Tag Archives: sales

COVID-19 Will Put ‘Tele’ in a Lot More Than ‘Medicine’

In the early days of the internet, a professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management said something to me that’s been rattling around in my head ever since: “Once you can manage something by wire, it doesn’t matter how long the wire is.”

The professor, Mohan Sawhney, was referring in particular to the possibility of managing factories from a great distance, but his insight from the late 1990s describes so many other possibilities, too. Basically, once a process becomes digital, you can do it from anywhere — and COVID-19 is greatly accelerating the digitalization of insurance processes.

So, let’s ponder for a moment what has historically been done face-to-face that will now be done remotely. Lots has been written about the surge in telemedicine, and that’s certainly an important trend that seems likely to continue, but that’s just the start. Remote handling of claims and sales will get a big boost from our experience during the pandemic and, perhaps, fear of future ones. So will an area I hadn’t thought much about until recently: property inspections.

Telemedicine has dominated the “tele-” discussion for good reason. We’ve been social distancing for months now, but people still need medical care beyond COVID-19, and a lot have realized that a doctor doesn’t have to say, “Stick out your tongue, and say ‘aahhh,'” to diagnose and treat many issues. Telemedicine had already been proven as a concept. It was just being held back by regulatory issues such as how to license doctors communicating across state lines and by the sort of uncertainty that comes as any truly new approach is adopted. So, when COVID-19 demanded remote treatment, telemedicine was ready.

Telemedicine is so much more convenient for both doctors and patients that it will continue to grow, though I see it becoming an integrated part of healthcare rather than a separate form of care. A doctor can’t fully evaluate me remotely, but if tele-visits become part of my relationship with my primary care physician, they could remove any worries I might have while helping the doctor spot problems sooner than he or she would if we waited for my annual seven minutes in front of the doc. Similarly, telemedicine capabilities could be added to what on-site clinics offer at many bigger companies. Telemedicine is already starting to be done to triage injured workers. I can imagine plenty of uses in caring for mental health, even beyond what’s possible via phone hot lines; a sympathetic face can mean a lot. Elder care seems promising, too — just looking into a nonagenarian’s eyes and talking to him or her for a minute can tell you a lot. (My mother, who just turned 90, still beats most of us at bridge online, so I’m excluding her from the possible beneficiaries of any acuity assessment.)

(If you’re interested in reading more about the possibilities of telemedicine, this article from McKinsey is quite thorough.)

Claims have been getting attention, too, because they were already heading in a do-it-yourself direction before COVID-19, and the trend has picked up speed. I remember how radical it seemed when Robin Roberson founded WeGoLook and we helped her promote her network of thousands of “lookers,” who were dispersed around the country and could go take photos of damage, saving an insurer the cost of dispatching an adjustor. But who needs lookers now? Everyone has a camera and, guided by a remote expert — on as long a “wire” as you like — can document the damage without the need for a visit by an adjustor. Claims will keep getting more “tele-,” and probably quickly.

Sales have been slower to go remote. People do much of their research online but have still finalized an awful lot of contracts face-to-face. Not so much now. Avoiding handshakes and wearing masks has taken a lot of the magic out of in-person meetings, even when they’re allowed. And, now that sales can be done remotely, we’ll have to see just how remote they become. I have a feeling I won’t see nearly so many “Insurance” signs in strip malls any more.

Property inspections have already gone a bit “tele-.” It’s now possible to have a drone fly around a house and take photos of the exterior while providing exact measurements, without making a guy with a tape measure spend an hour crawling through the bushes and climbing onto the roof. But that seems to be just the beginning, partly thanks to COVID-19. Startups such as Flyreel are enabling DIY inspections: You walk around your home or apartment, documenting everything that’s there while the expert on the other end of the video call asks questions. “Are those countertops granite?” “Could you go a little closer to the wall; I need to see if that’s dry rot?” You not only save time by not having to dispatch an inspector but wind up with a precise, video record of the state of a property — “Sorry, but no, that couch wasn’t brand new….”

Brett Jurgens, who is the CEO at an interesting “smart home” startup called Notion (and who introduced me to Flyreel), speculated that DIY could move beyond inspections in a way that blends insurance and maintenance. Why would you have to call a plumber, for instance, when you might be able to just call one, show him or her the problem and ask for advice? How many other visits could be handled remotely, perhaps as part of some sort of subscription service? (Free idea, independent of insurance, for someone: Having killed my share of plants over the years, I’m betting some “plant doctor” could sell inexpensive subscriptions for remote monitoring and advice.)

I think that Jurgens is on to something and that, if we let our minds roam, we can imagine all sorts of possibilities for remote handling of processes, well beyond healthcare, that now just have to happen in person. And that’s without getting into the sort of internal realignment that companies in the insurance industry will go through as they decide how much work will be done in the office and how much can be done from home — another topic for another day.

