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The AIMS Society blog is designed to provide practical, timely ideas to help insurance agencies improve results from their marketing and sales efforts. Wishing you much success!!! For even more, consider joining the AIMS Society and you'll have access to a powerful network of agents and carrier personnel focused on excellence in sales!

 

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My Bad

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My Bad

The fact that you’re marketing yourself and your agency online is important. (If you’re not, I’d equate that to having a phone ring in your office, with a customer on the other end, and you simply ignoring it).

But
being on line is only the beginning. Design your social media and online marketing tools to simplify, not complicate, the process of getting to know you. Avoid these potential “My bads”:

1.       Irrelevant Marketing:  Are you sending emails about products for which they wouldn’t have any interest? Are your Facebook posts appropriately targeted? Hit them too many times with information they don’t want and you’ll lose them before delivering content that does matter to them.

2.       Making follow up difficult: Be certain you include additional information on your website, on YouTube and all social media sites so they can re-read or find more detail. Be certain that they know who to contact for more information and make sure you offer both email and phone contacts.  And…when they contact you, follow up quickly.

3.       Hiding the humans: How many times have you called a business, only to be directed back to their website? You have to suffer through a list of options before ever getting a human. It’s likely those who are calling have already searched your website. Let them talk to a person, not listen to a long speech by a computer.

4.       Playing coy: Many sites request contact information before providing any information. Of course, some of your content may need protection from prying eyes, but you’ll lose more customers by hiding information than you’ll ever save secrets from competition.

Have friends and family visit your site and tell you what they thought. Check usage numbers, such as Google analytics, to understand what information holds the most interest for visitors. Don’t fight what those numbers tell you. You may think something is more important to highlight—but the customer won’t be listening if that’s how the conversation continues.  

Tags:  AIMS Society  insurance marketing and sales  self-improvement  Social Media 

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Would you rather have your wisdom teeth removed?

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Updated: Monday, February 16, 2015

Would you rather have your wisdom teeth removed?


A friend took her daughter to see an oral surgeon on a Thursday for a consultation regarding wisdom teeth that needed to be removed. After the doctor left the room, the 16 year old (who has a marked fear of needles and all things painful) turned and asked, “Think I could have them taken out tomorrow?”  Thanks to a last minute cancellation, those wisdom teeth came out just 18 hours later on Friday. 

 

That teen was in no way looking forward to having four teeth extracted, but rather than wait and ruminate, she jumped in with gusto. When’s the last time you forged on despite a fear?

 

Perhaps it’s fear of failure that is holding you back at work. But here’s a fact: everyone fails. That’s the reality of every job—every. single. job.—even your boss’s.

 

So, knowing you can’t eliminate all failure, what’s left to do?

 

  1. Change your mindset.  Accept that sometimes things won’t work out. Instead of letting that paralyze you, be prepared mentally. Don’t beat yourself up (unless you knowingly let things slide), but take each failure as an opportunity to learn. “Hmm, that’s interesting…what happened and what should I change next time?” Move on, recognizing how you just got smarter.
  2. Say “yes” when you’re scared. Embrace a new challenge. Raise your hand. Give yourself permission to succeed. Bet you’re more capable than you give yourself credit.
  3. Say “no” when you think you’re not allowed. No can be a particularly hard word to say. Turning down a request can be intimidating, but sometimes it’s the smartest move you can make.
  4. Ask for help. This is a big one. Asking for help doesn’t make you look less competent. As they say, the smartest people know what they don’t know. Seeking help provides you insight and makes the person asked feel valued. Now that’s the proverbial win-win.

 

What fears are holding you back at work? Most aren’t going to disappear, so take a lesson from that chipmunk-cheeked teen and do it anyway!

Tags:  self-improvement 

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They said no. Now what.

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, February 10, 2015
They said no. Now what.

Your competition won. Your prospect chose another firm.

What…a…waste…of...time.

Only if you walk away.

Instead, what you actually need to do is invest more time.  Why?  Because, as Albert Einstein (a wickedly intelligent guy) said: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

You lost the sale. Why?

You have to ask the question to fix it.

So, a brief follow up with that prospect is a good place to start. “I’d like to understand what we could do better…”  It’s a non-threatening question and certainly leaves the door open to future opportunity as well.  Based on what you hear, you can figure out if your approach needs a few tweaks—or a total overhaul.

