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Pipeline or Pipe Dream: 3 Ways to Stop the Rot

Don't defer opportunities to build rapport and demonstrate value during uncertain times. Here are three principles to keep your sales pipeline from eroding.
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pipeline or pipe dream: 3 ways to stop the rot

While much has changed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, what hasn't changed is the need to keep sales pipelines full and the need for producers to generate new business.

As we move through the third quarter, some producers may be counting on the pandemic going away soon. As a result, some producers are deferring activities that would allow them to build rapport and demonstrate value during these uncertain times.

However, this is flawed and dangerous thinking. Even in the best of times, going months without prospecting and closing a business can have long-term negative financial consequences for agents and agencies. Without activity, pipelines erode—and meeting your goals becomes just another pipedream.

“Never let a good crisis go to waste." While it may sound too opportunistic to some, the quote popularized by Rahm Emanuel, President Barack Obama's former White House chief of staff, is on to something.

A global crisis is indeed an opportunity to reach out to prospects and clients. Businesses have been rattled, even those that have remained open. For business owners and executives, the pandemic has been like trying to change a tire while driving down an off-map road. Balancing the transition to work from home, supply chain interruptions, maintaining a safe work environment for employees and clients, as well as keeping the business running, can be a lot to juggle.

It's these precise circumstances that provide agents the opportunity to demonstrate empathy, leadership and connection to prospects and clients alike. Here are three principles to exercise to keep your sales pipeline from eroding:

1) Empathy. Demonstrating genuine empathy is one of the best ways to connect with prospects and clients during these challenging times.

“I've been thinking about you." The statement alone gives people the warm fuzzies. Now, imagine coupling that statement with some drill down questions that invite prospects into a conversation.

  • “I'm reaching out to see how your business is dealing with the pandemic. I know from my conversations with other business owners that they weren't prepared for an event of this magnitude. How are you doing?"
  • “Now that we've transitioned into this 'new normal,' many business owners are sharing that they are surprised that their insurance program didn't cover business interruption and other losses, and that they wished they had known more about what their policies do and do not cover. Are you curious to learn about new and emerging risks that businesses are experiencing as a result of the pandemic?"
  • “If the timing is right, we are offering a no-obligation assessment of your insurance policies and program. Sometimes having a fresh set of eyes evaluate your business insurance needs can help you make important adjustments to your program and reduce the likelihood of uncovered claims. Would you be open to scheduling time for us to discuss this further? Like I said, there is no obligation, and I'm confident you'll gain value from the process."

2) Leadership. During times of crisis, people look for leaders to help them navigate uncertainty. Providing insights, sharing articles, whitepapers, checklists and inviting prospects and clients to learn more about top of mind issues through virtual webinars or round table discussions can go a long way in positioning you as a source of business value, and facilitate meaningful conversations.

Many agents shy away from the idea that they can lead prospects, when in fact, leadership is what prospects crave most. Being a leader doesn't require that you have all the answers; in fact it is almost certain that you won't. Leadership is about sharing information and asking questions, so you can help your client identify their best path forward.

If your agency hasn't already, consider offering a webinar series on topics that will resonate with your prospects and clients. Here are some topics that are currently resonating with busy business leaders:

  • Assessing the risks and rewards of transitioning to work from home.
  • Evaluating global risks and the potential impact to your business.
  • Strategies to onboard new employees during a pandemic.

With a little research, you can develop a 30-minute presentation and demonstrate that you are the go-to person and agency for insights and strategy.

3) Connection. For prospects with whom you've built rapport, it's ok to put business conversations aside for a time, as long as your strategy allows you to stay engaged. Hosting a virtual happy hour, a coffee break or a dessert and discussion may be just the event you need to move relationships forward.

These virtual or small group, socially distanced offerings can help you and your prospects unwind a bit and connect on a more personal level.

Whether you choose to explore the suggestions shared, or others, the key is to remember that robust pipelines don't just happen—they are the result of consistency and persistency over time.

Susan Toussaint is cofounder and partner 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.

Thursday, October 1, 2020
Sales & Marketing