Stay safe.


P.S. Here are the six articles I’d like to highlight from the past week:

4 Key Changes to WC From COVID-19

How companies respond to these changes in workers’ comp may determine their survival in a challenging economic environment.

How Startups Will Save Insurance

The evolution is unstoppable because innovation benefits both the insurance markets and the underlying consumer.

Is Insurance Office Going Away for Good?

Take this time to plan how to restructure your business. As things settle out, you need to have permanent adjustments ready to go.

PRIA: A Tale of Two Policyholders

An uncomfortable reality is that a TRIA-style “make available” requirement would separate policyholders into the haves and the have-nots.

Planning for the Unknown Unknowns

In the New Normal, you cannot do as you did in the old normal, just harder. You need a new approach to strategy.

Now Comes the Flood Season

We can’t expect collective, nationwide resilience to flood events without innovation from FEMA and decisive action from Congress.

Dear Sales Leader: Read. Digest. Apply.

If empathy is the ability to experience some of the feelings of pain that another person is feeling, then compassion is the ability to translate that feeling into action. Empathy and compassion are two qualities that can fundamentally transform the growth trajectory of your sales organization.

Dear Sales Leader, For the sake of your people: Read. Digest. Apply.

1. Get to know your people. They are human beings. They have lives outside the office. Respect that. If they have small kids, perhaps they’d appreciate a little flexibility on that Monday 9am or Friday 3pm sales meeting. Particularly during the summer months. Assume the best at all times. Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Provide some breathing room, and you’ll receive their support 10x in return. A salesperson is not a number. Don’t treat her like that. Get to know each individually and as a group. What gets each of them out of bed every morning? What role does each of them play on the team? Trust me, they all play a role.

2. Be vulnerable. Especially if you have just started a leadership role at a new company. Sure, you’ve worked in many great companies and been super successful at those companies. But you haven’t done beans at this company yet. Sure, you have years and years of experience. You’ll have the opportunity to apply what’s relevant down the road. Right now, accept and publicly share that you need their help getting up to speed. You need their help understanding the business, the market, the product, the challenges, what’s been tried before and what has not. Be super-inquisitive. Don’t be afraid to ask why things are done a certain way if something doesn’t make sense at first glance. But remember, maybe there is a valid reason for it. Once you have absorbed it all, only then can you add real value. While you are doing this, continue getting to know your people.

See also: 6 Tips to Augment Sales and Prospecting

3. Walk in their shoes. Don’t just say: “I wouldn’t make you do anything that I wouldn’t do myself.” Actually go do it. You might learn a few things. Assign yourself a few accounts. Do some prospecting. Book some meetings. Take the call from that frustrated client. Take the feedback to the cross-functional partners. Close a deal. More importantly, close it out in Salesforce (or whatever CRM you use). Is it an easy process for your pepole? Experience a typical day walking in their shoes. Only then can you be truly emphatic. Titles don’t make leaders. Actions do.

4. Be there for them. Listen. This is important. Genuinely be there for them. If you have done 1), 2) and 3), then they will come to you as their leader. They will look for your guidance, help and support. If you have done 1), 2) and 3) well, you may find that your role as a sales leader morphs into somewhat of a counselor. That’s okay. Our role as sales leaders is to spend 90% of our time watching and listening. It is in these moments that you can apply your years of experience. Apply it. Share it. Leverage it. There will be times when your people are frustrated, and they just need to talk. Be there for them. There will be times when things are happening outside of work, things that they are dealing with. Apply empathy, give them some space, some flexibility, some breathing room. Nine times out of 10 they will thank you for it. Nine times out of 10 they will share with you what’s happening in their lives. You may even be given the priceless opportunity to provide advice that will genuinely affect that person’s life. That’s what gets me out of bed every morning. Too often we underestimate the power of a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.

5. Earn the right to coach. If you have done 1), 2), 3) and 4) well, then you’ll earn the right. Your role as a sales leader is to make your people more productive and successful (in my opinion, both personally and professionally). Get out in the field with them. How else can you provide in-the-moment coaching? Newsflash: It’s often the tiny tweaks that you suggest after a client call or meeting that can translate into game-changing performance. Let people leverage your professional network. You’ve been in business for many years and worked for all those amazing companies, remember. Why have them struggle to find a way into the decision makers at their target companies, if someone in your network could provide a warm introduction? Be compassionate.

6. Celebrate success. Whether big, or small, celebrate it. And remember, it’s not just about the numbers. What are the biggest challenges facing each of your people? Celebrate their success. Recognize them. Salespeople are human beings. Sure, they get paid commission on those big deals but what if that’s not what motivates them? Maybe they are motivated by other things. A person who feels appreciated will always do more than what was expected.

