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Are Brainstorms Washing Away Success?

Posted By AIMS Society, Friday, May 25, 2018

Are Brainstorms Washing Away Success?

Play nice. Share. Get along. There’s no “I” in “team.” Collaboration is key.

We’ve been coached since childhood to collect everyone’s opinions and ideas, believing it’s the single best way to find the best solution. Although it’s true that businesses use teamwork as the foundation of success, has our propensity to brainstorm inadvertently crippled business in some ways?

Renowned Wharton professor and leadership expert, Adam Grant, thinks so. He maintains that when people work so hard to develop consensus — essentially going along to get along — originality suffers, threats are overlooked, and disaster can remain undetected until it’s too late.

Instead, he recommends “brainwriting,” which begins with each individual developing a list of ideas on their own. Only after everyone has thought through the issue privately and committed positions to paper does the team meet to discuss and evaluate. Why is this more effective? “The wisdom of crowds mostly comes when you put people in separate rooms and get their judgment independently,” Grant explains.

It appears he’s not alone with his hypothesis. In his book, 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot, Richard Wiseman says, “Over 50 years of research shows that people often reach irrational decisions in groups … and highly biased assessments of the situation ... strong-willed people who lead group discussions can pressurize others into conforming, self-censorship and create an illusion of unanimity.”

While Forbes contributor Natalie Peace sides with Grant and Wiseman, she believes there are still opportunities for brainstorming, albeit in new ways. She recommends:

  • Provide strong leadership and a process framework to follow. People often want to have "no rules" brainstorming, but that can quickly derail or stall.

  • Give everyone time to think in advance of the session (essentially following Grant's "brainwriting" idea).

  • Make contribution mandatory. No sitting in the room just nodding. 

  • Any idea can be shot down, but must be replaced with an alternative.

How do you feel about brainstorming? Do you love it or hate it and why?

Tags:  agency value  AIMS Society  business value  efficiency  Goals  insurance marketing and sales  Leadership  Networking  productivity  Professional Development  self-improvement  Social Media  teamwork 

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On-Line Content: Are You Annoying or Appealing?

Posted By AIMS Society, Friday, April 27, 2018


On-Line Content: Are you Annoying or Appealing?

By now, the hope is that you're engaged online — it's quite simply a requirement for developing and building your personal brand as well as your sales contacts and leads. So, no preaching about why it's important to be online; the assumption is that you already are.

However, the question now is: Are you annoying or appealing? Are you adding to the digital noise (which can be significant), or are you actually leveraging the opportunity to create an actual relationship with clients and prospects?

Here are some tips to make sure you are putting your best you out there:

  1. Write about topics that interest your audience. Seems obvious, right? But most people write from their own perspective. Do a quick review of past postings. How many times do you use "I" and "me"? If the content doesn't work with "you" instead, it probably holds little interest.
  2. Focus on your strengths. If your post requires a lot of research or if it isn't on a topic you could speak about for three minutes or more unrehearsed, it's probably not in your wheelhouse. If it's a topic you'd like to be an expert in, take the time to become that expert before claiming the title.
  3. Don't complain. No one likes to spend their time with someone negative. Spin the content around and present a solution or a positive alternative.
  4. Don't be afraid to create controversy. Own an alternate position from the norm. You might be surprised how many people appreciate a new perspective.
  5. Know your goals. Don't write until you are clear about what you're hoping your reader will do. Are you trying to build likes and shares to boost your online ranking? Would you love to position yourself as a potential speaker for industry events? Do you want to increase your contact list and build off-line conversations? Once you have identified what you're hoping to accomplish, stay in that lane.
  6. Go above and beyond. Always look for ways to be helpful. If someone leaves a comment, you should reply quickly. Go the extra step and add some additional content that you believe will appeal to them, such as a link to an article or relevant resource, even if it's not directly related to insurance.
  7. Invite guests. A great way to build your own presence is by supporting others. If you worked with a great attorney, invite them to provide content that you post to share with your own audience. This can also be a great way to illustrate the quality of company that you keep.
  8. Track responses. Take the time to notice what drives reaction. If ending with a question prompts the most comments, make that a habit. If linking a video drives response rates, that's the route you should focus upon.
  9. Be yourself. Always. Enough said.

Tags:  AIMS Society  Goals  insurance marketing and sales  Networking  Personal Brand  productivity  Professional Development  self-improvement  Social Media 

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Spring Clean Your Sales Process

Posted By AIMS Society, Friday, April 13, 2018

Spring Clean Your Sales Process

Spring cleaning. We do it in our homes, so why not do it at the office?

Taking the time to declutter and dust off some things in your professional life will give you a breath of fresh air. But we're not just talking about tidying your desk. When it comes to sales and marketing, we suggest you perform a mini-audit and evaluate procedures.

Take a fresh look at your personal sales performance and ask yourself what's working and what isn't. Look at where leads are coming from, conversion rates and customer demographics. If you don't already have a platform to track sales data, go ahead and start one now for reference throughout the year.

