.  Once they understand why they need such a policy, they will look to the person who helped them understand that need to satisfy it.

A recent article on Property Casualty 360 discussed 14 things that an agent should not do when trying to sell an insurance policy.  Many of those don’ts also apply to an agent’s efforts to become a resource for their customers and target customers.  Failing to listen to the customers’ questions or to follow-up on the questions asked, avoiding accountability for your answers to their questions, and choosing the wrong medium to communicate with them are all things that will undermine your attempts to be seen as a teacher/problem solver.

As noted above, the idea of becoming a teacher/problem solver as the best way to market an agent’s (or attorney’s) services is not a new one, but it is one that many agents (and attorneys) have not yet embraced.  The IA Newsletter article is a good reminder of why every agent should incorporate one or more elements of that approach in their marketing efforts.