7. Let them fly. There is no greater feeling than seeing your people embrace everything you have given them, all the time you have invested and watching them fly. Hearing them use some of your suggestions, seeing them get the expected reaction from the client, seeing them grow in confidence and seeing them pay it forward to those around them. This is why you chose a career in sales leadership, right? Back off slowly and let them fly.

See also: Agencies: Grow Sales AND Develop Staff

Empathy and compassion are two qualities that can fundamentally transform the growth trajectory of any sales organization. For the sake of your people, if it doesn’t come naturally, please keep trying. They will respect you for it.

Thanks for reading.

6 Tips to Augment Sales and Prospecting

We all know that LinkedIn is the social network for making professional connections, building networks and searching for jobs or candidates. It’s a fantastic tool for those of us in the business world who want to see what our peers, competitors and friends are doing in their professional lives.
But the benefits and uses of LinkedIn certainly don’t end there. While the days of a dedicated real-life sales assistant may be long past us, we do have tools like LinkedIn that can help augment our existing sales approaches to better improve our chances of connecting with the right people or closing that elusive deal.
And if you aren’t already using LinkedIn, you may be at a disadvantage. According to the Sales Management Association, 96% of sales professionals use LinkedIn at least once a week and spend an average of six hours per week on LinkedIn. In fact, 79% of salespeople using social media to sell outperformed those who weren’t using social media.  A number of today’s top insurance salespeople are increasingly using LinkedIn as a primary source of new leads and prospect connecting.
So how do they do it? What makes people using this simple social media channel so much more successful than those who stick to the traditional methods of phone calls, emails and in-person meetings? Aside from optimizing their profiles, which you can read more about in this blog post, here are six tips to really take advantage of the capabilities of LinkedIn to improve sales.
1. Put an End to Cold Calls
Let’s face it– most of us aren’t big fans of cold calling. It can be at best awkward and at worst contentious. But with the amount of resources and background information available on LinkedIn about any given person, you can almost always find a little nugget of information on a person to break the ice or get some insight on what policy type may fit that person best. And since people are notified when others view their profile, many people will already recognize your name because they’ve seen it appear in their notifications.
2. Broaden Your Connections
Remember that LinkedIn is not Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg’s social media site is for engaging with friends and family members; LinkedIn is for professional life. There is certainly overlap–and sure, it’s perfectly fine to connect with friends and family on LinkedIn, too, but first make sure to connect with all of your existing business contacts, coworkers and associates. Secondly, the site should be one of the first places you go after making a real-life sales connection because the more connections you have, the larger your network will be. Your first-level connections open avenues of contact with a wide range of second- and third-level contacts.
3. Bypass Email and Instead Try InMail
Getting anyone’s contact information can be tough. Getting a business decision-maker’s info? Next to impossible. But with LinkedIn’s InMail feature, users have a direct line to contact prospects. LinkedIn estimates that an InMail is 30 times more likely to get a response than a cold call.  While users need to be connected to message each other for free, LinkedIn Pro accounts, which charge a fee, allow users to InMail a limited number of people each month (using credits) that they’re not connected with. The real kicker is if someone responds to your InMail within 90 days, you get that credit back to use to InMail someone else.
4. Use the Advanced Search Capabilities
LinkedIn’s searching feature is great, but its advanced search truly is the perfect tool for sales professionals. With the free version of LinkedIn, you can search people by company, location or title. With a paid account, you can distill even further by company size and leadership level to target those people making decisions on their enterprise’s insurance needs. Try setting up a weekly search report using the titles most common among your current connections to find people you may be able to sell to whom you haven’t met yet.
5. Keep Tabs on Clients, Companies and Competitors
Chances are you already have an open communication with your existing clients– and that’s great. But to use LinkedIn to bring in new sales, you should always keep track of those people and companies you’re not working with currently to see what they’re doing and discover if there are any recent changes to their employment or corporate status, which may provide a reason for a touch point. Additionally, keeping tabs on your competitors lets you use their disadvantages to your advantage, if you can point out those disadvantages during a sales pitch.
6. Leverage the “Who’s Looked at Your Profile” Feature
While this feature may seem a bit creepy, it can really work to your benefit. Make sure to check out who has been viewing your profile. If you have a free account, you can see a limited number of people who have viewed your profile. The paid account gives you the entire list of those who have viewed your profile and do not have their own profiles set to anonymous. If a prospect has recently viewed your profile, it gives you an immediate excuse to connect. Take advantage of the opportunity by sending a message, offering insights or investigating how you can help.
While LinkedIn likely won’t make the sale for you–though it would certainly be nice if it could–it is a valuable tool for supplementing your current sales approaches to deliver better relationships and more prospects and improve the way you talk about insurance products.

Should We Take This Risk?

