November 16, 2009
What color is your pipeline?
As we approach December, each day seems to bring a little more gold, green and red – the colors of the holidays.
Coincidentally, these also happen to be the colors of sales pipelines.
pipelines are populated with high-quality prospects that represent a strong match for your agency and its offerings. These prospects may not be numerous, but you’ve taken time to qualify them. And you know enough about each to appreciate that all of them are potentially lucrative.
pipelines are lush with prospective customers, but your view of these customers is obstructed – you don’t have a clear picture of how much real potential exists within any single prospect. Producers with these pipelines are good at generating quantity, not so good at evaluating the quality of their prospects. They play the numbers and crank out proposals, knowing that a certain percentage will pay off. Problem is, they often establish a superficial relationship with the clients they end up closing.
pipelines hold the negative extremes – few prospects, weak prospects, or both. Low quantity stems from not knowing where to find good prospects or how to proceed once they’re identified. Low quality reflects not knowing how to uncover prospective customer needs or how to engage the prospect in a way that informs decision making. Red pipelines invariably burn a producer’s energy without much to show for the effort.
So what color is your pipeline? If the answer is green or red, it’s time to make some changes.
A producer’s first job is to build a gold pipeline. This is not an exercise in selling – it’s an endeavor marked by advance research, skilled questioning, and effective time management. A few quick thoughts on each:
• Advance research
is not just looking up the prospect on the Web (though that’s a start). It’s about reading up on industry trends, perusing industry news sources for information about the company – even talking with people at your agency to uncover existing knowledge about the prospect.
• Skilled questioning
involves applying your advance research toward asking open-ended questions, all to uncover needs and determine whether the prospect is a good business fit for your offering(s). Some examples of open-ended questions: What’s challenging [your company / area] right now? What issues are most important to you? How is [industry trend] affecting your business?
• Effective time management
requires setting and resetting priorities, constantly. That’s because conducting research and preparing skilled questions require a significant investment of time. Everything you do to build a pipeline must be filtered through your judgment – deciding whether activity A leads to potentially greater results than activity B. (We’re often surprised by how many producers work hard without ever establishing priorities.)
These three practices enable you to understand and evaluate each prospective client for your pipeline. They’re what the most sophisticated (and successful) producers do, day in and day out. Try them in 2010.
E-mail us to learn more about developing the expertise that turns your pipeline to gold.
It’s the time of year to give thanks, so please accept our heartfelt thanks to all of you who read and responded to Ignition in 2009.
The response this year has exceeded our expectations. So early in 2010, we will re-launch Ignition in a blog format and publish it more frequently.
You’ll still hear from us when we’ve published an entry; and the blog will allow you to comment on an individual item and add your thinking to the community dialogue.
We also plan to stream bits of advice and resources on Twitter in 2010. More on that soon.
Happy Thanksgiving from your friends at DBH Consulting!
Worth Reading: The First Order Discussion Guide for Producers
In the view of a prospective client, what makes you different from every other producer who sells insurance?
If that’s a tough question to answer — or if you think the answer has something to do with how you talk about your product offerings — then fasten your seatbelt. There’s a much, much better answer.
From what we have seen in 20-plus years in the insurance marketplace, the most effective producers are those who create thought-provoking, value-added experiences
for their prospective clients. The way they do that is not by talking or selling, but by engaging prospects in true dialogue.
True dialogue is an interaction in which two (or more) people are thinking, listening, conversing and relating. If that sounds simple, well … the idea is simple, but the practice takes work.
That work comes in the form of developing two highly interconnected skills: 1) the ability to ask the questions that probably aren’t being asked by your competitors; and 2) the ability to “actively listen,” so you can process and leverage what you hear in response to your questions.
This First Order Discussion Guide will help you develop both of these skills. Once you’ve mastered them, you will be known not as someone who sells insurance – but someone who creates and provides value.
(If you’d like to learn more, e-mail us