Just because the word we use to describe the development of new business contacts — prospecting — happens to be the same word for the geological hunt for fossils and minerals, there’s no reason to liken the activity to scaling a mountain.
If anything, prospecting in the insurance and financial services space is more of an art than a science, as each interaction may be as unique a Monet brush stroke.
Insurance agents and brokers, along with professionals in other financial services segments, sometimes get stuck in a rut when it comes to prospecting. But let’s face it: Everyone’s playbook needs a regular update, even (or perhaps most especially) the team MVP.
If refreshing your prospecting skills and approach seems like too much trouble, consider taking a page from “Simplify Your Work Life,” (Hyperion, 2001) by former California real estate executive Elaine St. James.
St. James is now retired from a “hectic” career, and has shifted her creative energies writing about longevity issues. But in her former professional life, the author writes in the book’s introduction: “I was working 60 hours a week and was seldom able to spend quality time with my family and friends or even to have time on my own to relax … I realized how complicated and out of balance my life had become. I decided right then and there to simplify.”
Keep reading for 9 ideas to boost your prospecting efforts, which were adapted from some of the advice in St. James’ book chapter entitled, “Being more effective with people.”
Talking with businessowners about their succession or exit plans can be a valuable prospecting tool. (Photo: iStock)
9. Speak your mind
St. James argues that, despite our best attempts at being tactful, in the long run, failing to share an honest opinion with prospects or colleagues can be a time-waster.
“Silence implies consent or agreement,” she writes. “In most cases, you simply have to learn to speak your truth.”
People are intuitive, whether they know it or not. Neither prospects nor colleagues respond well to evasive and most especially passive-aggressive behavior. Instead of avoiding or delaying tough conversations, use timing, poise and dignity to your advantage, St. James writes, and develop a professional tone that is neither too harsh nor too meek.
8. Personalize your approach
Without seeming canned or over prepared, it helps to contemplate more than one approach with each prospect. This will avail your prospects of the personalized service that will increasingly elevate human insurance experts and financial service professionals from internet-based fin-tech operations.
Are you capitalizing on the relationships you've established with current clients to further your prospecting efforts? (Photo: iStock)
7. Remember, time is on your side
In the same way that few prospects or clients want to be rushed into making a financial decision, insurance and finance professionals should not feel rushed to assemble personalized recommendations.
The more complicated or contentious the case, the more sense it makes to allow yourself the appropriate time to develop your pitch or response. Simply communicate with your prospect about the amount of time you need to take to develop your recommendations. A measured approach to your recommendations also will enable you to more easily negotiate compliance demands and new fiduciary standards.
What’s more, when you need extra time to prepare for a meeting for presentation, ask for it.
6. Laugh out loud
This tip may be unconventional, but it certainly couldn’t hurt. St. James suggests that once you know exactly how you’re going to approach a particular prospect or client, take a few minutes before the call or meeting to unleash some belly laughs.
“Sometimes you get so wrought up about a situation that you can’t think straight,” she writes. “Laughing will help dispel any negative charge connected with the situation and may give you new insights.”
What’s more, various health studies have concluded that laughing lifts a person’s spirits, burns calories, boosts memory, and may even prolong life.
Don't waste time on poor-quality prospects. Consider the profiles of your best existing clients, and then target your prospecting efforts on etting more like them. (Photo: iStock)
5. Preparation makes perfect
Always have more than one scenario ready to discuss with your prospects. Try to anticipate their questions, and have responses at the ready.
4. Switch up meeting locations
That old adage about success in the restaurant business — location, location, location — may be equally true for cultivating business relationships. A first meeting in your office can intimate some prospects, while inviting yourself to their home may be downright creepy. Seek out benign, neutral meeting locations where you and your prospects can feel at ease and at the same time have sufficient privacy to conduct your business.
How well have you established strategic alliance to help with your insurance and financial products prospecting? (Photo: iStock)
3. Mind your body language
When it comes to eye contact, looking someone in the eyes upon meeting them can instill confidence and trust. But continuing the deep stair throughout a longer conversation can become uncomfortable or send the wrong message. So think of eye contact as one detail in your overall professional come-across.
“Take a powerful stance,” St. James suggests, “… either sitting squarely or standing on your firmly on your feet — and make direct eye contact. If this is a challenge for you, be sure you practice ahead of time.”
2. Ask for a timely response
When you’re having trouble contacting a prospect by telephone or email, consider nudging the correspondence forward by pairing a compliment with a polite calendar request.
This is a variation on the language St. James suggests in this type of situation: "I want to do the best job for you I can. Perhaps you could return my call no later than Friday afternoon …"
1. Analyze and adapt.
Take time after each prospecting contact to consider what went well and what could have gone better.
“This is one way to be certain that you’ll perform even better next time,” St. James writes. “And there’ll always be a next time.”