By Deborah Miller, president, Relational SalesPro LLC

For those of you who entered insurance sales after the tough economic times in the late ’80s to early ’90s, today’s marketplace must be overwhelming. The current renewal bidding war has most of you scrambling to work harder than ever before, with less or nothing to show for it.

Yet in the midst of these tough times, there is a small group of producers who have found the way to success, with time left over to attend their child’s school events, sit down with family for dinner and take vacations.

What do members of this elite group have in common that allows them to differentiate them from the rest? It’s not multiple designations or being a member of the top five brokerages. Rather, these producers have implemented a sophisticated way to regularly communicate with a pre-selected group of prospects. They understand that they must continually prospect for new business and make it their priority.

(Read article, “There’s no substitute for telephone prospecting.”)

But calling a list of cold suspects or pressing business advocates for referrals will never be enough to weather market changes. It is impossible; the odds of cultivating a “sufficient number” of “warm prospects” to recover lost revenues are simply against you. The days of chasing every prospect are gone because the Internet has changed the old-school thinking that prospecting is a numbers game.

Ingredients to weather the storm

There are two essentials required to enjoy the fruits of the elite 10 percent. First, you must have a “sufficient number” of prospects to cultivate, and second, a means to “warm prospects over time.” Your marketing objective is to open appointment doors. To do this effectively, your prospects must recognize your name and logo and equate it with your expressed desire to do business with them. The key to opening more appointment doors and have prospects calling you for an appointment when they have a problem is to professionally and systematically keep your name in front of them.

(Read article, “Prospecting: The engine that drives sales.”)

It is a proven fact that most people react negatively to high-pressure sales. Regardless of your product or service, people buy for emotional reasons, and they buy from people they like and trust. This is particularly true when dealing with professional services.

Trust is not freely given; trust is earned over time. Your prospect must have an opportunity to form an opinion of your honesty and reliability to gain confidence sufficient to rely on you. When you get a referral, you have a better chance at getting in the door–not because you offer the best of whatever, but because of trust between the prospect and referring party, and that trust is transferred to you.

However, while you may get in the door, your prospect still needs to determine your honesty and reliability. A prospect’s need to trust is critical. In today’s fast-paced society, trust is valuable; it is rare, and it cannot be replaced with subject knowledge. It is only after you have earned your prospect’s trust that you have significantly increased your ability to turn that prospect into a client and in time an advocate.
Here are several ways to do that:

Building key advocates

Too often, the demands of the day can pull you away from doing the little things to “wow” your best clients. Producers who identify their top 20 clients and implement a strategy to exceed their service and relational expectations with them will build a valuable group of advocates for their business. Advocates are those who sing your praise and become a valuable source of referrals.
Increasing referral opportunities

Are you asking your centers of influence for referrals? The key is to develop “reciprocal” relationships with between 10 to 12 “core” influencers by taking them to lunch regularly and sending referrals their way. By stirring this stream of prospects, you will see profitable returns–but you must reciprocate. These relationships require the same relational connection as your prospects and client advocates.

Taking the road less traveled

Studies reveal the 80 percent of sales are made after the seventh contact. So without a centralized prospecting method designed to communicate with prospect, clients and centers of influence through all the stages of relationship, building a winning pipeline could be impossible.

Not all software is created equal

So you search for a marketing tool. While the buzzword these days is “SalesForce Automation” do you know what that means? There are three classes of software to consider:

o Contact management systems, such as ACT and Goldmine, that allow you to track information
o Client relationship managers (CRM), such as SalesForce, that focus on internal client relationships, tracking and reporting; and
o Relationship management systems, that are designed to link communications together and save you time.

(Read article, “Using Web-based technology to sell more insurance”)

Contact managers are reactive, meaning the system can only do what and when the user tells it to do, and the user must write and install all communication before the system can be launched. This marketing process is completely reactive and dependant solely upon human disciplines.
CRMs are 50 percent reactive and 50 percent automated, meaning they have the ability to track, analyze and forecast from data however, this system too requires users to create communications and set up to send them.

Relationship management systems are more proactive then reactive, meaning the marketing process is automated, so they don’t require the user’s instructions until human contact is required. However, there are two types of systems within this class: those that require to user to write and install all communications and build the campaigns, and those that are completely turnkey, pre-built and ready for contacts.

Cultivating a warm pipeline of prospects is neither quick nor easy. Moreover, a producer’s time is their most valuable asset and must be guarded. In all of this just remember, if you do what you have always done, you will have what you always have.

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Deborah Miller is president of Relational SalesPro LLC and co-developer of a series of insurance-specific TURNKEY, PCWeb-based automated relational marketing systems. She can be contacted at
dmiller@relationalsalespro.com, 800-893-1578, or www.relationalsalespro.com.