By Tony Cole
Selling in any market is one of my favorite keynote speeches or workshops to deliver. When addressing a group of sales people or sales managers, I always create a stir when I loudly pronounce that the way to sell in any market is to “Stop making excuses and just sell.”
When there are disruptions/economic conditions in your industry that cause you to get out of your normal flow in business, sometimes you end up spending more time playing defense than you do playing offense.
In our primary markets – insurance brokerages, banking and investment services – disruptions have become a quarterly occurrence. In my 20+ years in this business, I have asked audiences across the country if they have ever gone through a three-year period in their business when there wasn’t some sort of the disruption in the “normal” flow of business. In short, their answer was no. In fact, disruptions in flow of business have become the norm.
In a recent discussion with one of our current client’s brokers, they described that the market is a hard market right now meaning that some prices are stable and some are going down. As a result, some of the markets/carriers were lowering prices to grab market share. When this happens, a broker’s own clients sometimes decide that it’s time to go for better premiums with the same coverage. So, when this happens, brokers (like my client) have to play some defense to protect their turf. And when that happens, brokers have a tendency to take their eyes off of prospecting – they stop playing offense.
I have several clients in the bank-owned investment brokerage business. Last week, the Department of Labor passed new fiduciary regulations that have caused and will continue to cause a major disruption in that business. Studies indicate that companies will literally spend billions of dollars to make sure they are compliant with the new regulations. Not only will this require an investment of an enormous amount of money, but it will also take millions of hours invested by many for compliance training. None of these activities are offensive in nature and so, in the end, will actually cost millions, maybe billions, more in lost productivity.
This is not necessary! Here are just a couple of things to keep in mind as you attempt to manage performance during difficult periods:
- Unlike 2008 (when a substantial piece of the market did shrink), the current situation is not the same.
- Businesses are not going out of business because insurance premiums are going down.
- The amount of money in play in retirement and personal savings has not shrunk. If it’s a multi-billion/trillion dollar pile of money today, it will still be a multi-trillion pile of money once the Department of Labor regulations are fully implemented (January 1, 2018)
- If your clients have a tendency to want to shop in a tough market, so do the clients of your competitors. Companies are in play, but you have to take the phone “off of the hook” and call them.
- People that have invested their money with advisors that have not treated them in a way that is consistent with the new regulations (client focused/fiduciary responsibility) will be in the market to find an investment advisor/representative who will.
- If you find that it is your smaller clients that want to shop – let them. My guess is that, if you let the bottom 20% of your insurance clients go, it will represent less than 5% of your total revenue. One new client that looks more like your top 20% will replace at least 10 of your bottom clients.
- If you are a financial advisor – ditto. Frequently, my friend from CUSO management and I discuss the segmenting of books of business. Time and again, the 80/20 rule applies. Actually, based on his business intelligence, that industry looks more like 30/70. But, still let the smaller accounts work with licensed bank reps or bring in an associate that can grow by growing with smaller accounts.
The bottom line is this: as a sales leader in an organization, you have the responsibility to keep your people focused on what it takes to win in any market, any environment. Regardless of the score of the game, you have to:
- Coach them to change behavior and improve skill
- Motivate them like it’s a championship game
- Hold them accountable – do not allow excuses for lack of effort
Just like in a sport of any kind, stuff happens. A team gets a big lead, catches a break, the wind shifts and the kick goes wide. It doesn’t matter! You cannot win just playing defense.
Sooner or later, you have to score more points than the opponent. That is offense!
Tony Cole is president of Anthony Cole Training Group.