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Don’t Forget Your Best Strategic Weapon

There’s a lot in print and on the web about the concept of “engagement” and how it applies in the insurance and financial services sales process. We all know what engagement means at an everyday level as we work to connect with people in various ways or describe how someone is engaged or even engaging. It’s exciting when we hear of a couple becoming “engaged.”

In business, the word “engagement” has many applications, ranging from simply having an agreed upon appointment time (an engagement)… to reaching a deal, resulting in buying or contracting for some service.

When it comes to sales, client or prospect “engagement” needs to be understood much, much more. Engagement is a strategic asset or weapon when a professional intentionally and regularly stays in touch with their clients and centers of influence or trusted partners by connecting personally and relationally. Being highly engaged means the professional is staying focused with all these people in the continuing delivery of value, investing time, staying in touch every two to three weeks and building a deeper personal relationship with each person based on their individual interests and needs.

This type of strategic investment always builds trust, keeps the pathways open for serving added needs and finding new opportunities and always gains new prospect referrals and introductions.

See also: How Advocates Can Reengage Workers  

Research about engagement in the financial services industry brings some startling information to the table. The work by Julie Littlechild of Absolute Engagement of Toronto shows that clients who have a “satisfied” relationship with their provider have an overall loyalty rating of 99%, yet only 20% have actually provided a referral to their financial adviser. So they’re satisfied and are likely going to stay as clients, but only one in five has actually referred a new opportunity to their provider.

However, when the survey polled clients who felt their provider was very engaged, the results shift dramatically. These clients had a 100% loyalty rating, and 98% of these had actually already provided referrals to their advisers during the past year.

So, do the math: Highly engaged relationships provide more times more referrals than those where there’s less or little engagement. Now imagine you had all of your clients and trusted professional connectors feeling that you were in a real, connected relationship with them. What could that potentially yield to you in the way of new sales opportunities, month in and month out?

The national sales leader of one of the largest and most recognized Insurance companies in the world told me that “our competition really comes from inside… it’s the inertia inside of my firm…,” meaning producers keep doing the same things that they’ve always done and then get the same lukewarm results. All of that can be changed with added emphasis on training his teams on the importance and specific ways to create better engagement with clients and centers of influence

Today, insurance leaders are universally concerned about technology disruption… you know, the threats coming from startups like Lemonade right now, and Zenefits before. I know that any professional worth his suit can readily withstand these competitors by focusing on using his No. 1 asset: the ability to build highly engaged relationships with clients and other professionals that will increase loyalty and generate a multitude of new referred client opportunities.

As a producer, your best asset is your ability to strengthen each and every relationship in your network on a person-to-person basis to where trust is the glue and your personal connection provides the ties that bind. I’ll guarantee that no newcomer or technology can easily replicate what you’re building when you reach out and make a personal contact with the people in your networks every two to three weeks. That provides the inoculation against disruptors — essential if you’re serious about protecting and growing your business.

See also: MyPath: Engage the Next Generation  

Imagine how 30 to 35 of these important people would feel if you had a routine that showed them how important you believe they are. Imagine how they would feel if every two weeks or so you were to make an unexpected visit, send an email with something they are caring about, make a quick, unplanned phone call or write a short personal note of appreciation with no other purpose in mind but to make them know that you are thinking about them and that they are valued and important.

To build these engaged relationships, you first must develop a mindset of being a “giver.” To make it happen consistently, use tools to keep you scheduled and on track and systematically ensure that you’re staying engaged and in touch to provide meaning and value and create close connections. Then, as Robert Cialdini states in his noted book “Influence,” as you give meaningfully to people, they will have a desire to reciprocate, and if you teach them how to give back… with referrals and introductions, they will! Become one of the few getting excellent ratings for engagement in your industry, and you’ll reach every goal you have.

Someone once said, “Your network is the key to your net worth.” That statement has never been more appropriate than it is right now!

And I’ll add that engagement is the key to building your network!

Let’s Make Lemons Out of Lemonade

Especially since the announcement of its plans by Lemonade, there’s been an awful lot of buzz and concern about the arrival of so many new disruptive technologies and how they’re going to change the insurance marketplace. Many of these changes are welcome, bring benefits broadly and root out inefficiencies and costs in places where they should be reduced. I say, more power to them.

