Just as we were starting our coaching conversation, I could immediately tell Josh was not in a good place. It was the start of the year and he had been calling his agent clients all day looking for new sales opportunities. “It’s always the same drill”, he said. “I spend half the time just trying to get the right person on the phone and when I finally do, the outcome is all too often the same.” It seemed to me, Josh was in the old familiar sales rut of prospecting for leads rather positioning for sales success.
I asked how he was approaching people on these calls to which he said something like, “Hi Mr. Agent, Josh here. I hope your year is off to a great start. I’m calling to say thank you for the business last year and we hope to do even more with you this year. Are you working on any cases I might be able to help you resolve?” Of course, the agent would respond with the typical “nothing at the moment but thanks for the call.” It’s a game of hit and miss.
These days’ sales professionals must be more than good persuaders and communicators. They must be able to win over the client or prospects complete trust and confidence. They must demonstrate an authentic desire to help them solve their problems, achieve their goals and satisfy their needs. This is about mastering the art of positioning.
There’s an old adage that success happens at the intersection of preparation and opportunity. The formula for sales success is the same and synonymous with positioning. We position ourselves for sales success by preparing and being at the right place at the right time for opportunities to show up. So let’s talk about these three key topics…preparation, place and timing.
Preparation is about being a valuable and trusted resource for the client or prospect. The key is building trust and the best way to build trust is to demonstrate an authentic desire to understand, empathize and appreciate where they are and want to be. The late great Stephen Covey put it this way, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Trust grows as your words and actions prove you put their best interest ahead of your own. The simplest way to do this is by asking bigger questions. Invest time to understand their vision, goals, desires and needs. Try to understand the “why” behind them as well. As you learn more about these things, look for ways to help them accelerate the achievement cycle. Get out of the box with this one and think of all the ways you could be of value to them. Remember the key is to provide value beyond just offering help with your products and services.
Being able to solve specific problems and satisfy needs related to your products and services is a given. If you don’t have the answers, you better know who does and have quick access to them when the opportunity arises. The bigger point is you must invest in your networks, knowledge and resources beyond the narrow focus of your self-serving need for additional business. In doing so, you can connect them to others who can help, deliver a piece of knowledge that advances their agenda and even provide some resource to improve their situation. The personal win of additional business will come as a result of your preparedness and being at the right place at the right time.
The second most critical part of the formula is what I’m referring to as being at the right place. Rather than thinking of “place” as a location, think of it as a context of communication with two distinct components, who you’re communicating with and in what way. The “who” is the first priority. If you’re not communicating with the right person, preparation and timing are essentially worthless. We have to make sure we’re investing the preparation time cultivating relationships with the right person which requires communicating in the most effective context. Context could be a phone call, an on-site visit, formal or informal. Part of the preparation process means understanding the client or prospect well enough to know the best context for communication.
Lastly, for sales success to happen we must find the right rhythm of communication otherwise referred to as timing. With the right preparation in the relationship, creating the right context for communication, we can sync up on the frequency of touches needed to be aware of opportunities and help them solve problems, especially where our products and services are suitable.
Think about it, the more preparation you do to create a value based relationship, the more frequently your client or prospect will likely want to talk with you. How much better would it be to have pre-scheduled calls every few weeks or months than to make unannounced random calls typically when you feel pressured to generate more sales? By having an intentional “touch point strategy” and gaining agreement from the client or prospect, you could have calls scheduled out months in advance avoiding those long hours on the phone chasing people down only to get a cold shoulder.
After explaining all this to Josh, he really “got it.” Over the next few weeks he segmented his list of contacts to focus on those agents he felt had the greatest potential for building a relationship and growing their business. When he called them, he let them know the purpose of his call was to schedule a longer call to really understand their business, their goals for the year and what they felt were the biggest obstacles for success in order to help them be more successful. Needless to say, he was in an entirely different mood on our next call, excited and surprised by how effective this mental shift and approach had been. In fact, his biggest shock was finding out they wanted to talk to him much more frequently than he had imagined. Josh is now positioned to have his most productive year ever and secure the loyalty of his top agents for years to come.
Your reality could be the same. Position yourself as a valuable and indispensable resource. Invest in preparation. Create the right context of communication with your highest potential prospects and clients. And make sure you develop a touch point strategy to be communicating with them when opportunity strikes!
For more on this and other ways to grow your business, visit us at www.roicoachingsolutions.com.
“This content was originally published in NAFA Annuity Outlook magazine (AnnuityOutlookMagazine.com) and is reprinted with permission.”