In addition, take the time to review your sales message and see if you were guilty of any of these common sales killers:

  • You forgot to ease the pain of the switch.  Most people hate change. They dread the process of switching partners. Address their fears.
  • The prospect sees risk.  I’m not talking about the risk that insurance addresses, I’m talking about the personal risk someone feels when making a decision for their company. Make sure you understand what the company uses to assess partnerships and show how you’ll deliver.
  • Lack of proof.  Don’t just make claims; back them up with examples and details.
  • Out of sight, out of mind.  Utilize a memorable leave-behind. Follow up with a written note. Forward an article about something totally unrelated to the sale, but on a topic you know the prospect might appreciate. This will also help you establish a friendlier connection.  After all, people hire people, not brochures.
  • Failing to solve problems on an individual level.  Yes, your ideas may save the company money, but what will you also be doing to solve daily headaches for the person you are selling.
  • You focused exclusively on price.  Prove your value not just your sticker price.
  • You failed to create time parameters.  Try to limit the sales cycle and providing an opportunity for additional competition by building in timelines to your proposal.
  • The proposal wasn’t tailored to the client.  Everyone wants to see how you’ll help them specifically, not how you do things “in general.”
  • You talked too much about yourself.  Yes, you’re a lovely person, but did you say “we” and “our” more often than “you” and “your”?
  • It was all about the sale.  Did you provide more than a sales message—did you provide some genuine education and insight about the prospect’s industry, potential risks, market trends?


Losing a sale stinks. Truly. But if it gets you ready for the next big win, that’s the next best thing. Never forget that selling is a process. Live and learn.



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Hustle Sold Separately

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, February 03, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Hustle Sold Separately

 

Personal Branding—it’s a buzz word, which means it can become like white noise, a sound that goes in one ear and out the other. But fact is, personal branding is important. Regardless what you’re selling, in reality, you’re selling yourself.

In her article 4 Ways to Make Yourself Memorable and Leave Great Impressions, Rebekah Iliff asks “How do you ensure that, no matter what, you leave an impression on those who matter to your business?”

Her suggestions:

1. Networking as a way of life

It’s about relationships—even with those that might not be your target demographic. As Iliff says, “The more friends, contacts and interactions that you have the better off you’ll be. And who knows, you may just end up hanging out with the president.”

2. Be physically identifiable

Iliff points out what celebrities and athletes already know: “Finding a ‘shtick’ is often a great way to stand apart from every other person in the room, and also makes you easier to spot in big crowds.” This advice comes with a caution—it has to be a natural choice; it can’t feel forced, and you certainly don’t need to go over the top. Something as simple as a pin on your lapel or a collection of funky reading glasses can become a signature item that also initiates conversation.

3. Communicate authentically and add value

You’re busy, but consistent follow up is important. One of Iliff’s bosses used to collect business cards, writing on the back when, why and where he met each person. He then made a schedule for reconnecting. It was a deliberate way of making sure he was top of mind when someone needed what he was selling.

4. Become a connecter

While networking means you try to meet a lot of people to create potential opportunities, Iliff says “connecting individuals who may benefit from knowing each other without an immediate benefit to you is probably the nail in the coffin of making yourself memorable.”

Just four simple ideas for selling yourself—sure seems worth a shot. Some people simply sell insurance. Why not set yourself apart by selling your hustle too?

 

Tags:  AIMS Society  insurance marketing and sales  Leadership  self-improvement 

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Be Sales Ready

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Be Sales Ready

You’re not in the market for a new job, but you should still be interview-ready.  Why? Because it keeps you on your toes, able to sell yourself and your client services at any time.  After all, you never know when a sales opportunity will present itself—a friend introduces you to a prospect at one of your kid’s games; a neighbor takes a new position and wants your advice. That leads to possibility…if you’re ready.

In her article,
7 Interview Tips That Will Help You Get the Job. Tips and Advice for Acing a Job Interview, Alison Doyle offers some suggestions that are equally helpful for simply being ready for the sale.

  1. Practice. You know the questions everyone asks. You have the answers, but you need to practice to make sure you provide detail and examples, not just pat responses. At the same time, develop a list of questions you should be asking every interested prospect.
  2. Research. Do your homework on the leaders in your community and the businesses you’d like to pursue. You never know when it will come in handy.
  3. Get Ready. Have the basic facts and figures about your agency in polished presentation form—leave-behinds, brochures, PowerPoint. When you have an opening, you’ll have the visuals already finished. Keep business cards on hand.
  4. Be on time. OK, the author meant for an interview, but it still applies when you’re invited to anything, even informal gatherings. Goes a long way to making you look organized and responsible.
  5. Stay calm. What Doyle says she means with this tip is to relax. Your body language tells its own story. Maintain eye contact. Be an active listener and answer what’s being asked. 
  6. Show what you know. Use examples. Share success stories. Apply learnings from one account to another.
  7. Follow up. Whatever suits the situation of your initial introduction—a text, a call, a personal note. Within 24 hours. Simple. And powerful.