Some people, however, fear that new selling systems will reduce or eliminate the need for producers and brokers, who are such a part of the traditional insurance buyer’s journey. That will happen to some extent but will only disrupt your business if you let it.

The ancient warrior Sun Tzu said, “Swift as the wind. Quiet as the forest. Conquer like the fire. Steady as the mountain.”

When the enemy is at the gates, you’d better be ready to both defend your holdings and also strike out strongly to expand your position. Here are four ways you can both hold your ground and expand your territory by using the unique advantage and value positioning that you already have today:

See also: Lemonade: A Whole New Paradigm  

1. Your Network is Your Net Worth. Focus on identifying a group of network partners who will become what I’ll call your “A list,” where you’ll be building deep, high-trust relationships. Network partners should be professionals in your market area, your city or county who are already serving people who look like they’d also be ideal target clients for the products/services you feature.

Imagine having a group of 10 to 12 other key professionals who agree to work together as a team, a trusted team, an inner circle. Now consider they are all committed to and known for delivering the highest-quality products and services and all then actively agree to introduce each other to clients when the need for another’s products become apparent. Once this team is formed, there are myriad ways that members can nurture relationships and promote each other without being costly or over the top. You will increase the value you’re each delivering to clients, and, then, your network will grow your net worth. (Here are 17 ways to build your business by working with referral partners.)

2. Engagement. How many times have you wondered if a service provider you were working with really cared or was committed to you after the sale was made? Many times, I’ve thought, “Because I haven’t heard from XYZ in so long, maybe I should just check out what I can learn online.” Sadly, I’ve had that thought many times with my insurance providers, who let the gap in the relationship build and made me feel unappreciated (except maybe at renewal time). In one case, I went so many years without hearing from my provider that I switched brokers.

Today, web marketers have positioned themselves to exploit your weakness if lack of engagement is your modus operandi. But know, this weakness is so easy to fix. With just a little focus here, you’ll produce huge results.

A highly reliable survey conducted over many years showed that professionals who stayed in touch with their clients in various informative and personal ways every two to three weeks had extraordinary retention rates and virtually a 100% incidence of getting referrals! Lower that engagement level, or make conversations just about sales, and that referral rate fell to no higher than 7%.

I found those results amazing. I still do.

Building highly engaged relationships with your clients by staying in touch personally is easy and is the best offense against the wave of disrupters trying to move your clients over to their offerings.

3. Influence. Give and Give. A few years ago, Arizona State University Professor Dr. Robert Cialdini wrote a seminal book titled, Influence: The Power of Persuasion. It speaks to the amazing human force or emotion I’ll call “the law of reciprocity”: When one receives something of value from someone, there’s usually a desire ultimately to give something back. So imagine what happens with your clients, your trusted network, even your friends and family when you are building your stance as the “giver.”

Getting in touch, staying in touch, giving and giving, in various ways produces huge returns as the people you give to build this desire to reciprocate. In this “economy of giving,” everyone benefits, and it is very, very hard for an outside influence to come in and dislocate this relationship. We’ve seen many insurance professionals apply this process in a systematic way to a small group of key connections and end up with as many as 40 new referred opportunities in just 90 days.

Relationship “glue,” higher retention and a filled new prospect pipeline… how does that sound as a good offense to face the external market changes coming at you.

4. Do Your Job! That comes from coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots, and, regardless of your feelings about the Pats, his simple demand has helped produce the most consistent success among all NFL teams over the last 15 years.

Yet so many of us don’t work the process in a consistent, disciplined manner. Instead, we float from idea to tactics to new idea, and the simple things that are so clear and proven fall by the wayside or slip through the cracks. Imagine what a “15 minutes a day” new habit of following the steps above might do for you and your clients, for your 2017 and for the long-term viability of your business. Imagine how your producers could move from struggles to abundant pipelines with a little more structure and focus on the basics… of simply doing the job of building deep, connected relationships with clients and influencers in your market area. Things will very quickly turn “right side up” across all areas of your business.

See also: Why Can’t We All Get Along?  

