In today’s business environment, decision makers are bombarded with sales pitches. A National Underwriter survey finds that 55% of advisors say prospecting is the most challenging aspect of selling insurance. So how do you break through the clutter? Let’s take a trip back to 1937 when the first hospital insurance was launched in California, the Golden Gate Bridge opened and Howard Hughes took a record-breaking transcontinental flight from LA to Newark, N.J. In those days, business-to-business sales were all about building relationships. There were no technology shortcuts. People had to make personal connections. In 2018, technology allows us to communicate faster and more efficiently than our predecessors ever dreamed of. But it’s still all about building relationships. Referrals and Relationship Building Let’s look at the lowest tech sales method that you are already using – referrals. Eighty-two percent of advisors say that getting referrals is the most effective way to prospect for new business, according to ThinkAdvisor. Here are some tips from Hubspot.com to gain referrals by building relationships:
- Instead of asking for a referral, ask for what you really want, which is an introduction. Eighty-three percent of satisfied customers are willing to refer a product or service, according to a Texas Tech survey. You’ll never lose business by asking for an introduction. So don’t be afraid to ask.
- Leverage your entire network. Industry connections, friends, family members, social acquaintances, friends of friends – everyone is fair game. The more people you include in your quest for introductions, the more introductions you’ll get.
- Give clear examples about the types of prospects you’re interested in connecting with.
- Ask for one introduction per day. You should be able to accomplish this in just 15 minutes -- so make it the most important 15 minutes of your day, every workday.
Here are some additional referral strategies:
- Trade referrals with trusted CPAs, business consultants etc. Work with agents whose clients may be looking for products that they don’t offer and vice versa.
- Automate your referral process using referral software.
- Thank your referral source with a handwritten note and a small gift.
Maximizing Community Involvement
At 34%, community involvement was named the second most effective prospecting technique, according to ThinkAdvisor. Whether you’re playing golf or volunteering at a beach clean-up, you have the opportunity to meet people who need your expertise. Only participate in things that you truly enjoy or care about. If someone asks what you do for a living, give them an answer that may peak their interest like, “I provide employee benefit solutions for companies.”
Cold Calling Made Warmer
Nobody ever said that cold calling was easy. But a little research on your prospect’s web page can go a long way. Click on the “about us” link to find the names and bios of decision makers and avoid the gatekeepers. Go to their news section to see if any company news or events may have affected their benefit needs and use that information as a compelling opener. And browse their social media profiles, which gets us to our next section.
Building Relationships With Social Media
Social media platforms can be a goldmine for researching information about your prospects and networking with people who can provide valuable connections. And it’s not as time consuming as it may seem. According to the Harvard Business Review, B2B salespeople only need to invest 5% to 10% of their time to be successful with social media. The key is to not just think about what you want from others, but what they may want from you.
Offering Valuable Content
Avoid posting self-promotional content to LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook. Share valuable information that establishes you as an expert in employee benefits. A LinkedIn survey found that B2B buyers are five times more likely to engage with a sales rep who provides new insights about their business or industry. When you join professional groups on Linkedin, you can be a valuable resource by offering expert insights and answering questions. An article on Hootsuite’s website says it best, “If you can establish yourself as their go-to person in your industry, guess who they’ll call when they’re ready to make a purchase?” Hootsuite recommends asking a question to spark conversation among your Facebook followers. Posts that ask questions get 100 percent more comments than regular text posts. That allows you to join in the conversation and interact directly with followers. You could also ask followers about some of their most pressing problems, then create a report or a post to address their concerns, including how your product or service can help. Keep an eye out for requests for help or statements of pain points where you can reply with a helpful comment.
Making Connections Use LinkedIn advanced search to uncover new connections. Hootsuite, recommends that, before reaching out to leads, check for mutual connections and ask for an introduction. Create a Twitter List to keep close tabs on your customers and watch for opportunities to reply to or like their tweets. Only comment when you have something valuable to say. Hootsuite recommends adding prospects and competitors to a private list. Adding competitors to a private list lets you keep tabs on them without actually following them. This competitive intelligence can help spark ideas for your own social selling efforts. Join a chat that’s relevant to your industry, or start your own.
Make Time to Prospect Regardless of how you prospect, it’s essential to put in a consistent effort. A study by Gong.io finds that average salespeople make far more calls in the last month of the quarter than the first two. And those eleventh hour sales calls usually have lower success rates. It’s also important to follow up on leads while they’re still hot. Companies have increasingly turned to the Internet to generate leads. According to a study by Harvard Business Review, firms that tried to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving a query were nearly seven times as likely to qualify the lead (have a meaningful conversation with a key decision maker) as those that tried to contact the customer even an hour later—and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer.
There’s no time like the present to get started. Contact your LISI Regional Sales Manager for more insight on building your business.