So Doyle was talking about landing a job, but her tips are equally helpful for landing a client.  Do you have any you'd add to the list?

Tags:  AIMS Society  insurance marketing and sales  Leadership  self-improvement  teamwork 

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Chocolate chip cookie perfection

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Chocolate chip cookie perfection

 

With every New Year comes reflection.  We strive to improve or to give up a vice, often times because the calendar gives us a reminder that the time to improve is slipping away from us.  So we give it the old college try, eager to prove that this will be our year.  More often than not, as the days pass, something—or someone—reminds us that we’re not perfect.

But instead of considering “perfection” to be a concrete accomplishment (leading to a foregone conclusion of failure), why not consider perfection to be a process.  This takes the sharp edges off expectation and gives us all the right to be human, while still striving to improve.  Am I saying your life can be perfect without reaching 100 percent?  Actually, I think I am—much as a vacation or a first date can be described as “perfect.”  Or how a chocolate chip cookie is just, well…perfect.

And—I don’t think perfection should be reserved for the grandiose.  Instead, consider the words of seventeenth century French philosopher Angelique Arnauld:  “Perfection consists not in doing extraordinary things, but in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.”

So, with the intent of making your own daily life more perfect, here’s a list of ideas.  Pick just a few and see if you don’t feel yourself inching toward perfection in some perfectly ordinary ways!
  1. Read
  2. Learn a new foreign word
  3. Work on a hobby
  4. Sign up for a class
  5. Overcome a fear
  6. Learn a new skill
  7. Wake up earlier
  8. Go to bed earlier
  9. Exercise
  10. Contact an old friend
  11. Write a letter
  12. Try a new food
  13. Talk to a neighbor
  14. Create—and use—a to-do list
  15. Clean out your email
  16. Make your bed
  17. Get a massage
  18. Turn off your phone at 7:30
  19. Pet the dog
  20. Start a journal
  21. Have some milk and cookies
  22. Find a mentor
  23. Spend the day without TV
  24. Listen to classical music in the car
  25. Light a candle
  26. Forgive someone
  27. Introduce yourself to someone new
  28. Add 20 more ideas to this list and challenge yourself to accomplish one item on the list each day for a month.
  29. Send us a note and to let us know how perfect that month truly felt.
  30. Do it all over again.

Tags:  AIMS Society  Leadership  self-improvement  teamwork 

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EI, EI, Oh! Is your emotional intelligence on target?

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Updated: Monday, January 12, 2015

EI, EI, Oh!

Is your emotional intelligence on target?

 

Insurance is a people business. If you doubt it, consider the emotion that rises to the surface during claims. This is where you can lose a customer—or secure one for life. It all hinges on your ability to be empathetic and create a connection. It depends on your emotional intelligence or EI.

Yes, while IQ measures your brain cell book smarts, EI quantifies how well you connect emotionally with others. EI actually encompasses multiple traits or core competencies, including (but certainly not limited to) optimism, transparency, adaptability, innovation, creativity, initiative and self-confidence. Some would argue it’s more important to success than IQ—and if you think about it, wouldn’t you rather partner with someone who “gets you” over someone who is simply a braniac? If interested, you can actually complete an assessment to gain more insight to your own EI, including Daniel Goleman’s Emotional and Social Competence Inventory (ESCI), Reuven Bar-On’s Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i), The Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT), and Dr. Laura Belsten’s Social + Emotional Intelligence Profile (SEIP). 

Good news is that you can improve your EI.  Here’s some suggestions from Harrison Monarth from his article, 5 Steps to Boost the Skills That Will Help You Better Connect to People.

  1. Learn the language. Understand what constitutes a strong EI and choose core skills you believe will be valued in your own organization and in your own life. Look to the links above to get started.
  2. Know thyself: Collect feedback. If your organization provides an anonymous evaluation tool, use it to see how you’re perceived.
  3. Narrow your focus. Don’t work on every EI skill; select one or two depending on your own goals. For example, managers may want to focus on behavioral self-control and empathy, while sales leaders may want to focus on innovation or creativity to help you create new pitches. 
  4. Create your own board of directors. Choose two or three people who don’t compete or work directly with you. Ask for them to keep you accountable.
  5. Become a work in progress. If you’ve progressed in your first areas of focus, move to the next set of competencies. The momentum can generate even greater personal growth.  

