Have you ever been to a networking event at a chamber or other networking groups? If you have, you may have experienced what I am about to describe.
Whenever I go to a networking function, I always cringe because I know what’s going to happen. There’s always a new financial advisor or new insurance agent that is overly eager to “get to know me.” By get to know me, I really mean hearing all about them.
Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against financial advisors or insurance agents. After all, I am in the insurance industry and this blog serves insurance professionals. But the reason I use the two industries as examples is because they are the ones I’ve personally run into the most at these events, and they also face an extremely high level of competition. They require a high number of prospects to convert into clients, especially when they are new to the industry.
Often times, these networking functions become survival of the fittest, or fastest for that matter. Many of these professionals rush around the room, trying to meet as many people as possible during the networking function. They toss out their cards to everyone and give their pitch to anyone that would listen
As I collected these cards after a quick handshake and name exchange, I heard everything there is to know about them. They tell me about their services and ask me for a business card. If for some reason my profession, clientele, or I personally don't seem to be a match for them, they quickly move on to the next person, never to be heard from again. Now, it may seem like I am exaggerating, but anyone who has attended one of these networking events, you know that I am not too far from the truth.
What do you think the likelihood is for me, even if I have a need, to conduct business with the described individuals? What would be your likelihood of doing business with that person if that was how you were approached?
The problem is that many of us have committed these same mistakes in different ways. Have you ever “shown up and thrown up” during a sales meeting with a prospective client? What about your marketing? Does it mostly focus on your products and how great your agency is?
The truth is that we’ve all made these mistakes in our approach to marketing and sales. We’ve focused on us, instead of the most important people, our target clients. What if we focused on them and their needs?
Let’s revisit the networking event. What if the new insurance agent, or financial advisor changed their approach and asked these two questions first?
“Hi, I am ______, what is your name?”
“Hi ________, tell me about you. What do you do?”
What if our agent/advisor showed genuine interest in the person they are speaking with, and found out more about the person, and their business by asking these questions?
“Tell me more about your business.”
“What type of clients are you looking for?”
“How can I help you with your business?”
“Would you mind if I passed along your information when I run into someone that needs this type of service?”
How do you think this person is now feeling about our agent/advisor? What do you think the next question out of the person he/she is speaking to would ask? That’s right.
“What do you do?”
The networking contact will be inclined to learn more about our agent/advisor and may also show genuine interest back because our new agent/advisor took the time to learn more about this person.
By changing our approach to ask first and learn about more about the other person, not only will our networking efforts become more effective, we will also gain more trust and increase the chance of building better relationships. The same fact is true with sales and marketing.
Let’s take sales first. Some agents make the mistake in their sales pitch when they tell the prospects everything there is to know about their agency or the product. Then they wonder why the sale wasn’t made even though they had seemingly the better pricing and coverage.
Whether it’s a business owner shopping for group health plans, or an individual buying homeowner insurance, you must first learn about your prospect’s needs and goals, no matter what lines of insurance you sell. When your prospect believes you genuinely care and understand their needs and goals, they are more likely to want to learn about you and how you will help them. We discussed this process in greater detail in a previous blog, “Is Features and Benefits Selling Dead?”
The same rule applies to marketing. Have you ever seen a commercial, read an ad online or in a magazine and felt like the ad was speaking to you specifically? I know I have. That is an example of great marketing because it was written for you, the advertiser’s target market.
Let's take Subaru's TV commercials as an example. If you have seen any of the TV commercials from the auto maker Subaru, it is pretty clear who their target market is, families, dog lovers and adventurous outdoor individuals. Their commercials are also great examples of story telling. For example, instead of touting how great their reliability is, they tug at your heart strings with a 30 second story about a boy and puppy growing up together in the same car. If you fall into their target market, you most likely related to the commercials.
Similar to the bad "about us" page on your website that I discussed in a previous post, “Why the About Us Page Isn’t About You,” many agencies’ marketing efforts often fail because they are focused on the agency. The marketing messages are about how great the agencies are and the product lines they have. Instead, if the marketing message was focused on the questions, problems, and concerns the agency’s target clients had, the message would be better received and welcomed by the target market clients. Then they would start to believe your agency might be the right one to help them solve those problems.
So next time you are at a networking event, a sales call, or working on a marketing campaign, stop and ask yourself, “What should I know about the person I am speaking to?” By this simple step, you will be both more effective and efficient with your sales and marketing efforts.
“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Stephen Covey