So if you’re concerned about the markets running away from you because of outside forces, stop and make a decision to do the things that are fundamental to every good business. Get yourself and your team aligned on the right behaviors and focused on making a daily effort on the steps that will withstand the intruders.

You’ll not only have a defensible castle with a huge moat around it for your business, but you’ll be building a strong offense and growth pathway that makes your business even more valuable. You be taking Lemonade and other threats and turning them back into nice, juicy lemons.

I’ll guarantee the ROI on your following these steps will produce so much more than any other marketing or social media programs you might be considering.

4 Myths on Social Marketing and Selling

Everywhere you look, marketers and companies are promoting the merits of “social marketing” and “social selling” for insurance producers, and there is certainly value to be derived from content marketing and from increasing brand awareness. But social marketing and social selling don’t lend themselves to insurance.

There are four myths about social media that an insurance producer has to account for to reach his ideal target client and reach his sales goals.

Myth #1. Social media marketing is useful in and of itself.

Yes, it’s inarguable that you need to have a quality LinkedIn and Facebook presence, but that is only a “backstop activity” that allows someone to check you out after meeting you … by some other means. As one blogger recently wrote, LinkedIn is a place for “hunters and the hunted.” Most people don’t go out to a place like LinkedIn (or Facebook) to find or to shop for an insurance provider. All the carriers and brands are on those sites, shouting positioning messages and trying to get noticed, but more than 75% of LinkedIn users go to that site just once a month, or even less often.

So, don’t expect that people will find you on social media and that you’ll be distinguishable.

See also: 4 Marketing Lessons for Insurtechs  

Myth #2. Content is king.

Publishing good content makes a lot of sense as it can add authority and credibility about who you are. But throwing content alone into your social stream is like casting a big net onto the waters hoping to catch someone swimming by. When you push content out broadly to your networks and your contacts, you’re expanding your reach but are still just hoping that someone will swim into that net and want to have a further “discovery” conversation.

How’s that working for you now?

Myth #3. I can get noticed by being active in the social marketing stream.

Don’t fool yourself. Ask the question: Who is my ideal target client, and how noisy is that person’s world? With all of the messaging coming at us all every single day, how can you expect to get enough mindshare to stimulate a response from whomever you’re targeting? We’re all inundated and have created barriers so that only those people we already trust are let in to our worlds.

The walls are only going to get higher, and social marketing will become even less effective.

Myth #4. Mass promotion using social marketing tactics fits my audience and will fill my sales funnel.

Wait! Just stop and ask yourself: Why do people now choose you as their insurance professional? Then ask: How many leads do I get now from my social media sites?

At the top of the list as to why people choose you will be reasons like trust, relationship and your proven competence. But how can a prospective new client get to learn about you and your character and competence without you focusing on building a highly engaged relationship?

If I glance at your social media pages, I can do it quickly and privately. You won’t even know, and then I’ll be gone. You can’t build trust with these drive-by lookers.

You need to focus first on building connections that really make the walls come down or the doors open, and no amount of mass or social marketing can make up for your investing a part of yourself into the personal relationship. You’re in a market where people and relationships matter the most, so this is where your focus should be.

Mass “social” tools are actually un-social and are a poor substitute for building a true one-to-one connection.

The Right Approach

In my firm, Refer.com, we know how valuable a focused, personalized, relationship-marketing approach can be for insurance producers. We have seen how, in less than six weeks, a producer can gain eight to 10 new clients and can generate referred sales opportunities each and every month thereafter.

We urge our clients to build their quality LinkedIn and Facebook pages and gather their great content to provide to the connections that they’re making but to focus on building highly engaged, one-on-one relationships with a small group of people. This includes clients, other professionals, connectors and influencers in your marketplace. Then, initiating a continuing, “high-touch,” personal connecting plan enabled by a sophisticated app will turn those key people into focused sources of introductions and new-client referrals.

See also: How to Capture Data Using Social Media  

You’ll quickly set yourself apart from others in your area who are undisciplined and unfocused while you’ve built a team of committed partners working together to help you grow.

My next article will present the reasons why this approach is guaranteed to change the direction of your business and fill your prospect pipeline with high-quality opportunities. And then we’ll show you, step by step, exactly how you can easily make this work for you.