Tags:  AIMS Society  Leadership  self-improvement  teamwork 

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Someone Needs You

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, January 06, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Someone Needs You

 

One of the greatest ways to make an impact professionally is as a mentor. If you haven’t claimed this role for yourself yet, I’d encourage you to try to do so this year.  There’s as much reward for you as there is for the person you mentor. To be successful, here are a few recommendations:

  • Meet frequently, even if informally, to provide suggestions for small adjustments as you go. Not only is it easier to learn this way, you will come across as less imposing and, I’ll say it, less of a know-it-all.
  • Ask questions—that’s you who needs to ask questions, not them. Not only is this the best way to begin understanding what your mentee already knows, it will help establish a dialogue instead of a speech.
  • Share freely – and explain simply.
  • Don’t direct.  Share your experience, but allow the other person to apply that insight to their own situation and personality. They don’t have to do exactly as you do or did.
  • Know that some of the best lessons come from your failures, not your successes.
  • Be proactive – your mentee may not want to impose or may not know what they should do next.
  • It often comes down to who you know. Don’t forget to introduce them to your network and relationships as appropriate.
  • Respect the confidentiality of your relationship. What you think of this individual is not for water cooler comment.
  • Relax, every meeting doesn’t have to contain a lesson. Don’t be afraid to simply shoot the breeze.
  • You gained your know-how over the years. This is an advantage your mentee doesn’t have. Never forget from whence you came.
  • Be a great listener and don’t fail to provide positive reinforcement.

You’ll know you’ve become a valued mentor once your mentee is coming to you with questions instead of waiting for your lead. Being a mentor really can be a great gig.  Give it a try.  And don’t be surprised if you end up learning a thing or two yourself!

Tags:  AIMS Society  Leadership  self-improvement  teamwork 

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Clean Slate

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Clean Slate


In a matter of hours, it will be 2015. As with every New Year, it’s our

opportunity to have a fresh start based solely on a calendar date.

 

What will you do with your clean slate?

According to an article by Leo Widrich on buffersocial.com, fifty percent of all Americans set a New Year’s resolution—and 88 percent of those will fail. I think that is a large reason why many people don’t even try in the first place.

To help change that failure rate, Widrich has what I believe is a pretty sound recommendation: instead of setting a goal, focus on adopting a habit—a tiny one—that may ultimately deliver you to your goal.  Here are his examples:

  • Resolution: Quit smoking vs. Habit: Stop smoking that 1 cigarette you have every morning after breakfast.
  • Resolution: Eat healthy food vs. Habit: Start substituting that 1 daily morning pastry for a banana.
  • Resolution: Lose weight vs. Habit: Every evening after work, go for a 2-3 minute run or walk around the block.
  • Resolution: Manage stress vs. Habit: Meditate for 2-3 minutes every morning after you wake up.

Doesn’t seem quite as intimidating to set a New Year’s resolution when you boil it down to a simple habit, does it?  There’s certainly no harm in trying. The greater risk is in doing nothing at all.  After all, mistakes are going to happen. So with that in mind, I leave you with a passage from Neil Gaiman:

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.

So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever. 

Tags:  AIMS Society  Leadership  self-improvement  teamwork 

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No room for rude

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, December 23, 2014

No room for rude

Digital communication and etiquette seem to be bumping heads.  

You send an email.  And then you wait for a reply.

If you’re the recipient of said email, how soon should you send a response? At the very least to let the other person know you’ve received and read their message.  If you’re the sender, how soon is too soon to send a follow up message?—“Hey, did you get this?” (a nice way to ask what you really want to know: “Are you going to reply?”)

According to the New York Times article, Disruptions: Digital Era Redefining Etiquette, “This is by no means the first conundrum with a new communication technology. In the late 1870s, when the telephone was invented, people didn’t know how to greet a caller. Often, there was just silence. Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor, suggested that people say ‘Ahoy!’ Others proposed, ‘What is wanted?’ Eventually ‘Hello’ won out, and it hastened its use in face-to-face communications.”

It seems each time new technology is adopted, we make the transition tougher than it needs to be. If we simply follow basic etiquette, we’d be fine. One problem area I’ve noticed? Timely replies. In effect, lack of response is like greeting the digital “hellos” that an email represents with complete silence. How rude.

This failure to respond seems particularly problematic during the holidays. Everyone is busy, of course, but the amount of time wasted following up on messages already sent has been a real time killer for me lately. I imagine it has been for everyone. The solution is simple: even when you don’t have a complete answer or the information requested ready to go, a simple “I got this and am working on it” kind of reply is simply considerate. Adding in when you’ll be back to them with a full answer is even better and takes it off their immediate to-do list. Even when your complete response is going to take longer than originally anticipated, it’s amazing what being in the loop buys you in terms of goodwill.

So, while you’re busy sharing holiday cheer, don’t forget to respect your customers’ and business partners’ time enough to let them know it may not be until after the new year that they receive exactly what they’re looking for from you. Helping them manage their own task list is one of the nicest gifts you can give them.

 

Tags:  AIMS Society  self-improvement  Technology 

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