  • Who takes risk?
  • Who decides whether the risk should be taken?
  • How do they know what the desired level of risk is?
  • How do senior management and the board obtain assurance that the right risks, at the right level, will be taken?

These are important questions, and every risk (and audit) practitioner should understand the answers.

Richard Anderson and I will be taking these on in April and May, and you are invited to join us. Details are at riskreimagined.com.

Taking the first one first: Who takes risk? The correct answer is “everybody”: everybody who makes a decision and everybody who acts. Every decision and action creates or modifies risk and has the potential to influence the achievement of objectives. Whether it is deciding to go through with an acquisition or to hire this candidate instead of an alternative, risk is being taken.

In general, the organization’s structure and delegation of authorities dictates who should be making which decision, who should review and approve that decision and what limitations are put on the “value” or magnitude of that decision.

In other words, the normal approval hierarchy established in any organization typically determines who makes which decision – and therefore who takes which risk.

Some people consider risk as static, the possibility of an event or situation that could affect an objective or two. But our world is anything but static; the environment in which we operate changes all the time, as regulators, markets, customers, vendors and other factors change. Our own organization also changes, as employees leave or join, get promoted, change their minds or intentions, feel differently about their or the company’s prospects, develop new products, retire old products, change pricing and so on.

So, risks are being taken all the time in an environment that is changing all the time.

The normal approval structure will also dictate who decides whether the risk should be taken. The decision maker is the person charged with making that decision, subject to review and approval.

The decision maker will normally weigh all the options, given the information available to her, and try to make an informed, intelligent decision. If there are risk-reward trade-offs, they will be considered in the decision-making process.

But how does the decision-maker know how much risk he should be taking? How does he know whether the risk level for the organization as a whole will now exceed the levels approved by more senior management and the board?

In fact, how do people know how their decisions will affect others, which objectives at the enterprise level might be affected and what the desired levels of risk to those objectives are?

For example, if you consider a recruiter in the HR department who is vetting candidates, prior to their being considered by the hiring manager, does he really know how his decisions on which to take forward will affect the organization?

Does he realize how much value and impact an individual with additional experience will bring to the sales operation, or how a lack of familiarity with ethical practices could increase compliance risk?

Does he understand that a major IT initiative might suffer if he delays a decision on which IT specialist candidates to consider? The risk may be to objectives in IT and in the objectives of the IT function’s customer – the one affected by the delay in completion of the project, or even the possibility of a failure of the project.

There are ways to address these issues that center on communication and collaboration. In the recruiting example, it is incumbent on both IT and HR to ensure the hiring urgency is understood and the value of different levels of experience and technical talent is appreciated and informs the recruiter’s decisions. Similarly, it is up to the IT customer to convey to the IT team the value of the IT project and the various risks (i.e., the effect on their and others’ objectives) should the project fail or be delayed.

Setting acceptable levels at board or top management is not the answer; it may be part of the answer, maybe even a significant part of the answer, but every decision maker needs to know what is desired at her level, and it is impractical to believe that the enterprise risk appetite statement can be translated and cascaded down in a useful and actionable way to every individual actually taking the risks.

In addition, in a dynamic world, desired levels of risk are (or at least should be) changing dynamically.

In some cases, more granular risk criteria can be defined – but, again, not for every single decision.

No, risk is taken and must be taken by individuals at all levels across the entire enterprise. If you want them to take the right risk at the right level, they must be informed and trained in the consideration of risk – and not just the risk to their personal or team objectives, but the effect on others and, eventually, how that can affect enterprise objectives.

Senior management should help by ensuring the people on their team get that decision-making training, with the help as needed of the risk officers.

How, then, do the board and senior management know that the right risks at the right levels are and will be taken? It’s not possible to be certain that they will be taken. Perfect assurance is not possible, as decision makers are human, and they will make mistakes even when all the information is available and they have taken all the required training.

Only reasonable assurance can be obtained.

A few things contribute to obtaining that reasonable assurance:

  • Care and attention to the decision-making process, ensuring that decision makers consider what might happen as an integral element in that process: what needs to go right as well as what could go wrong.
  • Care and attention to the “risk management process/framework/whatever-you-want-to-call-it,” thinking through how desired levels of risk are defined and communicated, the appropriate review and approval process, how people are provided the information they need to make risk-informed decisions and so on.
  • The objective assessment by management (and the chief risk officer) of that risk management process – an honest assessment of whether it provides the necessary assurance and whether it is delivering the value to the organization it should by improving the quality of decisions. I think this assessment should be shared formally with the board.
  • Careful monitoring, after the fact, of actual risk levels and determining what failed when risks exceed desired levels.
  • An independent and objective assessment of the enterprise’s management of risk by the internal audit function.

This is a quick essay on the topic, which is complex and tough to achieve in practice. I welcome your thoughts and hope to discuss it further with you in April or May.