If you're in a management position, look at your lineup. Consider the strengths of each sales member. Should you reconfigure to make smarter plays? If someone is better with new customers but struggles when it comes to retention, place then at the forefront of the customer journey. Have a one-on-one with every member of the team to see how they're doing. It will likely prompt them to evaluate their own performances and potentially make some changes too.

Next, look at your sales process. How can you declutter and streamline your method? Can some steps in the process be re-tooled or daresay eliminated? How are your marketing materials — outdated or ineffective? Your entire process should be flexible to each client's needs, but also effective to your daily workflow.

Consider the bigger picture, too. How does your sales process relate to your company's actual operations? What about the insurance industry as a whole? Throughout this process, take the time to learn from your customers. Get feedback on how you're doing or things they'd like to see changed. Do they want more or less communication? Fewer phone calls and more emails? How can you adjust your sales process to meet their wants and needs?

Spring-cleaning is also a great time to reevaluate your goals. If you made new year's goals, where are you on the path to meeting them? Go ahead and revise them or set some new ones. Determine tangible ways you can get there, whether it's new clients to talk to, networking events to attend or a new marketing strategy to launch.

You'll thank yourself for taking an afternoon to check in. You'll eliminate unnecessary procedures, avoid making mistakes, sharpen your sales pitch and simplify procedures.

Tags:  AIMS Society  efficiency  insurance marketing and sales  productivity  self-improvement  time management 

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How to Build Your Agency Presence

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Friday, March 2, 2018

How to Build Your Agency Presence

Last month, we shared a few articles on social media written by AIMS board members or featuring CPIA designees. It's incredible to see the reach our agents and members are having in the industry.

You may already have a company blog, and you may post to social media or send newsletters to your clients. But there are more ways to increase the reach of your content, attain high visibility and harness engagement from new audiences. So how can you magnify your scope outside of your agency's bubble? Here are a few strategies.

  1. Share your successes. No matter how small or local the publication, it's always worthwhile to share how you're growing. The Williston Observer in Vermont gave a shout-out to Niki Hayes of Kinney Pike Insurance for her CPIA designation award. Contact your paper's business section, a local magazine or insurance chapter to see how you can spread your company and staff accomplishments throughout the year. It shows the public (and competitors) you're cultivating a community of learning and achievement.
  2. Share your insight. You have ideas, you have experiences and you know what you're talking about. Think about how many clients you've helped. Continue to support others by sharing what you know with the local community. Reach out to organizations that share similar values in risk management to host an educational event for business owners. Leverage your knowledge and expertise to build community involvement and strengthen your agency brand.
  3. Share with video. You already know video is the next big step in content marketing. If you've never done it before, you'll certainly catch eyes when you start doing it. Create an objective, channel your audience, start shooting and see what happens. There are a variety of easy ways to create engaging video content, so why not give it a shot? It doesn't have to be highly produced. Just start your own YouTube channel and post on social media to expand your reach.
  4. Share with your industry. It may seem daunting if you've never published an article before, but it's a fun and effective way to get your name in a national publication. Just consider Robert Klinger, president and CEO of Klinger Insurance Group, who wrote an article for Property Casualty 360, "6 Ways Insurance Agents and Brokers can Find 'Ideal' Clients: Prospecting 101." You don't have to write revolutionary or mind-blowing stuff. Just stick to your own voice and areas of expertise.

What have you done to share content outside of your agency's digital channels? Let us know! We'd love to share your ideas with the AIMS Society community.

Tags:  Agency Management  AIMS Society  Branding  efficiency  insurance marketing and sales  Professional Development  self-improvement  Social Media 

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Sell Smarter

Posted By American Insurance Marketing and Sales (AIMS) Society, Friday, February 2, 2018

Sell Smarter

If you're still just selling policies, you're selling wrong.

The reality is that how you sell can be more important than what you sell. After all, there's always someone coming out with a better mousetrap and price can easily be trumped.

So how can you sell smarter?

  1. Start by explaining how the world has or is changing and why that creates an issue for your prospect. This is slightly different from the traditional "define a problem" approach, which implies something being wrong—either with or at the prospect's company—and too easily puts them on the defensive.

    If you instead point out changes occurring beyond the prospect's control, it's more likely you'll convince them you are saving them from something—you are the solution they may not have even known they needed.

  2. Address “loss aversion” head on. Economists explain that prospects tend to avoid a possible loss by sticking to the status quo, rather than risking potential gain by making a change.

    The only way to combat this is by making it clear that there will be both winners and losers because of the world shift you already explained. In other words, show them that sticking to the "status quo" is a sure ticket to failure.

  3. Don't drown in details. If you share too much minutia before you've closed the deal, you risk losing the audience's attention.

  4. Share evidence. What you think about your company is less impressive than what others think. Testimonials are important. Collect and share those good reviews.

Want more ideas for a persuasive sales presentation, including specific tactics for building slides? Check out 7 Amazing Sales Presentation Examples (And How to Make Them Your Own).

Tags:  AIMS Society  Catalyst Insurance Systems  efficiency  insurance marketing and sales  productivity  Professional Development  teamwork  Technology 

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