Producers need to leverage their relationships to build advocates who can help them forge new customer relationships. Here are the three types of advocates and how to build them.
Increasing the quantity and quality of sales is the goal of virtually every producer. Yet, identifying and developing right-fit prospects who eventually become right-fit clients can be challenging.
Just as the buying process has changed over the past several years, selling too has changed. Relationship-based selling is often the least effective selling style, according to research from the Corporate Executive Board. With that said, it doesn't mean that relationships aren't important; in fact, they are of critical importance.
What has changed is the need for producers to leverage their relationships to build advocates who can help them create new customers. Creating an advocate who is willing to publicly affirm and support you isn't as challenging as it sounds. The biggest hurdle for most producers to overcome is their resistance in asking someone to advocate on their behalf.
Types of Advocates
There are three types of advocates: existing clients, professional and personal peers, and prospective clients. Each can play an important role in getting your foot in the door or helping you to close new business.
It's important to understand both when and how to use an advocate. Think of an advocate as your “ace in the hole"—you don't want to overutilize or poorly position them.
Here's an outline on when to use each type of advocate and how to best reap the rewards. Note the suggestions to ensure your strategy doesn't backfire on you or your advocate.
|Type of Advocate||When to Leverage||What They Need to Know||What to Avoid|
|Prospective Clients||Throughout the sales process and implementation.||Your understanding of their business risks and ability to facilitate change.||Don't assume the CFO or CEO who brought you in is necessarily your only advocate. Focus on the person who most recognized your ability to differentiate and lead.|
|Existing Clients||At the end of the sales process when your prospect has affirmed that they are going to work with you but want to speak to a client who has worked with you.|
The two or three key challenges you will be assisting your prospect to address.
Your value proposition.
|Pairing the wrong client with your prospect. Select a client who is in a similar business and has overcome similar challenges your prospect hopes for your help in too. |
|Professional and Personal Peers||To facilitate an introduction and provide insights to develop your capabilities.||Your perfect client type. Your value proposition. Your niches. Your personal and professional goals.||Don't get caught in the trap of accepting referrals that aren't a good fit for you and your agency.|
You know what types of advocates are helpful in each situation. But how do you develop that team?
Prospective clients. The expectation of advocacy starts by building it into your sales strategy. A perfect place to plant the seed of advocacy is in your first meeting, when you're introducing yourself and your agency. It's easy to attach the concept of advocacy to a strong value proposition, like in the example below:
“We believe most employers have been underserved and, as a result, their business and personal assets are at risk. Our proprietary process has helped our clients identify risks and threats to their business they weren't aware existed. As a result, they've been able to make more informed insurance buying and risk management decisions.
In addition, we've found that if we do our job well and help to improve the profitability, sustainability and competitiveness of our clients, they are comfortable referring us new business or, when appropriate, providing testimonials to our prospects."
Existing clients. With existing clients, you have ample opportunity to position advocacy. In fact, we have clients who emphatically state that unless a client has given a testimonial on their behalf or introduced them to a prospect, they're not an A-list client.
A good and effective client relationship is a two-way street. If you're meeting with your clients either to conduct a midyear or annual review, you can certainly make advocacy one of your agenda items. Because reciprocation is a big part of developing advocates, it's also a great time for you to share a referral or two with your clients, or at a minimum, better understand how they want to grow their business.
Professional and personal peers. Consider developing a presentation to share with these advocates. These presentations are specifically designed to help your key professional and personal contacts better understand what makes you different from your competitors and teaches them how to properly advocate on your behalf.
Don't assume that just because someone knows and likes you that they can successfully position you and your differentiators. Increase your chances of successful introductions by setting aside time with your key contacts and teach them how to advocate on your behalf.
If you truly want to grow your business through referrals, now is the time to put a plan in place to better position yourself and those who seek to help you.
Susan Toussaint is a practice leader at Oceanus Partners, a ReSource Pro company. Oceanus Partners is a firm dedicated to helping insurance professionals working in all lines of business insurance improve sales and client retention.