In today’s competitive marketplace, goal attainment or failure teeters on
the scope, quality, seasoning, and warmth of the prospect and centers-of-influence relationships in a producer’s pipeline.
Producers must plan and care for their pipeline as they would do with a valuable long-term investment. Marketing nowadays requires specific strategies that generate high-touch relationship building. With social media, Internet Marketing, and the ability to collaborate and interact with prospects and customers more easily across various platforms, frankly, top performing producers understand they must separate themselves from the crowd to be perceived as a professional and trustworthy advisor. The old ‘what can I pull together this month,’ shotgun approach in a market such as, we see today will net only extreme stress, expense, and disappointment. Today, a larger and increasingly warm pipeline of targeted prospects is required to get a enough qualified opportunities in the hands of producers. In order to get that pipeline fed, a successful agency must have a system in place that can automate the marketing process and really facilitate producers in getting out there on appointments and making face-to-face contact. This new customer-centric ‘digital’ landscape of ours requires an ongoing communication strategy that will nurture your best opportunities, typically “A” prospects and former clients, and elevate your trusted advisor relationship with “A” and “B” clients for retention and referrals. You need to step up your relationships with centers of influence for referrals and if that isn’t enough, have a means to nurture newer a contact to become tomorrow’s “A” contacts. The warmer and cleaner the pipeline, the greater your success will be.
Unfortunately, while producers understand the importance of implementing a marketing strategy that is ongoing and geared toward results, it seems like one more huge ‘To Do’ on a list. It’s been my experience that the majority of producers know what they must do — they just have so many distractions that grab their attention. Historically, producers are highly social and are not disciplined to set aside a specific time to prospect. They know prospecting is the core objective of every single successful producer, and it must be the first thing on their minds in the morning and the last thing they complete in the day. Nevertheless, too many are pulled in different directions. They simply do not guard their most important asset: their time.
If we all have the same 24 hours in a day — what factors set the true pace setter apart from 95% of all other producers? The pace setter is fully aware that in order to do what they do best, they must delegate non-income producing tasks, and embrace systems that free up their time to go on appointments. This class of producer has an internal support system willing to remove non-income producing tasks from them. Those producers ranked in the remaining 95%, however, fall into two categories; a second-tier level producer, who could become diamond producers given the right training and support. This group is most impacted with an organized system because they can close the sale. Finally, the third-tier producers are those who should be considered internal account executives as they typically fear rejection and don’t want to overextend themselves. And, in most cases we find the agency principle or owner, who is the top-performing sales producer, taking on the role of sales manager without having adequate time to train or manage producers so they end up floundering without direction.
We all know that the top 20% make 80% of the sales. Why is that? Top salespeople know how to adapt to changing times and realize they will never be all things to all people. They want to improve upon their strengths so everything they do revolves around that. They choose not to devote their time or effort on shortcomings, like many who try over and over and hope for a different result. And top performers know that doubling the time spent in face-to-face meetings guarantees an increase in sales. So rather than spend valuable time looking for and making appointments, they choose to spend that time building relationships with top customers and leveraging these existing relationships by being a solutions provider. They survey their customers to find out what services they like best and then focus their offering in those areas. And top performers stay persistent, are disciplined to stay the course towards their goals.
What also differentiates the 20% from the rest is that they have a method to consistently stay in front of their prospects. They are committed to allocating the resources to improve their professionalism. In most cases, this means delegating — having an assistant so they can spend their time with customers and prospective clients. They use automation, and are willing to devote the time to learn a new program. This group knows they must invest in the most effective means to preserve their time and efforts while maintaining high-touch relationship-building communication with their targeted group. And they outsource all info-gathering calls and the majority of appointment-setting calls, which is the key reason we added a call center portal in our SALESPRO system.
Top producers choose to work on things that have a high pay-off rather than devoting time on tasks that cost money and don’t generate income. For example; taking the time and effort to dig deep and define the characteristics of their “ideal customer.” Identifying this prospect group along with obtaining quality data is 75% of the battle. Data changes so fast, qualifications change, risk appetites change as carriers look at their market and profitability, that if the producer doesn’t take the time or, have someone to qualify and verify the information before launching their marketing program, they end up wasting both time and money.
Outsourcing calls can be deemed as expensive; however, taking a second look shows it to be a wise investment. Working with the right outsource call center will provide you with a virtual marketing assistant whose job it is to continually dial to reach top executives. According to Bruce Volkart of Volkart May & Associates, Inc. on average it takes nine attempts to successfully connect with senior executives on the phone, with 48% of sales professionals giving up after the first contact attempt, an additional 28% giving up after two attempts, yet another 7% giving up after the third attempt, 5% more giving up after attempt four, and 4% more giving up after attempt five. All in all, 92% of all sales professionals give up before make a connection. This speaks volumes.
Professional call centers are in business because they have knowledge and skills in this area. The process of gathering data and getting past the gatekeeper to secure the appointment requires a very different skill-set than that of a producer, and they have the professional skills to do so. The bottom line is that setting more qualified appointments means an increased number of sales and a quicker return on investment. And with the right outsourced appointment-setting firm performing as an extension of your agency, you will get more dialing and more appointments set than your inside callers.
In his book, Gorilla Marketing Weapons, Jay Conrad Levinson tells us that “85% of business is lost due to apathy after the sale.” Talk about a huge expense! It’s been noted to take 2.5 years to recoup the acquisition costs of bringing on a new piece of business. So, when producers are pulled trying to win new sales, and don’t have an organized method to stay in touch with their clients – the client becomes lost in the shuffle. High-touch relationship building with both clients and pre-identified prospects is central to the sales success process. The bottom line is this — relationships must be built. Trust must be developed. Time must be used wisely, and automation is crucial. Do you have a process for sales success in place, or do you find yourself running from one event to another?
Written by: Deborah T. Miller, Co-Founder and President
Relational SalesPro, LLC